A girlfriend and I were talking the other day about guys not asking her to dance salsa. A lot of times she’ll have to ask them to dance several times until eventually they reveal, “I never asked you to dance before because I was too intimidated!”
This frustrated and confused her a bit, because she is a very friendly, modest and down-to-earth person. She’s not dancing from her ego or showing off, she’s genuinely enjoying herself and usually smiling the whole time! So, to her, the fact that she could be perceived as “intimidating” didn’t make much sense.
I got it though. When I first saw her dancing, I was completely intimidated just as another female follower in the same room!
The thing that makes her dancing intimidating is that it is immediately obvious that she knows more than just the steps. Her movements are fluid and complex, stemming from her knowledge of African dance, and more specifically Afro-Cuban dance – a style inextricably linked with Cuban salsa.
When I see someone who clearly embodies the richness of a certain dance style, it inspires me to step up my game, but it also makes me think twice about whether I’m ready to dance with that person.
Sometimes you just have to go for it though.
In my experience with social partner dancing, most dancers are friendly and non-judgmental (and they remember when they were beginners themselves!). I wouldn’t ever try to monopolize a more advanced dancer’s time, but from time to time it’s definitely important to step out of your comfort zone and ask someone better than you to dance (leader or follower).
You may surprise yourself and dance quite well! You might also be completely out of your element and get the chance to recognize your weak spots – and that’s a great opportunity to focus your ongoing study of dance.
And don’t forget one of the most important elements of partner dancing that has little to do with your level of technique – your energy! Your unique personality and way of expressing joy and humor all comes through in the way you dance. Let it! This is the essence of our connections to our partners and it is just as meaningful as technique for your partner’s enjoyment of the experience.
So, next time you’re out dancing, I challenge you to a little experiment: Put a smile on your face and ask that intimidating person to dance. Who knows what you might discover!
Tell me in the comments – how do you deal with feeling intimidated by another dancer?
* An earlier version of this blog post originally appeared on Follow-My-Lead.com on March 10, 2015.