What should you do if you’re not getting dances and you want to dance more?
Good question! After all, you only have control over yourself, so trying to change other people is only likely to create frustration and resentment for you and those one whom you try to impose your will.
Now that you’ve asked one question lets ask some others:
1) How is your attitude? Are you someone people want to be around? This is a tough one, as most people are stuck with themselves and so tend to assume other people want to be with them as protection from self-reflection.
Do you complain a lot? Valid complaints or not, this is something that may be driving people away from you.
Are you stuck up or disdainful about those less experienced than yourself? Why should people more experienced than you treat you differently than you treat others?
Basically, if you weren’t you, would you want to go on a road trip with you? This is an important question that should be asked of everyone, not just dancers.
2) How’s your hygiene? (e.g. do parts of you smell strongly or are they uncomfortably moist)
Notice I didn’t say do you smell like body odor. Many people are adverse to either body odor, strong colognes and perfumes or in my case, both. The less strongly you smell of things, the more people are likely to want to get close to you. Few people like leaving a dance smelling like their partner (with the exception of a small, very small subset people with very specific tastes).
Does your breath smell? Mints are often provided, but in the case of bad breath, you may need to see a doctor as it can indicate real health problems that can be dangerous if left untreated (assuming you brush your teeth regularly after obvious olfactorogenic food and drinks like coffee and garlic).
Are you wet or clammy to the touch? If so, bring extra clothes. More than you think you need. If you run out during the dance, you need at least one more shirt. In some scenes dancers will bring golf towels with them to dry off between dances, particlarly if there’s AC at the venue.
3) Do you look like one of the crowd?
I’d like to say this isn’t important, but somehow people never learn that it’s the skill, not the clothes that make the dancer.
Why is this? well, your attire is strong signaling behavior and is a near-instant way of telling people if you’re part of the group. This might mean sequins in west coast swing could be in vogue and gauche in lindy hop, it might mean a vest with no shirt in some crowds or tights in another.
Additionally, people are inspired (whether they realize it or not) to dress like their mentors and the people they aspire to be like. If your dress similarly to them, they may assume you share inspiration.
After all, if I can’t dance like someone, I can at least dress like them. You might think this is silly (and it is), but can you spot a ballerina, a tango dancer, a recess dancer or a lindy hopper who is experienced in a group? Maybe not with 100% certainty, but if you’re trying to gain acceptance in a new group, you can always start out by showing people you’re like them and shift your look back to your own style as people realize that you’re one of them. (this is a technique used to great effect by Alexander the great who made sure his generals and governors dressed and acted like the people they’d conquered so there would be as few feathers ruffled as possible).
Again, I’m not saying this SHOULD be the case. I’m just saying people are people and you *might* benefit from this technique. Oh, and incidentally, you might be doing this already without realizing it.
In fact, you might have been drawn to a dance more strongly where the dress matched your pre-existing wardrobe without even realizing it.
4) do you have a partner with whom to improve your craft?
This applies specifically to partnered dancing, but is useful to have a posse, crew or your troupe with whom to practice even in solo dance styles. being there for each other means you have people who are likely to want to dance with each other and you’re working on helping each other improve at the same time.
5) Are you taking classes?
Classes are a great way to improve your skill level as well as a way to meet people who are at your level and therefore likely in the same boat as you when it comes to finding people with whom to dance. Take classes and be friendly. Let the teacher be the teacher and don’t try to fix people’s technique. Introduce yourself and after class, stick around and ask for a dance at the beginning of the night while the experience of class is still fresh in their mind.
6) Get feedback or help from someone else.
If you’ve gone through the lessons, maybe it’s something else. Maybe… you really are nice and happy-go-lucky.
Maybe your breath is always fresh, you’re not sweaty and you look like you fit in, neither overly perfumed or odiferous in any particular way.
You’re taking classes and meeting people and you’re kind and rescue puppies regularly because you’re just that great of a person.
Are you sending signals you’re not interested in dancing without realizing it?
Avoiding eye contact, facing away from the floor, standing off the floor, or blocking body language may all be telling people you don’t want to dance and you may not realize you’re doing it.
Maybe you’re not doing that, but you have a habit of doing things that are considered faux pas in a scene (in some scenes this could be lifts or dips on a crowded floor, in others it might be having too much tone or muscle flexion to be comfortable for a potential partner).
If you’re really having trouble and you’ve been dancing for awhile, chances are you’ve met or talked with someone and you can ask them or a teacher or organizer in the dance what might be going on. They might be able to give you insight and help you see what’s going on better than you can do on your own if you’re stumped.
Generally hosts and organizers have a vested interest in having people come to the night and will often invite people to come to them with any questions, comments or concerns. use them as a resource to figure out what’s going on. They may have answers for you.
BONUS: Why are you waiting for dances? If you haven’t tried asking people to dance, try that. If you aren’t doing this already, definitely try asking people to dance.
BONUS TWO: For the intermediate or advanced dancer going to venue/scene/event for the first time. When I go to a new scene for the first time, I wait a few dances and look for a likely friendly dancer to share a dance with. Then, I ask them to dance. Sometimes it takes a few tries. Afterward I ask them if, since I’m new to the area, there are 2-3 other dancers I should make sure to dance with assuming this is my only night in town.
Generally, they point me in the direction of someone who they dance with often and now there are three of us working on the problem, which it also provides some social proof that people interact with me.
OR… they tell me some people I might want to dance with and I go from Sally to Betty and mention Sally said I should dance with Betty and ask her to dance. Then after, you repeat and use this process to get acquainted with other people you want to dance with. Who knows, if they like your dancing, you may end up going out for waffles with a group of new friends afterward!