I'm part of a dance community. I go to an event Friday nights where people partner dance and usually exchange partners at the end of each song. There is no alcohol and the age range is 20+. I noticed things are getting clique and people are beginning to only dance with their friends. There are a couple hosts each dance and they have a time for announcements, in which they say "everyone dances with everyone and all skill levels are welcome" and layout basic rules and administrative things.

When asking people to dance I've been getting a lot of no's lately. This is disappointing, though not offensive. What I do find rude is when someone says on to me then asks someone beside me to dance. This means they clearly aren't tired or don't like the song.

The problems I see are

  1. We are there to dance. Declining a dance probably shouldn't be done for no reason. You wouldn't go to a soccer game and then tell the other team you just don't feel like playing.
  2. If I'm doing something wrong or uncomfortable, I would like to know so I can correct it.
  3. Should I ask again in a little while, the next day, or never again?

I'm male and usually ask women to dance. To me, it's polite to ask everyone to dance. Even if I don't think someone's a particularly good dancer, I still feel best if I ask them to dance. Though I'm not sure if I should do it even if the person says no each time? I would feel more comfortable if I had an open discussion with the person and said "should I ask you to dance again?"

I have already contacted a host and suggested that they include in their announcements "If you decline a dance, try not to ask the person right next to the person to dance" but she replied that she won't take away a person's right to chose who to dance with so I don't feel rejected.

What can I do to make things more friendly again? What should I ask the organizers or hosts to say in their speech, any particular lines? What should I say if someone routinely declines me to dance?

I want to be clear. I'm respectful of someone's decision to decline, but I know some people are leaving the community since the reason they are there is to dance and I since the increasing declines as a problem.

UPDATE: I should mention, when I wrote this, I just had the experience where I was talking with someone, asked her to dance, she said no, we continued the conversation, then someone else came up and asked her to dance (still the same song) and she said yes. This I find rude and concerning and it's happened before. This is different than just declining, as it is rude.


4 Answers 4


I used to be part of a weekly open dance group (renaissance dance). Two factors that were challenging for us were:

  1. Some people were there to dance; others were there to socialize.

  2. Among the people who were there to dance, some were there to "up their game" and some didn't care if things went wrong so long as people seemed to be having fun.

Dance involves other people -- at least a partner, but sometimes a set. If you're an experienced dancer who's focusing on dancing well, you might be frustrated if half the people in your set don't really know the dance and aren't in the right place at the right time (so the figure doesn't work). You might also find it not very much fun to have to guide your partner through the dance. I'm not saying any of this is right or wrong; I'm just saying that it happens. We saw it too. So if the person you're asking is much more advanced than you and is taking a more focused approach, and that person knows about the imbalance between the two of you, that person might decline your invitation.

The answer isn't to enforce an "everyone dances with everybody else" rule with dance cards to keep track and stuff. The answer is to find ways to help everybody meet their needs while encouraging a more open attitude. Here are some things we did:

  • For the first hour, we taught all dances (with walk-throughs, I mean, not just calling). We encouraged beginners to come early. For the second hour we played it by ear, usually doing a mix of teaching, calling without teaching first, and no calling.

  • As implied by the previous point, we sometimes announced a dance as "for those who know". While nobody was checking skills on the way onto the dance floor, the clear understanding was that for this dance, we wanted just people who could do the dance without messing other people up. Our dances were usually 3-4 minutes long, so this was not a burden on those sitting out. Some watched and considered it educational, some watched while chatting quietly with other bystanders, and some took the opportunity to get another drink of water or take a bio break.

  • Some of our attendees were there mainly to socialize with their friends, and secondarily to dance a few dances throughout the night. This meant that side conversations could interfere with teaching or calling (or even just dancing). We booked the room across the hall for socializing, made sure there were places to sit, and made sure that it was easy to see into and hear the main room from there so people could say "hey, I want to dance that" and jump in.

  • We did a mix of partner/set dances and line dances (bransles, in our case), and a mix of easy, moderate, and difficult dances. We encouraged everybody to dance the easy dances and line dances (where the effect of errors was much reduced). By the way, putting one of those harder, more-fragile dances right after an energetic easy dance that you've encouraged everyone to do can cause people with less endurance (who might be your less-experienced dancers) to self-select out.

