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For Women: How to Avoid and Say No To Men You Don't Want to Dance With, and Stay Safe While Out Salsa Dancing

Updated on February 6, 2017
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Anya Brodech is a professional Salsa, Latin, Swing and Ballroom dance teacher in Oakland CA. Visit her website, YouTube channel and Facebook

Knowing how to say "no" when it comes to social dancing,is just as important as knowing how to say yes
Knowing how to say "no" when it comes to social dancing,is just as important as knowing how to say yes

Author's Note

The purpose of this article is to help women stay safe and fend off unwanted advances from men, as well as to provide advice on how to avoid men that you don't want to dance with (for whatever reason). I've been harassed by weird guys plenty in my ten years as a dancer, so I'm sharing with you what I've learned in my experience, so this way you can focus on enjoying your evening and not having to worry about "that guy." This article isn't about hating men and it isn't meant to offend the average guy who just wants to go out dancing without any unsavory or sinister intentions. I wrote this to piece to empower women and let them know that they don't always have to say "yes" if they are not comfortable with the man who is asking them to dance. I want both men and women to have very clear expectations about what is and what is not appropriate for social dancing situations.

How is Dancing Different?

There are a lot of subtleties and nuances when it comes to partner dancing in a social situation that take some time to learn because the experience is so different from other social interactions you experience on a day-to-day basis.

What is unique about partner dancing, is that it puts you in very close physical proximity to members of the opposite sex. For many new dancers, this can feel overwhelming or intimidating, especially if you're not dancing with a significant other. Regardless if you are in a group class, studio party, or nightclub environment, it is important to remember that you are just there to dance, not to date. If you treat dancing as some kind of dating service, well then you won't have much in the way of dance career because you will end up in a lot of potentially awkward and uncomfortable situations with the people you dance with because they probably just wanted to dance with you, not sleep with you.

However, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't shun all possibility of starting a romantic relationship at dance. You should just be aware of the fact that your primary goal when out dancing is to actually dance with other people, then down the road let it turn into something more if both people are in mutual agreement. You just shouldn't try and force yourself onto every person that you dance with.

Furthermore, if you ever feel like someone is trying to make sexual advances towards you and makes you feel uncomfortable, you have a right to stand up for yourself and get out of that situation. You should never put up with someone who violates your personal space or privacy. Everyone who goes out dancing has a right to enjoy themselves in an environment that is free of harassment and unwanted sexual advances.

The purpose of this article is to give women tools and information that they can use to take control of any unwanted, uncomfortable or unsafe situation that they might find themselves in while out dancing, in order to make sure that they have a safe and enjoyable evening that is free from sexual advances or harassment from others.

What Kind of Men You Will Find that Go Out Salsa Dancing

In general, I will say that the kind of men who go out to salsa clubs and other dance events are generally different from your average guy just because of the fact that they dance.

I will say that there are two kinds of guys who go to dance: the kind that go to actually dance and the kind that go to pick up women. Depending on what you're looking for, it is important to keep these two distinctions in mind when you're out dancing.

The guys that go out just to dance, and nothing more, are usually very nice, caring, sweet, sensitive guys who are genuinely interested in practicing and improving their dancing skills. They will usually be respectful of your time and personal space and not really do anything to make you uncomfortable. Most of the time, they are just looking for someone who will dance that song with them, not someone to go home with at the end of the night. If you are someone who is looking for a regular dance partner, these guys are the right choice for you.

On the other hand, the guys who are there to pick up women generally are not the best dancers. They tend to hang out by the bar, get drunk, and use dancing as an opportunity to hit on you. These guys are more interested in going home with you at the end of the night than actually dancing with you. If you do happen to dance with one of them, you'll know right away, because they'll start saying inappropriate things, asking a lot of personal questions, and trying to touch or caress you where they shouldn't. If you find yourself in this situation and the guy is being really offensive and invading your personal space/privacy, don't hesitate to walk out on him in the middle of the song. Yes, it's rude to leave someone in the middle of a song, but it's even worse to sexually harass someone.

