The Simple Beauty of Social Dancing

by Danielle Hernandez on October 08, 2018

You Live as long as you dance – Rudolf Nureyev 

This inspiring quote by Rudolf Nureyev considered the world's greatest male dancer gives us a profound sense of what can happen if we embrace dance. And we are not even talking about professional dance. Dance in just its pure form, performed for the sole purpose of letting overabundant joy spill out of our hearts is enlivening.

Social dance is a significant category of dance forms where the primary focus of the dancing is on socializing and sociability. Social dancing was there usually is a partner for the dancer is all about being informal, relaxed and dancing for the enjoyment of the partners rather than to meet the criteria of a dance school or an audience. The test for social dancing success is how much the dance partners have enjoyed the dance - not how they have danced in the eyes of others or if they have followed a prescribed technique.

Social dancing is usually seen at social events like gathering at clubs weddings, cruises and holiday parties. Social dancing has no standardized teaching or learning curriculum. Social dance teachers teach steps and techniques they have come to prefer or what they hunch their students will prefer. The steps and techniques taught by one instructor can vary considerably from those taught by someone else.

Social dancing is also dynamic, and the types of social dances and styles keep changing with the times. Most people associate social dancing with ballroom dancing, and indeed this form of dancing quite dominates the images people make in their mind. But, circle dances, line dances, novelty dances, or just club dancing in solo are also considered social dancing.

Key Elements of Social Dance

There are three essential elements to becoming a good social dancer; expert instruction, practice and frequent use of what you are learning. Always assess if your class or training program includes an appropriate amount of all three or you would be wasting much of your time and money.

Practice each day for 15 mins, turning your thoughts to the routines you have learned in class. Taking the time to focus your mind and body will reinforce the learning and result in muscle memory. You will have the confidence to apply those skills in a social dance setting then.

Last, it’s vital that you attend a social dance at least once each week and put into use the things you have learned. Remember! "You use it or lose it!"

A Brief History Of Social Dancing In America

A Brief History Of Social Dancing In America

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, dance as a forum was used as a social activity with a purpose; Balls and private parties were the deemed the appropriate social dos to court a lady or to share the new trends in music and dance.  Social dances mainly in the realm of balls allowed politicians to exhibit their wealth, and associate with the influential persons. While many dances had specific steps and figures, others were themed; military dances were both.

The Role of Dance in Communication among Early Americans

Dance played a pivotal role in communication. Americans in the early times faced severe restriction in forms of communication. Because of this, communication became a thing of great value to the eighteenth and nineteenth century Americans. Since technological developments were limited, people could not enjoy the same comfort and ease of communication that we have today.

The social institution of dance provided an opportunity for people to communicate using movements and gestures that were culturally acceptable. Social values and rank, in the process, were conveyed through movement and bodily expression, and hence mastering dance technique became very important to those who wanted to be accepted by elite society. Even in today's modern dance era, dance is used to communicate albeit supplemented by lyrics.

As a cultural melting pot, America welcomed a variety of dances. Minuet, considered stately and ceremonial originated from France, the freewheeling country-dances was traced from England, and the lively hornpipes and reels came as a flood from Scotland and Ireland. Several other dances were by-products of cultural mixing. Some dances originated in one country and in the course of time, became popular with several others before reaching the American soil.  

Benefits of Social Dance

Benefits of Social Dance

Dancing was not always welcome or openly received. Certain sections of the society who were conservative in their beliefs felt it was too forward and liberal. They criticized and condemned those who practiced dance as they felt it promoted recklessness and disorder. However, as cultural circumstances changed and people evolved, these obstacles diminished over time. Today, dance is not just an amusement but also a powerful social tool.

