Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Half Song Strategy

Ever wonder if someone new wants to dance with you? Maybe they're a friend of a friend, and you're not even sure if they dance. Or do you feel you should help a beginner get their feet wet on the floor?

Sometimes I use "half-dances" as an ice breaker. It's like doing coffee or lunch rather than having a dinner date. Lower commitment, less stress and you avoid the "oh no, this is going to be a loooong song" if your partner turns out to be a mismatch for you.

Rather than subject the new person to a 4-6 minute tune, sometimes I'll wait and ask them after the tune has started. I might say, "Hey, this song is half over, how about we finish it?"

Most of the time you'll get a positive response, and you dance for a couple minutes. If it turns out to be a magical dance, you can say, "That was way too short, how about also dancing the next song?"

If the dance turns out to be "just OK," you finish after a couple minutes and say, "Thanks... that was fun," and move on. You only asked for half a tune, so nobody feels like a loser if it didn't work out as you hoped.

It's not something I do regularly, but I've used this technique for years and it's helped, especially with potential partners that aren't too sure about me. More will take a chance since they aren't committing to a complete song. (I know 4-6 minutes isn't a huge commitment, but we've all figured out it can seem like forever with some partners.)

Again, I don't recommend you use this regularly, but I do it when I miss the first part of a song because I need water or a short break, then I don't want to sit out the rest of the song. It's a perfect time for a "random dance" or a "find a beginner and get her on the floor" dance. Ladies can ask guys too, and since they weren't dancing already, it seems to work great for everybody.

The half-dance makes it easy for both partners. Depending on how it goes, we can dance the next song, dance later or never dance again.

Try it out and let me know how it goes for you.


  1. I use this all the time for bands that play way too long. Another trick is to get a friend, and switch partners half way.

  2. I did that all the time, especially when I felt insecure, but lately I made some introspection and decided that it's just too much thinking: It seems nicer to accept the risks and make clear commitments for the full length of the song.

    Not out of politeness, but simply to promote an mindset of determination rather than half-measures.

    Of course, it's not absolute: I sometimes ask someone halfway through the song, but try to avoid doing it for the reasons you outlined in the entry.

  3. Arachnist: Your point is valid. As I've danced a while, I do fewer half songs because I can have a good time with less experienced follows, unless I'm in a selfish mood (which I try to avoid).

    For me it's a mind set thing: I challenge myself to make it fun for my partner at any level, while working on subtle aspects of my dancing IF she's less experienced.

    I have plenty of material so unless it's a marathon song, I'm fine either way.

    That said, I still do the half songs occasionally, for the reasons above. I recommend it to my newer students who feel uncomfortable with long tunes or feel their pattern vocabulary is too small.

    Half songs can be a valid strategy for some dances, but don't make sense as a regular mindset.

    Again, your points are valid and it's obvious that one size simply doesn't fit all situations.

  4. This is a great suggestion, Professor. I look forward to using it at the next practice party.


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero