The Fear of Dancing

And How to Overcome it

Guest blog by Spencer Nelson

Years ago, after having had some lessons, I paused midway at the entrance to the dance floor, petrified with fear. Then a lady asked me to dance, and the rest is history. Still, I am to this day a little fearful about approaching a more skilled dancer. But that’s just me; being awkward and shy, of course I am nervous. But what about those virile manly men who laugh at danger? Are they afraid to appear on the dance floor? Well, yes! 

Consider the risks: They might screw up, look incompetent, appear unmanly, be vulnerable just inches away from that scariest of creatures: a woman! In their first few minutes on the dance floor they will be almost motionless, swaying ever so slightly to and fro, watching their feet, having no idea what to do, back in the fifth grade.  

And this isn’t just a guy thing. Many young women’s eyes widen, teeth clench, bodies stiffen in resistance to their close-by friends pushing them to agree to a dancer’s invitation.

The fear of dancing is universal, and has a name: chorophobia. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. Things can be done to allay the fear…

Overcoming others’ fear

If you are an experienced dancer and want to help partners overcome their anxiety, here are some things you can do: When you are first greeted with “I don’t know how” or “I am just a beginner” or such, you can say something like, “It doesn’t matter; all I ask is to see a smile on your face.” When attempting what will be for some beginners a challenging move and you hear, “What am I supposed to do?” you can say something like, “Just let your body do what it feels like doing; you don’t have to be perfect.” Emphasize that there are no rights or wrongs and that it’s not possible for them to make a mistake. Most followers will appreciate you silently repeating a move multiple times so they learn it. If it still doesn’t work out, say nothing and switch to another simple move. (I do a series of super-easy “Spencer Moves” with beginners that transforms them, temporarily at least, into laughing and giggling enthusiasts.) Be very relaxed; don’t attempt to force your partners but rather adapt to the way they are moving, almost as if they are leading. Skip verbal instructions — don’t teach unless asked!!! During the dance compliment them on something they are doing right and at the end assure them how much fun it was. Later in the evening, ask them again.

Don’t be a jerk. If someone asks you to dance, don’t turn him or her down. It likely took considerable courage for that person to ask you and a rejection can go a long way toward turning a person away from dancing.

What to do if you are the fearful one 

Understand what is actually happening. Chances are, in addition to looking bad in the eyes of your partner, you’re afraid of messing up in front of all those people in the room watching you. Well guess what: hardly anybody is watching you; it is the skilled dancers that have the attention. If someone does happen to glance your way, you probably look a lot more competent than you think; in fact, if you’re following the lead of a skilled dancer, you look great! Your friends on the sidelines may be watching, but they are silently cheering you on and, like most everybody else in the room, really don’t care how skilled you are. Furthermore, depending on the person you are dancing with, he or she doesn’t care much either. What he or she cares about is having a connection with you. Your partner, like most in the dance community, is quite decent and happy to see you giving it the effort. He or she just wants you to dance and have fun.

Remember that everybody was a beginner at some time and everybody was fearful when they started. In fact, even skilled dancers with years of experience will experience trepidation at the prospect of dancing with a still more experienced dancer, especially an instructor!

It’s normal to have jitters. Just accept your fear and go for it!