Nerdy Dancing
April 8, 2007 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to stop being a total loser on the dancefloor.

The problem here is that I've never been even remotely successful in a dancefloor situation. There seems to be this whole invisible language of practices and protocols that I don't understand and am not observing.

Here are some facts about me :

1) I'm a single caucasian male in my late 20s
2) I live in NYC, and visit bars and clubs here
3) I'm a non-drinker
4) I'm reasonably attractive
5) I'm a decent conversationalist

Here are some questions that may help me solve this problem :

1) How do you know when it's alright to start dancing with a girl? What if she's dancing with her friends? What's the best way to "jump in?"
2) If you're dancing with a group of people, is it a good idea to look at one specific girl while you're dancing, or is it best to divide your attention between different girls?
3) How do you know when a girl wants to stop dancing with you? If she stops dancing for a second and says something to one of her friends, is this your cue to go away?
4) Once you've been dancing with a girl for a while, what's the best way to inspire her to leave the dancefloor and start a conversation with you? Is it still customary to offer the girl a drink, or is that "cliche?"
5) Where can I go to learn how to dance? I think that I dance really badly. I don't want to learn how to tango or swingdance or anything like that - I just want to learn how to dance in a club situation. NOTE : I'm not interested in "grinding" or "freak dancing" or any of the stuff that looks like people screwing on the dancefloor. I hate that shit.

I'm generally not comfortable with the dancefloor environment. It's too loud and crowded, and you can't start a conversation with someone. However, I like to dance, and obviously I'd like to meet the ladies. I know that there are tons of books out there like "The Game" about picking up girls, but they always come off as a bit skeevy, and that really isn't my style. I see other guys being successful on the dancefloor, and I just want to know what they're doing that I'm not.
posted by kenoshakid to Human Relations (31 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, while these are some specific questions that I have in mind, please feel free to offer more general sort of advice. Advice of the "what to wear," "what worked for me," and "what NOT to do" variety is welcome, as well.
posted by kenoshakid at 8:43 AM on April 8, 2007

I think it's all about self-confidence. A good friend of mine used to have tremendous success on the dancefloor by simply not caring AT ALL how he looked. He'd pull out ridiculous dance moves and drag random girls to join him and they loved it (super cheesy stuff like the lawnmower, just joking around). He would also dance with the slightly shyer girls in a given group, and that always worked too. I think the key is to make look like you are just having a good time -- girls are going to be turned off in the extreme if it looks like you are dancing with them only as a means to an end of getting them to come home with you. So, dancing with different members of the same group is a good way to avoid that impression -- it looks like you're just having a good time. Then, when you go get a drink, you can talk with all them and see where the chemistry is...

YMMV -- for me, I couldn't stand dancing and so was quite happy just to talk to the girls who were at the bar or wherever... all I can tell you is that my friend loved dancing, and that's how it worked for him.
posted by modernnomad at 8:50 AM on April 8, 2007

I'm generally not comfortable with the dancefloor environment.
Do you think that lack of comfort mught be showing? My clubbing years are mostly behind me now, but I always loved to dance and felt great doing it, and would meet people without particularly trying, I always presumed due to the impression they picked up off that.
posted by Abiezer at 8:52 AM on April 8, 2007

To answer your questions:

1. I don't like just 'jumping in'. I think it's a violation of their personal space and a bit disrespectful. I will usually just ask a girl if she wants to dance. If you're in a place where there's a specialized form of dance going on (e.g. salsa), you might even ask a girl to show you how it's done. That's always a good way to get women on the dancefloor.

2. If you're dancing in a group, focus on everyone. In that situation, you're not really with any one person.

3. You'll know a girl wants to stop dancing with you when she turns away, leaves the dancefloor, seems hostile, or just says, "I'm done dancing with you."

4. Again, I favor a direct approach. Ask her if she wants to take a break and go to the bar.

5. If you want to learn, you first have to try to get some rhythm. It is innate to an extent, but if you can start feeling the music and moving your body in tune with it, you'll have won half the battle. I know it sounds cheesy, but turn on some dance music in your house, listen to it with your eyes closed, and try to pick up the rhythm in the music and then move your body accordingly. There are also dance shows like 'Soul Train', dancing exercise videos, etc. Finally, you can just go to the club, and watch people dancing.

The main thing to remember when trying to get women is that if you're not comfortable or confident in the situation, then you will not attract too many women. If dancing is tough for you to do, then try to think of other interests and join a group or club. You'll be able to meet women there too.

