This article was originally published over 3 years ago (March 2008). Someone asked me about this subject in the club last week, so I decided to dig this up and republish. Your thoughts are welcomed! (Please use "Comment" link at the bottom.)
The big dilemma for guys: She is a great dancer and I’m not close to her level. Do I dare ask her to dance?
It all depends on what you want in the future, whom else she is dancing with tonight, and whether or not you already have a connection with her.
Here’s the calculations I've made early on, and I still ask it today: If I ask her tonight, is it likely she’ll want to dance with me in the future? Will I bore her to death? Will I leave her with the impression I want, so she’ll say yes the next time?
|Ask when you're within range|
Many excellent follows will dance with anyone who asks, even if the guy asking is a beginner, but they will avoid you or have a sudden urge for a bathroom break as you approach in the future. Especially if you are off the music, rough, or extremely boring. Simple often works fine if you're on time and smooth with the moves you do know, but doing basic and off-time singles for five minutes and telling her she's beautiful doesn't usually work.
If you are just getting started with basic, my rule is finding some follows who are stronger than you, but temper the urge to dance with the hot superstar until you are “in the ballpark”.
If a lady has danced for five years and I’ve danced for five weeks, it’s unlikely she’ll have a great time with me, even if she says yes and gives me what I call a “pity” dance. Pity dances are not what I want; I want her to see me and know if she says yes, she will be comfortable even if she isn't having the dance of her life.
Be sensitive to the fact that excellent follows have paid some dues to become strong dancers. You should too before you expect them to respect you and enjoy dancing with you. If you ask them while you are still a beginner, I don’t recommend you ask them more than occasionally, because you want them to notice your improvement over time. Once they sense you are an improver, the game changes as they respect those dancers, even if you are not at their level yet.
Sometimes, you’ll see a great dancer and she is dancing with plenty of beginners. Find out if she's an instructor, because they generally dance with everybody and have a good attitude about it. If she’s dancing with lots of other beginners, then go for it. But realize that others may already have a social connection with her, and that totally changes the situation. If we have mutual friends, then she will dance with me because of the social dynamics, not because of my dancing. Don't take that as a sign she can't wait to dance with you too.
If you're one of her students, take her group classes, or have seen her and said “hello” twenty times in the clubs, she is going to be much more open to dancing with you, and dance again in the future. Most do, but remember that the instructors have tons of people asking them to dance, so don’t expect her to dance with you every time.
I waited a couple years before I asked some women to dance, because I wanted them to remember me positively and I didn’t believe that would happen in the beginning. Maybe I was playing it too safe, but it really worked for me and today we always dance and have a great time. I said “hi” as we’d see each other regularly, but didn’t ask them to dance. I didn’t expect to be their favorite dance of the night, but I knew I would be reasonable and they would see my growth.
I would even wait and ask them immediately after they danced a pity dance with a less experienced dancer. The contrast would be a step up from the guy with a month or two of experience, who thought he was a great dancer but just didn't know he didn't know. I’m sure plenty of guys couldn’t wait to ask her after me, knowing they would look stronger after my dance.
If they are way ahead of you and do say yes, instructor or not, I still don’t recommend you ask them regularly in the beginning. Enjoy your dance, take lessons, watch DVDs, continue dancing and ask them occasionally, but not so often they want to hide when they see you. Dance with ladies at your level, some below, some above, but mix it up and keep improving.
I’ve danced long enough to have a couple woman ask me to dance, then later admit they were using me to avoid someone else who they believed was about to ask them. (I suspect I was the lesser of two evils on that night.) Those women had previously danced with a guy, and while they may not turn him down if trapped like a rat, they find creative ways to be “busy” when he approaches. I still don’t want to the be the guy they dread seeing as I’m walking up to ask for a dance.
I’m not advocating you wait forever, or you should be exactly at her level, but unless you know her already, waiting and respecting that she has paid some dues is often better than asking the best when you are just starting. Invest in yourself first, and then ask her when you are confident you’ll be reasonable. In a worse case, you'll ask her after you've improved more than she expects and that is always a win.
In the “life is not fair” department, note that ladies can easily dance with guys who are more advanced, and both parties can have fun. However, a weak lead with a strong follow isn’t the ideal combination. In rare occasions it can work, like if you’re Brad Pitt and/or independently wealthy and she’s looking for a date, but I wouldn’t assume that applies in most cases. If she’s in that mode, you’ll know because she’ll make it obvious she wants to dance with you--you won’t have to guess and track her down for a dance.
It’s fine to ask stronger ladies to dance, just balance it out a bit and work on improving yourself. If you’re a lead, pay your dues, grow your ability, then ask the stronger dancers. If you are improving, they’ll notice you, and when you ask they’ll happily say yes rather than faking their enjoyment. Let them fake it with others; you want to be the real deal.
Reality is the leading cause of stress for those in touch with it.