I only recently started to like dancing – you know, the sweaty, strobe light, crowded bar jumping around kind. I used to think it was stupid. I used to be afraid to express myself quite so, ummm…. bodily. I never expected it would be such a source of wisdom.
Here are some things I’ve learned (and had reinforced) by getting out of my comfort zone and hitting the dancefloor.
1. Dance. Nobody is watching
You tend to think that everyone is going to be watching and judging your dance moves. In reality, as long as you appear to be having a good time and as long as you aren’t keeping people from having a good time, you belong where you are. Nobody cares all that much. This is as true on the dancefloor as it is in any social environment or any business.
2. Enjoy *yourself * first.
A big mistake a first-time dancer can make is prioritizing social acceptance over self-confident fun. You may want to be dancing with an attractive girl or grooving with a group of cool people. That’s not a good reason to go around looking needy or miserable until someone decides to dance with you. Learn to enjoy dancing for its own sake before you make the social element quite so important. Do the same with any other activity or skill: master the intrinsically rewarding parts of the activity, then bring in others to enjoy it with you.
3. Fake it till you make it.
Not feeling confident about your dance moves? You’re not alone. But even the best dances are just body movements done with confidence, grace, and rhythm. Find a pattern and fall into it. If you can keep time with the music and give yourself a workout that feels good, you’ve already won. Pretty soon you’ll have people following your lead.
4. If you can’t bring the party, create the party.
We mostly think of social capital in the context of business relationships. But a lot of it is actually built on the dancefloor. If you don’t have people with you when you go dancing, it is still possible to become the social center of the night. Just help other people around you have an amazing time. Encourage them to dance. Introduce new people to each other. Be the most outgoing, most generous, most festive, most comic, most passionate dancer you can be, and you will form a circle around you in no time.
5. Cut to the chase, and be confident about it.
If you want to dance with a girl or with a particular group of cool dancers, you can’t be shy. Step forward, make eye contact, and make your best moves. Most of the communication of intent has to be physical (ahem, with your own body) on a loud, crowded dancefloor, so this takes real vulnerability. Whatever you do, you can’t be halfhearted about engaging in the dance. Go for it until you have a clear rejection or a clear welcome.