Good luck.
posted by reenum at 8:56 AM on April 8, 2007

The classic line is to Dance like no one is watching. When you notice someone is watching, wink at them and smile. If they smile back, move up and dance together for a bit.
posted by furtive at 9:01 AM on April 8, 2007

I'm not interested in "grinding" or "freak dancing" or any of the stuff that looks like people screwing on the dancefloor.

Bet you never did the "Kenosha," kid!


posted by aws17576 at 9:06 AM on April 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

I see other guys being successful on the dancefloor, and I just want to know what they're doing that I'm not.

They're having fun. You can attain it, too. Practicing at home in front of a mirror really helps. Take a look at what you look like, and try to change what you don't like, sure, but mainly just try to have fun, and look like your'e having fun. Also, there's lots of good advice in the other dancing AskMes:

How do I learn to dance - or rather, get away with feeling utterly unself-conscious on the dance floor?
How do you start dancing with girls/guys you don't know in clubs?
Fat guy can't dance to save his life. He's also extremely self-conscious. Help him.
posted by mediareport at 9:07 AM on April 8, 2007

Oh, and check these guys for inspiration.
posted by mediareport at 9:16 AM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think you are asking two questions here, actually. Question #1 is:

How can I loosen up and become a better dancer?
Others have noted here, it's really all about not being self conscious. The first few times I went to dance clubs when I was in highschool, I was terrified. I felt like everybody was looking at me, and that they would laugh at me. Once I realized that everybody was just in their happy little world, dancing along, I loosened up. Now I love it, and don't care if anybody thinks I look dumb. I'm there to enjoy myself, after all.

A little liquid courage isn't a bad thing, but of course, don't get so drunk that you lose all inhibitions.

A few things that help: Make sure you like the music. If they play just a few songs that you know, you'll probably feel more uncomfortable. If there are a few clubs you really like going to, start listening to some of the artists that the DJs play. The more familiar you are with the music, the more confident you can be with your dance moves.

I will say you should avoid hoppy, kicky dance moves at all costs. You don't want to kick anybody!

Your second question is a little bit more difficult to answer:

How can I score some hot chicks with my new, sweet dance moves?
This is a little bit more nebulous. The thing about most girls who like to dance is that they're there to DANCE. If they want to meet guys, that's nice too, but they don't want to feel like some smarmy guy is just dancing with her in order to score with her.

This is all relative, of course, if a girl thinks you're hot, and she's single, and you start dancing close to her, it might work out for you. But you also might make her uncomfortable.

My personal feeling is that in an environment like a dance club, you're best off just enjoying yourself. Dance to the songs you like, and when you get tired, or don't like a song, take a break. If you notice a girl you'd like to dance with, wait for when she takes a break, and try to strike up a conversation with her at the bar. It's not entirely cliche to offer to buy her a drink, although when I was single, I would almost always refuse, because I wasn't sure what the expectation would be if I had accepted. You are much better off asking her if she'd like to dance with you.

Best method? Try to strike up a simple conversation with her. You can be obvious, if she likes you, and is single, she'll be open to it (i.e. "I like your shoes!"). Then, while you're chatting, if a song comes on that you like, just say "Good song! Wanna dance?"

The trick is to make a girl feel comfortable dancing with you. She might think you're cute and be open to it, but you want to be sure she feels like you're not going to start dry humping her on the dance floor, you're not going to grab any of her girlie parts, and you're not going to randomly ram your tongue down her throat. I'm in no way suggesting you WOULD do that, but as someone who used to go out dancing with her friends all the time when she was single, I can attest that this happens at a relatively alarming rate.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:43 AM on April 8, 2007

Shoot. You said you're a non drinker. Nevermind on the liquid courage front, then!
posted by pazazygeek at 9:46 AM on April 8, 2007

seconding (or thirding) the self-confidence/not caring how you look attitude. watch most people on any given dancefloor, the majority of them don't really know what they're doing, but if they're unpretentious and having a good time it doesn't matter much to anyone but the dance elitists. (i spent my formative clubbing years here, and one of the patrons i remember best was a guy who would show up in a kilt, hockey jersey and ballet slippers, and do pirouettes on the dance floor to industrial music. classic.)

with respect to learning to dance ... if you're not interested in taking lessons or picking up an identifiable style, try going to clubs and watching people dance. pick out the people who are doing things that you like or think look good, and remember those things. put on some music and try those things out at home. when you're ready to try out your moves in public, start on a crowded night, where you can slip out unnoticed, and get comfortable with what you're doing in a public space.

as far as dancing "with" someone goes, years of casual observation seems to indicate that the best approach is to go out there and have fun, and in the process you'll like as not make some eye contact on the floor. smile, look like you're having fun, and when the song ends or the object of your interest departs the floor, suggest a drink or make a motioning-toward-the-bar gesture.

