The Difference Between Social Dancing and Performance Dancing:

Many people are new to the dance scene and have found a wide array of new terms and language to swim around in. While it’s extremely exciting, at times it can be overwhelming. Something simple to start with, is the difference between what you may have heard called Social Dancing, and Performance Dancing.

Social Dancing, according to Auburn University, “is a major category or classification of dance forms or dance styles, where sociability and socializing are the primary focuses of the dancing.” Simply put social dancing is about enjoying the style of dance you’re dancing, and also enjoying the people you are dancing with. Social dancing doesn’t require a level of ability, and making mistakes is laughed off, and considered normal. One shouldn’t feel pressured when social dancing to show off, or dance in a particular way. Get togethers, whether small and private, or at large conventions with thousands of peoples, are designed to enjoy dancing with people who share you interest. This allows the dancers and the dance itself to grow collectively and expand, both in participants and in style.

Social Dancing is also not choreographed. While dancers will learn patterns that they will practice and learn while social dancing, we don’t plan out how we’re going to dance entirely to every song. This is one of the beautiful things about social dancing; without a focus on tricks and choreography, you often observe more authentic dancing and styling. This can help grow dancers, both by observation of experts and by having large blocks of time to practice with lots of different partners.

Performance dancing differs from the above in some major ways. One way it differs is it requires an audience. While we talked about observing others during social dancing, obviously the purpose of social dancing is to partake in the festivities. With performance dancing there must be someone to perform for. Typically in performance dancing you also have choreography, and set music. This means dancers who undertake performance dancing have a certain set of qualities. They typically have been dancing for a long enough period of time to feel confident that they can handle the intricacies, at least from an intermediate standpoint, of the style of dance. Typically they’ve taken dozens of classes (or more!) and are looking for the training to reach a new level of ability.

Another difference is prep time. Since a performance dancer knows ahead of time that they are performing, knows the music they’ll be performing to, and has been taught the choreography they’ll be performing, the actual dancing is typically more complex. A focus on tricks and exquisite moves that would be difficult to pull off in a social setting will be much more common among performance dances. This allows the art to progress and reach into new heights.

Performance dancing and social dancing are both important aspects for the growth of a dance, and for an individual dancer’s self improvement. A dancer should always attend social dancing opportunities, and should look to join clubs and teams where they can have a chance to perform. Being well rounded is a benefit all dancers of all levels can enjoy. So get out there, perform, spectate, and dance the night away!

steph segler