For most experienced dancers, there are a few things that are known to be ‘common sense’ courtesy. I’m not talking about complex etiquette systems found in some dances (ex: the Cabeco in Tango), but rather things that are the base of general social dance etiquette.
Despite the fact that these items are common sense, they’re frequently underappreciated by newcomers to the scene. Or, on occasion, social dancers who aren’t fortunate enough to be educated by their peers.
Today, we’re laying out the bare-bones etiquette every social dancer – experienced or new – should know before hitting the dance floor.
1. Shower + Deodorant – Heavy Perfume = Good
Always come to dance clean. Always wear deodorant. Don’t wear heavy scents that can suffocate your partners. If possible, also avoid cigarettes immediately before dancing. Your partners will instantly be far more comfortable.
2. Keep wet shoes off the floor
Never, ever bring wet shoes onto the dance floor. If you insist on dancing in outdoor shoes, make sure they’re dry first. Better yet, bring indoor or dance shoes any time you’re in a nice venue.
3. Don’t walk through the dance floor
Always walk around the perimeter. Walking people disrupt the flow of the floor, and can cause collisions. Dancers are more used to adjusting to dance patterns than straight-line walkers.
If you are walking around the perimeter and space is tight, wait for the couple to move enough to present space. Making eye contact with the lead and pointing where you want to go generally will cause them to create space for you.
4. Keep drinks off the floor
If you are drinking anything – water or otherwise – avoid bringing the cup onto the floor. Spills cause shoes to stick – which is particularly problematic for people in suede-bottomed dance shoes. Wet shoes can ruin a dance night!
5. Let the less comfortable person set the rules
Regardless of the person you have or your relationship, the less comfortable person sets the rules in the dance. Whether it’s consent to dance, how close to hold, or what movements to do, always let the less-comfortable partner set the boundaries. This also applies to flirting on or off the floor.
If it’s you, you have the right to have these boundaries respected. If it’s your partner, do them the courtesy of accommodating their needs. It won’t harm you, and it will drastically improve their dance experience.
6. Monitor breath
Bring mints or gum. Use it when you feel your breath turning. If you’re not sure, use it anyways.
7. Think about floorcraft early on
Even if you are a newer dancer, you should still think about floorcraft. Floorcraft is adjusting your dancing to the floor conditions. This includes the space you have and floor quality. For example, using less space on a crowded floor is a type of floorcraft.
If you aren’t that strong at floorcraft yet, stick to the edges of the floor and try to find an area with space. It’s better to do simpler moves but maintain floorcraft than to go big and run into people.
8. Give gracious ‘outs’
When you ask someone to dance, always be prepared for the possibility that they could say ‘no’. You should also be aware that some people will feel obligated to say yes – even if they don’t feel like dancing. Get in the habit of giving potential partners a guilt-free out. This means that you will get to dance with people who enjoy your company, while also respecting boundaries.
Believe it or not, allowing a gracious opportunity to say ‘no’ actually makes it more likely that those people will accept a dance at another time. This is because they won’t associate your asks with obligation. Rather, they will have the opportunity to dance with you when they’re feeling enthusiastic!
Are there any common-sense items that we missed? Leave your thoughts in the comments.