I’ve gotten a few questions recently about a past article. Most of them centered around this general concept:
“I just don’t want to take more classes. I know I’m not fantastic, but I enjoy learning patterns more than technique and just want to dance socially. What’s wrong with that?”
I never advocate everyone needing to aim to be an advanced dancer – and I’ve said so before. If someone just want to learn basic patterns and have a nice social time, all the power to them! That’s great!
Understand where your limitations are. Dance within them. I believe the phrase would be “Dance Responsibly”. If you just want to casually social dance and learn patterns, stay away from dips, drops, super fast movements, multiple spins, physically demanding movements, and complex arm patterns on the social floor.
Why? Because these movements are above your skill level.
Think of it like scuba diving. If you are a casual diver on vacation and want a cool experience, you hire a dive master, go out on a boat, and do a nice shallow dive (probably at a coral reef). I guarantee that said dive master will not allow you to go on the super-advanced deep cave dive without proper accreditation.
The reason is obvious. A casual diver does not have the knowledge of dive technique, decompression, security measures, or experience to do the advanced dive. They’re probably going to end up hurting themselves.
We do not have the ability to regulate dance levels on the social floor. We rely on individuals honestly assessing themselves, and dancing within their limits. Sadly this does not always happen, sometimes with very sad results. Unlike most other activities, in social dancing you’re not the one who usually suffers if you do a pattern wrong – it’s your partner.
So, how does one go about self-regulating?
- Have a trusted teacher tell you
- Understand your own goals
- Take classes at your level – not above
- Practice slowly until a movement is comfortable – for both partners
- Learn how to ‘exit’ moves safely if something goes wrong.
Now, this may be frustrating for people who self-admittedly do not want to spend time on technique and love patterns… but it is important. Technique is the not-fun practice part that makes everything else feel amazing and safe. If you’re not willing to put in the work, you shouldn’t be attempting patterns reserved for those who have. Are there exceptions? Are there natural talents who just can magically do these things? Maybe – but there’s a 99.9% chance it’s not you.
So please, enjoy social dance in whatever capacity you want. Do a few basics, or aim to go pro. But, whatever your goals, dance within your limits. If you want to rise higher, put in the work necessary to attain the next level. If you’re not doing it for yourself, do it to keep your partner safe.