bad habits to break - what about dance

A previous post shared thoughts on dance etiquette while at freestyles and class, but now I’m turning to bad dance habits. Dancers may think it’s beginners with bad habits but that’s not always the case. Lots of people complain about certain bad habits when they dance with people who’ve been dancing a while.

If you’ve been dancing a while and are wondering why people might refuse you a dance, or not ask you to dance, it’s worth assessing your dancing from a partner’s point of view. For beginners, these are some of the bad habits you want to keep a watch out for as you progress your dancing.

bad habits to break - what about dance

How do bad habits form?

No-one wants to pick up bad habits but they seem to be easy to form unless they’re picked up early. Habits form from the 3 part habit loop:

1. A cue or trigger, that sends you into automatic mode into the behaviour
2. Routine, which is the behaviour taking place
3. Reward, something that your brain likes and which encourages the habit to continue in future.

The more you do a behaviour, the more automatic it becomes and the harder to break.

Dancing and bad habits

The worst dancing habits are those that can be dangerous to your partner or others on the dancefloor.

1, Dangerous dips and drops

This applies to leaders and followers. For leaders, just because you like doing drops, doesn’t mean your partner will want to do one with you or is capable of doing it. Ask upfront if they are happy doing drops and dips and listen to the answer. Then adjust what drops or dips you do according to how they follow can control themselves. Also ensure that the follower is in the right position before you actually put them into the drop.

For followers, don’t fling yourself into a drop, wait to be led and get into the correct position. If you don’t feel comfortable or don’t know a drop, then don’t try it. And nice and experienced dance partner should follow your lead.

2, Spatial awareness

Don’t lead your partner into a space where other dancers are in. Make sure you’ve enough room. And while dancing both lead and follow need to stay aware of the movement of the other dancers around them. Otherwise there can be injuries from heels and arms. As well as annoying your partner and other dancers

3, Being too stiff or having spaghetti arms

Follows in particular need to watch out and practice better following technique. If you’re finding it hard to follow one lead, it may be their issue. But if you’re struggling to follow everyone, it’s a sign there might be adjustments you need to work on.

Obviously a lead can be too strong, shoving a follower around, but generally the stiffness or looseness is down to the follow. Everyone is different, but there’s a good neutral follow position with arms bent at the elbows at 90 degrees, but relaxed. The main thing to remember is that different moves require different levels of ‘tension’ or ‘compression’ as it’s often referred to. You can practice use a couple of different practice techniques to get used to adapting through a different firmness’ of frame.

If you feel out of control, your arms are too loose, the leader will have to pull you around more to get you to move. And if you’re too stiff, you can be hard to lead and there’s the danger of injury. If you’re finding following hard, ask a teacher or someone who all the leads say is easy to dance with and ask for tips.

4, Vice like grip or ‘thumbs’

One thing beginners get taught is not to use their thumbs. But you still find improvers or even intermediate level dancers gripping on to their partner using their thumb. There’s no need, it’s not a pleasant feeling, and by gripping you’re making it hard to execute a return or assisted turns. Solve the problem by having the lead’s hand provide a ‘frame’ and the follower drapes the hand over the top to loosely ‘hook’ over. If you don’t think you do this but people pull your thumb off their hand, take the hint.

5, Teaching your partner

In class or on the freestyle floor, if you’re not a teacher and/or your partner hasn’t asked for feedback, then don’t tell your partner what they’re doing wrong. For starters it might not be wrong, it might have been a reaction to a bad lead or follow. You might be putting them off dancing – imagine if everyone told that person that something was wrong – demoralising. Teachers are trained to be able to recognise a problem and correct it. Everyday punters aren’t, you’re there to social dance, not to teach. Oh, and it takes up space on the dance floor.

6, Putting judgement on people before you’ve danced with them

Not everyone looks like a dancer – dancers come in all shapes and sizes on the social dancefloor. People can be fat, thin, tall, short, disabled, pretty, or any other type of label. But anyone can dance and be a good dancer if they put the work in. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been looked up and down after asking someone to dance at a new venue before being accepted. It feels horrible to be on the receiving end, and if accepted you wonder why they bothered accepting. If you’re someone who does that, try and be less obvious if you can’t stop doing it. And keep an open mind. You don’t know how a dance will go until you have it. It might turn out to be an amazing dance.

7, Stick to the same ‘routine’ and don’t adapt to your partner

Leaders frequently have set moves they do with everyone whatever their partner’s ability. It’s not ideal (how does the leader not get bored?) and you’re limiting your progress. For a beginner follower sometimes they need moves simplifying otherwise you’re in danger of putting them off.

Solve it – by going to class, and gradually adding in 1 or 2 new moves into your repertoire a month. Mix moves up depending on the music. Dance 1 track only use 1 set of variations – eg all double handed moves, or every other move has to be a yoyo variation etc. Not all the time, but throw in a challenge once in a while to practice mixing things up.

8, Style over substance

While we all want to look stylish while we dance, sometimes less is more especially on a busy dance floor. Just be aware of who’s dancing nearby.

9, Not listening to the music

Once you’ve been dancing a while, not listening to the music can be the difference in getting to dance with the good dancers who’re after a more connected dance, and being stuck dancing to the same mid tempo music time and time again. If you want to improve your dancing, and partnering skills, adding in some musicality and practising dancing to different genres of music will increase your dance skills and open you up to more dancers and freestyles.

While some of these bad habits should be avoided from a safety and enjoyment aspect the others are more subjective. Not everyone wants to progress and become more musical. But it’s worth taking a look at your own dancing from time to time to strive to be the best dance partner you can for the people you dance with.

Modern jive dance is after all, a partner dance. It takes two to tango modern jive.

How do you feel about these on the dance floor? Are there any bad habits you want to work on?

Let me know what you think