I'm done with social dancing.

I tried.
Especially since my last post on the topic caused such a firestorm. There was even a reply post on another blog. That blog post failed to see the point, but I digress.

I'm just tired of it. The rejection, the ignores, the flat out no's. On occasion, I can take it, say it's par for the course, and on rare occasions I may have a good night with great leads and fun friends, but when this treatment is more than 50% of your social dancing experience, it gets to be agony.

Last night I went to a bar with friends. One lead showed up and I asked HIM to dance. He looked at me for longer than it would have taken him to answer. "Uuuuuhhh, okay," then we danced a real lame dance. "My arm's sore," he said. "I don't want to overwork it." Yet ten minutes later he was dancing with two other girls more than twice each. I guess it was not worth it to overwork the arm with me, someone else, sure! Actually this night, two injured leads were dancing with other people. That's how special I'm not.

We went to another bar and I asked a guy I know to dance. "The next song, this one is strange." "Sure," I said. I'm not going to push, and I'm not going to hound. I trust people at their word if they say yes. The next song came on, and he got up (I was sitting next to him) and danced with someone else. Two someone else's.

That was kind of it for me. I got up and just walked out and around the block for about half an hour, and cried. Then I just walked home (I only lived a mile away from the bar). I don't know what I'm doing wrong and I'm tired of trying to figure it out. I was with my friend, and I am at the least just as good a dancer if not better than her, and she kept getting dances more times than I can count.

I don't understand it, and I think it's incredibly cruel. Incredibly cruel.

Leads, do me a favor. When you are scanning the crowd for a girl to ask to dance, ask yourself, "Why am I asking her?" or, "Why am I skipping this girl?" and say your gut reaction out loud. Then wonder, is your reason kinda making you a douchebag?

If you say, "Well, she's not that good a dancer yet," did it ever occur to you that she might become a better/faster dancer if someone would practice with her?

Because all of this happened, I'm actually less excited about Camp Hollywood now. One reason is they gave armbands based on skill level; beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc. I was actually looking forward to getting an advanced arm band, because then MAYBE some would see that instead of me and actually dance with me based on my skill! Novel idea, I know. But Camp Hollywood has done away with skill level registration. Fuck. Now I'm back where I started and because the dances tends to be follow heavy, I have a feeling that I'm going to be sitting out of a lot of dancing.

I am this close to holding up a sign that reads, "I can dance too, I'm not invisible!"

I'm just not clique-ish. Never have been. Even in high school, I shunned away from only one group of friends. I'm finding a lot of dance folk cleave to their own and it's really hard getting in that inner circle. And if that were my goal this post would have a different title.

I just wanted to dance. I did't know it would be this difficult to do it.
So I guess it's just classes for me for a while. At least there I know I'll get to dance.
That's all I have to write.


  1. Well, that just stinks. I hate it for you as I have enjoyed following you along in your journey. I will say that so many narrow-minded folks have missed out on a good dance by making a judgement based on looks. What a shame.

  2. I'm sorry that would should be a fun hobby is distinctly not, and even sorrier that people on other blogs can't trust you to be the expert on your own experiences.

  3. This is the reason I haven't learnt to dance properly - as a bigger girl, I know I'd just be setting myself up for rejection. Some people will say that's a fatalistic attitude and that you don't know until you try - these people have never been fat! I suspect that's also why the post in reply to your original one missed the point.

    My boyfriend's schedule means he can't go to lessons with me and usually can't come out to dance, so I go out with my girlfriends. I've had a few lessons so could fake my way through a dance doing basic moves, but the club we go to isn't just a dance club anyway, it's a 20s-50s music night with burlesque and bands, so dancing happens but it isn't the main focus of the night and there are plenty of non-dancers in attendance. I don't ask guys to dance because it implies to them that I have some level of skill - but that's not the point, the point is that however you try to twist it, dancing is full of sexual politics.

    Six of us go out, we're all confident and have pretty faces, none of us are shrinking violets, none of us are single so we're not out to meet guys, none of us are good dancers, yet everyone is asked to dance but the fat one (me). When your weight is the only thing that makes you different from your friends, the reason you're not being asked to dance becomes obvious, and anyone who tries to deny that by saying you're bringing it on yourself by not being confident is just trying to absolve those rude leads of any resposibility for their prejudices.