Inappropriate touching is never appropriate
Inappropriate touching is never appropriate

Beware of Invitations to "Practice at Home"

Obviously there are a ton of nice, sweet, sensitive, and all-around great guys that are wonderful and caring human beings. But on the flip side, there are plenty of sleezy guys there who are just there to pick up women, as I described earlier.

Ladies, beware of guys who invite you for "dance practice" at their place. Usually it's just code for them to try to sleep with you, like him inviting you over to "look at his 'amazing' CD collection." The guys who do this are the ones who are just trying to pick up women when they go out dancing.

Unless it is a trusted friend and partner that you've known for a long time and have danced with a lot, and is respectful to you and your boundaries, don't accept his invitation! If someone you know wants to have a legitimate dance practice at home, they are probably going to invite over some other people or do it earlier in the evening and be done by 9 or 10pm at the latest. If you're not sure, ask some of your fellow dancers who know the guy if they've ever practiced at his house.

However, practices at home are generally not very common because you need clean hardwood floors and a big open area. Usually people don't have large unused areas like this in their homes, so renting out space at your local dance studio is a much more practical solution.

In general though, practice outside of a social dance setting is usually not necessary unless you're practicing for a competition or have just started dancing and don't know much. Between private lessons, group classes, and social dancing at studio "practice" parties and/or out in a dance club, you have all of the practice you need!

But in all cases, don't trust a guy who invites you over for "after-hours" dance practice if you're only interested in practicing.

You don't want to find yourself in an awkward situation because you didn't fully realize what you were getting yourself into. Not to mention the fact that it can be dangerous if you are with someone that you don't know well, who tries to take advantage of you!

Use common sense when meeting new people at dance, just like you would anywhere else. If something feels "wrong" or "off," go with your guy and stay away!

Be very cautious when approached by men who invite you to "practice" at their homes
Be very cautious when approached by men who invite you to "practice" at their homes

Sore Feet

Ladies, have you turned down a guy to dance because your feet really hurt?

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How to Say "No" When You're In Pain/Tired/Can't Dance

Ladies, if a guy asks you to dance, then you should say "yes" unless you have a good legitimate reason to say no.

If the reason is that your feet hurt, you're out of breath, need a break, other physical distress; smile and nicely tell the guy:

1) Thank you for asking,

2) I'd love to dance this song with you but....

3) Provide reason for not dancing (e.g. My feet are really sore/I need a break, etc)

4) Offer to dance with him later (next song, in ten minutes, etc.)

Then once you are feeling better, go find the guy and make it a point to dance with him

This is good to do because it shows the guy that you are interested in dancing with him and were genuine about your inability to do so earlier.

If you don't follow up with a guy for the dance you promised, he'll think you lied/made up an excuse to get out of dancing with him earlier and then he probably won't ask you dance again, depending on how good terms you are with each other.

Sometimes people forget to follow up with each other for a later dance which is totally fine, just try and go dance with him once you do remember! It's better late then never!

Remember to be polite when you turn down a guy to dance and don't insult him so you don't hurt his feelings
Remember to be polite when you turn down a guy to dance and don't insult him so you don't hurt his feelings

How to Politely Avoid Someone You Don't Want to Dance With

When you're out dancing, sooner or later you're going to run into some guys that you just don't want to dance with for whatever reason, which is totally fine. You are not required to say "yes" to every guy who asks you to dance! Saying "no" is a perfectly acceptable thing to do! It took me some time to learn this, but it's 100% true.

So anyway, there are a number of different ways to avoid someone you don't want to dance with. It just depends on WHY you don't want to dance with the guy though.

If he's undesirable as a dance partner to you in whatever way that's not particularly serious and/or disturbing, it's not too difficult to avoid him without being rude. Usually a "No, thank you" paired with an excuse will suffice.

