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A Dancer's Voice  Laura Beers


Just Say "Yes" (Maybe ) by Kelly Buckwalter

"Would you like to dance?" These are the five most common words heard at any swing dance, yet for many people the emotions that come up when they speak these words are overwhelming. Face it, no one likes to be rejected. I know from experience when I was in high school and college I was NEVER asked to dance. Since I had the misfortune to have very beautiful roommates, whenever a guy approached me I discovered that he usually wanted the name or phone number of one of my girlfriends. Very humiliating.

So I soon learned if I wanted to dance I would have to ask a guy. So I did. And most of the time they said "No." (They really did! My mother tells me I was just a late bloomer...) Fast forward a few years to my introduction to the swing scene. I discovered that everyone asks everyone else to dance and guess what? Having been rejected all those years I vowed I'd NEVER say no ... well, almost never.

Over the years I've modified my "never" to allow me off the hook under the following circumstances:

The person asking me to dance is under the influence of a reality altering substance.
The person asking me to dance has hurt me physically or emotionally in the past.
I am tired/ill or I've stopped dancing for the night. (Then I ask them for a raincheck and try to remember to find them the next time and ask them for a dance first).
I want to finish watching some incredible dancing (So I ask if they would mind if we waited until the next dance).
I can't do the dance they want to dance to the music playing (So I ask them later), or
I've already promised the dance to someone else (So I arrange to find them later), or
I am on a date and want to spend time with just my date.

I figure it's only about 3 minutes, it can't be all that bad, and maybe I'll make a new friend or learn something new. Besides the more I learn about the dance, the easier it becomes to compensate for both my mistakes and my partner's mistakes. Since a lot of people have told me they are terrified to ask anyone to dance and they feel like leaving when someone does reject them, I figured if I repeated some of the rejections given me, maybe some of you will realize that if you get rejected, a lot of the time it is more a reflection on the other person than it is on you!

Note: Although obviously I have been rejected by guys, I assume that people are people, and probably you guys have gotten some of the same responses that I have. My guess is that women reject men just as much as men reject women - what do you think?

Anyway here are the responses for your amusement. By the way, lest you think that once you've been labeled a "good" dancer no one will turn you down or be rude to you, think again. The following responses were said to me after Dominic Yin and I had won the U.S. Open and I had been judging and teaching for over 10 years.

My questions: "Would you like to dance?" The responses:

"Nah-I'd rather smoke a cigarette."

"Ask me next year."

“Only if you can follow."

"No, I haven't seen you dance yet."

"Are you any good?"

"Only if you're in the next contest."

"I don't dance with people who don't take from X."

"Only if you've been dancing longer than a year."

"As long as you don't try to lead."

"No, I think X is going to ask me to dance."

"Not now, come back later and I'll see.”

"Maybe, where are you from?"

"No, there are too many good dancers here I want to dance with."

"No, you'll make me look bad."

"How come you're asking me?"

"I don't like to dance with locals at conventions." (EEK! I think I've been guilty of uttering this one too? Mea culpa! Oh well, no one's perfect ...KB).

"Are you sure you want to dance with me?"

"No, I learned from someone else"

"Does this mean you want to sleep with me?"

"No, not until I've finished my (pick one) drink/cigarette"

"Well, I guess so.”

"Maybe, who's your teacher?"

"Might as well, there's no one good here tonight."

"No, I was just going to ask X to dance."

“No thanks, I'm tired and I’m saving myself to dance with the good dancers."

"I don't dance with (pick one) teachers/students/competitors."

"I'd rather dance with X."

"Only if you'll tell me the name of that woman over there"

"Only if you're single”

"Maybe, how long have you been dancing?"

And last but not least, my all time favorite: "I don't know." (What the heck does that mean?).
So what's a good response to the questions. "Would you like to dance?" Well, here are some of my favorite responses:

"I'd love to."

"Thanks I was hoping you’d ask me."

"Of course."


"I was just going to ask you!"

"I'd be delighted."

"Yes, thank you."

"I've been waiting all night for you to ask me!”
And remember folks, use common sense. Ask the people who look like they want to be asked (I think those NGSDC "Ask me" buttons are a fantastic idea!) Don’t go for the lovers in the corner or the person involved in an intense conversation. If I see a woman I don’t know with a good male dancer, I always ask her first if I could ask her partner if he could dance with me, and when my partner said sure, the guy just took my hand and pulled me onto the floor. When I asked him why he didn’t ask me he said, "Why? Your partner said it was ok, didn’t he?"

Kelly Buckwalter, from the San Francisco area, is US Open Classic and Jack & Jill Champion. You can purchase her popular and extremely instructive video tapes by calling (707) 544-8184.