Sandip Soparrkar has spent the past 16 years of his life perfecting the samba, merengue, salsa, paso doble and quickstep. The founder of the Sandip Soparrkar Ballroom Dance Studio in Mumbai shares the secrets and tips that are as important, if not more, than your dance technique.
Soparrkar believes it’s not your skill on the floor, but how you treat your partner that will set you apart from other dancers. “There are a lot of fabulous dancers that no one wants to dance with, while many mediocre dancers are never short of partners,” he says.
The first rule at a dance or a party is to turn up dressed to dance. “Please wear dancing shoes—comfortable heels with good back support for the girls and simple formal shoes for the boys, which you can move in easily. There are many people who come to these parties and say, ‘I’m not dressed to dance’, or ‘my shoes are not right’. That’s absurd,” he says. Other musts: skirts or trousers for the ladies and trousers and a dress shirt for the men.
Soparrkar says that today, ladies don’t wait by the sidelines till a man approaches them for a dance. “It’s perfectly acceptable for the ladies to take the initiative and ask a guy for a dance,” he says. “But when you’re on the dance floor, don’t tell him what to do. This is the only place men get to lead, so let him.”
Ladies, if you’ve been asked for a dance, keep in mind that it takes a good amount of courage for a man to ask an unknown woman to dance, so try not to shoot him down. “If you really don’t want to dance, that’s perfectly fine, just make a believable excuse. But it’s not so bad to give in and say yes. It’s only a question of a few minutes and you can always go back to your seat at the end of the song,” Soparrkar says. But he wouldn’t advise men who’ve been refused once to go back to the same girl. “If she says no, take it at that. Don’t beg and say ‘just one song’, or ‘only two minutes’. Tell yourself that she’s the one who missed dancing with a good dancer.”
If you’re hesitant because you don’t know the steps to a particular dance, there’s no problem in saying so when someone asks you to dance. “Admit you don’t know, but say you’ll try,” he says.
Soparrkar points out that some important rules are quite forgotten at dances these days. “Never smoke or drink on a dance floor, whatever the setting or occasion. And the floor is not the place to teach your partner a new dance or move, but to enjoy yourself and not come in the way of other dancers.” Trying elaborate moves in small spaces or showing off on the dance floor with a sudden complex move is something one shouldn’t do. “Sweet and simple always wins over flashy. I’ve seen men suddenly introducing a drop or lift and the girl has no clue what’s happening,” Soparrkar says.
Don’t be inspired by films or copy what you see on TV
One secret that graceful couples know is that the man should place his hand not on the lady’s waist, but between her shoulder blades. “It’s both a matter of respect and better manoeuvrability. When you give her cues from the shoulder, she’ll respond better than if you try to lead her from the waist.”
The first and last dances at a party should be reserved for the person you’ve come to the dance with. Besides these, there’s nothing wrong in asking people for a dance, even if you’re at the party with your spouse or partner. “It’s just a form of interaction with others. But please remember to take the permission of the partner of the person you’re asking for a dance. It’s common courtesy,” Soparrkar says.
While on the floor, if you’re unsure of which dance to do for a particular song, watch others and try to pick up the steps. Soparrkar warns that if you don’t know what dance form it is, don’t make comments. “Every dance men and women do is not the salsa, please,” he smiles. “Educate yourself or be quiet.”
Soparrkar also has a handy tip for that much-dreaded dance floor debacle—toe stepping. The best way for couples to make sure they don’t step on each other’s feet is by adjusting the position of the lady so that she’s not right in front of the man, but a little to the right. “Her right shoulder should be positioned so that it’s facing the middle of the man’s chest,” Soparrkar says. After that, there’s just the small matter of mastering the dance.