Tips for Surviving Your First Night on the Club Dancefloor (for Awkward Guys)

I remember my first time on the dancefloor at a club. It was obvious I was underage, and whatever I was doing, I was not impressing my dance partner. It wasn’t pretty. I think there’s a Facebook video of that experience somewhere.

Even though I was nobody’s idea of a hot dancer, I was proud of myself for getting out there instead of sitting on the sidelines. If you’re like me, awkward guys, you’ve spent a lot of time on the margins of dance parties. Instead of dancing, you have either pretended to be too cool to cut footloose or you have been honestly shaking and sweating out of paralyzing fear.

But hopefully by now you know dancing is fun, great exercise, a great way to enjoy music, a great way to make friends, and of course, a great way to interact with the opposite sex. Plus, dancing will teach you things about life.

Fear no longer, and hide in anti-dancing snobbery no longer. You are going to the club and getting out on the dancefloor with some basic tips that will make things a heck of a lot easier.

1. Find a good club.

I hate most nightclubs. Look for clubs that offer the kind of dancing and the kind of music you want – 80s, 90s, hip-hop, soul, indie pop, etc. Top 40 is overrated and overused.

Ideally people at your club are there to dance, first and foremost – even before drinking. You definitely don’t want to go to a place like the club in Austin, where people in their 20s and 30s were simultaneously trying to seduce each other and kill each other with contemptful glares.

2. Move like a gorilla.

This is some interesting advice I received from a friend. It sounds wacky, but it works. Guys on a dancefloor generally move more in the upper body in ways that make them appear larger. This is easier shown than written and easier imagined. Like a gorilla showing off his size and strength, some common basic dancing moves for guys (in addition to a basic stepping to the music) include arm swings and pumps.

Think of your dancing like a gorilla mating ritual and you’ll be just fine.

(Actually, I might need to think through that one a bit more.)

3. Set your bar low.

Do not expect to go out and be a dancing god. Do not set your measure of success to be dancing with the most attractive woman in the club (or even dancing with an attractive woman). If this is your first time, make it your goal simply to get out and dance to some songs. Focus on the enjoyment *you* get from the experience, and pay attention to the freedom that comes from taking a risk and moving your body to music.

4. Dress with function and a bit of flair.

Don’t wear clothing that will give you heat exhaustion, and you should just about expect heat exhaustion if you are wearing long sleeves. Make sure your dress is appropriate to the venue’s standards, but aim for lighter, more flexible, more functional.

Don’t forget to add a bit of flair, though. I like wearing cheap sunglasses to more fun-spirited dance parties. I don’t know whether this makes me stylish or ridiculous (it’s both), but this little extra detail does help me stand out as a playful person and generally makes for a better time.

4. Be the most fun person in the room.

People want to dance with you if you are fun, so make sure you are having fun and inviting others into that fun. A lot of clubs will have mounted stands where a person or a few people can dance in the “spotlight.” Go for this spot early on and establish a reputation. The crowd will root for someone who tries.

When you’re dancing with others, don’t be picky, don’t be pushy or demanding, and don’t be a snob. Dance with who you’re dancing with, build trust, and then enlarge your circle. It’s great to bring friends (this helps you appear trustworthy, as others have noted), but you can also build up a dancing community from scratch in less than an hour.

5. Do NOT hover.

The world’s saddest sight is a bunch of dudes dancing on the periphery of a group of attractive women who clearly aren’t into them. Don’t do that. It makes things worse for you and the ladies. Be the person people want to dance with (even if that means dancing by yourself at first), not the person that clearly needs some group’s validation.

Besides, if you want to dance with a woman, you will almost always hurt your chances if you’re hovering and being less than direct.

6. Don’t be afraid to throw some elbows.

Dancefloors can get really crowded. For a politer person like you, it’s going to feel awkward and difficult to make your way through a crowd. You are going have to get a little assertive. Ask forgiveness instead of permission for pushing through a crowd. People won’t be able to hear you ask for permission anyway. People expect that they will be jostled around in crowd of humans. Just be as careful and respectful as you can, but don’t let yourself get trapped by a crowd.

7. Know when to leave.

When people are clearly too intoxicated to make good decisions, it’s time for you to leave. You came here to dance, not to watch or take advantage of weak-minded or sad people. When possible, leave near your peak of dancing. Don’t stay much longer past the moment you realize the night has diminishing marginal returns in terms of fun, experience, possibilities, etc.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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