Freestyle Social Dancing -- Friend
by Ron Feightner
Some look upon social freestyle dancing as competition for round
dancing. It should be considered fertile ground for recruiting—after
all, most social dancers like to dance and want to improve. What better
(and less expensive) way is there to learn ballroom dancing?
We have been out socially with accomplished round dancers and have been
surprised by their reluctance to dance to live band music. Perhaps lack
of practice and being uncomfortable with lead-follow may be two reasons.
We, as round dancers, are missing a wonderful opportunity to display
our dancing ability. We have been given a gift of dance knowledge which
is on full display during our dance events but totally hidden from
others. The joy and artistry of choreographed ballroom dancing is a
best kept secret from the public.
We are amazed at the number of rhythms and figures we have learned over
the past four years, however, transitioning this knowledge to social
dancing is difficult at best. Early on we tried to memorize Snow
Blossom for a local ballroom dance event, and we found dancing a
"routine" on a crowded space requires some floorcraft to which we were
unaccustomed. We later opted for mini-sequences taken from our favorite
You can subscribe for free to several YouTube sites which can provide
ideas for freestyle routines which complement our round dance
instruction. Search on Egils Smagris, Michael Kiehm, Ari Levitt, West
Coast Swing Online, X Dance, Ballroom Feed, Virtual Dance Lessons, and
Izabeladancelondon. You can also get great ideas from searching by
rhythm such as East Coast Swing (Jive) or Nightclub Two-Step (Slow
There are countless places to social dance—weddings, community events,
and restaurants or bars where bands usually play on Friday and Saturday
nights; and many social clubs, like VFW and American Legion, allow non-
members. Most live bands play music to which you can dance jive, west
coast swing, cha cha, rumba, slow two step, two-step, and hustle (3 or
My call to action for instructors, cuers and dance clubs is to embrace
social dancing and consider the following:
- Play uncued music before lessons and during breaks for
anyone that wants to practice freestyle dancing.
- Set aside a specific time each week for an "open floor" for
people to bring their favorite music to practice without cues. The club
could charge a nominal fee for floor time.
- Encourage members to share the names of danceable bands and
where they are playing, which is usually Friday and Saturday
night, so as not to interfere with round dance events.
- Remind all members to bring their dance club business cards
to give to anyone they meet while socially dancing. I am always
surprised by the number of strangers that ask, "Where did you learn to
dance?" which is a perfect segue to tell them about the next beginner's
class at your local club.
To be a good social dancer takes time and effort but is well worth it.
Hope to see you on the dance floor this weekend!
From the ICBDA
Dancer's Gazette, March 2023,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, August, 2023.