When you first start as a beginner at Ceroc, one of the first things mentioned is about how it’s a welcoming place and encouraging of all dancers. Ceroc and modern jive is a large friendly community.. It’s largely talked about that you should always say yes when asked to dance. But is it really true that saying no to a request to dance isn’t right?
Always accepting a dance
One of the best things about Ceroc and modern jive is that it’s friendly and open. There’s little judgement about people’s dancing. It’s about getting everyone on the dancefloor without huge amounts of technical ability.
As part of the welcoming nature and having a full dancefloor, you want everyone to feel comfortable asking others to dance. Especially strangers and beginners. After all, if you have new people turning up and feeling too scared or on the sidelines to dance, they won’t return and you’ll end up with a stagnant venue that won’t last.
So when we start going to beginners classes we’re encouraged to say yes and dance with everyone.
As a beginner I remember thinking this was brilliant. It meant turning up to a lesson or freestyle alone didn’t matter. I knew I’d always be able to get dances.
It also reduced the worry about being a woman asking men to dance. In the majority of venues you’ll have a larger number of women turning up, so if you’re waiting for men to ask you to dance, you can be waiting a long time. Noone wants that. It reduces the nerves of newer dancers, and those who might be worried about being turned down when they ask someone. Knowing that people are ‘meant’ to accept all requests, means people are going to have more confidence in asking.
I’m also a big believer in how dancing with lots of different people can progress your dancing a lot faster than always sticking with the same person. Yes, if you go to ceroc classes or socials in a couple and stick dancing with them all night, it’s really not going to be as fun or beneficial for you.
There’s also the confidence issue that some people have, especially beginners. Maybe you’re someone that isn’t very confident with freestyles and being out of a class environment. Assuming that you’ll say yes means you might be more likely to get on the dance floor and get over the nervous part faster.
So encouraging people to say yes is generally a good thing.
But, not all the time.
As I continued dancing and going to other venues for freestyles and weekenders, there were more people and occasions where I wanted to say no. Not frequently because I’m still a believer that where possible we should all try to dance with new/different people (remembering that it is a social dance). But sometimes there are legitimate reasons when saying no is acceptable.
This is something that many dancers aren’t aware of. That they can say no, and this should be accepted.
When is it acceptable to say no
A simple no thank you should be accepted, but some people don’t accept that. So I’ve included my tips on how to go about saying no if they want further information.
I’ve also found some people just keep asking week after week. In those cases I have actually stated exactly why I won’t dance with them. My experience is they look shocked, deny there’s an issue and blame me. But at least it usually gets through in the end.
If you have danced with someone before and they’ve led you into dangerous drops or moves without asking your permission or checking you know the moves first then you’re in the right to say no. In particular if you’ve asked them to not do any drops but they lead them anyway.
Similarly if there’s a leader or follower who throws themselves or you around so you end up with pulled shoulders, aching arms or just feel sick when dancing with them, then you don’t feel bad for turning them down.
You can just use the excuse of injuries with the way they dance, but sometimes it is just better to say you don’t feel comfortable being led in the moves they do because you’ve been injured in the past.
Similarly to safety, if there’s someone who you and others find really creepy, whether they’ve done something in the past or not, you can say no. There should be no explanation required.
If they keep asking or go on about you turning them down, just state that they make you uncomfortable as proven by them keeping asking. Then speak to the organisers if you’d like them to have a word about the behaviour. It might not just be you who feels uncomfortable.
This probably isn’t a blanket no. Some people are just heavy sweaters, but do something about it to make it more pleasant for who they’re dancing with. They might towel off, change t shirts, dance moves that involve less close body contact.
But if there’s someone who always stinks of cigarettes, alcohol, or makes no effort to wipe down and keep smelling fresher, then why should you dance with them if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.
I’ve danced several times with men who look down their noses throughout the dance, or make it felt that they’re doing me a favour by dancing with them. Or even made me feel really incompetent when dancing to a complex track where we weren’t in sync at all with the rhythm. With one person I felt so awful at a break in the track, I even said thanks and left the dance floor. Rude yes not to finish the dance, but people on the edge of the floor actually said to me as I walked off ‘good for you’.
If you’ve danced with someone once and they made you feel awful, then don’t feel forced to dance with them another time. No-one should ever feel patronised or judged by a dance partner.
In these cases though, I’ve found it’s rare you’ll get asked by these people after having had one dance. Although you might make the mistake I’ve done in the past and forgotten what the person looked like, then asked them to dance at another freestyle. Usually it’s been a better dance second time round. They might have had a bad day before, or I’d asked them as they were off somewhere else and felt they couldn’t say no.
Tiredness / on a break
If you’ve been dancing all night and really need some timeout but get asked to dance, just tell the truth. If it’s someone you’d like to dance with anyway, say you’ll find them in x dances time once you’ve had a breather. Don’t get up and then dance with the next person to ask during the same song.
Generally if none of the above reasons apply, I’ll get up and dance whether it’s music I like or not. However there are some tracks I just won’t dance to. Anything way too fast, or 60s music.
If it’s the music you don’t want to dance to rather than the person, just ask them if you can wait for a more suitable track. You can stand and talk to them in the meantime. Or ask them to come and find you if they want to go and dance with someone else.
I’ve only had one time this backfired, when a DJ decided to play 3-4 60s tracks in a row. I’d said no to the first one to a man, then had to say I’d find him for the next one that wasn’t that genre. He obviously wasn’t impressed because when I went to find him he didn’t want to dance at all. Oops.
Unacceptable reasons for turning down a dance
The person asking is larger or older than you’d like, or disabled, or a person of colour. They could actually be a really good dancer and you could be missing out. They’re also probably a nicer person than you if you say no for those reasons.
They’re a beginner. People have to start somewhere, they probably needed to build some confidence to ask you, and you might have a really nice dance with them.
You’re only dancing with your friends. If it’s the one big event you all arrange to go to to meet up and dance that’s great. But maybe dance with some others occasionally. During a 3-5 hour freestyle, there’s plenty of time to dance with friends as well as a few people you don’t usually dance with.
They’re teachers and off duty. This one is controversial for a lot of people. Most teachers are happy to dance with anyone who asks at a freestyle. But they will usually have a tonne of people queuing or targeting them for a dance. They might want to have a breather and get to dance with people who’re friends and they rarely see. If they’re at a freestyle they’re not there as a teacher, so they’re not obliged to spend the night dancing with everyone like they could be at a class night.
So there are plenty of occasions where it is acceptable to say no. If you’re the one saying no, don’t feel bad but try and be kind (and firm).. If you say no ‘at this point’ then do make the effort to find the person another time.
Most people don’t say no though, so there’s always lots of others to dance with. If someone turns you down, don’t take it to heart. They might just be taking time out, have an injury, need to make a call. In modern jive there’s no time to dwell on no’s, just find someone else to dance with.
Of course, if lots of people are saying no to you, it might be that you want to ask advice from a trusted friend on what the issue might be so you can fix it.
Do you ever say no to a dance? Has a no put you off asking others?