Ten stupid things beginners do to mess up their contradance experience/Waiting to Be Asked
3. Waiting To Be Asked To Dance. edit
Remember middle-school dances? Your first contradance can feel a lot like being back in middle-school, either sitting around the wall waiting impatiently for someone to notice you and come over to ask you to dance, or trying to get your courage up to ask someone else to dance when you don't know anybody (this dynamic has a lot to do with Stupid Thing #4, actually). However, contradance isn't like a middle-school dance. This is social dance, and a partner is your “ticket” to the dance – you can't dance without one, but you won't be dancing only with them. Also, traditionally, you don't dance with the same partners twice in a row (some don't dance with the same partner twice in an evening), so being a partner once in the evening doesn't have that baggage of romantic interest or commitment we had in middle-school dances.
Experienced dancers will frequently look close to them when picking partners, so being on the floor (as opposed to sitting on a chair at the side of the room) will substantially improve your chances of being asked to dance. (Dancers tend to assume that those sitting on the side are resting, although some will ask sitters if the standing dancers are already all partnered up). It's also quite acceptable in the contradance communities for women to ask men to dance. If you know you want to dance with a particular partner, and you've sat out a dance, you can even move yourself toward that intended partner during the final chord and applause at the end of the dance sequence to be available for asking or just ask them.
Some experienced dancers are also afraid of asking strangers to dance, but a smile and inquiring glance with your hand up will usually be sufficient to let them know what you have in mind.