Looking for Help with Specific Chorophobia - Partner Dancing


Well-Known Member
There is lot of good info for you on this thread. Here is some very general advice:

In terms of picking a dance to start off with - pick anything you have any interest in and access to, where the environment seems comfortable enough for you to tackle, find some decent instruction in that comfortable environment, and give it a try.

If the environment isn't right, don't give up, try a different instructor, a different dance, or a different studio. Or talk to the instructor and see if they can help you make things work better where you are.

Starting somewhere will help you get over your general fear of how to interact with a partner - what to do with your hands, dance holds, etc. Your friend that teaches west coast might be a good place to start, since hopefully you will be comfortable attempting dance hold with that friend, and with her instruction.

In addition to learning the basics of the dance and getting over your fears, at your lessons ask for instruction in basic dance etiquette - how to ask someone to dance, what to do at the end of the dance, what to do if they turn you down, etc. This etiquette will vary a little bit from one dance community to another - but get some basic info regarding whatever dance you're working on.

Realize if you add or switch dances down the road, some of the details will vary - details of the dance hold, the steps, the posture, the etiquette, and more. So don't learn your first dance and think that all dances are just like this. There is a lot of variety out there. But starting somewhere is important!


For the long term, think about what your dance goals are. Short term goals, and perhaps long term goals.

Short term goals might be things like - be able to do a little dancing at the next wedding I go to. Be able to ask ladies to dance, and dance with them at a dance studio. Meet other people.

Long term goals might be things like, get good enough at X dance(s) that I am comfortable leading a variety of followers (newbies and more advanced dancers) through a dance comfortably. Become comfortable going to group lessons and workshops in your chosen dance(s). Become part of a dance community. Or, if you like, preparing for showcase performances, or even competitions.

If you don't know your long term goals yet, don't worry about it, you can figure that out as you go along.

****Once you have an idea of your short term goals, then pick dances and/or instruction that will help you get there. ****

To get comfortable dancing with a date or others at weddings, for instance, going to a ballroom studio and specifically telling them that is your goal, and working on the basics of a few different dances that can be danced to music that gets played at weddings (hustle, foxtrot, rumba, maybe a couple of others) is what will get you there. Taking group lessons that are geared to prepping people for attending weddings is another option of you can find that sort of thing locally and if you can handle going to a group class.

West coast swing is a wonderful dance, but unless you are attending a wedding with others who have studied it, you're not likely to be able to dance west coast with random people attending a wedding - this dance takes a little time to learn, so you won't be able to lead someone that's never done it before. West coast might be great for other goals though - getting used to dancing with partners, getting used to a variety of dance holds (west coast swing uses a variety of holds throughout the dance, from just holding hands to other things), meeting people your age, becoming part of a dance community, etc.

And learning other dances could give you other opportunities to meet different goals. Part of this depends on what is available in your area in terms of instruction, and in terms of what people in your area dance. Snapdancer offered to help you sort through some possibilities if you PM him. Or you could post your general location (metro area) here for some suggestions.


In dance you are likely to run into a lot of supportive people. Dancers all had to start somewhere, and most of them remember this and are welcoming to newbies. But just like in other aspects of life, not everyone you run into will be pleasant. Someone may say something mean to you that reminds you of being bullied in school. Remember that is about them and not you ... some people are just thoughtless, cruel, self-absorbed, think they're being funny, or whatever. Most dancers are not like this. Really. But you will run into it occasionally. So prepare yourself for that, learn which people to avoid or keep a respectful distance from, and don't let it ruin your day or your dancing. Focus on the nice, helpful people!


Last suggestion ... stop thinking of yourself as phobic. Think of yourself as a beginner who wants to learn how to dance. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Many beginners feel very unsure about various aspects of learning to dance. The details of what they are afraid of vary. Totally normal.


Now ... go try some dance lesson somewhere. And report back and let us know how it goes!
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I just want to thank the OP for sharing his trepidations so we are more aware what fear some new students face. Too many new students leave before attaining enough skill to go out and dance socially. Their reasons may vary. Maybe that first lesson is like diving into the deep end of the pool not knowing how to swim, like trying to cross a busy street blindfolded. In such a situation, being with a trusted friend the first time, someone who knows dance, such as your friend from college who teaches WCS, seems like an excellent plan. Even if WCS is not the easiest dance, it requires technique that will help you in other dances. Bring your own music to share with your teacher. They can tell you if it is good for WCS.
Good point about goals.

In all honesty, my only current long-term goal is to be able to survive a wedding without looking lame. I know everyone on here thinks they can pull me in to the dance community--and I'm not going to rule that out since crazier things have happened, such as me becoming a marathoner after thinking I was going to only run one with a friend as a "once in a lifetime deal" (I have since run eight more). For now, I just want to be able to bring a date to a wedding and not risk looking awful. I also fear my own wedding in particular.

Short term, of course, is to get over that fear of knowing what to do, especially with holds, moving in sync with someone else and not just music, and the like.

