Don’t Be a Dance Bully by Terry Pratt

I offer this story to the dance community as an effort in “consciousness raising” about an important issue that can have a huge impact on any dancer, but especially on new dancers who don’t yet know what is proper and improper on the dance floor. As we try to encourage new dancers to join our community, an experience like the one I relate here can ruin the dance experience for them. We want every aspect of a new dancer’s experience to be positive. Here is the story, and my thoughts about how to make folks aware of how destructive “dance bullying” can be:

I encouraged a friend to come to the July dance. It was her first time. She was stepping out of her comfort zone and was excited at the prospect of joining our dance community. She arrived early to take the Salsa lesson. Shortly after the lesson ended and the dance began, I saw her in tears, heading for the parking lot; unlikely ever to dance with us again. Why? She had met a dance bully during the lesson, and he had ruined the whole experience for her. She was angry, frustrated, and humiliated by the experience.

Are you a dance bully? Most dance bullies are probably well-intentioned. They can be male or female, leader or follower. They are the folks who critique your dance moves and offer unsolicited “personal instruction” about how to improve them. What they don’t realize is that the recipient of this unsolicited “help” finds it distracting, arrogant, demeaning, and just generally irritating. You think you are being helpful and “cool” – the older, more experienced dancer? You aren’t – you are just making yourself into an obnoxious dance bully.

Offering unsolicited “advice” to someone about how to improve their dance moves is very tempting, especially when you are a more experienced dancer, and you see a new dancer struggling with some move or pattern. Resist the temptation to “help them out”! If they want your help, they can ask for it. If you are asked for help, of course, provide that help if you can. But NEVER, NEVER offer unsolicited advice – that makes you a dance bully.
Remember that new dancers are struggling with many new concepts and moves when they are taking a dance lesson. Let the lesson instructor do the teaching. If you offer unsolicited advice, you create a distraction, which the beginner rightly finds irritating. You might think you are being helpful, but instead you have become part of the problem. Don’t do it!

And if you are dancing with someone, and they begin to offer unsolicited advice, be aware that you are being bullied. Do something about it – like telling them that their advice is not welcome or, if necessary, simply end the dance and walk off the floor. In a lesson, if the rotation leads to some-one who starts distracting you with unsolicited advice, say “no thanks, you are distracting me”, or simply stop dancing, say “you are bullying me”, and move to a different spot in the rotation, leaving the offender without a partner – and with a lesson in dance etiquette!

Notice what happens when you dance a social dance with a dance instructor, always the best dancers on the floor. Do they start offering you unsolicited advice and critiques of your dancing er-rors, as they easily could do? Never! They know how hurtful that can be. Follow their example and make our dance community a welcoming experience for all dancers, and especially for new dancers.

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