“So…did you start taking classes to meet a guy?”

When I first began lessons, this seemed to be the question on everyone’s mind. In addition to being a woman of a late twenty-something age, I also happen to be perpetually single. Months down the road, when I kept dancing and was still not dating, these questions started to die down, replaced with insinuating (and extremely inappropriate) remarks about what is going on between me and that teacher I can’t stop raving about.

Dance lessons, that’s what.

Inside the world of ballroom, it’s easy to see what’s so ridiculous (and infuriating) about these comments, because dancing without romantic goals is a norm. From the outside, it’s not so clear.  Especially when all the movies are telling you romance is the name of the game, and falling in love with your partner or teacher is just the natural course of things.

To that, I say stop the watching the movies and take a dance class.

Sure, there are people that start dancing to find someone. Or take lessons with their significant other to deepen or change up the relationship. And I know of many people who are dating or married to their partner. There are many in a relationship with someone outside the dance scene. There are dancers who tell me they could only ever date another dancer.  On the dance floor, there can be a great deal of flirting and chemistry between a couple. Even sensuality. From outside eyes, it can look like we’re all eyeing each other up for something more. This is what makes it so gray and hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t experience it: that that sexy tango on the dance floor doesn’t mean you want to sexy tango off the dance floor. That you don’t need to have romantic feelings for someone to have a great, even intimate dance.

One of my favorite dance partners is about twenty years my senior. He’s talented and a great lead. Dancing with him is fun and feels good. Do I like him? Absolutely. Am I attracted to him? Not at all. Another of my favorites has a son several years my junior. He’s one of my classmates and has this great sense of humor so we spend more of the song laughing than dancing. Would I go dancing with him? Sure. Would I date him? Not really. Then there’s my absolute favorite dance partner. Dancing with him is unlike with anyone else. He’s my dance crush. Does that mean I have real feelings for him? That’s a subject just gray and complicated enough to deserve its own piece, but still no. Are any of these dancers “pursuing” me? I feel pretty safe and confident in saying no.

Social dancers will naturally grow closer together over a mutual love of dance, and I’ve developed some tight knit friendships with these people. Friendships. When I ask someone to dance, it’s because I want to dance, and I think together we’ll have a great one.  Could I someday develop romantic feelings for one of these partners? I have no idea. Would it stop me from dancing as I have with everyone else? Most likely not.

From this point, I can only speak from observation of the dance and the dancer/non-dancer couples I’ve come to know, but when it comes to the dancefloor, jealousy doesn’t really come into play (unless you keep snatching up all the best partners). It’s far from a rare occurrence that I’ll dance with someone’s boyfriend. Or girlfriend. Or the girlfriend of the boyfriend. There are some couples that do only dance with each other. Or so I hear. I haven’t really met any yet, but I also haven’t gotten out nearly as much as I pretend to. What I do see are couples who go to dances to socialize, dancing with all sorts throughout the night and understanding that dancefloor chemistry stays on the dancefloor. And that a dance is just a dance, without ulterior motive.

I think the best comparison is acting. You hear in the tabloids of actors falling in love with their costars all the time, but in reality the majority of them never do. They’re playing their parts. And we’re dancing our dance.

So what of those that come into the social ballroom scene specifically to find someone? Are they shunned, mocked, turned out without a salsa to their names? Not really. In every group, there will always be a small few that claim another small few are ruining it for everyone else. I’m not going to say those looking for relationships or even just someone to take home for the night are chasing away those of us that just want to dance. Because that’s not what I’m seeing. Unless you’re making your partners uncomfortable with unwelcome come-ons that keep coming, we’re all there to socialize in some form, whether it be to make dancemates, friendships, or relationships. While romantic feelings aren’t required on the dance floor, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen, and who doesn’t want a relationship built on mutual interests?

But no. I’m not dancing to meet a guy.