What we found was that most people were happy to help teach and lead those less experienced than them -- most of the time. But many people wanted a chance to dance well, to get the thrill of getting that 8-person figure right, to dance a dance with like-minded people. By using those "for those who know" dances judiciously, we were able to channel that into one or two dances a night and they seemed more open to dancing with just about anybody the rest of the time.

You might not have the power to change the format of your dances, of course. Meanwhile, you have a problem specific to you and you want to solve that. I suggest that you find one person who you respect and who seems willing to help you (a friend, the instructor, etc) and privately ask that person if you're doing something wrong. Most people are not going to volunteer that feedback, because it's awkward and uncomfortable and because not all people welcome such feedback. So take the initiative, but do it in a non-demanding way, and don't do it in the middle of the dance. (Before, after, or between practices, so you're not taking someone away from the dancing to have this conversation with you.)

  • Thanks, great answer! We actually do have a beginners lesson at the beginning but I noticed the material covered in the class often doesn't match up with the music/styles actually being used. It used to be a blues dance but "evolved into a fusion dance" (in the words of a host). Commented May 28, 2017 at 8:02
  • Teaching != beginner. Those complex dances need to be taught too. We sometimes saw the pattern where a complex dance was done for those who know, and then people asked to learn it so we taught it in the next several sessions. If you've got complete beginners (don't know how to do basic steps, etc), we found it best to handle them as they came up rather than sending a "come an hour late if you don't want to be bored" signal to the vast majority of attendees. Commented May 28, 2017 at 15:28

The answer I think may depend on the type of social dancing. (My background is West Coast Swing, Blues, a bit of Lindy, NC2, C2S and some Salsa)

I think I saw you mention in a comment that this is Blues that has become somewhat Fusion.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you familiar with the "fusion" styles? My guess is that this is things like NC2, WCS, Lindy, etc (?) Are you familiar with those styles? I can imagine turning down someone who I know is NOT familiar with a certain style in favour of taking a breather or chatting, but then happily joining someone else for the same dance if I know that they ARE familiar with the style of dance. For example, for WCS, often a C2S song is played that 95% of people will dance WCS to and maybe only 2-3 people there will know how to dance C2S. If I'm feeling the C2S beat, then I may prefer to sit by and not dance a style I don't feel goes with the song.
  • is the "Fusion" style meaning that something like Salsa is played? If so, then (for myself anyways) I can also imagine avoiding dancing with someone who is very new or very experience with that as Salsa is a pattern-based dance. Someone who only knows the basic step can be boring to dance with (salsa songs are LONG!) and someone who knows very complicated patterns I would find challenging to keep up with.

  • Are these people dancing with people who don't often come? If I see someone at a dance on a regular basis and someone who only comes every few months shows up, I might give them priority on my "dance list".

  • Blues is a "close" dance. Some people may only be comfortable dancing that physically close with certain people. In this case, perhaps try dancing a more open style of blues and see if people are more comfortable with that.

  • What is your style of leading? Do you lead from your core or do you use your arms to lead? I avoid dancing with people who use their arms to lead as it feels vary abrupt and I dislike it. Dancing with someone who leads from their core FEELS much smoother and it feels like a more gentle and enjoyable dance.

  • This last one may require you to ask around to get feedback: Do you have any dance habits that are painful for your follows? Dance is a physical sport. Ergonomics is important. I have had leads put my hand in the WRONG spot for spins and things which can cause my wrist to hurt after a while, and I have had people yank my arms in the wrong direction for certain behind-the-back maneuvers which can hurt my shoulder or elbow.


"We are there to dance."

This is your problem. People there to have fun, whatever it means for them.

And if they have the option to maximize their fun/pleasure by selecting partners, some of them will do that.

To build a community which is more concentrated on dancing itself, instead of solving other goals, the option of selecting partners has to be removed or restricted.

However it might be not so productive for the host to do so, so another option is to separate events by time or place or by a sign. Make events where the option to select is open, and one where the option is removed or restricted.

You should expect that any methods of separation which leads to restricting of the choosing part of the event will lead to less attractive partners and less skilled partners when you start with a general public. (there are other possibilities in special cases)

If you seek a solution for you personally - you have only one option - make yourself more attractive, and that the only option which does not require changing the rules or cooperation.

Options like separate events by time or by place are simple.

By time - you have a different set of rules - this day female select males, this day males select females, this day males select males, this day attack-helicopters just fly free.

