Social to Dancing.

The very term “Social Dancing” implies two very different types of activities coming together, socializing and dancing. I often find it hard to do both at the same time. I can talk to a partner, but then I can barely dance with her. Or I can dance, but its hard to talk when your partner is whipping through a swingout. There’s also the option to sit a dance out to have a more involved conversation, but that can be a challenge, too, if you’re trying to talk over the music. In the past few weeks, I’ve had two experiences at the opposite end of a spectrum that have gotten me thinking more about the nature of social dancing.

First, I was at a local blues dance where I ran into an acquaintance that I had met at an event earlier this year. I had a marvelous dance with her where we chatted through our entire dance together. Normally, I don’t talk much when I dance. I have the impression that most follows want to have good dances, and I can’t talk and turn at the same time. When I said something about it to the follow, she replied, “This is the social part of social dancing, something which is too often neglected.” I know I am certainly guilty of that. Like many gentleman who start swing dancing, I’m often a tongue tied mess when I’m not dancing. Later, I found her again for another conversation with a little dancing on the side. Those two dances were some of the most pleasant and rewarding that I’ve had in a long time, and definitely the most memorable ones from that night.

On another night out at a local lindy event, I went with the intention of dancing full out to every song. By dancing full out, I mean athletically using all of my abilities, nothing half-way or mediocre. Even when I was dancing to slower songs, I tried to be deliberate in each of my movements, following through, composing good lines with energy through my entire body. Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been slacking in my dancing, going through motions, and this was my determined effort to break that habit. I went prepared with four extra shirts and an extra undershirt for good measure. I didn’t need them all, but I did need one more than normal.

I had a lot of fantastic dances that night, and pushed myself in many ways. It was definitely my “A” game. For me, that’s the “dancing” part of social dancing. The dance become primary, and as a form of expression there’s certainly a great capacity to share yourself and connect with other people. Its not that “dancing” is anti-social, but its a totally different expression of what it means to be social dancing.

I think all of us go to dances with different expectations around this continuum of “Social — Dancing” when we go out. We shift our emphasis from Social Dancing to Social Dancing. I suspect that we all have a place that we tend to fall on the spectrum, usually somewhere in the middle. We avoid the extremes. Sometimes, its good to push outside of that comfort zone to explore the full range. I know for me, I’ve learned a lot about my dancing, how much I was holding back on my dancing and how much I’ve been missing not getting to know the amazing people I dance with better. I’ve set a little goal for myself to dip my toe into each end of the spectrum when I’m out dancing to remind myself of these lessons.



Filed under community, Technique, Theory

4 responses to “Social to Dancing.

  1. Fenn

    Because I have danced for so long, photographed so many events, and travel so much, I have a wide base of friends that I see only at events. I’m often left unfulfilled on the dance floor, because we want to talk. It makes me wish I had a t-shirt that says, “Shut up and dance.”

    On the other hand, I often miss out on dances because I’m on the sidelines dancing. I think it’s rude to leave a conversation in the middle, so I will dedicate my full attention to that conversation and miss a half hour’s worth of dance.

    Often times, what’s left is photography time. I’m lucky if I managed to hunt down 1-3 of my favorite leads.

    So honestly, I would rather NOT talk. I would rather say nice things and then dance. Or at least, give me a second dance if we talk so much through the first. I would rather we meet up before or after the event for coffee or food or something. Then again, a lot of dancers won’t do that either. I find it frustrating, because I’d rather get together before hand, have some food, and then dance without talking.

    It’s a conundrum, and I’m feel compelled to be as social as possible at dances, to give my full attention in conversation on and off the floor, and to speak to as many of my dancing friends as possible. Sometimes, I’ll receive comments that I missed someone at a dance. But there isn’t enough time to talk, photograph, and dance with EVERYONE.

    I wish the social part was all about understanding we’re doing this in a large group of strangers and not a small group of friends, so let’s just ditch the talking and really dance.

    (You now have my permission to refuse to talk to me so we can have awesome dances.)

    • craigsparks

      Good to know! I think a lot of people share that viewpoint, myself included. I like to do most of my socializing over some diner food after a dance. But it was nice to explore the other side of things for a change. On a related note, about a year ago, we took some workshops with Marcus and Barbl, two amazing dancers from Germany. Marcus talked about how, in Germany, you’d go out dancing with a small group of friends, and get a table to share. You would dance with the people you came with throughout the course of spending a nice evening together. He also mentioned how that has been changing, but I’ve often thought how nice it would be not to have to “make the rounds,” and try to dance with everyone. If something like that happened in our scene today, it would seem very clique-ish, and I’m sure some blogger like myself would have something to say about it.

      ps- I look forward to shutting up and dancing with you again!

  2. Lauren

    I really like your analysis of this. I think I am often able to find a good balance between being social and still dancing. Often it’s a few words in the beginning of the dance. Maybe a few in the middle, but I don’t feel like I’m ever sacraficing the quality or fun of my dancing just to talk. I do talk, and sometimes I get far out in a swingout and the music is really loud so my partner can’t hear what I said and I have to repeat, but I think I still did a good job dancing. That being said, sometimes I do want to have the best dance possible, so after I ask for the dance we both kind shut up and let our movements do the communication for us. And we are being social then even without words because we are connecting and bonding together with our bodies. He’s feeling where I’m moving and vice versa. So then, if possible, just saying “that was a great dance” afterwards would be enough for me. I think sometimes I can be taken to the extreme, like some guy was telling me his whole life story on the dance floor and didn’t leave closed position the whole time, but that may have been poor social skills because we really weren’t having a conversation, he was talking AT me. Thanks for your thoughts on the matter and I hope you appreciated mine

  3. Christina

    It really does vary from person to person. I am basically incapable of talking and following at the same time. And while I don’t mind a little “what’s your name? where are you from?” at the beginning of a dance, if it gets much more technical than that, I’m just falling back on stepping through patterns and not following. Which is fine, sometimes. I’ve had a few conversation dances that were nice. But for the most part, if we’re on the dance floor, I prefer we catch up through that connection.

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