dance like nobody's watching

Social dancing is partner dancing that is informal, relaxed, and danced for the enjoyment of the partners - rather than to meet the criteria of a dance school or an audience. Social dancing is danced for enjoyment, socialization, recreation and health. The test for social dancing success is how much the dance partners have enjoyed the dance - not how they have danced in the eyes of others or how "correctly" they have danced.

Social dancing has no standardized teaching or learning curriculum. Social dance teachers teach steps and techniques they have come to prefer or what they hunch their students will prefer. The steps and techniques taught by one instructor can vary considerably from those taught by someone else. Social dancing is also dynamic. The types of social dances and styles change with the times.

Social dancing is different for American ballroom dancing which is sometimes called social ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancing is meant to be danced in ballrooms, and social dancing is suited for dancing on small or crowded floors, such as dance floors found in restaurants and pubs. If ballroom dancers wish to use their dancing skills in social dance environments, they do need to change and adapt their style and steps. Tips on how to adapt ballroom dancing skills to social situations can be found under Floor Craft.

Types of Social Dances

Spot or Slot Dances

Spot or slot social dances are dances a couple dance in one spot or slot. Once a couple establish their dance spot or slot on the dance floor, they do not drift around the dance floor. Spot or slot dances are best suited for nightclub type dance floors.

Salsa, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Samba, West Coast and East Coast Swing, Jitterbug, Charleston, Lindy, Blues, Street Hustle, Nightclub Two Step, Nightclub Freestyle, Tango Nuevo, Neo Tango, Hip Hop and related dances are examples of spot or slot social dances.

The style of social style spot dances is different from ballroom spot dances of the same name. In the Latin dances for instance, the steps in social dancing are smaller and the arms are not thrown out in a New Yorker type flourish as someone else dancing close by may get hit in the face. In general, social spot dances use compact steps and a compact dance hold where the arms or elbows do not stick out to the side.

Progressive Dances

A progressive dance is a dance that travels around the dance floor in an anti-clockwise direction. Progressive social dances generally need a somewhat larger floor than those best suited for spot dancing - a floor size that permits travelling around the dance floor - but not one as large as a dance hall or ballroom.

Traditional Argentine Tango, Country Two Step, Social Waltz, and Social Foxtrot are examples of progressive social dances. The close embrace, small steps and absence of embellishments in milonguero style Argentine Tango makes it well suited to dance progressively on smaller floors.

Adapting to the Dance Space

It is not uncommon to see a progressive and spot social dancers sharing the same floor on the larger social dance floors. In this case, the progressive dancers dance along the edge of the dance floor while the spot dancers occupy the centre. For instance, Country Two Step dancers can dance on the edge while Swing dancers can dance in the centre of the floor.

However, in order to dance a progressive or travelling dance in a small space, it is necessary for progressive dancing to be customary in that dance place. If spot dancers dominate the space and dance along the edge, a progressive dancer should not push their way around the dance floor. In these situations, it is best for everyone to dance a spot dance. A Waltz, for example can be converted to a spot dance by using steps and patterns based on the box step. Instead on dancing a progressive Foxtrot, dancers can dance Swing or Freestyle Nightclub. Tango dancers can dance Tango Nuevo or Neo Tango - Tango that uses circular spot patterns such as the molinete (circular grapevine around the other partner), the calecita (the carousel - a walk around the other partner) and short walks, rather than the progressive caminar (a progressive walk). Samba dancers can dance spot Samba patterns and not use progressive/travelling patterns.

The Quickstep, Standard or American Tango and International ballroom style dances in general, are not suited for small dance floors. When dancing on small floors, dancers trained in ballroom style dancing must learn to change their style to social style dancing and adapt to the situation. Dancing ballroom style on small dance floors can be dangerous.

Dance Descriptions

» Social Dancing
» Ballroom Dancing
» Ceroc
» Blues
» Glossary

Argentine Tango Descriptions

» Argentine Tango
» Nuevo Tango and Neo-Tango

Latin Dance Descriptions

» Bachata
» Bossa Nova
» Cumbia
» Forro
» Merengue
» Salsa
» Samba
» Samba Gafieira
» Zouk


» American Ballroom Smooth
» American Ballroom Rhythm
» International Ballroom Standard
» International Ballroom Latin
» Ceroc
» Blues

Argentine Tango Videos

» Argentine Tango Videos
» Nuevo Tango Dance Videos
» Tango Lesson (the movie) Clips
» Tango (the movie) Clips

Latin Dance Videos

» Bachata
» Cumbia
» Forro
» Merengue
» Salsa
» Samba Gafieira