Why Professional Dancers Are Terrible Social Dancers. Really.

I am a professional dancer. And I hate dancing.

Socially, anyway. Put me in a ballet class or send me to a Broadway audition, fine. Ask me to dance at the club? Oh dear lord…I’m sweating from the fear of just the thought. Why am I so scared to dance for fun, you ask? Because I SUCK at it. I really do.

You may think club dancing comes naturally to me, but no, my ballet and jazz classes from the age of 5 do NOT do me any favors on the dance floor. If anything, my training has only made me a worse social dancer. If you don’t believe me, let me explain to you just why professional dancers are such terrible dancers at the club…

We Think Too Much

Our years of training have left us with the uncontrollable need to analyze everything from our moves, to the music, to spatial patterns. We simply cannot turn off our dancer brain. Am I on the beat? Am I dancing too sharp? Too smooth? Where should my arms go? Why are my legs in that funny position? And while a normal human just tries to follow the steady beat of the music, we find ourselves trying to add interesting syncopations or follow the dynamic changes in the song. For what should be a fun, easy activity to let go of all the troubles in your mind, club dancing has a dancer’s mind running at full speed.

We Can’t Loosen Up
We have spent hours upon hours in dance class to learn where and how to put every body part in the perfect position. Our legs, hands, hips, fingers, and toes, there’s a position for all of them. And when we are on the dance floor, we can’t just let these habits go! Our shoulders are stiff and our hips won’t sway.  We look so uncomfortable, even crippled Grandma Betty is showin’ us up.

Too Complicated

For those of us professionals who do feel comfortable on the dance floor (e.g., hip-hop, jazz, or break dancers), we might just take it too far. When a good jam comes on at the club, you can find us coming up with crazy kick-ass choreography right there on the spot. We may look cool, but this is certainly difficult to dance with and can be quite an annoyance on a crowded dance floor. No one wants to see us show off, and no one wants to try to keep up.

Too Much Pressure

As soon as we let it be known that we are more than just nighttime dancers, but that we are real, daytime dancers too, the pressure that is put upon us to perform is instantly debilitating. “Dance for me.” “Show me what you got.” “Why aren’t you out on the dance floor?” These words are our greatest fear. For us ballet or modern dancers, “showing you what we got” is really not an option. No one wants to see that crazy shit at the club. And for us hip-hop dancers, we really just want groove and chill out, not put on a show for you (you have to pay us for that).  The expectation of greatness is just too much to handle.

So there ya go. Next time you meet a professional dancer at the club, do not be intimidated. If anything, you should expect the worst. Remember to give them a break if they’re not comfortable, and for the love of god, do not ask them to perform for you.