How to Raid the Salsa Cliques and be a Dance Commando
As you open the door and enter the main room a stiffening feeling suddenly overcomes your body. Your brain has just registered that everyone seems to know everyone else and none of these faces are familiar to you.
There is a cool crew laughing in one corner and the pretty girls are all huddled together. Many of the awesome dancers are cliqued near the DJ and each seem to pass between each other like the baton in a relay team.
Your inner shy side visits after a long vacation. You are once again haunted by deep secret insecurity that woke up like the zombies out of their graves to haunt.
Why would this feeling persist after all these years? The earliest recollection of this feeling may have been at preschool when your parents dropped you off and said, “GO play”. Do they really expect to cold drop you into the social scene and expect you to respond, “great idea, bye!”.
All the other kids continue playing with their toys and at best you see that some kids just lifted their heads to see who the new person is walking in the door. It is not very welcoming. You thought with maturity, it would get better, but it persisted into high school and now here you are on the Salsa Dance floor.
There is only one unshakable question “Maybe this was a bad idea!!!”. You look to the entrance to see if it is not too late for you to exit but you made all this effort to get dressed and drive all the way here.
The BAR, ah ha, maybe some liquid courage can numb the inner voice, the one spit balling, the rising chatter of questions that makes you anxious. You get that drink to quench the anxiety and you nurse this new familiar companion in relief.
If this narrative sounds familiar I am going to offer 3 ways to overcome this reoccurring situation.
HOW TO BE A DANCE COMMANDO
This article is about having a socially commanding presence on the dance floor and I hope it can make you magnetic in networking events or even at your high school.
Prepping for the floor
· Pre-plan the event. Figure out how big the dance is and who might be there, Pick the best dance events to meet people where the photos look friendly or friends rave about (If you need a list of these socially warm dances? DM me)
· Wear is something that sparks joy in you and puts you in a good mood.
· Walk in with a friend. If you can get company to walk in then it would break the initial arrival tension and you can jump right in.
· Show up early, feeling good, looking sexy, smelling fresh and ready to move.
Hitting the dance
· If you attend the dance with a friend or associate, split up. It’s a waste of time to walk, talk, or sit together. Play a game with your friend. Who meets the most people and who gets the largest number of newest dances. The more you bet, the less likely you’ll spend one second together.
· Walk the crowd at least twice. Get familiar with the people & the room.
· Get the most visible seat to see everyone, those who are arriving and where you can easily bump into as many people as possible
· Get off your cell phone, you not winning friends with your mug in the phone screen.
· Target your prospect dancers. Get a feel for who you’d like to meet. I am going to speak to the mind set of great dancers later, particularly of those in dance teams so read on.
· Never Wait: Man or Woman, if you want to dance then go ask someone. If you are waiting long enough to be asked, then you have waited too long.
· Don’t butt-in. Interrupting can create a bad first impression. Stand close by, and when a pause or opening appears... jump in.
· Be happy, enthusiastic, and positive. Don’t be grumbling or lamenting your "tough day." People want to do dance with a winner, not a whiner.
· Let your partner catch some feelings... the good feelings at least. Smile for god’s sake. No one wants to dance with a distracted or dead fish. You ever dance with someone watching left into yonder or at someone else dancing. I am not talking about partners who watch your feet the way a beginner does to keep timing. I am talking about the dead fish gazing left. It makes you wonder “I think this lifeless person is sending me a message and I am will not be putting myself through this again!!”. What you should do is connect firmly by looking the person in the eye and a smile cannot hurt because everyone wants to feel something and the easy way to do so without being creepy is just a warm smile.
waste time; there are 2 things that really stand out to me. The first is getting dragged down having
encountered the dead fish and the second is making one BFF. If you just stick on the person you met then you are doing exactly what you scorn in others, being a clique. You are here to
dance and meet people, to raid the cliques and be a commando, so be polite when
making your exit. Let them know you will be back later for a follow up dance.
· Say the other person’s name at least twice. First to help you remember it and acknowledge that you did hear the person’s name, second because it’s the most pleasing word in the dictionary and you honor that person.
· Don’t smoke or you will smell like a cigarette, it is not good for your health or pleasurable for the company you keep. I am not the surgeon general but if you can help yourself do not do it.
· Stay until the end. The longer you stay, the more contacts you’ll make and the next time there will be less unfamiliar faces.
Post dance follow up
· Diners are great places to eat and deepen friendships after a night of dance
· Have a few beers afterward to celebrate all your new friends if you still feeling to keep the vibe pumping
· Connect on social media; Following up can help you deepen and understand your new friends and make the next interaction more personal
I have been blessed to dance on the La Luna’s professional dance team, “Luna Negra” during the hot cuba libre years 2006-2008. We performed weekly at the Atlantic City and Old City venues. The rehearsals were intense and exhausting. I recall that I used to dance six out of seven days a week but after joining the team I was exhausted. I would go dancing after practice to venues like alfies, but I did not have the energy to ask as many dancers as before being a team member. I also was less inclined to dance as much days of the week.
What is important to understand when you see a clique is that these fall into 2 categories. They are usually students of a studio who go classes together and over a long time have become good friends. There is a great advantage of group classes. The second category are the dance team members who are a more severe case of the group class syndrome. They are highly targeted for their skills and come across as standoffish usually because if they performed they are tired or seem to enjoy the few dances they have with experienced friends that they enjoy dancing with.
I was once told by a top female dancer and friend that she does not know many beginners and does not need to ask them to dance as she has enough friends already. That is quite normal for anyone. If you spent many hours and many years learning and mastering your dance, then chances are you are not struggling for dances and do not feel the urgent need to ask beginners.
I hope this insight lets you know that you are not being snubbed, it is just a fact that you are not that important that someone should just jump off their chair to ask you to dance because you walked in the door. We all think as a child the world revolves around us and the sad truth is that people really do not care as much as we think for the better or worse.
Humans strive for a sense of belonging and this is how cliques are formed. It is never going away as long as we have this internal drive to belong to some community. Some of you will feel on the inside and some on the outside. Ultimately everyone can be on the inside with some effort then no one has to feel excluded. I am not saying everyone will be your best buddy but we are not strangers.
“Attitude is everything” you have heard before, it is true in business, in personal relationships and on the dance floor. I encourage you to remain consistent, persistent and focused on your goals. Create a mission to get out on the dance floor and commit to getting familiar with fellow dancers. Set in your goals for you and your friends and enjoy the journey in meeting them over the next year. Always remember that salsa/bachata dancing requires a positive mental attitude and the dance is always ON.
Your friends in Salsa
Stephen Choo Quan
Advance tips are not covered in this article. Topics like “going out dancing without underwear”, this will be managed by an expert panel. You can just DM for that advance stuff laced with the goodies, designed to turn even the tame wallflower to almost famous.
Not to sound cheesy but we really need to share this because we need more commandos on the floor!!!