This is the start of the “Poll of the month” blog post series!
For a long time I've wanted to hear more of your thoughts so I when I opened this new website I also posted the first Poll of the month. And I was feeling quite brave right from the start - I set out on a quest to get dancers to share their best social dancing experiences. I asked you to tell where you had your best social dancing experience and what made this the best.
Those are some tough questions, I know. 'Social dancing experience' is not something you can quantify. It can be a fleeting moment on the dance floor - or a lasting memory. But even if it's a lasting memory, it's rarely something you write down, or compare with other experiences. Or do you ever make notes, such as, “I give this dance 76/100 points.” I hope not!
It felt like those were also pretty private questions - do you really want to share your very personal experiences, I wondered? And it did indeed feel like you were shy to give me your replies. But I was curious and undeterred: I wanted your stories. In this post I spill the beans. Here are your best replies and my best social dancing experiences!
Social dancing as an experience
What makes the perfect social dancing experience? Is it the location, the mood, the music? Do you connect your best social dancing experience to a certain familiar person - or was it a complete stranger that took your social dancing to a new level? Does it come from doing some new moves or about surprising yourself in some way? Was the experience the best because something that happened during the dance or perhaps before or after? Was it amazing because your dance partner made you feel great or because you made your dance partner feel great? Is it a combination of a million small things?
What makes social dancing such an experience - in my opinion - is because there are so many things involved. Social dancing is spontaneous. Every moment is unique, it’s something you cannot repeat even if you were in the same place, with the same person, dancing the same moves to the same song. What makes for the best experience then..? Well, you tell me!
The results: Your best social dancing experiences
Where was the best experience?
First in the poll I asked people if they could tell me where they had their best social dancing experience. Some only commented what made the best experience, but those that mentioned a specific location all pointed out to a (fairly recent) dance festival. And I can understand the sentiment. Many event organizers work hard to create an optimal social dancing experience for the event visitors. Also, when you’re dancing all day & night for many days in a row you get into a certain flow of things easier.
Among the events that got votes there were from North America LA Zouk Congress in Los Angeles and DC Zouk and Kizomba Festival in Washington DC; from South America Berg’s congress in Porto Seguro; and from Europe LIKE Festival in London, Prague Zouk Marathon in Czech Republic, AfroLatin Flow Festival in Helsinki and Sensual Summer Festival in Berlin.
What made it the best?
I also wanted to know what makes the social dancing experience the best. In your replies, some thoughts kept recurring so I grouped your replies under the most common topics. Below a summary of what you felt contributed to the best social dancing experience!
One of the first things that come up are the people. Many point out there were lots of good dancers, some also mentioning dancing with the instructors. For many it wasn't just about the people's level of dance skills but also the other interactions with people; socializing and other social aspects of the dance events. Lauren from UK, for example wrote “I got to know everyone really well” as one of the things that made her social dancing experience the best. Henni from Finland also pointed out that she enjoys social dancing when there are “people that are inspired to dance and enjoy dancing with each other”.
Another topic that is essential in a great social dancing experience is, obviously, the dancing itself! Some talked about events that made them exceed their capabilities and pushed them forward. For example Jaakko from Finland mentions “it was the week I advanced most so far in my dancing career”. Quite many also talked about the connection with their partner, such as Lora from Bulgaria notes, having an “amazing connection with a partner I'd never met before”. Like Lora points out, sometimes it makes the moment even more memorable when you’re dancing with new people. How you feel makes also a difference, if you’re feeling relaxed then it’s much easier to have a good time, as some of you had noticed.
Sometimes it takes time to get into the dance mood. In a number of replies, people talked about dancing late into the night or morning, such as Krystal from USA points out; “Friendly attendees and instructors, and everyone being up for dancing all night.” Dance flow or having “good dances in a row for hours” like Peter from Hungary mentions, can make a social dancing experience even better. What some people also mentioned were mixing of dance styles and taking part in a competition; for some it was their “very first Zouk J&J”. That can certainly make a lasting memory!
What would dance be without music - good or "awesome music" came up in quite often. The location & the setting can highlight the dance experience certainly. I personally love dancing outdoors, in fresh air, next to a lake, the sea or under the palm trees. Or like JC from USA also mentions from his best experience “dancing on the deck under the moon and stars until sunrise!!” Well who wouldn’t love that? It’s important to have a good venue, and for some that fact that it's in a convenient location is also important. For congress organisers' this should be a key thing, especially if you ask Harish from UK who liked that the event had “All in one big location. So appreciative of that fact.”
What’s the thing that's made up of the people, the music, the mood and the location.... and many small things... Well that's the atmosphere. And that word atmosphere was present in many replies. Probably the best remark regarding atmosphere was when there was an “atmosphere, which pushed me to go beyond my limits as a dancer”.
Some preferred big events and some small events. One person was feeling ironic about her reply of a smaller event that made her “Almost thinking about not saying anything as it was a perfect sized event, would be spoiled if everyone went!” For some it wasn’t perhaps important if it was a big or small event, but noted some of the small perks. One mentioned that it was nice to have “non-stop food and water supply”.
Like I could see from the replies, there’s no one singular thing that is the most important in making the best possible event!
My best social dancing experiences
I can sympathize with my readers - it's not an easy task to sum up many years of dancing, thousands and thousands of dances into a single cohesive list of "my best experiences". But of course there are some extremely memorable ones. My best social dancing experiences:
I really enjoyed my week of dancing in Brisbane, Australia. The scene there felt particularly welcoming for newcomers and in the parties I didn't have to spend any time wonder "I wish that somebody would come to ask me for a dance". I remember one night when I went to hide in the bathroom just to get a little break - loved the enthusiasm of the people there.
Unforgettable was also the first time went to dance in zouk heaven; São Paulo, Brazil. I had danced zouk for about a year and still felt like a complete beginner, especially compared to the dreamy Brazilian dancers. I must have stuck out like a sore thumb with my pale European complexion and (then) blond hair. Everybody was wearing beautiful outfits, ladies in their sparkly sky-high heels - and me in my purple sneakers on the first night. But still, carrying a load of insecurities, I felt no problem in connecting with the local dancers. And that's also why I keep returning there year after year: I feel a strong force between myself & the Paulista zoukers.
On the congress front, there's something special about the first congress. Those first scary moments on the big dance floor and perhaps your first dance with an international artist. There was a group of us from Finland who traveled to the Scandinavian Zouk Festival in Uppsala, Sweden in 2011 and I do remember it vividly. Another festival memory, a more recent one was from the latest Helsinki Zouk Festival. The intimate atmosphere, the stylish venue and - above all - the zen-like connections with the dancers I felt on the floor were something I couldn't forget. I think we all left that event slightly delirious of joy.
Regarding the events, the best social dancing experience was however the last New Year's Berg's Congress. Having already been there before and having moved past those "first-time jitters" I felt so at ease. The dancers and the dances were spectacular, DJs on-point, and I was comfortably moving between different styles of zouk, between energetic and calm, sexy and cool.. and even fluently mixing it all with some kizomba, when the music and the leader was calling for it. It wasn't just the fireworks on the dance floor but also the whole place and the Bahian vibe that enchanted me. And will enchant (and haunt) me surely for a long time.
Want to share your best social dancing experience?
Didn't get around the reply the last month's poll? You can still comment on this post and share your story, we'd be more than happy to hear it!