I could run a music playlist out there, but now I'm confused. The "S" in WCS stands for "swing". One would assume swing music, so why are we talking pop? I thought swing meant something like Benny Goodman.
Oh gosh. Audible sigh. She climbs up onto her soap box preparing to deliver a speech on what is and is not swing... then smiles and realizes the question was asked in all innocence. Put simply, when one only knows swing, and not-swing is playing, and one wants to dance, the patterns learned in swing dance class get danced to all sorts of music. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

Just enough dance skill to survive a wedding. I like that goal: concise, measurable, and attainable. Although most folks at weddings just wing it without any formal instruction, they may be the self-confident types. Me, I like going into something knowing as much as I can, being as prepared as I can. I think you're like that too, right? But outside the studio, on a social dance floor, you cannot control what music is played, how crowded it is, or which dances the ladies you ask may know. So allow lots of room for random chance. The hardest thing to learn might be how to let go of needing dancing to be perfect, allowing it to just happen, accepting however it turns out. (Wow I really need to follow my own advice!)

Dancing at a wedding is about sharing a fun time together, not about showing off. Any guy who gets up out of his seat and onto the dance floor is golden at a wedding, no matter how he dances. If he can do a box step he's a rock star.

That said, I know several local dancers who got started with exactly your goal. Caution: dance is addictive! :)


Well-Known Member
I agree with everything flying_backwards said about weddings. Most of the time, no one is watching anyone else with a critical eye - and the ones that are, well, they are not such nice people, at least at that moment. And yes, just being willing to get up and dance and try anything at a wedding will get you bonus points more times that not. So you have a short term and attainable goal, and you know what your goal is, and that is great.

That said, based on what you have posted about your dance experience and feelings about dance so far ... it is likely that you will need to get mildly pulled into a dance community for a relatively short period of time in order to meet your goal. Relatively short like a couple months to a year or so, maybe a bit longer depending on how much time you put into it and what sort of instruction you find. That is how long it may take to go from feeling like you have no clue at all, to feeling like you have a bit of a clue, to feeling like you have enough of a clue to actually get up at a wedding and try some of this stuff in front of people you know and people you don't know. Attending studio practice dance parties (in addition to some type of lessons) will help you get to that goal.

Go ahead and start with your friend that teaches west coast swing, just to get your feet wet. If she can teach you the basics of some dances that would be useful at a wedding, in addition to a bit of west coast, all the better. If she can't teach you what you need to get started towards that dancing at a wedding goal, then you will need to branch out to other venues. But you might as well start off with a friendly and familiar face if you can.

Also keep in mind that you probably only attend a couple of weddings a year. If you want to keep your dance skills up from year to year, you'll likely need to use them more often than that. So being mildly involved in a local dance community (say taking the occasional lesson to brush up, going to the occasional party) can be useful for that too.

Have fun!


Well-Known Member
PS - In addition to the dance is addictive caution... also beware that some dance teachers / dance studio staff are excellent and sometimes pushy salespeople. Not all of them ... but certainly some. So stick to your guns about what your goals are, how much time and money you want to spend, etc. Don't let them talk you into more that you want to sign up for, and don't make any long term commitments. You should be able to pay for one private lesson at a time. Group classes you might need to sign up for a short series (e.g. 4 or 6 or 8 weeks), but the price should be reasonable. If you can't find an arrangement like that, keep looking.

And again - if you run into bad apples, be they other dancers or dance teachers, don't let it discourage you. There are bad apples in every part of life. Since you have already had some bad dance floor experiences, I'm rooting for you to not run into any more. But if you do, you know what to do!


Well-Known Member
And for your own wedding in particular, some day ... once you're engaged, talk to your future fiance, and go take some lessons together to prepare for it. Start well ahead of the wedding, at least 6 months, more if you can. It can be a fun pre-wedding thing to do, and the earlier you start on it, the less stressful it will be.


Active Member
I could run a music playlist out there, but now I'm confused. The "S" in WCS stands for "swing". One would assume swing music, so why are we talking pop? I thought swing meant something like Benny Goodman.
The S in WCS is a relic of its origin as a derivative of Lindy Hop, but over the years it's moved further and further away by following the musical trends of the time. When I started it ten years ago, there was still a bit of swing left (for the other dancers here: I was taught to dance my triple steps either 1-&-2 or 1--a2, depending on whether the music was straight or swung), but by now there are people in the Lindy Hop/Swing communities calling for WCS to be renamed to something without "swing" in the name such as West Coast Contemporary to reflect the fact that (in their opinion) there is no swing left in either the music being played or the dancing.

Note that music can "swing" without being Big Band or even swing jazz -- a lot of 1950's Blues and R&B, and even early rock'n'roll and rockabilly, has a strong swing feel. On the other hand, just because the name of the musical style includes the letters s-w-i-n-g is no guarantee -- very little neoswing, electroswing, or swing house actually swings.

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