(my personal two cents ... i'm female, and one of the things i find most irritating while dancing is having someone decide they're going to dance with me. i'm out there to do my thing and have fun, and having someone get up in my space while i'm lost in the music feels pretty invasive. others' mileage may vary ...)
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 9:46 AM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: First off, I want to thank you all for your answers so far.

I've noticed that some of the advice has been along the lines of "relax and loosen up." Well, I think that some of the problem is that I loosen up too much. Thing is, I really do enjoy dancing, but I think that my dance moves are kinda repellent. I tend to dance from the hips/crotch, so I do a lot of thrusting and wiggling and stuff. Not too long ago, I had this really cute girl tell me that I "dance like a hound humping someone's leg" which may have traumatized me a bit. I guess it's possible that my dance moves aren't really that bad, but there's obviously some reason that I always fail on the dancefloor, and my dancing style could very well be at fault.

I'm a drummer, so I definitely have rhythm. The problem is I just don't know what to do with it on the dancefloor.

Oh, and one question that I forgot to ask - is it weird for a guy to dance by himself on a dancefloor? Is this something that is more acceptable on a full dancefloor then an empty one?
posted by kenoshakid at 10:12 AM on April 8, 2007

No, it's not wierd for a guy to dance by himself on the dancefloor. In fact, this is one way to "open up" the dancefloor and get others out there.
posted by ill13 at 10:33 AM on April 8, 2007

Have you considered that the dance clubs just might not be your scene. (They certainly aren't mine). There are tons of girls who prefer a quite corner bar to a dance club, and frankly, those girls are usually more my type.

I enjoy actually being able to converse with people I meet, as opposed to screaming in each others ears over the bass.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:48 AM on April 8, 2007

This has been asked before, with some variations. I said this and this in these threads. May be of some use to you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:50 AM on April 8, 2007

Your BEST bet? Learn to swing dance. Sexiest guys on the dance floor can make a woman look like flying sex in heels, and it takes VERY little to get started. Minimal investment of money, slightly larger investment of time.

I speak from's how I met my (now) husband, and no matter where we go we're always the best dancing couple on the floor even though we're less than mediocre lindyhoppers. I learned to dance with my brother as teenagers (I kinda forced him cause I needed a partner) and now that he's in his 20's he's thanked me for making him learn because women LOVE his mad dance skills.

Not only that, but once you master the basic steps of swing dance, every other style of dance becomes almost second nature and can be picked up in minutes. It's all in the rhythm.

And you're in one of the best cities in the world to swing dance. I'm kinda jealous.

Start here:
Yehoodi...a New York swing dancing staple
Another good resource for NYC
posted by othersomethings at 10:58 AM on April 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

Exaggerate all of your moves
posted by lain at 12:36 PM on April 8, 2007

Do not dance like this guy.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:09 PM on April 8, 2007

You're overthinking it, I think. Just relax and don't worry about being "too loose" or whatever. Just have fun.

My boyfriend got me through nerdy dancing (though it is a bit disappointing that I have to DRAG him to dance - aherm, hint hint Mark) so there's hope for you yet!
posted by divabat at 3:13 PM on April 8, 2007

Watch and learn. Imitate even (but not obviously). Practice alone at home. The mirror is your friend.

Many people enjoy and respect someone who can dance "like no one is watching", but if you are in da club trying to attract the ladies, a subtler approach may be necessary. Going all out and dancing crazy by yourself is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it but it really doesn't lend itself to dancing with other people, which seems to be your goal.
You don't want to "dance like a hound humping someone's leg" so keep it simple. Tone down the thrusts and attempt a more laid back groove. Wow, it is really hard to describe how to dance!

Don't linger too long, watch for signs that show a girl might be uninterested. If she grabs her girl friend and pulls her closer, you should back off. If a girl is interested she will smile and let you in to the group. But don't stay for more than a couple songs. You can always come back later if she is still making some eye contact with you. Really try to take your queues from the girls. You do not want to be that guy they can't get rid of or tries to touch them too much.