By place - this corner for attack helicopters, this corner for no offers, this corner accept any offer, this corner plz plz any offer.

By sign. This one a little bit more interesting, it doesn't require cooperation with the host(besides them not trying actively interrupt such cooperation) but it requires to cooperation with those who think like you.

You have a token, which you can visually identify. And those tokens could be given on entering the event, if host cooperates with you, which makes things easier but not a necessity.

You choose a token and the rules. A person which agrees with those rules, have a sign of the agreement by having the token visible. By selecting different tokens you can make the task of hiding them harder or easier.

If you have just right now an idea to make tattoo on a forehead, slow your horses, the ability to easily hide token might make things more interesting for others for reasons you do not need to know yet, thus making the idea more attractive for others to participate.

The sign itself, might not necessary be a token, it might be obvious action, pose, hand gesture etc. The idea is old like times where dancing was more popular and was only entertaining besides shooting or piercing opponents on a duel. So check history books. Sell handheld fan on entry, with the scheme of different gestures.

Making token and idea more attractive for others will broaden your options, but worst case scenario you will dance with people like you in a crowd of others.

Cheat code one - if the host is in business, select the most attractive token and forbid others to have it, besides those who agreed with rules. it might be a dress or something less expensive. And yes, do not trust yourself to make those rules, you should find other peoples like you and figure the rules with them together, and adjust them if needed, or it will fail.

Cheat code2, bitcoin flavor.

have different tokens, beginners, amateur, a super hero. You give the beginner token to a beginner which would like to join your event club and give him a number and coins with this number(not necessary, but the initial state should be registered and associated with the person). (pieces of paper, or stickers with printed QR codes) After each dance, you exchange random coin with the partner.

At the end of cycle let's say 10 initial coins, you have given all yours to different people, and got from them those which they gave to you.

You register that cycle, it can be done differently - real tokens, online with a phone app, have a human which keeps track of them etc.

This not allows you to detect those who do not change partners(however it allows to be suspicious about them), but it allows you to clearly(except cheating) to detect those who did change partners more often. You can give those people different perks and bonuses. Keep track and upgrade tokens for members of your system.

Cheating in the system isn't bad it allows less attractive partners to compensate the factor with harder work and using tokens as bargaining chips aka money which measured in dancing work without restricting freedom of choice. However, to it to be useful it requires the ability for both parties to check verify the "money", and numbers with QR codes are good for that.

The system could be developed further, but keep it simple might help to involve the people in the system. Tuning the system itself allows regulating the proportion of people with different intent. But do not forget about perks, it could be special events, where only high ranked people allowed or something like that.

Bonus of such system is that people can select different strategies in it.

You should understand and accept, there are absolutely 0 reasons to minimize my satisfaction to increase your satisfaction if we do not have any relations. Thus speeches are ineffective if they do not impose some ideology. So another general thing to do is create different relations than these which the current system creates. Creating special club with events besides those dancing events, and other methods which broader/create the relation connections between members of the group might help. It not necessary has to be other events besides dancing, but it could be just feeling of belonging to a group, however, the feeling should have reinforcement by some stimulus or combination of stimulus.

  • Thanks for the reply, though I find the style this is written in is very hard to follow. Commented May 28, 2017 at 8:05
  • @helloeveryone it boils down to one thing, cooperate with people like you and work together on a symbol which will distinguish your community in the community, and let others do their socializing etc. However, Monica's answer seems better than that.
    – MolbOrg
    Commented May 28, 2017 at 12:58

It's normal

been there still trying to figure it out.

getting turned down like that is part of the rough and tumble of dancing. I've had guys tell me I've gotten dances with people they couldn't. guess it's just good luck or timing

When dancing in another town there are people that turn me down everytime. I tend to dance safer there and I had to figure out there's a pros only corner. So if I get turned down I don't take it personally because they don't see my actual skill level.

We have a lot of people that leave straight after class because they aren't ready for real social dancing.

finally I think it's just something that some ladies do

What can you do?

Focus on those partners that do want to dance. It feels sneaky but you can ask for an extra dance from them. "I didn't like that move can we practice it?" "I don't like dancing to that style of song, can I have another."

This may free up other people. Once they are on the dance floor it's easier to ask for a dance.

If you can get to another dance scene that will help a lot.

If there is an issue trust that the teachers will know about it

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