Some good ones are, "My feet hurt," "I just finished dancing and I'm really tired, really hot, and/or need to take a break," "I already promised this song to someone else," "I don't like dancing to this song," "I'm waiting for my drink and/or someone else's drink," "I need to finish my drink," "I need to go to the bathroom and/or freshen up" (and then you actually go there), "I have a really important text message that I need to write," "I have to go make a phone call and/or listen to my voicemail," "I'm waiting for my friend to get here," or any other benign reason that you can think of.

Just make sure though that if you say you're going to the bathroom, that you actually go to the bathroom (at least hang out in there for a few minutes so it looks legit). Or if you say you have something to do with your phone, actually take out your phone and do something with it. I know it seems obvious, but sometimes we forget.

In general, providing a guy with a benign reason, like one that Iisted above, allows you to respectfully turn down a guy indirectly, without hurting anyone's feelings. Telling a guy one of these "polite" excuses, lets you two walk away from each other without any awkwardness. Another benefit is that it saves you from actually turning the guy down, you're just declining that particular opportunity to dance with him. This means that in the future you can still dance with him and that he's not completely discouraged from dancing with you, unless you always tell him no every time he asks.

But what you do NOT do is tell a guy that: He is a terrible/lousy/no-good dancer, smells, grosses you out, has bad breath, holds you too tight, is kinda weird looking, has bad-timing, or any other negative thing because that's rude to say to someone's face and not particularly acceptable. If he's paying attention, then he should know what's going on, and if not, well then, he should be! Unless he literally asks you, "Hey do I smell?" or something like that, there's no need to tell him. Trust me, he probably already knows!

There's no need to tell a guy he smells. Trust me, if he's smart, he already knows. If he's not smart, well then...
There's no need to tell a guy he smells. Trust me, if he's smart, he already knows. If he's not smart, well then...

Giving Guys the Wrong Impression

Watch out for guys who get the wrong impression about how you feel about them. This sort of thing can also happen in places outside of dance with other new people that you meet, so it's not all that unusual or specific to dancing. However, due to the personal nature of social partner dancing, these incidents may happen more frequently, so be careful.

Many times men will get the wrong impression of how a woman feels about them because they danced very passionately/intensely together, and so they took it as a sign that the woman is more interested in them than she actually is. Usually this happens to beginner/novice/unskilled dancers that don't have much experience dancing and still don't understand that dancing is just dancing! Nothing more!

Skilled/advanced dancers have learned that just because you dance up close and personal with someone and have a lot of fun, it doesn't mean that what just happened was anything more than dancing, nor does it obligate you to become a romantic couple, etc.

Creeper Poll

Ladies, have you been creeped on since you've started dancing?

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When a guy is just being impossible, the best thing to do is completely ignore him and walk away
When a guy is just being impossible, the best thing to do is completely ignore him and walk away

How to Protect/Save Your Friends from Creepy Guys

Usually when I, or one of my female friends has a creeper, we have a mutual agreement to intervene for one another. If I see the creepy guy bothering my friend and making her uncomfortable, I'll go over, avoid contact with the guy, make an excuse to talk to her, hold her by the arm, and lead her away. An example of this would be "Oh hey Ashley! I just got a text back from Josh/You will not believe what just happened with Emily/I want to fix my hair, can I borrow your brush?" etc. It doesn't matter what the reason is, just as long as you get her away. We also use this method at places outside of dance and other social gatherings when the guy is making us uncomfortable.

If you see your good female friend getting creeped on by a guy, make an excuse to take her away from him
If you see your good female friend getting creeped on by a guy, make an excuse to take her away from him

How to Avoid and Deal With Creepy Guys/Unwanted Attention

Regardless, this situation can be avoided by monitoring your partner's mood and behavior when they dance with you and looking out for any strong/intense reactions on their part. If you notice that they are significantly more interested in you than you are in them based on their facial expressions/body language, the things that they say, and/or if they do anything that makes you uncomfortable and seems inappropriate, then you should politely thank them for the dance at the end of the song, then move to another part of the room.

