Harking back to the days of our grandparents and earlier, a social dance was where you went on dates and met friends. It was a huge social occasion, largely based on social ballroom style. There were dance halls in most towns and cities, compared with recent years where there’s few dance venues left.
However my experience of learning ballroom dance was that it’s not really social as we class it compared with more recent social dance styles. In ballroom dance, lessons are for partners. If you’re a person going to lessons on your own, especially as a woman, you’ll be either dancing alone, or dancing in a female partnership if you want to practice with a partner. That’s not social dancing to me even if it’s more social at tea dances and evening events.
Social dancing is more about the culture, going right through the dance organisations from class to workshops.
Partner dancing now has so many more options for social dancing, and what makes the difference scenes popular, is how social the dancing is.
So what makes it social dancing? And what makes modern jive one of the most social dances?
The definition is clear – a group or partner dance done for social reasons. Or a social dance gathering. So any partner or group dance counts if it’s not for competition.
Definition of SOCIAL DANCE
1: a group dance or couple dance done for social and usually recreational purposes
2: a gathering held in a ballroom, in a home, or outdoors where people may participate in social dances
The community, friendly, welcoming, open to everyone emphasis is what makes a dance social. And modern jive has that in spades.
There are other social dances of course – the various swing styles, plus salsa, kizomba, zouk and many more partner dances where there’s an open relaxed feel to the dance night. Whether it’s class or freestyle.
For me, to be classed as a social dance, there has to be a mixing up of partners. If you’re going along with a fixed partner and only dancing with them all night, you might be doing the dance, but the social aspect of dancing would be gone if everyone did this.
If you can walk into a venue – class night or otherwise – on your own, find people to dance with, enjoy the evening and feel welcome when on your own, that’s a social dance.
The benefits of social dancing over fixed partner dance
It’s open to all – single dancers or those who come with partners
Dancers improve social dancing by dancing with different people. You learn from each other and learn to adapt with different partners
Less likely to get complacent with your dancing or pick up and continue bad habits because you’ll get more ‘feedback’ from other dancers
You meet more people and have a bigger option of people to dance with.
More variation of dancers means less getting bored with dancing because everyone makes a different partnership.
You can bring more of different styles into the dance.
Social dancing progresses and changes faster over time according to the trends.
Modern jive as a social dance
Modern jive is easily set up to be one of the most social dances. In my experience it’s been unusual to hear people moan and say modern jive is cliquey and unwelcoming. Yes, there are pockets where people feel like an outsider, but there’s not waves of people saying it’s only for slim, young people like salsa, or elitist, like people talk about west coast swing.
Much of the ethos about modern jive when you start is about being able to ask anyone to dance, and that etiquette says you should never refuse a dance. While there are mumblings at how this can remove people’s choice, and pressurise people into dancing with dangerous or letchy people, as a beginner turning up on my own I found this welcoming. It meant I felt confident to ask people to dance (unlike my experience in salsa where men would look you up and down like dirt before accepting or declining), and that there was an openness towards dancers of any standard.
While nowadays, there’s more people who do decline dances for various reasons, there’s still the openness and friendliness to give most people a chance. The first time, it’s just one dance after all.
Rotating around a class so everyone dances with everyone, the increase in people switching to dance their ‘opposite’ role, it feels like modern jive is able to incorporate everyone into the family. Because we all just want to dance.
How do you feel about social dancing? How does modern jive or ceroc work for you?