Your First Social Dancing Experience Guide

So, you joined our Beginner course or maybe took a class or two in Salsa, Bachata or another social dance. Now you have decided it’s time to be brave and hit your first club or as we like to call it a “Social”.

A Social is basically just a place where people have this common love for a dance and they share it together. It sounds like a normal a club, but it is likely to be a completely new experience, and it’s bound to be exciting and intimidating at the same time. So let’s talk about social dancing etiquette and alleviate some of the fears and concerns.

Asking a partner for a dance

A Salsa club (or any other latin dance for that matter) has a very nice thing about it. We are all there to enjoy and dance together – there are no strangers in a salsa club like in a normal one. If you want to dance just ask for it!

Do it nicely. Smile, say hi, be polite: “would you like to have a dance?”. Another nice way is to offer your hand so your partner would comply and give their hand in for the dance.

Try to avoid forcing your potential partner to a dance unless it’s your friend. Grabbing her/him and leading immediately to a dance without consent is considered not polite and aggressive.

Should I ask for a dance as a woman?

Well, you don’t have to. The men will probably come to you. BUT!

If you take the initiative and ask people to dance you will enjoy the night better! you will dance more, with the dancers that you choose, to songs that you like.

If you still feel uncomfortable asking out for a dance. Just remember the following: The chances of you being asked to dance are the highest if you just danced ( alone or with a partner). Second, best is to stand up in a visible place facing the dance floor. If you sit down in a dark corner, you better pour an entire jar of sparkly confetti on your face, cause otherwise your chances to dance are slim – so stand up, smile and be available.

Yes.

How long should we dance?

Typically it’s accustomed to dance one full song. Leaving in the middle of a song, leave extreme cases aside, can be very rude and hurt your partner. 

The best time to offer a dance is at the beginning of the song. If you happen to ask out later, consider asking for another song. Dancing only half a song can leave at times an “unwanted’ feeling.

In most of the world, asking for a second full consecutive dance is often a sign of flirtation. Responding yes or no is a subtle note of interest or disinterest. In Berlin however, this unspoken rule is not applicable. People often dance another and another dance without thinking twice of it.

Can I refuse a dance?

This is a big question in social dancing and I will give my own view about it. I think refusing should generally be avoided. We are all human beings, and a dance with you might mean an amazing night or an awful night to someone whether you realize it or not. What does it matter, age / size / ethnicity / level?! If you bring a smile to someone, wouldn’t you consider that a great night?

That said, it is reasonable to refuse having a good reason. Are you tired? Too sweaty? Do You feel unwell? Just refuse nicely and explain. Asking that person to a dance when things change is a great gesture.

If you feel uncomfortable with a person whether due to hygiene, repeated unwanted flirting and the like, of course, you can refuse as well.

I just got refused 🙁

Don’t think twice of it, it happens to everyone, good and bad dancers alike. Unfortunately, not everyone shares the sentiment I shared above. Don’t let it sink in, and ask someone else to dance, you will forget about it by the end of the song.

Should I dance with someone above my level?

Yes. Dancing with someone above your level will help you improve your dancing, and you can also ask for their opinion or tips. Thoughts like “He/She is so advanced, he/she wouldn’t want to dance with me” often come to mind, but try to overcome it. Few dancers might be a little snobbish refusing beginners, but we all started as beginners and most dancers will be glad to dance with no matter the level. Remember to smile, when everything goes wrong it makes all the difference.

Will she/he think I’m flirting just because I asked him/her to dance?

No. Dancing together in a social dance setting has no strings attached.

Hygiene

This is a major issue with major consequences! In couple dancing you will be very close to your partners, good hygiene is crucial. Poor hygiene will surely be noticed and it is a sure way to get refusals. On the contrary, it adds a lot when your dance is accompanied by a pleasant smell.

  • Deodorant use is a must. Perfume / Cologne is a big plus.
  • Good breath smell is a must. A chewing gum can help.
  • If you sweat a lot, bring shirt replacements. Alternatively, you can limit the number of consecutive dances and allow yourself to cool down between dances. 
  • If you ate something that makes your hands smell (salami for example), make sure to wash them.
  • If you are smoking make sure to have that gum and wash your hands.

Dance complexes, Is that Salsa?

Some clubs will have a few rooms, each championing a different style of music and dance. You might feel a little out of place if you encounter the wrong room. The music will be different, people will dance a little bit different than how you were taught.

You should find the room that is suitable for your style. Any Salsa room should do. Some places might further separate between different styles of Salsa. In that case, at La Candela we mainly teach Cuban Salsa. So a Cuban Salsa room / Timba is the one for you.

If unsure – ask someone 🙂

Everyone dances so well? What am I doing here?!?!?!

Take a chill pill and enjoy the moments when everything is magical.

We all started as beginners with the same reaction and shock, keep that in mind. If you keep taking classes and practice most likely you will be just as good if not better than most of these amazing dancers in a matter of few months. No, I’m not exaggerating.

If you succumb to this intimidating feelings you will not practice, and that is the one thing that will keep you from advancing and enjoying.

Don’t be creepy / Know the acceptable boundaries

Well, most of the dancers in Socials are there because they love dancing period. Still, wherever there are men and women there is bound to be some flirting involved. That is ok, but keep it classy!

Creepy behavior examples: 

  1. Grabbing and forcing a dance upon someone.
  2. Touching where you shouldn’t. Your partner knows it’s not appropriate.
  3. Insisting and repeatedly asking for a dance when refused.
  4. Flirting, and talking an entire dance instead of actually dancing.

On the other hand, and this goes mainly to you ladies. If you feel uncomfortable it probably shouldn’t happen. In our Salsa Beginner Course, we talk about what is ok and what not, and how can you handle it. In these cases make sure your partner understands the allowed limits, and if he doesn’t you may leave the dance. This shouldn’t happen often, but it can happen. Don’t worry, most dancers are positive and respectful.

I don’t have someone to go with.

Well first, you can ask in our La Candela’s Community Group if somebody wants to join you.

Second, you don’t need anyone to come with. You will dance the whole night anyway. Most dancers come alone. If you go dancing often enough you will get to know many new friends, so your friends will already be there even if you go alone.

Where should I dance?

There are plenty of places to dance in Berlin. You can see most of the socials here.

Beginner friendly places include Clärchens Ballhaus, or Bebop.

Soda Club or Else in the summer are great places to dance if you have some more confidence or skills.

Closing words

With all this in mind, just go and have fun. That’s what it’s about. Practice your moves, smile and dance your heart out.

If you haven’t already, you are welcome to join our Salsa Beginner Courses which will get you dancing in no time. Our Teachers are super professional and friendly. Also, we will probably go dancing all together making your first dance experience as amazing as it can be.