The Psychology of Dance

In this month’s blog/newsletter, I want to address what makes people dance. I have had brides tell me that dancing is not important to them. They want their guests to have a good time, but it is not important to them whether anyone dances (challenge accepted!). I have had brides tell me that it is very important that everyone dance the night away! I want to discuss some of the factors involved.

First let’s categorize the types of dancers we are dealing with. Every crowd will have all these types in different mixes.

Dancers – People who love to dance and will dance no matter what is playing. I remember one wedding where there was a couple, most likely married, who were in their early thirties. They danced to every song played. Not only that, they sang along with every song played.  But on top of that they had custom moves for every song! These people clearly loved to dance.

Skeptics – Skeptics will dance if the situation is right but are easily discouraged from dancing. It is not their comfort zone. They won’t dance if they don’t like the song, or if no one else is dancing. They might dance for a song here and there but leave the dance floor after one song.

Sitters – Sitters don’t like to dance. They probably enjoy the music, might even be tapping their toes. But they would rather not get out on the dance floor.

So for me, the DJ, my job is to get the skeptics to dance. The dancers are going to dance no matter what. The sitters are going to sit. I am not going to coerce anyone to dance. But if I do my job right the skeptics will dance.

If you have 200 guests, and 20 if them are dancers, then the dance floor will seem full. We want it to be overflowing!

It has been said that the three factors that get people dancing are music, darkness and alcohol. Let’s discuss! Naturally the DJ is there to provide the music. A good DJ will read the crowd and give them what they want. I typically stay away from club type remixes and play radio edits of favorites from all genres. Of course, the bridal couple have an input on the playlist. I have found that people in these situations want to hear familiar songs and they want to hear them the way they are used to hearing them (mostly).  So good music that people want to hear is the start.

It is true that alcohol helps some folks get past their inhibitions and dance, but it can be a double edged sword! The amount and type of alcohol served varies from event to event and is a personal decision of the bridal couple. I have seen hard alcohol served before the ceremony even started. Hilarity ensued. Most events are limited to beer and wine, but even then, guests can over indulge if not careful. I will stay away from advising anyone on what or how much to serve. I have seen a packed dance floor at a dry wedding, so you never know!

Darkness does help set the mood for dancing. More specifically, darkness allows mood enhancing lighting to have it’s intended effect. We can’t help the late summer nights in our beautiful Pacific Northwest venues, and often at Summer weddings the dance lighting has little effect until later into the evening. I still bring the lighting though because I like it, and it does help even if only for a little while. Indoor ballroom receptions offer more opportunity than outdoor ceremonies.

There are other factors though. The darkness we can’t help, and the alcohol is a much bigger decision than just dancing. Location and temperature have big influence. If it is hot, then people are less likely to dance, or to dance for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, many of the wonderful venues we have are not air conditioned and in high Summer can get quite warm inside. If outdoors there is not much that can be done (captain obvious here) but if indoors there are a couple of things that might help. Making sure the windows are open early in the day to help keep the room from warming up so much. Fans, and if possible, portable air conditioners can be rented.

Location is big factor. This varies a great deal from one venue to the next, but where the dancing takes place will affect how many people dance and for how long. Most events have the ceremony, dinner, and dancing at the same venue. Typical is the ceremony to be in one place and dinner and dancing to be in another. Having the dancing in the same space as dinner is most conducive to dancing. If the space for dinner is separated from the space for dancing, it can have an impact.

For instance, several venues have dinner outside and dancing inside. Getting people to transition from sitting comfortably at their table visiting with friends and relatives to moving to the dance area requires extra motivation.

A little planning helps overcome this. After dinner you typically have the toasts or speeches. Then perhaps the shoe game then the cake cutting. If you move the center of attention to the designated dance area for the first dance and the other special dances, guests will follow. Another idea is to arrange for the entire bridal party (and their dates) to dance for the first several songs it can jumpstart the party. But the real bottom line is that typically wherever the bridal couple are is where the party will be!

So if dancing is high on your list for a successful event keep these things in mind as you select your venue. And once your venue is selected plan the event layout accordingly.

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