Getting Better Dancers To Dance With Me

The Problem

I saw this question on a West Coast Swing Discussion Page and thought my answer may help others struggling with the same thing. “Is there a trick to getting better dances to dance with me?”

“I’ve been dancing WCS for a long time, and just about every leader in my local scene knows me and has danced with me at least once. My path to improvement has been very slow, and there are a lot of people who danced with me a few years ago who didn’t enjoy the experience and aren’t anxious to repeat it. Add in the fact that I’m one of the small army of overweight middle-aged women, and I get apprehensive looks even from people who’ve never seen me before. I generally dance with a group of leads who are at my level or below; we know and are comfortable with each other, and dancing with them is fun. However, they are no longer challenging me in the ways I need to be challenged. I take regular privates and my coach and I are now working on things which very few of the people I dance with can do.

So what is the best way to overcome this? I have a really hard time asking people to dance who clearly don’t want to, and if I tell them “hey, I’ve improved” and something still goes wrong I’m going to feel like a total idiot. My confidence around dancing isn’t great to begin with so I want to set myself up for success. The few times I have ended up dancing with a higher level lead they have dumbed down what they lead to the point where it still isn’t very challenging. There must be something I can do that would be easier than entering the witness protection program, getting a new identity, and moving somewhere else where no-one knows me. 🙂
I know this is not just my problem; whenever I get together with other “older” (ie, over 40) follow[er]s, most of us have some kind of problem getting some group of leaders to dance with us. So how do we break through this? It’s not that I want to force anyone to dance with me, but I would like to somehow encourage them to give me a/another chance without having to beg them to do it.”

The Solution: Getting better Dancers to Dance With Me

I had a student ask me a similar question once and she was surprised to hear that I lived through the same thing as a leader and struggle, even now, as a follower.  Dancing outside of someone’s level group may trigger  a subconscious fear of missing out on a dance with one of their friends but often there is little incentive  for the better dancer to stop their own goal of dancing up to find beginners to dance with. What ever the reason is, its a problem that is not going away. Getting the highly sought after “better dancers” to dance below their level is  not easy but I found a way.

My go to move was to ask for help. “Hey there, I am practicing leading whips with a strong 5. Would you mind letting me practice with you for this song?”  Because its not a “regular dance” where someone might dance as if they where in a spotlight jack and jill. They can let their guard down when they are thinking in terms of “practice” and their lead and follow technique tends to be more on point. You may be tempted to ask for feed back but be careful you do not want to over stay your welcome. Especially if they are a teacher you could sour the relationship without realizing it.

If you have success with the same person a couple of times, be sure to bring them a small thank you gift, a card, or some homemade cookies, nothing elaborate or expensive but you want to show some reciprocity. This will separate you from all the other people trying to get a dance with them. Giving back is so very important to building any relationship. Better dancers have people taking and taking from them at every dance. A little social grace will go a long way in a short amount of time. I hope this helps!