Here are the top four benefits of dancing and in particular, social dancing

1. A Perfect Fitness Tool - One of the most popular reasons for people to take up dancing is its ability to exercise not just the body but also the mind. It strengthens the bones and muscles without exerting undue pressure on joints like other forms of exercise. This makes dancing a favored workout choice for people of all ages. Offering a complete body workout, it works like an aerobic exercise warding off common lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and depression. The benefits of dancing include improvement in balance, flexibility, coordination skills and mental agility making it a real all-rounder.

2. A Way to Socialize

The early Americans were restricted by societal rules to communicate openly. But our modern culture has restricted its itself because of its addiction to technology. With touch and face time conversation at an all-time low, dance brings with it a gem of an opportunity to socialize. Having a dance partner or dancing in a group allows for communication and shared passions which in turn could result in rewarding relationships.

3. Improved Level of Confidence

Dance is excellent for cultivating a positive body image through exercise, posture, and balance. The aerobic nature of dance helps a person get into better physical form and works wonders on a person's self-esteem. Also, dancing often being a group activity helps to improve interpersonal social skills. Besides, it offers an outlet for the creatively bent where one can express their unique and authentic personality in a safe and secure environment.

4. Enhanced Brain Functioning

Dance is an excellent mental workout as well and boosts brain function. Since dance requires you to remember a sequence of choreographed steps it increases the memory by requiring you to retain. In fact, research indicates that not only does it promote the growth of nerve cells in the brain; it also reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease (study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003)

Types of Social Dances - Spot or Slot Dances and Progressive Dances

Spot or Slot Social Dances are dances where a couple of dances in one spot or slot that they have fixed for themselves. Once the place is established, the couple only dances in the spot and do not drift around the dance floor. Social spot dances use compact steps and a compact dance hold where the arms or elbows do not stick out to the side.

Spot or slot social dances

Spot or slot dances are best suited for nightclub type dance floors. Dance styles like Salsa, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Samba, West Coast and East Coast Swing, Jitterbug, Charleston, Lindy, Blues, Street Hustle, Nightclub Two Step, Nightclub Freestyle, Tango Nuevo, Neo Tango, Hip Hop are the styles of dance that follow this

Progressive Dance - In a progressive dance, the dancers travel around the dance floor in an anti-clockwise direction. While requiring a somewhat larger floor than that is suited for spot dancing, progressive dance does not need one as large as a dance hall or ballroom.

Traditional Argentine Tango, Country Two-Step, Social Waltz, and Social Foxtrot are examples of progressive social dances. The close embrace, small steps and absence of embellishments in milonguero style Argentine Tango makes it well suited to dance progressively on smaller floors.

Is Ballroom Dancing the same as Social Dancing?

Social dancing is usually done on a small, crowded dance floor where the dancing is typically secondary compared to the main reason for gathering - which are social functions like a wedding or a holiday.

For ballroom dancing, a site with a vast dance floor and in a building that is constructed for the sole purpose of dancing is essentials. This kind of space is necessary because ballroom dancing movements are sweeping in nature.  A transition from social dancing to ballroom dancing can be done through ballroom dance styles like the cha-cha, swing, and rumba.

Although a matter of debate, the listed dance styles below are all generally considered to belong to the world of ballroom dance:

RHYTHM dances: Rumba, Cha-Cha, Samba, Mambo, Salsa, Bolero, East Coast Swing, Jive, and West Coast Swing.

LATIN dances: Rumba, Cha-Cha, Samba, and Mambo.

SMOOTH dances: Foxtrot, Tango, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep, Night Club Two-Step.

Many of these dances have both an American style and an International style.

Country dancing is usually considered to include the following: Country Cha-Cha, Country Waltz, Texas Two-Step, Night Club Two-Step, Country Swing.

Other popular partner dance styles include Lindy Hop, Argentine Tango, East Coast Swing, and Polka.

So we see that social dancing can be fun and straightforward and can also be large and expansive. The situation, place available, the attire and music all tremendously influence the style of social dance. Pick one you fancy, explore and move on to another as you wish. There is no pressure here, only lots of fun; so learn along the way and enjoy the company of others who share the same passion!


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