Dance salsa long enough, and you’ll likely find yourself on one side of a “studio crush” or the other. Crushes can’t be helped, and it’s often the best dancers that have the most admirers. Many people have danced with someone they wouldn’t normally be attracted to, but there’s something irresistible about dancing with a partner who really knows how to move. Ask any salsa instructor, and they can likely recount a sprinkling of clients who have had crushes on them—and those are just the students they know about! Salsa is a passionate, sensual dance, so it just makes sense that attractions blossom here more than anywhere else. But what can you do about it?
Addressing a crush (or not) should be considered on a case by case basis. As an instructor, it’s paramount that you don’t act on a student’s crush—or your own. You’re in a position of authority, and students are paying you for a professional service. Acting on a crush can give you a bad, unprofessional reputation at best, and might get you into serious trouble at worst. If the attraction is mutual and you really want to act on it, it’s best to remove yourself from the teacher-student relationship first. Not only will this protect your professional career (and perhaps business), but it gives you and your former student a level playing field to explore a potential relationship.
There’s no denying that some people use dance classes as an excuse to try to pick up dates. If you’re a salsa instructor and notice this, it’s wise to address “appropriate dance conversations” at the start of each class. You might also consider adding a singles class or singles parties to the mix. It might drum up more business and it gives those who are single and looking a better platform to explore the dance dating scene. However, if you’re a student struggling with class crushes, what can you do?
If you’re the person being crushed on by a fellow student, it’s best to adopt a triage approach. A lot of people, women especially, think they have to “be nice” to other people no matter what. Being polite is one thing, and to be expected in a dance class or club, but if that politeness is being mistaken for flirtation, it’s time to take action. First, a few don’ts:
- Don’t use “I have a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse” as an excuse, even if you do. Some aggressive paramours might read this as, “I’m into you, but unfortunately I can’t act on it because of another commitment.” They may take it as a challenge.
- Don’t dance with anyone in a club/party setting that you don’t want to dance with. It’s different in a class setting when everyone takes turns with new partners. However, in a club or at a party, you’re not obligated to dance with anyone. A simple, “No, thank you” will suffice. Don’t say, “Maybe later” if that’s not what you want.
- Don’t avoid a class or studio just because you feel awkward around someone who’s interested in you. Why should you give up a class you love just because of another person?
Remember that your dance instructor is well-versed in crushes and likely has a strategy down pat to deal with it on your behalf. If you’re uncomfortable or would simply prefer the instructor to handle the situation, talk to them. There are many approaches they can adopt, including artfully keeping you from dancing with a particular person during class settings (don’t worry, instructors are skilled at doing this so seamlessly that your crush won’t be alerted). The instructor might also make ongoing, general statements in classes to prevent flirtations. In some cases, they might talk to the person on your behalf—while keeping your identity anonymous. If you’re concerned, ask the instructor what steps they plan to take. You might be able to put together a plan together, too. Most importantly, it alerts the instructor to be on watch for you, and they can intervene if necessary.
The Other Side of the Coin
Dealing with a crush can seem even more stressful when you’re the one carrying a torch for a fellow student. (If it’s the instructor you have a crush on, it’s time to put on the brakes. Remember, they’re being paid to be in the same room as you). There probably aren’t any rules against asking someone from a class out, but do your best to make sure the feeling is mutual before proceeding. This can be tricky since most people in a class are friendly, outgoing, and happy to dance with you.
Checking their ring finger is a must, but only a small part of the vetting process. Asking flatout, “Do you have a girlfriend?” or the like is a clear precursor to flirtation, and should be avoided. Still, when dancing with someone, it’s natural to find out a little about them. However, even if a person is single, that doesn’t automatically make them interested in you.
Everyone flirts differently, is attracted to different people, and sends different signals. In other words, it’s a crapshoot! Do your best to determine if this is “just a crush” or if you really think there’s a solid connection. You don’t want to take a risk, only to feel embarrassed—or, worse, feel like you can’t go back to that class or studio because you were rejected.
What’s more important, asking that person out or continuing to enjoy a class you’ve fallen in love with? The good news is that most crushes fade quickly, and regularly seeing the person who caught your eye will help move the crush along faster. If you decide not to act, stay polite and professional. After all, there are a lot more eligible singles than there are great dance studios.