Question by User monday_girl99
I’m kind of new to the academic dance world, I mainly learned salsa and bachata while growing up in the Latino community(in Canada). When I was a teenager my mother once told me that I can’t ever say no when a guy asks me to dance with him because it is rude. She might’ve exaggerated a bit but I don’t think she was too far off from the norm. I can’t picture a latina openly refusing a dance proposal without explanation, especially with someone she knows. I feel like usually the girls I know will just hide or avoid eye contact if they want to avoid a specific guy to ask them to dance, but I could be wrong.
Since I’ve started taking classes and going to socials with Canadian people, I’ve started to wonder if the same standard applies than at Latino gatherings/parties, specifically because I saw some leads have conversations about a follow accepting their dance proposal in a way that kind of implied that she could have said no. I always felt like even if Canada is very feminist, the aspect of consent in dance just doesn’t exist. I think it would be even more awkward to say no in an academia context, since people go these events SPECIFICALLY to dance, while the casual Latino parties I’m used to can be to like, just eat and chill so you can easily pretend you just don’t feel like dancing.
Saying no is honestly something that’s inconceivable for me, even if I don’t want to dance with the lead for whatever reason( I’ve danced with them before and didn’t like their style, they are too flirty and I’m not interested, they are sweating and stinking, etc). I haven’t really asked other girls what they think but I’m pretty sure a lot of them are at least too shy to say no.
However shyness was aside, as a lead how would you react if I girl said no to your proposal without explanation while standing on the side and then immediately said yes to someone else? Isn’t that the rudest thing ever? What would the etiquette for saying no be like?
I’m interested to hear followers opinions too
I rarely decline a dance, but when I do it’s either because that lead has been monopolizing my time or because I would like a break. Usually if they’ve been monopolizing me I’ll dance with someone else who asks during that same song, if I need a break I’ll sit it out. Oh I also typically decline a cha cha unless a lead I know very well asks… Just because I don’t like Cha Cha. I’ll decline kizomba usually for a similar reason unless I’ve seen the person asking lead very well since I need a strong lead with the mostly unfamiliar dance. I often explain myself when I decline. Once I danced with someone very grabby who was really into dipping and I explained I wasn’t into that style, he said he’d adjust for me and so he did!
All that to say, it’s your choice, your enjoyment, your body, etc…. The only thing that might occur with copious declines is that it might be recognized and you might not get asked much.
You have every right and absolutely should decline “even when you don’t want to”. You want to have a good time dancing, not force yourself to do it. It’s always nice to take a break and people watch other couples and their techniques, too. You are not obligated to say yes to every ask, and leads know that there’s a 50/50 chance the follower will say no, and they expect that. Save your energy, your feet, and your sanity by taking a break and enjoying the scene.
By the way, you’re also allowed to ask leads if they want to dance, not just wait for them to ask you. Leads appreciate it!
I think your mom was probably right at the time, but the world is changing.
I’ve been turned down a few times, sometimes it’s because the follow has specifically promised to dance with someone else, sometimes it’s because the song is Bachata and they only dance salsa, and sometimes, there’s no explanation. A shake of the head and a mouthed “not right now” or even “no thanks” is enough.
As a lead, I’ll certainly take it fine. There’s plenty of follows at socials, especially in my area (The Netherlands, for reference), and I usually know a fair amount of them, or have danced with them before.
You should feel comfortable saying no. You should also feel comfortable asking a lead to dance, too. It’s not commonplace, but that’s with a very strong ‘yet’ on the end. It’s becoming more common – I’ll be asked to dance at most socials at least once nowadays. I still initiate most of the dances, though.
I am lucky because when I was first starting out with social dancing, the women in my social scene were very nice and always encouraged me to keep practicing and so they wouldn’t say no, and even asked me sometimes when I found myself spending long periods on the sidelines.
However, there was this one follow who said no (without any obvious explanation like having to leave) and I noticed her dancing with other leads who were really good. At first it stung but then I noticed that she was turning down other beginner leads too. I mean it was understandable, a beginner lead isn’t going to give her an amazing dance like an experienced lead would. And I also realized that nowadays I am subconsciously prioritizing really good follows when I am asking people to dance, and only go for ones that I am not sure of/know that they are a beginner when there is no one else to ask, or I end up just not asking at all and sitting the song out.
So yeah, I don’t think leads should have any reason to feel offended for being turned down for a dance. You can just say that you’re tired if you want to be nice, and if someone else that you want to dance with asks you, you can dance with them and don’t worry about how the other lead is going to feel- he’ll get over it if (if it even bothers him at all)
I turn people down when I’m tired and need a break or when I find someone creepy (and I still say that I’m too tired😂).
Nobody enjoys being criticised but salsa is a contact sport, therefore there needs to be honest communication for safety and for comfort. If it were me, I would much rather the follower refused the dance and said something like “Look, I don’t mean to be nasty but you really need to go to the bathroom and freshen up” or “your dancing is way too rough and it’s uncomfortable” or “your dancing style doesn’t match mine” or “I’m really tired and I need a break”. I’ve had dances where the follower has agreed but has then seemed bored or disinterested, or has been trying to dance a different style. It’s really awkward and uncomfortable and I’d much rather they just said no.
Although teaching people on the dancefloor is generally rude, you should absolutely say something if you think that you’re in danger of being hurt or they are dancing in a way that makes you uncomfortable. If nobody tells them they will never change.
I’m a lead and follows ask me me to dance quite frequently. I dodge some of them with the excuse that I’m taking a break. This backfires though when I have to turn someone down that I actually want to dance with.
I’m fine with a lot of things. But I don’t enjoy dancing with someone who purposefully sabotages moves to demonstrate me that I’m giving wrong signals. I’m very happy for every feedback, even at socials. But in this case I know that we don’t have a synergy because she comes from tango and when I lead her in Kizomba with my right hand she attempts Tango moves, moves that we didn’t learn in workshops. I’m not the only one with his problem. She is a nice person though that I can talk to. Perhaps I should talk to her about that.
My previous dance teacher and his girlfriend sometimes squeeze my butt or lift my shirt on socials. Do you think that’s weird? So far I didn’t mind. I have an obsession on butts myself, so I get it. But I don’t go around touching other people’s butts, even if I’d like to
In the scene I’m in (I’m a follow) it’s absolutely acceptable to say no, and my scene is an ‘academic’ scene as you have described. However it is rude to say no to someone and then yes to another person for the same song, unless you made it clear that you already specifically promised to dance with that person. Also should go without saying that the ‘no’ should be as polite as possible.
This comes up often as a discussion between friends and most people who lead have told me they are fine with being told no, and depending on the tone & body language of the follow, they will come back later to ask again or just leave them alone. I have found for those leads I actually don’t want to dance with, if I say no a few times diplomatically (e.g. “I’m taking a break”), they eventually stop asking because there are other followers who will say yes, and this seems to avoid the awkwardness of explaining why I’m saying no.
There’s a great deal of complicated culture wrapped in that one thing. Men only ask, and women always say yes. Men are active, women passive. Men have fragile egos who cannot deal with rejection. Women have no experience in asking so they should not (but they cannot anyways). Active women are not seen as feminine.
So tradition is that, but we have been changing that.
Yes, you (anybody) can always say no. And you definitely should if you seriously do not want to have anything to do with that person, due to history, drunkenness, just bad manners, …
To have nice dance events, it is better if we are not too picky about who we dance with. If people are getting mostly no’s all evening even if they are just regular and not doing anything stupid, they’ll leave the scene. No people, no scene.