For whatever reason, the answer is no. You saw the man about to ask you dancing and thought he wasn’t very good. He smells funny. Your friend told you he was a terrible lead. Your feet hurt… you have a blister… you are done for the evening… whatever. How do you avoid getting suckered in, feeling like you should “be nice”? There are a number of ways to do this.
First of all, always remember you don’t have to dance with someone just because they ask! That’s number one. Then you have options:
You could smile softly, and with a polite wave of the hand, and perhaps even a bit of near-surprise in your voice (“dance, who me?”), and say: “Oh, no thank you.” And then you stand still. This way, in your body language, you gently but firmly show that you’re serious (lest he should be the insistent type). You drop your chin slightly and continue to look elsewhere, either talking to a friend (as you may have been doing before you were asked and, ahem, interrupted), gazing out on the dance floor, or anywhere but at the potentially persistent invitation. This is a confident but polite way to do it.
You could also give the legitimate excuse, the reason why. You don’t have to explain, but if you don’t want to dance, and there’s a reason why, you can give it. You say “oh, no thanks, my feet hurt,” or “oh, no, I’m taking a break,” or “no, I don’t like this song,” or “no I’m going to get a drink…” etc. etc. – the list goes on.
Naturally, avoid reasons like “oh no, you look like you can’t dance,” or “you are too sweaty,” however. You don’t want to create a negative atmosphere around you or make anyone feel bad – you just want to be free to dance with whomever you choose.
And then, of course, you could look busy. Talk to a friend, walk the other way, turn around, move away, look like you’re actively searching for someone else (maybe another dancer) as you see him approaching. Keep your face relaxed, don’t look like you’re running away or playing hide-and-seek, and do whatever you are doing assertively (as in, so it’s obvious you are not dancing this one). You’ll just appear confident and preoccupied.
Again, we come back to square one – you don’t have to dance with someone if you don’t want to. A polite and simple “No, thank you” is often best. And then, release any guilt – you’re out to have a good time, you have a right to be choosy and enjoy yourself. You don’t have to please anyone. Also remember that it’s perfectly normal for a man to be refused or rejected – his ego will survive, and he may even ask again. Plus, a better dancer might ask afterward – and if you want to dance with him, you can accept! Don’t be afraid to be seen dancing with another after refusing the first – you have choices, it’s normal. Anyone who berates you about this or makes you feel guilty is simply immature.
It sounds so easy, but women often forget that we can make the choices with invitations to dance, that we don’t have to accept every single one. Just relax, and have a good time. Keep the phrasing simple when refusing an invitation – no one needs an elaborate or excuse, story, or justification. Just be there to dance and have a good time! And when it’s time to say “No,” say what you need to say, and move on. Remember to just be yourself, and have fun.