  4. I just read all the posts and I am so sorry that happened to you. I get that too. I no longer patronize classes unless it's something I have to have.

    I took a belly dancing class 3 years ago with a friend of mine and I was horrible. It was my 1st class and I sucked. The teacher did NOTHING to help me get better, though the other students encouraged me. After the last class we students and the teacher to some degree hung out and talk about our plans for future classes. I said that this was it for me. I was clueless about the dancing and had no idea how to get better. The other students shared their experiences and encouraged me to take other classes. The teacher finally chimed in and said that I needed to learn how to do this and that and whatever. I asked her why she didn't teach me those things? (It was a 10 week beginners class, but they let in whomever wants to take it) She said because she was scared of me. That pissed me off so much that I asked her shouldn't she be more afraid now that I paid for and took a 10 week class and now your admitting that you purposefully refused to help me? That was enough to make her leave the room. I might be mean looking (and seems like there is 1 particular demographic that finds me intimidating), but that is no reason for teachers not to do their job. If she knew she wan't going to work with me, she should have returned my money.

    I have had similar experiences with yoga and akido. I still do all of them. Just on my own. And since I'm doing it for personal fulfillment, it doesn't matter how I learn does it? I manage and I enjoy myself.

    And I have read how much you love to dance. Keep doing it. Find a club, I know one is out there. Good luck.


  5. As a fellow swing dancer, I'm now so, so very sad, for so many reasons. Social dancing is for me the entire point with swing dancing, classes is just for learning new techniques. I really, truly hope you'll find better leads to dance with. Soon!

    On the other hand, social dancing seems to be a negative spiral for you right now, so maybe a short break, some classes and camps to improve and feel more confident in your dance, could be a good idea. All I know is that when something clearly doesn't feel good, that will not change just because one keeps doing it. And leaving the dance crying is not just bad, it's horrible.

    Reading your posts, I get very mad at the central people at your dance scene. No matter what they tell themselves, they set the trend for acceptable behaviour and somewhere along the line it obviously became ok to turn someone down. That's just plain wrong. Ok, there are instances when it's ok, like you're leaving, or taking a coffeebreak and want to drink your coffee/tea while it's hot. But because someone is a poor dancer? No, it's not ok to say no when asked to dance. Because of looks? That's just incomprehensible! (not that I don't believe you, I do! I'm just shocked beyond words). If the better leads belives it's ok to turn someone down and then go ask someone else, then where did they learn it? I doubt this problem, and I see it as a huge problem, can be solved starting in the beginner's ranks, a change would have to come from "above", preferably the teachers.

    Of course the beauty-norm question is important, but I wonder if it's not about time a serious debate was raised in your area about what kind of dancing community they want. Do they want an elitistic, shallow community that rejects potential great future dancers, or do they want an open, welcoming community? If they want the latter, then they need to change basic attitudes: You never turn down a dance - from anyone - unless you're not dancing any more at all that night. You always do your best to make your partner enjoy the dance. Two simple rules your dance community seem to have forgotten.

    This is not up to the wronged to right, this a policy change that will only work if it starts from above, and is formulated as a specific policy that the organisation activly works with.

    If nothing else works: living in a small community where we do treat each other nicely I can tell you, there are better places to dance!!! Maybe to far away for weekly dances, but how about travelleing to smaller cities for weekend camps? The downside is that there's usually very few high-level leeds, the plus side is that in smaller communities it usually doesn't work to be a snob, everyone knows everyone and you don't get away with bad dancefloor behaviour. As the good leads are few, the follows usually has to ask. I'm a teacher in my local scene, and I still have to wait to catch my fellow leed teachers to get a couple of dances with them (of course I also dance with our pupils!)

    The only positive I take from your posts is that your not giving up on lindy. Please don't! It's a wonderful dance, and I know there's lots of good scenes out there, and lots of well-mannered leeds who see's a dancer, not a potential partner, when looking at their followers.


