Consider it one of the things you have to do during your adult life to prove you belong: win a dance off. By now, we’ve all either stood around and watched a dance off or have already participated in one. For those that have been involved in a dance war, you know it’s a whirlwind experience. One minute you are standing near the dance floor — or even dancing on it minding your own damn business — and the next minute, a new song starts and you are being forced to go toe-to-toe with another dude who is using his dance moves as weapons against you while the crowd forms a circle around the two of you. You have to engage in order to not look like one of those ‘too-cool-for-school’ types and the next three or four minutes fly by at lightning speed while you attempt to just keep up.

This is the nature of the dance off. And for us mature adult men who can’t resist hitting the dance floor, we know we’re most likely to be drawn into this sort of dance battle at a wedding.  There is something about the wedding reception that conjurs up the dance gladiator in us all. And in case you are one of those that fear the arena of grind, fear no more. Aside from our own dance off experience, we consulted wedding DJ and frequent dance off competitor, Patrick Davis, for some tips. Now with a little forethought, you can be Lord of the Dance Off at the next wedding you attend. No silly costumes or hours of practice necessary.

Lay Off the Extra Booze

A wedding reception dance off is 9 times out of 10 accompanied by booze. Otherwise, most of us would never consider being involved in such a thing. However, when the night is lending itself to a potential series of dance offs, make sure to pump the booze brakes a little.  It’s okay to have a libation or two to get your dance floor courage up, but having too much will make your moves only look like a semi-controlled upright seizure. Staying off the hard stuff until after your ‘performance’ will help. Davis thinks that “having a glass of wine or a few beers will be your best approach.” Yes, this is the only physical competition where you are encouraged to have a drink before you get to it. Well, this and rugby.

Stay Limber

Oftentimes you will want to plop down at your table and feed your face at the reception. This is understandable, because we usually do the same — and wash it all down with lots of adult liquids (see above warning). This plan of attack, though, will not help you when the dance off begins. “Stay relaxed when you are sitting, but try and stay mobile as much as possible,” Davis says. “Walking around the reception and keeping your legs loose is very important.” If you can find a private place to stretch, then do it. But do it quickly, because, seriously, who stretches in public before a dance off that may or may not even happen? These are tips to win the dance off, but you still need to maintain some shred of coolness while doing so.

Keep Your Jacket On

Naturally, many of us take our suit jackets off as soon as the reception begins. If you are planning on being in a dance off, though, or think you might end up in one, keep your jacket on. And keep your tie on, too. It might be constricting or even a bit hot in the reception hall, but Davis suggests “the extra clothing will serve you well when the dance off begins.” No, we’re not suggesting a strip tease by any means, but ‘losing’ your tie, then your jacket during your portion of the dance battle will add an extra dimension to your routine. Instead of your normal flailing of arms, you can now smoothly work the tie off and slide out of your jacket — tossing both into the crowd, of course — something your opponent probably will not be able to match since he likely already took his jacket off. Think of the extra clothing as your performance props. You have them in your arsenal. Use them to their fullest.

Hang Around the DJ Booth

You probably will not know what song you’ll have to work it to, but you can try and tip the tune in your favor. While you are keeping your legs limber by strolling around the joint, make a stop at the DJ booth. Chat him/her up and see if you can get a peek at the playlist. “Most DJs like myself are open to suggestions and requests, and some will even allow you to create a playlist for them,” says Davis. If this is the case, stack the song deck in your favor, meaning, songs to which you move the best. If you can’t create the list, at least scan the playlist for the evening. If there are songs that better suit you over others, try and time your dance floor fun around those. A dance off is a spontaneous beast, so when the songs are thumping that give you a slight advantage, that’s your cue to be near the dance floor. On the flipside, if “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is on the list, pick that time to return to your table. Unless you happen to have a kick-ass routine that goes with that song.

Size Up Your Competition

As mentioned, a dance off is often a spontaneous event, but you can usually spot the others in the crowd that are likely to be involved in a dance off. The guy who has been pounding beers since the couple said “I do”. The guy that was the first one on the dance floor. The cousin from out-of-town who hasn’t been anywhere without his wife for almost six years. These are all potential adversaries in your dance off. Lay back off the floor at first and size them up. If they’re like most dudes, they will have about four or five moves they do over-and-over when they’re cutting some rug. This is great for you because they will waste their juice early in the dance off and be forced to improvise for the rest — which usually looks awful. You can only ‘Mow the Lawn’ so many times before it gets trite. So check these posers out and see what you are up against. Be warned, though. If one of the groomsmen happens to be the choreographer for the remake of Breakin’, you might be in trouble. Then it might be time to fake food poisoning and ditch out early.

Don’t Try Something New

Stick with what you know or you might end up in physical therapy for the next eight weeks. This is the biggest mistake many wedding dance off wanna-be-pros make when they are rocking the dance floor. They try something tricky. If the robot is your slickest maneuver, then employing a swan dive into the worm is not advised. You have to have some flash and sizzle in order to win the thing, sure, but that just means you need to have a few decent moves before entering into the dance battle. Somersaults and one-armed handstands have no business in your dance off — unless you are employed by Barnum & Bailey’s.  If you can pull those off, Davis believes “you will win the thing hands-down.” If you can’t pull them off, do not attempt. No matter what your brain is telling you in the heat of the moment. “I’ve seen some nasty spills, so don’t get fancy” Davis warns.

Build to a Strong Finish

Many a dance off novice will break out the goods way too early in the game and then have nothing to show for the finishing rounds. Starting off with some basic moves is your best bet — sliding and gliding, working the jacket off, etc. When your next turn comes around, you can get a little fancier and add some sizzle to the display. Follow this progression with each turn you get, so by the time your finishing round begins, you can pull out all the stops. This is where you want to unleash your flashiest moves. Likely your opponent will have used up all his good stuff too early and you will impress the invisible judges with your strong finishing moves. Just like in the Olympics, it’s all about how you finish. And yes, we just compared a dance off at a wedding reception to an Olympic sport. That’s how strongly we feel about it.

Get the Crowd Involved & Have Fun

Being a successful dance off competitor is not just about bettering the moves of your opponent, it’s also about being a showman and having a good time while doing it. “Just like a DJ has to do,” says Davis. “Start getting the crowd involved as soon as you can and they will be on your side until the end.” Tossing your jacket or tie to a gal on the sidelines, snatching a chair from someone nearby so you can use it as a prop, or simply raising your hands to get the crowd worked up, will get the spectators on your side and give you an instant cheering section. Enjoy yourself and they will feed off of it. Getting the crowd with you is more of a personal victory of course, since let’s face it, there are no points or judges. Who wins a dance off is usually debatable, but if you do all of these things, you will know deep-down that you won fair and square. Wear that badge of honor proudly.