Westies know from their own local dance scenes that dance friends are like family. West Coast Swing conventions are fantastic places to meet new people from all around the world and it’s an opportunity to make incredible friendships beyond the local dance scene. If it’s your first Westie event and you’re looking to grow your dance family, I have five simple tips to help you form new friendships and stay in touch with your awesome new dance buds!
5. Post on the Facebook event page! – If you’re going to an event for the first time and don’t know a lot of the attendees, the Facebook page is a great place to start your experience before the event even begins. There you can find roommates, "strictly" partners, ride shares, and fellow friends that can answer any questions you might have. You can also save money by adding roommates to your hotel room or sharing a ride. Even if you don’t need a ride or a roommate, share your enthusiasm for the event and ask people to save a dance for you. This can only add to the excitement and anticipation of the weekend.
4. Hit up the party before the party! – Most events have a kick-off or pre-party that happens on the Thursday before the event. Check the Facebook event or official event’s site to see if the event is hosting a dance or other get-together for early-arriving dancers. This could be a group outing for westie bombing (going WCS dancing in a setting outside of a dance studio/ swing dance club: i.e. bars, restaurants, etc.) or it could be at the event’s ballroom or hotel. Take advantage of this opportunity to observe and get to know the scene before the festivities of the weekend officially kick off. Everyone’s pretty laid back, and the event’s pre-party is a great place to sit down and chat with new friends before the mental occupation of competitions, workshops and social dancing begins.
3. Compete! – Make friends in competition! Sounds weird, right? Interestingly enough, you can make friends just by entering some of the weekend’s competitions. When you’re waiting in line for the Jack and Jills, strike up a conversation with the people next to you! I’ve met some of my closest Westie friends, simply by chatting to fellow followers and leads in the staging area before we step onto the floor.
Don’t be afraid to chat up your partners and let your silly side out during comps, too. Get to know who you’re dancing with! Don’t just walk around the competition floor… keep dancing to the music as you rotate around. This will help keep both you and your partner relaxed and positive.
Entering a Strictly Swing with a new friend can help create friendships as well! In other styles of dance, competition is often intense and very little socializing happens. I see lots of dancers in our community get to know one another and root for each other during comps! So, win, lose, or draw… you’ll at least walk away with some friendships when you compete.
2. Be an overachiever! – Sometimes there will be scheduled activities outside of the competition and workshops such as ice cream socials, pool parties, and games just to take a little break from dancing. Take advantage of these activities because this is another environment that is extra laid back and it’s easy to leave the pressures of the weekend at the door.
1. Chat on (and off!) the dance floor!– I know how super-focused dancers can get, and we don’t really socialize when we’re in that competitive zone. However, the best opportunities to make new friends is by talking with your partner! Get to know them! Ask them where they’re from and how they got into West Coast Swing. There are plenty of ice breakers out there... and don’t just socialize on the dance floor, says Carringer.
“The fact that everyone is so supportive of everyone [else] I think is huge. People see new people on the floor at one event and then a week or so later you see them again and think, ‘I like that person; we should hang out’. And because the WCS dancing goes on so late, when the ballroom closes everyone who is there really gets to know each other, whether it be through talking about closing the ballroom, or going and getting breakfast with a group that closed it. Don’t be afraid to say ‘hi’ to people. Whether you’re on the floor or off the floor, just say hello to someone. Ask where they’re from. You’ll be surprised who you meet and to find out how much you have in common.”
Often during social dancing hours, people like to take breaks and sit out a few songs, and so you will see people sitting around the ballroom. If someone’s sitting by themselves, don’t be afraid to say “hi!” If you casually said hi to a person in a J&J line but couldn’t really chat, find them while they’re on a break. Westies belong to one of the most diverse communities of people out there and - just like in work - you make friends by the effort you put in. If you’re willing to connect and learn about others, then your dance family can only grow.
Remember to Stay in Touch! Now that you’ve made some awesome new friends, remember to keep in touch! Add each other on Facebook (since that’s known as the Westie hub), swap numbers and see what other events your friends are going to. With so many different outlets for staying in contact with someone, your dance family has every opportunity to keep developing.
Most importantly, have fun expanding your Westie Family! Keep updated on my Events page to see where I'm going next -- we can apply these tips together.
See you on the dance floor!