Choosing Social Dance Partners as Beginners

If you are a new dancer or not confident in your abilities, does that mean you should sit on the sidelines and just watch?  Definitely not!  

I often hear from newer dancers about the stress they feel in social dance parties.  This applies to all social dances (Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, WCS, etc) but I am writing today especially about Zouk.  In Zouk, the learning curve for leaders is particularly tough in the beginning.  This has two common results:

  1. Leaders are nervous about social dancing and don’t want to come to parties because they feel they aren’t good enough, that their partner will be bored, etc
  2. Followers prefer to dance with more experienced leaders

This can result in very unbalanced socials with many followers and few leaders.  Many followers don’t get to dance much, and the leaders have a lot of pressure to dance non-stop.  Followers that don’t get to dance much may also start to feel less confident as well.  It’s better for everyone to have a more balanced ratio.  So how to improve this situation?  The answer is in the mindset of both leaders and followers.


I totally understand not feeling good enough.  I struggled a lot with zouk for quite awhile.  I traveled to Singapore and Malaysia for events and at the socials I wouldn’t dare to ask anyone because I felt embarrassed.  But many followers were very kind and patient. They made the effort to ask me to dance and helped me to relax.  Without patient and proactive followers, I might have just given up before I started.

I know how you feel.  But you’ve got to get up the courage to go to socials and ask for dances because that’s how you start to relax and enjoy the dance more.  If you wait until you are *good enough* to go to a social, you’ll probably never be good enough in your mind.  You’ve got to get out there!

So I’ll give you a method that made it easier for me in the beginning:

  1. Ask your classmates and other people you know are beginners or your level.  If it stresses you to dance with higher level follows, don’t give yourself that stress!  
  2. If you are afraid of rejection or of asking a follower who is hoping to be asked by another leader, then don’t ask at the beginning of a song.  Wait until people have all started dancing, and then ask a follower who isn’t dancing.  If you know that nobody else is likely to ask her to dance that song, you may feel less pressure 🙂   And if you are worried about them feeling bored, just ask them to dance one song.  Avoid the mistake of taking too much of someone’s time or energy and they will be more willing to dance with you in the future!


As a beginner, you may prefer to dance with more experienced leaders.  It’s very natural!  But remember
1.  Those leaders also like to dance with experienced followers 😉
2. If the inexperienced leaders don’t dance, they will stay inexperienced.  It’s only by dancing more that they will improve.  So if they feel that they are not wanted, they will likely not come to the party and give up.  They will never develop into what they could be and won’t contribute to a better community in the future.

Try to empathize with beginner leaders and help them to grow up.  You never know what will happen in the future- that leader might develop into someone you really enjoy dancing with in the future.  Instead of waiting to dance with some leader who has been dancing for a few years, focus on dancing with your classmates and growing up together.  

Does that mean you have to accept every invitation to dance, and do you have to dance with someone as long as they want?  Of course not.  You are there for your own reasons, and nobody else has a claim to your body or your energy.  You should always feel free to reject an invitation with or without giving a reason, especially if a leader is not respectful or dangerous (and if that’s the case, you should also tell the organizer).  And if they want to dance more than one song and you don’t, you can always thank them and finish the dance.  But when you have energy and are in the right mindset, try to be open to those who are working and doing their best to become a social dance leader.


So as a beginner dancer (leader or follower), should you not ask the more experienced leaders/followers to dance? Of course you can! But recognize that those dancers have already put in a lot of time and work to be able to dance that way.  They may be happy to dance with you as a beginner once in awhile, but be careful not to build up an expectation that they will dance with you for multiple songs or every party, especially when the ratio is unbalanced (either way).  Most people social dance primarily for pleasure, and nobody owes you a dance- not your friend, not your teacher, not your girlfriend/boyfriend.  Dancers don’t want to feel obligated to dance with someone, and they also don’t want to feel they need to explain or teach something in a party.  Ask without expectation and you’ll feel and transmit a more relaxed vibe.

So make sure that to focus on dancing with your classmates and developing leaders, and whether leader or follower, whatever experience, make some time to dance with the newest beginners.  You just might make that person fall in love with Zouk/ whatever you are dancing.  To build a vibrant, living community, we need new dancers to continually join and grow up together 🙂  

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