Heading out to the clubs for a night of dancing holds the promise of a night to remember -- or one to forget! If you're unsure about your dancing prowess, never been to a nightclub before or haven't been there in a while, a few pointers might just be the thing to bring your confidence back up to partying levels.
Before you go out, do a little research to find out what sort of scene you're headed into. A quick Internet search or a text to a friend might reveal what kind of music is played and what sort of dress code you face.
When in doubt, dress up. No bouncer is going to let someone in ratty jeans and sneakers into a fancy nightclub. It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Choose clothes that look good, but are comfortable enough to dance in. Women, make sure your high heels are sturdy.
Practice a few dance moves in the mirror to make sure nothing becomes more revealing than you intended and to gain confidence.
At the Club
Once you arrive, don't dive right out onto the dance floor. Allow some time to check out the scene. Get a drink, listen to the music and let the beat get you into the mood.
Watch the dancers already on the floor to get a good idea of the type of dancing popular at the club. If you're a good dancer already, watching the show-offs will give you a sense of your competition, but watching other dancers' reactions will give you a better sense of what's popular. Others will want to watch the crowd in general. Mentally note moves that you've done before, or that you think you'd enjoy doing.
On the Dance Floor
When you've had your drink, it's time to move to the floor. Do not put this off too long, or you risk psyching yourself out. Let the music in and let your body move to the music.
Be respectful of others' dance space. Don't crowd people -- if you'd like to dance near someone, dance near an opening between a couple of people. Other dancers will often sense a new body nearby and shift to make room. If they don't, they may be part of a group, so just move over a bit. Under no circumstances should you grind up against a stranger without first establishing permission.
Tips for Beginners
Stepping back and forth is a basic dance step, but make sure to allow a beat between each step to avoid the appearance of rocking. As you shift your weight to the right, tap or do a low kick with your left foot before shifting the weight back to your left foot. Allow your hips to sway or dip a little with each weight shift, and let your shoulders follow suit (though be careful not to hunch). Let your arms hang naturally, bending a little at the elbow. Snapping to the beat is useful if you don't know what to do with your hands, but use it sparingly. Leaving your hands in a closed "snapping position" is another option.
Move around a bit while doing this basic dance move. If you're dancing with a partner, try turning around and looking at him or her over your shoulder for a bit, or circling around him or her. By yourself, moving in a slow circle is a good option.
Be careful of too much up-and-down movement. Bobbing your head or bouncing on the balls of your feet has its place, but if you do it too fast it comes off as frantic. Consider moving back and forth to every other beat, slowing and smoothing the pace of your movements.
Most of all, relax, look around you, have fun and smile!
Heather Shaw is the author of short fiction, poetry and articles, on everything from sex to San Francisco. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Clean Sheets, the Blowfish Catalog and other sites. She lives in Oakland, Calif. with husband and son.