Most people most of the time choose their partners for 2 reasons: 1) ability to dance at their level and in their style, 2) and friendship. And within the dance community, these two often go together: one's dancer friends usually dance at a similar level and in a similar style. Generally, it's not "cliquish or stuck-up", it's just people naturally congregating together who enjoy and share a similar level and style of dancing, and a friendship involving shared views.
Regarding the worry that some of the very good dancers are watching you and are judging and critical, there is bad news and good news: 1) The bad news is that unless you're a really super dancer, they're not watching you. 2) And if you are a superdancer, and they're watching you with a frown on their faces, it's probably because they envy you, and also they're hard at work trying to steal your material.
Being timid and staying off the dance floor is totally counter-productive: you dance less, make fewer friends, get less practice, and don't improve as quickly, so it takes you that much longer to reach the level you wish you were at, so that people would not look at you critically, and in fact would be admiring you and saying: "Wow, so-and-so sure is dancing great!"
Let's say you're a beginner or intermediate dancer and you're standing and watching some really good dancers, and you're feeling intimidated and afraid to dance. The problem is not with these really good dancers. The problem is in your own head. You have a mental CHOICE that you can make: You can CHOOSE to be Intimidated, or you can CHOOSE to be Inspired, by these excellent dancers. You can CHOOSE to take the attitude that they're great and you're lousy, and that you'd be Intimidated and embarrassed to get on the dance floor. Or you can CHOOSE to take the attitude that they have some great dancing abilities which someday you can learn, and you can use them as Inspiration to learn and grow bit by bit, as you study and practice this great dance over the months and years.
LADIES, a lot of us guys may look bold, but we don't like rejection, and some of us are just downright punks...with muscles. So we're most likely to ask someone to dance if they're right up there standing on the edge of the dance floor, especially if they're moving to the music already. We know that she's probably going to say "Yes" to a dance. The farther away from this position she is, the less likely we figure she is to say "Yes".
Its known that we men are supposed to climb the highest mountain, and swim the deepest ocean, for that woman of our dreams, but I guess over the years we fellas have either become a lot less heroic and romantic, or we have just learned to play the odds and the probabilities. So we focus most of our attention on the ladies right up by the dance floor. Therefore, here's the best strategy for you ladies: if you really want more dances, stand up near the front, make yourself more visible, get into moving to the music....ON 2, try a little eye contact and a smile (not too much, 'cause you know guys can't handle intimacy!), maybe even give the guys a helping hand by asking one at your level to dance, so that others see you want to be out there dancing instead of just sitting in a corner.
We have to remember that most ladies come to these clubs and socials to dance, not to just sit or stand around and be cranky or depressed. So when we're hesitating and timid about asking someone to dance, we need to remember that the majority of these ladies really do want to dance....that's why they came. So just take action, fellas. And if the lady says "No", well....we've been told "No" many times before and we're still breathing. And there are definitely 10 other ladies right nearby who would probably love to say "Yes".Of course, there's an important matter of courtesy and respect to remember here: if a woman is standing or dancing most of the time with a certain man, which means they might be dating, good etiquette and respect requires that you ask the man if he would mind your asking the lady for a dance.
Learning to dance takes time and work for most of us, and it includes some evenings when you feel you'll never improve and when almost no one will dance with you. But if you keep learning, by taking classes or privates, drilling the fundamentals and practicing, and getting out there social dancing, you will most likely master the dance and come to enjoy he results of all that work: the joy of dancing well and being able to dance with many different partners.
Most people (especially more advanced dancers) choose their partners based on ability to dance at their level and in their style, and friendship.
"Style" means how we move, our mannerisms, our clothing, how we feel the rhythms of the music and which ones we choose to accent, how we relate to our partners, our dance "attitude", the expression on our faces.
And "Friendship" is who we've become friends with as we've attended classes, socials and clubs.
Now, here's one more suggestion: don't give up! Forget all this silliness about "cliques" and criticism, intimidation and neglect, complaining and inaction. Be realistic and take constructive action. Now let's all get out there and dance and have a ball. So let's just get out and dance, and make the most of it!