  6. I'm sorry to read this because you come off as a super cool lady and don't deserve this. Maybe there's a dancing scene out of L.A. proper which would be more welcoming? Things could be different now but I remember going to this little hole in the wall bar in Boston in the 90s that had swing night and pretty much anyone who wanted to dance got to. It's sad that something that should be fun isn't anymore.

  7. I read your post and all of the links and it makes me just so sad. Sad for you because you can't do something you obviously enjoy, sad for others because they are glossing over the fact that prejudice/discrimination against larger people is so evident in this situation. I know this won't solve the situation but I was wondering can you learn to lead? Or is it only a man/woman situation? I know nothing about social dancing so please correct me if I'm wrong. But mostly I hope that having this discussion will make more male leads willing to dance with every woman instead of picking a follower by whom they are attracted to.

    Also, please don't stop dancing. Don't let someone else's attitudes make you stop doing something you love!


  8. The dancecommunity near to where I live is very small with only a few good leads. I have experienced almost all of what you write about - I'm not one of the popular girls...I got mad, and started taking lead classes, I don't want to be a wallflower! So maybe take a lead beginners class? It's actually very easy to lead, and it doubles your dancing opportunities (as long as you're out dancing with friends). I hope you don't stop dancing.

  9. Carolyn, I actually want to learn to lead. I want to work on being a better follow first, but yes, thats something I've always wanted to do.

    I genuinely cant find anyone who dances the way I want them to. I like playing with brakes, long swing outs, and FEELING the music. I love getting lost in a song and having a lead bring me back. That RARELY happens, as most leads are all math, no soul.

    I fantasize about having an awesome lead and we click and dance together all the time. I have no idea what he looks like, and don't care, but we are just a dancing match and just have tons of fun. That's what really keeps me going. That one time out I'll meet this dancer and we will click.

    Thanks for the replies, everyone. I appreciate the support. I'm still going to dance, take my beating and get better. I have to, I don't like quitting anything.

  10. taking a break is not quitting. I feel your pain about the clique thing and not fitting norms. keep going and don't let them steal your joy! I'll be praying for your dance peeps to have a serious 'tude adjustment. gee whiz, it's a dance, not a marriage proposal.

  11. I am so sorry to read this post, I can't imagine how frustrating this must be to you. I can't stand that feeling of knowing I'm doing something wrong because I'm not getting the results everyone else is, but not knowing what it is... I've never swing danced, but I did try to start attending historical costume balls... It was a bit clique-ish, and as a beginning dancer, the more experienced dancers would get very visibly frustrated with me, even though the "official" etiquette was that more experienced dancers were expected to help less experienced dancers learn. That's not to say I didn't have some wonderful dancers help me out, but the negative experiences were really off-putting, and I eventually stopped attending. I know this is a completely different situation from yours, but it makes me feel like within many dancing communities, the more experienced dancers get to be jerks and call the shots, completely ignoring etiquette or a spirit of being friendly and inclusive. I loved the costumes, not the dancing, so it was not a big loss for me, but it sounds like you love the dancing. My hope for you is that you take some time away from it and are able to find a way back into it that won't take such a huge emotional toll on you. Good luck!

  12. I'm so sorry this happens to you! As a dancer (ballroom not swing) myself I can relate to how you must be feeling. I also know how bad those pity-dances or the just-because-I-have-to-dances can be. Though I get rejected for other reasons than you.

    I have also found that you just might not want to get into that inner circle of dancers. At least with those circles I know, they're like the cool kids at school: They don't really like anyone and no-one likes them, it's all just pretence and as soon as someone turns their back the mean comments begin.

    I hope that one day you will be able to show them all just how good a dancer you are!

  13. This was my same experience with swing dancing in the LA area, I'm a bigger girl and I was new to dancing, hoping it would be a way for me to have fun and get some cardio. I hated going out and trying to find people to dance with. I even went to a dance with a guy who danced with me all of 1 song and then danced with other girls all night. I quit going out, and now I'm trying to convince my hubby to start so I'd have a built in partner.

  14. I'm so sorry to hear that, but I definitely understand where you're coming from.

    My home scene is quite friendly and small, and I'm now seen as one of the advanced dancers, so I usually have no problems getting dances nowadays. It's more of an issue that people are afraid of me now...

