By now you’ve either been to the club or have begun taking dance classes and are eager to get involved in the Latin dance community here in good old Chicago. As you begin to enter the many clubs and socials hosted by a variety of groups and studios, you’ll start to notice the vast variety of people who are attracted to Latin dance. It’s cool, seeing all of the faces that are both young and more seasoned out on the floor doing their thing. This particular aspect of the Latin dance community is one of my favorite. Unlike other clubs and nightlife experiences, you can’t get ‘too old’ for this scene. You’ll find people from all walks of life engaging with one another with the Latin beat as their common bond.

While you will inevitably see all different types, I’d like to take a moment to highlight a particular sort of person:

‘The show off’

As a public service message, showing off can indeed go wrong as illustrated by the following video so think twice before becoming that guy/gal:

Now then, these are the people who are purposeful in positioning themselves right by the bar or where they know people can see them. You’ll often find them ‘turn it on’ when they notice they are being watched. It appears that there is some pleasure in getting the accolades and admiration of the newer people in the scene as the more experienced dancers tend just to focus on the dance. On one hand, this can be inspirational to new dancers whereas it could lead to a wrong mindset.

How does this affect you?

Have you ever gotten a bit shy about putting yourself out there when you dance? As a newbie, I totally remember when I would intentionally run to the quiet corner when I danced in order for people not to see me mess up. It wasn’t so much that I was afraid mind you, unspoken elements like the club lights, people standing around and yes, haters, would cause me to lose my flow. While I work on not even minding any negative energy that comes to me, I know that the people who are casually looking on from the sidelines mean no harm. I’ve talked to my students about this, and they admit they get nervous sometimes when they are being watched. Several have told me it takes them out of the moment and makes them try to look better instead of dance well. Yes, those are two separate things.

They are everywhere around the perimeter of the dance-floor and quite often are either new or being exposed to dance for the first time. These are the people who I recall would watch me, and I would catch their gaze and become conscious of the fact I was being watched. Yes, the same people who the show off are seeking out were the same people who would cause me to get more nervous. I have to add that there is no right and wrong here, just personality types. If you are more exhibitionist by nature, that is cool as you either have a ton of self-confidence (good) or require validation (not so good). Regardless, my intent is to identify that the people on the sideline are there and are likely watching you at any given point in time.

So what? Do you find this distracting to you? I know it did to me. Even to this day, if you see me out and about, I developed the habit from my earlier days of dancing to go to the middle of the floor or off to the side. Nowadays it’s for an entirely different reason. While I openly admit being shy and unsure of myself when I started, I now am very comfortable with my ability to lead. From my perspective, showing off disconnects me from dancing with the person in front of me. Being that it’s called ‘partner-dancing,’ it seems like it would be beside the point. If I wanted to show off by myself, I would become a hip-hop,/jazz/ballet dancer where it’s more appropriate to shine on your own.

So I focus on becoming the best and most enjoyable partner I can be and work on things that currently challenge me like movement, clarity and musicality. As a believer in forward expansion, I’m of the opinion that you can never fully finish learning. Many of my dance teachers and mentors are still seeking knowledge to this day that should a reminder of the proper mindset that we can all adopt.

How to not let the dance club make you nervous

nervous-guy-when-dancing

It’s daunting at first, but I promise it gets better.

I would recommend to all newer dancers that you should focus first and foremost on your partner. Doing this will cause you to drown out all of the distractions that you may encounter on the social dance floor and it will help you refine the elements that you are learning in your dance classes. Early on, this should be simple. Focusing on crucial things like spacing, finesse, timing and connection will be well worth your while and help you progress.

To quote the great Jim Rohn again: “Be a better you for me.”

Being a better lead and working on controlling all of your intentions can only result in you being an excellent social dancer or even performer. Where ever your focus goes, your energy will flow. Also, keep in mind that like a good conversation, people sincerely do enjoy when you focus on them. It makes the recipient of your undivided attention feel fantastic and allows you to connect honestly.

I am in the editing stages of a book where I am writing more profoundly about my thoughts in Salsa/Mambo dancing. I repeat this phrase often:

“Harmonious movement between two people.”

Make this your goal and don’t let the distractions of onlookers or lights distract you from the beauty of the dance. Keep working at it and with enough effort, you’ll soon begin to discover why so many people from all walks of life are crazy about partner dancing.

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Until next time, to your dancing….