As soon as we start at modern jive (although more so Ceroc) classes, it’s drummed into you that all requests to dance should be accepted. Coming from a clique-iness of salsa where I found it really hard to get a dance at freestyles even with 2 ½ years of dancing behind me, I was in heaven.
I felt confident that I could ask anyone to dance and could happily dance the night away. As someone who even 9 years later does more asking than being asked to dance, it’s a refreshing concept and one that is a great way to get beginners on the floor without feeling that they’re wrong to ask any dancer on the floor.
I’m a big believer in the ‘yes’ concept. Over the years it’s meant I’ve had some great dances. Some nice surprises – dancing with beginners – right through to amazing dancers I’ve asked at weekenders or big events. I’ve also had some dances I’d rather have not had – whether just dances that didn’t click, with smelly/over sweaty people, and with those who fling you around or don’t cater for the level of their partner. These dances were probably largely down to me asking anyone to dance, and that’s the pot luck of social dancing further afield than regular venues.
But the more you dance, the chances of being turned down increase. Because saying yes isn’t always the best thing. And from conversations I’ve had with people or read in forums, it appears more people are saying no when asked to dance.
Some arguments against the ‘always say yes’ rule are extreme for a social dance in my view. Saying yes to everyone isn’t a reflection of being required and pressured to say yes in life. It’s a social norm and acceptance, it’s saying you’re not better than everyone else, and that you’re willing to dance with anyone. Because whatever the reason for rejecting someone’s dance request, there’s usually disappointment on the other side, and for someone who’s not confidence in themselves or their dancing there’s the feeling of rejection.
Reasons to say yes:
- Social nicety and politeness
- Giving confidence to other dances
- Chance for a nice surprise dance
- Dancing with everyone will largely benefit your dancing
- You’ll get more dances (you don’t want to be known as the person who’s stuck up and won’t dance with everyone)
- It’s welcoming, especially to new people
But however much I think that accepting as many dances as possible is the polite and best thing to do, there are reasons where I have said no before, some more acceptable than others.
Why no might be acceptable:
- You need a break
- You need a drink
- Someone else has already requested this dance
- The person is sleazy/has made you feel uncomfortable
- The person is dangerous to dance with – throwing into drops (lead or follow), lifts, won’t take note of any injuries and adjust for that.
However you say no, you should always be careful in how you refuse. If it’s just that you can’t dance at that moment, don’t be seen to then get up and dance during the same track with the next person to ask. It will be noticed. If it’s someone you’d like to dance with (ie, the top 3 above), let them know they can come and find you for another track or you’ll look them out. I’ll apologise now because I often don’t remember who asked, so trying to find the person who asked later isn’t always easy.
If it’s for uncomfortable reasons – you just can’t bear dancing with that person because they’re dangerous, fling you around, hurt you or is sleazy, it might be worth speaking to the venue organiser and seeing if they can have a word. Usually I just avoid the person if this is the case, because it might just be you that isn’t comfortable. If I knew lots of others hated dancing with them, then I’d probably say something to the venue organiser.There may be occasions when you shouldn't have to accept a request to dance. Do you agree? Click To Tweet
My biggest tip to saying no when it really needs saying is to think about the person asking.
I’ve been on the receiving end of people refusing a dance. Generally it’s been down to needing a break, t-shirt change or having a drink. But I’ve also had someone just say ‘no’ straight out on the dance floor. The dance floor was pretty empty, he didn’t have anyone else heading his way, and I just went and asked. It’s embarrassing on an empty dancefloor in front of everyone, and annoying given there was no explanation given. Other people noticed as I walked off the floor, and a couple said something to me asking what he’d said. He did later come and ask me to dance which I was surprised about, although he didn’t seem to specifically look me out, and he didn’t apologise.
It was gratifying to know that it didn’t end up being a great dance anyway, but it was certainly a shock to be refused like that. It doesn’t make me worry about it, because I’ll just go and ask someone else, but for a beginner or someone less confident in asking others, it could put them off from coming back another time.
I have however since done the same to someone who kept asking me to dance, who makes me feel a little dirty (not in the fun way) and wants to do lots of drops that I won’t do. It’s never a pleasant dance, and on this occasion, the avoidance tactic didn’t work. I was so amazed he’d actually asked again, especially as I was talking to someone at the time. ‘No thank you’ just came out of my mouth. Without an explanation. I am embarrassed by it now given the shock I had being on the receiving end of similar, but it has done the job of stopping him asking me. Obviously doing this can run the risk of your reputation if word gets round that you refuse people.
For me, having the ethos of saying yes to all dance requests is what makes modern jive the social dance that it is. It’s a means to encourage every level of dancer into the dance community. Not all dance styles have that friendliness, and maybe more should encourage it.
There are the arguments that teachers/advanced dancers should be able to choose who they dance with and not feel like they’re obliged to teach at a freestyle. And there will always be people of all levels who don’t mix outside their group, or who stick with a set partner. But generally there are a lot of benefits for dancing with new and different people, and saying yes will broaden your dance ability and your potential dance partners.
Do you like the ‘say yes to everyone’ ethos? Have you ever or do you refuse requests to dance?