Most importantly, have some fun.
posted by bobobox at 4:31 PM on April 8, 2007

The more I think about it there seem to be two kinds of dancing-- by and for yourself or in conjunction with another person or group. A guy can bust a move alone on the dance floor. It shows great courage and people will respect that.

But I think it really needs to be simmered down when dancing with or even just next to other people. I'm assuming you're not in a mosh pit. When you're in a group of people it is ok to take someone's lead and copy their movement along with eye contact and a head nod saying, "I dig it". Of course you can't keep that up forever. Then you should maybe take what they are doing, riff off of it, change it up just a bit, morph it into something else. Then maybe you'll be getting the head nod saying "Niiicce".
posted by bobobox at 4:42 PM on April 8, 2007

I would also consider the idea of taking some classes in something like swing, latin, ballroom, etc. Dance classes are usually much less crowded and loud so you can get a chance to talk to people. If you are dancing with a girl and things are going well then you can stay together - if not then you just move on to somebody else.
posted by rongorongo at 4:55 PM on April 8, 2007

2nd othersomethings--take a swing class or three. I spent about 3 hours learning some really basic swing dance almost 15 years ago and can honestly say it might be the best 3 hours I ever spent. I have never exactly been what you would call "smooth with the ladies", but girls have always seem to enjoy dancing with me, and, during my single days, it was a great way to meet women.

Here's my secret: I am not really that good of a dancer. I have about 5 moves (spins, twirls, etc) that I work in different combinations, which, in 3-5 minute increments, seems to do the trick. Also, people who say that you have to dance like nobody's watching have it right--I think the confidence thing is really key and your dance partner can certainly sense it while dancing with you. The classes will give you the confidence you need because, after you take them, you will actually be a better dancer than about 95% of the people in the bar with you.

Also, please don't do the "grind up against a random girl" thing. Every female I know thinks that it is just creepy. If you want to dance with a girl, ask her first.
posted by jtfowl0 at 6:47 PM on April 8, 2007

I'd go up to the first girl I thought looked good and ask her to dance. Repeat dozens of times until you find one who you want and wants you.

Its all about the odds.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:55 PM on April 8, 2007

I like lain's suggestion as one tack for you to take. Crank your unorthodox dog humping moves up as far as they go. And enjoy the hell out of moving your body. Non-selfconscious wild-man spectacle dancing while exuding pure joy can make you appealing to some.

I also second learning swing dancing. I realize that you specified club dancing, but swing moves can be used in a club. If there is someone who appears to be interested in dancing in your general vicinity, it can be fun to offer a hand and, if she takes it, do some ironic, yet skillfully executed steps and turns. Extra points for moving from dog humping to this and back.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 7:00 PM on April 8, 2007

You note that you don't want to freak dance. Me neither, but something I've noticed is that for a LOT of girls today (especially the younger/early 20's), if they are interested in dancing with you, they will show it by making themselves available to grind. (Ideally because you've given them the vibe that you're interested in them, but maybe they've just had their eye on you)

I figure this is because of plausible deniability - To allow/invite you, the girl has her back to you, and is dancing slowly in your direction, into your space, so is plausibly completely unaware of you, thus it doesn't make her look silly if the guy ignores her. As opposed to inviting someone face to face and having them move away - much harder to risk. (Also apparently it's the only kind of partnership dance that some people know these days)

So in answer to pazazygeek's paraphrasing "How can I score some hot chicks with my new, sweet dance moves?", even if you hate freak dance, you want to be grind-literate and aware of how it works.

But if what you say is true, how can I meet chicks without risk of totally misreading a situation and trying to freak with someone who really didn't want me to?

If you don't like freak but think someone is inviting you (ie, they have been looking at you beforehand, invading your space backwards, etc) I suggest putting a hand on her hip - as this is minimally invasive, but is part of what she presumably expects/hopes. You'll then know right away if she wasn't expecting it, and so can back off without having committed a major faux par. But in my experience, it's expected. So now that you've confirmed to her that she has your attention and you're interested, you can just move so you're in front of her, thus sidestepping the actual freak dancing without losing the opportunity it presented.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:34 PM on April 8, 2007

if you're worried about not being a good enough dancer, or not feeling comfortable out there, start drinking. A LOT. i never danced in my room alone, never went to a dance in school, never went to a dance club in college, etc. i was too self conscious to even try it at all. one girlfriend i had wanted to dance around in her room to my band's cd, and i was too self conscious to even try that. then i started drinking, and went to a few dance nights at a local music venue that was my style, and just checked them out with a friend who also wasn't into dancing. eventually, i realized that everyone dancing was having fun, and almost all of them were drunk! there are two kinds of people who dance at clubs : people who are so full of themselves that they think they somehow don't look ridiculous, and people who get drunk. you don't seem to fall into the first group, so i recommend Sparks.

