How to Dance With a Bad Dancer

Your date's really hot, sizzling in fact. You can't wait to drag your date onto the dance floor. The music's pumping, the atmosphere is electric, and you're full of energy. But wait, what's that? Call that dancing? Oh no! Your date can't dance?

Just what are you to do when your dance partner (date or otherwise) shuffles rather than dances and your dreams of great dancing together fail to materialize? Don't give up. You can salvage things and dance with grace and by being considerate of their feelings.


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    Restrain yourself from laughing, pointing, or jeering. If your dance partner is as bad as you think, then it's likely that it took a great deal of courage, bravado, or confidence to even get on the dance floor in the first place. Having fun poked at them won't ease the situation. Do your best to pull yourself together and take this in your stride.
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    Stay confident about yourself. You don't need to reduce your own dancing skills just to match with those of your partner. Instead, you'll need to think about how you can "work around" your dance partner's uninspiring dance moves while still showing off your usual thing. Realize that you're a role model, an example to be followed, so bear this in mind when you're dancing and hope that your partner's concentrating on learning a thing or two from you.
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    Use your skills to make your partner look good. If it's a slow dance, lead. If it's structured, turn it free-form. Think about it, what others see is the whole. If your partner is good looking and you're having a good time, what they see is a moving double figure in a slow dance. Pay attention to what they do worst and try to emphasize moves they enjoy or pick up from you. If you turn your skills to the exercise of making your partner look good, you can help her or him to overcome anxiety, loosen up and dance better. This works great in free form dancing - very often an inexperienced partner will literally imitate what you're doing. You can almost hypnotize them into keeping pace with the music. So do the moves you want her or him to pick up, repeat a couple of times, and guide if they're not in tempo to the music. Watch to see how long it takes for them to pick it up. If you focus your skill on making them look good, it will work to help them and also to keep you feeling good about your skills.
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    Give your dance partner a chance. Perhaps your date has never had a chance to dance with someone as good as you before; perhaps your partner has never danced at all before. Don't make assumptions about your partner's reticence – at this stage, it might be a good opportunity to ask about their dance experience and to gently probe as to whether they're keen to learn how to improve.
    • Be kind, be caring, and be facilitative. It might be that your partner has an attack of the nerves trying to do the salsa but is perfectly fine at free-for-all dance without any direction. It could just be a case that you need to meet on a dance-floor doing a dance both of you feel comfortable with.

    • Don't be afraid to ask how long your partner has danced a certain type of complicated dance, like the ballroom dances. This can provide a great opportunity for an enlightening discussion about the difficulties of the dance steps and lead to more understanding from you as to where your partner is at in terms of learning (or not).

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    Suggest learning away from the crowd. It can be embarrassing having to learn dance steps or moves in front of others, and it's recommended that you never try to teach a person on the dance-floor there and then. Your partner's willingness to learn from you will all depend on his or her own level of confidence and enthusiasm, so gauge it from the context and the personality of your partner. For example, teaching your partner a few steps at a family wedding where everyone's friendly might not be so intimidating whereas teaching a few steps in the middle of the nightclub where everyone's trying to maintain their cool will freak them out. Remember that it's always preferable to do any "teaching" in private.
    • One non-evident method of teaching is to encourage your partner to take your lead. Simply keep showing the way and making it very, very easy for your partner to follow literally in your footsteps, including holding and steering them where appropriate. You might need to be patient but if your partner is willing to follow, then you will both get somewhere constructive with kind instruction.

    • If your partner is someone with whom you're intending to remain romantically attached, why not suggest dance classes. That way, you have more excuses for dates together and a chance for someone whose job it is to instruct in dance to get the points across more clearly than maybe you can. And if they still hate dancing, it will be the instructor's fault, not yours.

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    Flirt instead. If your partner is a romantic interest, use flirting as a subtle means to direct your partner's steps and moves. For example, you might want them to move toward the outer part of the crowd where the dastardly dance moves aren't so noticeable, and you could make suggestive eye movements and head nods, as well as gently pulling your partner to the outer edge. Once there, try kissing if you're intimate, as that's often a great way of getting close enough to help direct the other person's movements.
    • While flirting, quietly and reassuringly throw in a few dance moves tips that seem "off the cuff" as you're nuzzling or fluttering your eyes at one another. Make it seem that you don't care that much and that you just want to dance together. While showing your nonchalance, simply steer the bad dancer in the directions you need them to take!

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    Encourage your partner to loosen up. Bad dancers tend to make repetitive moves, using only arms and legs and not involving the whole body.[1] Again, simply leading by example, show your partner a variety of moves that change direction and moves all parts of the body. You might even consider grabbing their waist or hips and helping them to swivel around a little more, with some encouraging pep-talk such as "Doesn't it feel great when you do this?".
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    Don't sweat it. So your partner dances with octopus legs. It's likely there are things you can't do so well either and they may be things your partner excels at. In this case, a little give and acceptance from you on the dance-floor front might earn you brownie points when you're too scared to leap off the bungee bridge your partner jumps from regularly or to try a strange new unidentifiable food your partner insists tastes delicious. If you make a fuss about this, your partner has every right to make an equal fuss about something else you're not so great at, so maintain a compassionate perspective.
    • It's best not to go on about it not even as a tease. If you harp on about your partner's lack of dancing ability or tease your partner too much, this may cause him or her to lose interest in dancing with you at all.

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    Be polite. Thank your partner after a dance. This reinforces that you appreciated the effort and that you liked dancing with this person. That in itself may be enough to encourage them to try harder next time and to not feel so self-conscious when giving it a go.
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    Maintain the sense of fun. Above all, keep the entire dance experience fun, so that it doesn't seem a drag or imposition on either of you. There are worse things in the world than being with a bad dancer and making a meal out of it will only cause the other person to think you're uptight, difficult, or mean-spirited. Laugh it off, have fun with your own dancing, and show by example that dancing is a fun pastime that is worth giving a good chance.


  • Know your best styles of dancing. You may not want to only dance these ways because that could discourage your partner, but a few will show your partner that you're capable in dancing and will be able to share some good moves.
  • A good dancer will involve the upper body, neck, and head all doing varied moves at once.[2]


  • Avoid showing off; this may make your partner feel left out and unable to keep up.

Sources and Citations

  1. Ian Sample, Scientists identify moves that make men irresistible on the dancefloor,
  2. Ian Sample, Scientists identify moves that make men irresistible on the dancefloor,

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