Most of us don’t do much talking while we dance. But, social dancing does require at least some verbal communication. In this list, we cover 10 things you should avoid saying to your dance partners.
1. “This is how you do ______.”
Except for very limited circumstances, stopping a dance to explain a concept to your partner is inappropriate. Even if you are a teacher who knows what you’re saying is true, it’s still almost always inappropriate. Avoid floor teaching wherever possible and you’ll improve the dance experience for everyone involved!.
2. “Oh baby… you’re so sexy in my arms.”
Intimate partners or people with a close understanding of each other may have a different paradigm, but in general, making sexual comments on the dance floor is not appropriate. Many people are just there to dance – and part of respecting consent and boundaries in a social dance is making sure to not violate the consent that has been given.
3. Grunts, growls, animal sounds, or sex noises
Similar to #2, these sounds may be appropriate in certain, limited situations with people you know well… but not with general dancers. These noises can make people feel violated and unsafe with you, cause them to disengage, or in the case of people with trauma history, it can cause panic, flashbacks, or worse.
4. “It’s OK. I got you.”
This one specifically applies to when someone is trying to make their partner do something they’re uncomfortable with. For example, head movements, dips, drops, or lifts.
If you have to say “It’s OK. I got you,” it typically means either your partner doesn’t feel like you’ve got them, doesn’t know how to do the thing, or that they don’t want to do the thing. In all of these cases, reassurance as a mechanism to make it happen is not appropriate.
5. “Come on, get closer.”
If a partner doesn’t want to get close, please respect their space. If you really can’t stand dancing a bit further apart, the solution is simple: don’t dance with them again. But, your happy place should not be at the expense of your partner’s comfort.
6. “Why won’t you dance with me?”
If someone rejects you for a dance, please don’t ask why. Potential partners are allowed to reject a dance, and it makes things more awkward if they’re forced to give a reason. Or, it may result in them giving you a ‘pity dance’ because they feel guilty.
Sometimes people legitimately don’t really have a reason other than “I’m tired,” “I’m not feeling the song,” etc. So, trying to mine for ‘extra data’ on why they’re not dancing with you is futile.
Other times they may have a reason, but are trying to spare your feelings by not stating it. By prying further, they’ll either lie; or be blunt and potentially hurtful. Once again, it’s somewhat of a lose-lose situation.
7. “I’m going to do ____ next.”
This is for the leaders.
Please don’t tell me what you’re going to do unless there’s a serious reason for doing so. For example, some dance cultures like it when partners ask for consent for close hold, dips, etc. Others communicate this non-verbally. But, for general movements, the experience of dancing is an exploration of body movement. You can enhance that by working on those non-verbal leading skills.
Some leads who are struggling with anxiety substitute this by saying “let’s see if this works” or “I’m going to try something new.” If you’re worried about making a mistake and want to relieve the pressure, this can be a great way to do it without narrating your dance.
8. “Sorry for the bad dance.”
This one is usually born out of insecurity. And yes, I’m guilty of it too.
If you’ve actually hurt someone or made a big mistake, apologize and move on. For example, crashing into another couple, twisting, grabbing, or other in-dance mistakes can reasonably be accompanied by a ‘sorry’.
But, ending the dance with “sorry” undermines the experience you’ve had with the other person. If you’re overcome by the need to say sorry, try saying “Thank you for such a wonderful dance” instead. Compliments are generally nicer to receive than apologies – and it elevates the experience you had instead of undermining it.
9. “You’re so much better than me.”
This is similar to the “I’m sorry” at an end of the dance.
If you’re dancing with someone, it really doesn’t matter who the stronger dancer is. It’s a shared experience for both of you. But, if you compare yourself to your partner, it can create a sense of awkwardness. Instead, try a full compliment. Maybe say “I’ve been looking forward to dancing with you” or “I really admire your dancing”.
If you’re worried about your own dancing, you can also say things like “I’m a beginner,” “I’m injured,” or “I’m really rusty” to take the pressure off without putting your partner in an awkward position.
10. “You suck.”
I really, sincerely hope that this one doesn’t need to be said. But, I’m including it anyway.
Please: don’t tear down your partner’s self-esteem on the dance floor. Even if you think they’re egotistical, the dance floor is not the place to bring it up. This is different from setting a boundary. For example, if someone is hurting you, putting you at risk, or is disrespecting personal boundaries, speak up. That doesn’t mean you have to be mean – but always keep yourself safe on the floor.
Are there things we missed? What are your biggest peeves when it comes to dance floor communication? Leave your thoughts in the comments.