Caricatures dancing sober on a dance floor
Alcohol will only inhibit your true dancing capabilities. (Illustration by Yao Jian, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

You Can Still Dance Sober Without Having To Rely on Alcohol

Not using liquid courage as a crutch while you bust some moves will only improve upon your self-confidence in other areas of your life.

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Caricatures dancing sober on a dance floor

Not using liquid courage as a crutch while you bust some moves will only improve upon your self-confidence in other areas of your life.

Every college student has been there. Your friends convince you to tag along to a party, but for whatever reason — whether you have morning practice, drank too much the night before or simply prefer water — you decide to go sober.

Upon entering the party, you see a girl with her hands and stomach on the sticky, beer splattered floor. You drop everything and run forward to help her, then hesitate when you notice her body rolling in an unnatural way. After a moment, it hits you: She’s simply doing The Worm.

You pick up your things, but when you stand upright again there is a boy next to you swinging his hips with gumption that makes you audibly gasp. He’s not looking at you, though. You follow his eyes across the room to the guy somehow kicking his legs straight out in front of him while simultaneously maintaining a low squat, confirming a future of early-onset osteoarthritis.

As you fade into the back of the party you realize that if you’re planning on joining them you may need a drink after all. In your mind, there is only one explanation for the scene you’re witnessing: These kids must be plastered.

Whether or not this assumption is true doesn’t matter. The fact remains that those kids are making the most of their young bodies out on the dance floor while you’re stuck on the sidelines with no hope of subbing in. But could there be a chance that, with the right mindset and techniques, you could join the game without the aid of liquid confidence?

The answer is simple: no one — no one — needs alcohol to dance. The days of using “I’m not drunk enough” as an excuse are over. All it takes is the will to shake what your mama gave you.

Defrost Yourself

While the anxiety around dancing in public is understandable, it is much worse to be the only person standing stock-still in a moving crowd. As friends shake and shimmy and grab your arm insisting that you dance, your immediate response might be to reach for a drink. Instead, this can be the moment you take charge of your dancing life.

The tiniest bit of movement on your end can make all the difference in surmounting your awkwardness. All you need to do is step side to side, shifting weight from one foot to the other. Listen to the song and let the beat guide you. If you’re really feeling yourself you can go ahead and throw some snaps in the mix; however, maintaining focus on your feet is crucial. While this simple movement is the first of many barriers to overcome, the second you defrost your frozen legs you are walking on the path to soberly dancing like you’re not-so-sober.

Mirrored Movements

The bad news is that if you’re really looking to upgrade your sober dancing you can’t stay in the mild movement game forever. The first step to breaking out is to mirror others’ movements. One of the easiest ways to dance confidently at a party is to identify someone who doesn’t look like they need to read this article and try to copy their moves.

Now, this isn’t to say you should attempt a good ‘ol Pirouette or Grand Jete. But noticing the way another person dances and becoming a temporary mime is a productive starting point for the prospective sober dancer. As Picasso said, “Art is theft.” I encourage you to steal away.

It should be warned that it is imperative that you do not lock eyes for longer than three seconds while copying others’ movements. This raises the risk of blowing your temporary mime gig, or worse, becoming “that weirdo who stares.” To avoid both of these scenarios, you must make sure that your mimicking is subtle.

More Mirrors?

“But I don’t want to be a fraud forever,” you may say. And to that point, I completely agree. This is where the outside practice comes in. One of the absolute best ways to improve both originality and skill is to practice dancing in front of a mirror when you’re alone.

While this step might sound ridiculous, it is also one of the most fun. Light some candles, put on your favorite tunes and, as you’re walking around vacuuming or putting clothes away, let your moves go wild. With no one watching you there are no limits to what you can do; just let the melody move you and the lyrics permeate your soul. This is the time to see what works and what doesn’t, and more importantly, to teach yourself to relax.

One warning with this step is to never make eye contact with yourself in the mirror. Some side effects may be a temporary loss of dignity or possible insanity. The mirror can also be used for the next step: deep introspection.

Your Inner Mirror

At the end of the day, the only things that are really holding you back from sober dancing are your own fears and insecurities. It may be hard to believe, but no one cares if your dancing is as simple as a finger snap or as complex as The Pin Drop. The people that you choose to mimic are never necessarily the best dancers, but the ones who look the most relaxed and are having the most fun.

If you are really serious about becoming a sober dancer, the most important thing you can do is give it a try. For a moment, shake off any doubts, silence the anxious thoughts and step on the dance floor. The second you let loose and move without care is the second you become the best dancer at the party.

The next time you walk in on a girl who’s face down doing the worm (and after checking to make sure she’s truly, definitely, okay), don’t worry whether or not she’s already three shots deep. Take a deep breath, ignore any stares and join her on the ground. If any doubts begin to creep in, just remind yourself of this: The early bird may get the worm, but the late-night worm will win the crowd.

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