as far as not knowing enough "moves"... try not to worry about that. having pre-planned "moves" in mind might end up in a napoleon dynamite type look. another great benefit of drinking is that it requires a vessel, and vessels are good for occupying your hand, bobbing side to side.

the type of place you're at also makes a difference. if you're not comfortable with "the dancefloor environment", maybe you're in a meat market kind of college dance club, and that could be part of the discomfort. in ann arbor we have a monthly event called "the bang", which takes place in a music venue. the dj's play pre-made mixtapes of 80s songs, funny hiphop, and danceable indie rock stuff. there's always a theme, like "beach party/shark attack" (girls in retro bathing suits, guys in shorts) "get physical" (funny and/or revealing workout type clothes, headbands, whatever), and so on. some people do the theme in a sexy style, with a tiny revealing bathing suit, and some people like msyelf treat it like halloween and dress up like a shark attack victim with a shredded shirt and missing appendages. the fact that it's treated like a weird holiday instead of a meat amrket actually makes it easier to talk to people. "Nice mermaid fins, would you dance with a man with a hook for a hand?" is easy to say. being in new york, i'm sure there are different events like this. try going to some and see if they are more comfortable.

also - remember that almost everyone dancing (with the exception of those guys that think they're amazing) is at least a little self conscious just like you are, and almost surely is thinking more about how they look than how anyone else does. i can remember a lot of girls i've seen dancing and been itnerested in, and what moves they were doing played absolutely no role in how attracted i was to them.
posted by white light at 9:38 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I really do enjoy dancing, but I think that my dance moves are kinda repellent...I definitely have rhythm. The problem is I just don't know what to do with it on the dancefloor.

Then you really may do better with something structured like a swing dance class, where there's a set pattern of moves to begin with and then add a little flair to when you get comfortable. You could also just do what bobobox suggests: watch other people who seem to be succeeding on the dance floor and try to remember moves you like, then dance at home to find the ones that really fit you. Since you seem to think you've been overdoing it, try to tone it down some - think "play it cool" and just do one or two things to the beat at any given time. But really, don't give up. Just because one person didn't like the way you danced doesn't mean there won't be someone else who can tell you clearly like to dance and appreciate you for that.
posted by mediareport at 11:07 PM on April 8, 2007

You want to dance in a low-key sort of way that doesn't make you look like a LOOK AT ME kind of jackass. Try to get in the habit of moving your torso more than your limbs---shoulders and ass are key. Just try to sway/move them in rhythm, in smooth, fluid movements.

Everyone on this thread is going to tell you that confidence is key, and that's true. Looking like you know what you're doing will convince people you know what you're doing. But if you get too hurky-jurky, pulling out disco moves or Irish jigs, you're gonna look like a giant douchebag, no matter how "confident" you are.
posted by almostmanda at 11:45 PM on April 8, 2007

Regarding your comments about noise and crowding: you should be aware that when a club owner turns up the volume people tend to move closer together so that they can hear each other above the noise - that can let him fit more paying customers through the door. It also tends to drive up the amount of drink that people buy since it becomes easier to drink than to talk - all of which boosts his profits.

Music can sound more exciting when it is loud but too much volume can be a real disadvantage if you are one of the many people who finds it hard to hear what somebody is saying in a noisy environment. This is another reason to investigate types of dance music where sound levels are not such a big part of the selling point.
posted by rongorongo at 3:53 AM on April 9, 2007

WRT rongogongo's points about volume, I really advise earplugs while clubbing. The foam ones reduce the music volume down to about what it should be, and often actually make it a little easier to hear what someone is trying to say to you, because voice tones seem to become easier to make out once the pounding has been reduced.

Skin-tone foam earplugs cut in half are invisible to anyone looking at you, but even if I notice that someone dancing is wearing earplugs, my assumption is that they're really into clubbing and they've got their shit together and come prepared. Bouncers also commonly sport earplugs, but they're not dancing :)
posted by -harlequin- at 8:26 AM on April 9, 2007

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