    Our scene actually has quite a diverse range of bodies, and quite a few of our best dancers and teachers are bigger. Yay for my scene!

    At events, however, I often see thin, very pretty girls in high-heels who can barely string together an eight-count dancing all the time, whereas I (early 20s, average figure, of average prettiness) sit out a lot of dances (especially on Saturday nights. I hate the Saturday nights).

    A lead - friend was like "but you're a really fun follow, leads will see you and then ask you to dance!". Not how it works. Knowing people (or being known) or being super attractive works.

    I can't imagine what it must be like for you.

    Some great ways of improving your dancing and making yourself less dependent on the approval of rude leads is to learn how to lead, or to work on your solo dancing.

    Leading has given me a much deeper understanding of the dance and has improved my following so much, but it's also very enjoyable for its own sake.

    Solo dancing (charleston, big apple, tranky doo etc.) is awesome because you can work on musicality, developing your own style and body awareness. Plus, it's super fun, and you can jam out to awesome songs without a lead.

    Dogpossum has an awesome blog post on the value of solo dancing in undermining crappy social dynamics: http://dogpossum.org/2011/05/i-vant-to-be-alone/

    I hope this doesn't stop you from dancing. At least you know who to avoid when you're the most badass follow out there.

  15. What a great read, splendidlymarvellous! Thanks for the link.

  16. I hope that you find a solution that works for *you* for your situation. I'm sad that you are being discriminated against and others in the Swing Dance Scene just-don't-see-it. I'm guessing that it's the lack of recognition by peers that makes the situation so painful.

    I like the idea of solo dancing (or solo dancing in a group)--I read DogPossum's post and it sounds like a great idea. I bellydance and when the music starts, I usually dance with groups of other dancers. The interaction consists of interpreting the music and enjoying company on the dance floor. It's funny, the dynamic really changes when there is a couple dancing together because their energy is focused inward (as a couple) and not outward to the group.

    Again, I hope that you find a solution and don't stop dancing! Music frees the soul as it loosens muscles and gets the blood circulating.

    Rose in SV

  17. There are a lot of other swing groups in the L.A. area that are mercifully devoid of hipsters. They might skew a little older than you are used to, but the dancers are there to dance, not score with a hottie. Maybe you need a different dance scene, instead of giving up entirely. That would be a terrible thing!

  18. I am so sorry to hear about this! I too had/have the same problem. I have ONE dance partner here in the valley and my fiance can kind-of dance too.

    When I was single I just wanted to die. They would ask all of my friends, who could not even dance, to dance and I was left twiddling my thumbs. I too had the same feelings of despair. I wish I had some words of encouragement. I was told a lot, "You are too tall to dance with." Just frustrating.

    When I was learning how to dance at the church the male dance instructor would give a mini lecture about dance etiquette. I wish people would listen/follow the rules. It is just one dance- you will live. I feel the same way when girls are asked to dance and they say no.

    Here is to better luck! Check out "Saturday Night Stomp" here in the Valley. If you are ever out here, I am sure you will have a blast. I feel they are a good group of swing dancers who just plain enjoy the dance!

  19. Shelly, I am so sorry to hear this.. There is NO EXCUSE for anyone to have bad behavior. You are a very nice person, and do not deserve to be treated that way.. The people who have thier on "little groups", will someday understand,how ugly they were.. Again so sorry.

  20. It makes me super sad that you're still having to deal with this. It sounds like your scene has got some real problems. I agree with Erika above that a lot of responsibility has to rest on the scene leaders - they should be modeling some better attitudes.

    Thanks for sending some blog readers my way but I really didn't mean to minimize your problem - it's just so outside my experience that a swing dancing scene would be like junior high school revisited. Like I said, I'm a weird old lady and I get danced with a lot up here in Portland :)

    Solo dancing probably won't entirely make up for the feeling of being shunned by your peers, but nevertheless, soloing is always a great idea - you can't be sad while you're dancing your own crazy Charleston and not giving a damn.

    Shame on those guys. I hope one of these days you can find a scene that appreciates you.