It is perfectly acceptable (according to the majority of the female population), to hide in the ladies' room for a while (or as needed) to get away from the guy you are trying to avoid and hopefully use it a long enough delay until he is distracted by something and/or loses interest in finding you. You can stay in there a little bit, but not more than for 5-7 minutes or so because you don't want to lose your evening.

Anyway, just try to stay away from the guy as much as possible for the rest of the evening and avoid any more interactions with him. If they ask you to dance, politely decline using one of the "nice" excuses that I've provided in this article, and then walk away and continue to maintain your distance from him.

However, if they seem to be "following" you around, try to stay by your friends/other people and keep yourself engaged so he doesn't have an opportunity to corner you alone. If he walks up to you and tries to talk to you when you are with other people, you can use your conversation with the other people as an excuse to ignore him and tell him that you're "in the middle of something right now." At this point, you can also point out your "creeper" to your friends after he leaves and tell them how that guy has been giving you unwanted attention and that you don't feel comfortable around him so they know to keep an eye him and intervene if he tries to bother you again later.

If the guy is a straight up creeper that makes you feel seriously uncomfortable 99-100% of the time and totally freaks you out, then just IGNORE him. Like I mean, walk right past him, ignore him when he talks to you, and don't even look at him! I'm totally serious about this. There are just some guys who don't get it and won't leave you alone, even when you say that you're not interested. I know it's totally rude and bad manners, but hey, it's acceptable if you're using it for a unique and specific situation that you don't have any other way out of. Just be careful to reserve this behavior for the few select individuals that deserve it.

How to Stay Safe When Going Out Dancing by Yourself

When going out dancing by yourself, here are some tips that I follow to stay safe. They're pretty common sense.

  • If there's no parking nearby the place you're going to for dance, and you're going alone, spend the extra money and get your car valet parked so you're not walking around unprotected by yourself late at night. If valet parking isn't an option, ask someone you can trust to walk you back to your car.
  • Don't leave your drink unattended. Sit down and finish your drink before you go dance, especially if you're somewhere new and/or don't know anyone there. In general, it's best not to consume any alcohol since it impairs your coordination. Stick to water, soda, and/or juice instead.
  • Always make sure that you tell at least one trusted friend or family member EXACTLY where you are going in case something happens to you and you don't make it home (morbid, I know, but it's better to be safe).
  • Leave your valuables at home and only bring some cash and your ID with you. Stop at the ATM before you go so you have enough cash to cover your expenses for that evening. Leave your credit cards and other stuff at home or locked in your glovebox and only take what you actually need for dancing, just in case someone weird decides to go through your bag when you're not looking.

Be alert when walking back to your car at night after dancing
Be alert when walking back to your car at night after dancing

How to Be Safe Going Home After a Night of Dancing

At the end of the evening ask one of your trusted friends to walk you back to your car in case the unwanted guy tries to follow out or is lurking outside waiting for you to leave.

Don't let guys you don't well/trust walk you outside to your car because you're only setting yourself up to a be victim of sexual/physical assault.

Also, you should always look under your car while you're approaching it to make sure that there's no one hiding under it who will grab your feet and make you fall over and then attack you physically and/or sexually. You don't want to be the victim of a preventable crime like this. I know it may seem kind of extreme or unusual, but there have been news stories of both men and women who were attacked by predators hiding under their cars.

Most importantly, just be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out when going back to car. Keep your phone and car keys in your hand so that you can run away and call 9-1-1 if someone tries to go at you.

How Helpful was This Advice?

Ladies, do you feel more comfortable going out dancing now after having read this article/hub?

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Final Thoughts

Ladies, I hope that this article has been useful to you in one way or another. Please read my other hub articles that I wrote on what to wear for dancing, including shoes, clothes, and accessories. Also, check out the ones I wrote on how to improve your salsa and bachata dancing, where to go for dancing in Chicago, and how to date your dance partner!

Happy Dancing!

© 2013 Anya Brodech

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