the worst question to ask a social dancer- What about dance

It’s ok to chat while social dancing, isn’t it?  Not everyone agrees that the dancefloor is appropriate to be chatting on, but generally a hello is fine, and anything more in depth can be left until afterwards.  But why oh why do so many people ask the worst question to ask a dancer on the social dancefloor?

“How long have you been dancing?”

Innocuous you may think.  But my heart falls whenever someone asks.

the worst question to ask a social dancer- What about dance


I just can’t understand why someone would ask it.  I presume it’s just small talk.  But can’t a ‘hi, my name is xyz, having a good evening?’ suffice?  If people want to chat about dance can’t they come and find me when I’m sitting down or after the dance?

When I’m asked, it plants worry in my head or immediately puts my back up.

Either it’s a non-confident dancer or a beginner asking and it’s a sign that they’re worried they’re not going to cope.

If that’s the case I’d rather not know.  So much about dancing is about confidence, shaking off those concerns and enjoying the dance.  If you’re worrying about hierarchies in dance and who dances at what level your head already isn’t in the right place to have a positive dance.  You should be dancing in the moment and then if you have to, worry about how it went afterwards.

The alternative is that it’s a dancer who’s been dancing a while.  Whenever I’m asked in this case, it makes me feel judged and makes me question my dancing.

Are they asking because they think I’ve been dancing a while but aren’t that good? Are they thinking I’m trying to lead? Are they trying to work out why I’m not following their leads?

Or maybe it encourages defensiveness with someone not opening up their dance, tensing up, wanting to fight against the person who asked to prove them wrong.

Generally my experience has been that the dances where the question is asked, have never been that great.  It’s never teachers or really advanced dancers who ask.  I’ve found it’s mostly intermediate to advanced leaders who’ve been dancing a while.

Obviously these are all perceptions and maybe it is just small talk.  Maybe they’re being complimentary and wondering how long it takes to dance a certain way.  But for myself and most people I’ve talked to about it, it’s not a welcome question.

Also, surely the question can not only worry the person being asked, but can also unnerve the person asking?

A beginner asks someone how long they’ve been dancing and the answer is years.  That can put pressure on them to not get anything wrong.  They shouldn’t have to feel like that in social dancing.

A beginner asks and the answer is a short while.  Less pressure, but they might end up trying too hard or get over confident about how good they are, and then not bother working to improve.

A more advanced dancer asks and the answer is not much.  If it’s someone who strives to improve and give others a good dance then this can be beneficial if they adapt their dancing to work with their partner.  If it’s someone with a tendency to think they’re better than they are, it can give them ideas that they should be teaching on the dance floor and of course they’re right.

The majority of situations that this question is asked in, can had detrimental effects on the dance.

Of course, some of the irritation for me is that I never know what to answer. Do they want to know my total years of dance (21 years), the latest stint (18 months), modern jive or ceroc experience (5.5 years), additional random other dances I’ve tried over the years (probably another year)?  Some of those years I danced once a week, some up to 4 times a week, plus of course workshops, weekenders, taster sessions and more.

Maybe we should count in hours, like we do with tractor hours completed on the farm.

My answer is always stilted, takes a lot of explaining, and makes them a little confused.  Hopefully they wonder why they bothered asking and maybe it’ll stop the question being asked.  I find it’s more than likely men who ask (I don’t know if follows ask leaders the same question?)

What the question doesn’t account for is everyone who dances is different. 2 people could have both done 1 class a week over 10 years.  But both will be different dancers, in quality, style, ability, suitability for different partners.

So I’d just ask people not to ask ‘how long have you been dancing?’ on the freestyle dance floor.  Or at least think about a compliment first to remove the feeling of judgement.

Do you get asked the question a lot or do you ask it?  Do you mind?

Let me know what you think