  21. Thanks everyone for all the comments. You all are so supportive and often we forget that a little pep talk really goes a long way. Im not mad at any one person, that would be petty. Im more disappointed in the lack of inclusion. Its very tribal.

    I will always dance, and as for the solo dancing, I do that A LOT in class :) because sometimes there are more follows and as I wait for rotation, I just can't keep still! My teacher often smiles at my silliness. Perhaps I should do that socially....

    For me, getting past something is making it known, acknowledging it and talking about it, which Ive done here. You all make me feel so strong, thanks so much.

    Yay dancing!!

  22. Shelly I am so sorry to read this. It's really horrible. I really don't know how to dance and there's like zero opportunity in this cowpoke town anyway. I remember all the places I went to just hoping for a dance and not being asked so I can relate. But I think the other people are right - you should not give up. Just keep on dancing. :)

  23. Hi Shelley,

    I hear you. I'm very passionate about swing dancing / lindy hopping but I consider myself more of a hobby dancer since I can't go regularly and don't have funds for a lot of classes.

    I'm a bigger gal, and I used to go swing dancing with a petite friend of mine. It never failed that she would be pulled every which way to swing dance with the guys while I'd be left on the sidelines. I would wind up asking guys because I'd want to dance, but because of my desire to be ASKED by a guy (thus indicating he actually /wanted/ to dance with me?) I would wind up sticking to the sidelines, waiting. And getting more and more depressed. (Side note: she had an 'amusing' policy to never ask guys for a dance - it was unladylike. *rolls eyes*)

    It got a little better when I would go without my friend (because then I wouldn't focus so much on how much attention she was getting), but I'd be the one consistently doing the asking.

    The frustrating thing is that I love the youthful energy of the 'younger' swing dance scene. I hate to sound like I'm being age-ist as much as people have been fat-ist(?) against me, but many of the older dancers I've danced with treat swing as a ballroom style dance -- formal and upright, where as I prefer to have fun and let go and be silly. So although I started attending different clubs/scenes where the general age was older (and met some pretty awesome dancers!), I do miss the younger vibe. But there's also two different attitudes at play here -- the older crowd is more polite. Guys (old enough to be my father...) will ask me to dance. I get a lot of dancing in, and yeah I have fun. The younger crowd is more competitive, as some have noted. And they do treat it as a singles mixer, I feel. So the "unattractives" sit out. As Kallie noted above, "dancing is full of sexual politics," though for me, my aim is to just get better at dancing! I dunno, maybe I'm being just as discriminatory against older people. I don't have a problem with dancing with them but it's kind of sad that they're the only ones who are polite enough to ask and realize the value in dancing with anyone to get practice.

    I'm probably not saying anything new to you but I just wanted to express that I understand where you're at. I've cried plenty of times after a swing dance. This issue has been going on with me for a long time, so in a weird way, I'm glad -- not that you are experiencing it as well, but that it's being brought to light in a more public forum than me just complaining to my friends. :)

  24. Shelley,

    It was great speaking to you after class last night. I am going to Camp Hollywood this year and it is going to be my first time. we can HANG. I have a Cross Stitch pattern on my blog that is very appropriate for this post!


    See you in class!

  25. So Miss NVL:

    What did you ultimately decide to do (or not do). As a Chicago Stepper Wanna-Be I get where you are coming from. I am a "thick" girl (as my cousin called it) and while one is not thrown about in urban ballroom dance and Chicago Steppin' still I noticed too the "popular, cute, great dancing" folk/girls are the ones in the IN crowd. No need to repeat what you've said for you said it succinctly.

    Had I stayed up north AND insisted upon continuing to dance I believe my next move would have been to advertise for a dance partner and make sure in the advert. to stress "dance"; i.e., not looking for another level. Not sure how that would have worked but it would have been a try for me.

    As it turns out I am in the south now, in the country and dance itself is a non-issue (too bad for me, but there is time for it in the future). Still, I love dance as you do and I hope, I hope you found middle ground on it.

    Oh, I love your spunk and drive to be willing to learn to lead. For what it's worth, if I met you, me and you could cut a rug, girl: you lead and I'll follow.

    Dance hugs,



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