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.
For bonus points, don’t drip umbrellas or wet coats on the floors. If you must walk to a coat area, take off and carry all wet stuff along the side of the room.
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.
Caveat: some people don’t like gum-chewing partners. Mild chewing is usually OK, but open-mouth major chewing can look somewhat cow-ish. It’s not a giant faux-pas, but it can be irritating to some.
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.
Don’t sing along with the music, especially when you’re off tune, haha.
Yes and no 🙂
I personally don’t because I’d most likely be off tune, but I’ve danced with a few partners who hummed along here and there if they really loved the music.
While a whole song of non-stop humming probably would’ve been to much, they did have lovely voices. In addition, I also saw it as one more signal that they were comfortable enough to do so 😉
Some of the guys hold so tight that you can’t move at all. Or push so hard fell like puppets.
Please help beginners to any type of dance gain confidence. The other day two women dancers left, when half way through the dance the man said they were not following his lead correctly. The wrong persons left in my opinion!
I think you live in a bubble.. While drinks on the floor are a no-no, going dancing with no perfume is disastrous. If you come outside the bubble, you might notice that guys sweat. As do some ladies. And if the dance floor is not well ventilated (which dance floor is???), then I don’t want to be near you without any perfume on. I’ve had ladies beg me to dance with hem to so they could avoid dancing with some sweaty dude pestering them. Guess what? I was soaked even more, but I had body oils on, and afterwards I’d get thanked profusely for having perfume while being subjected to a litany of how they couldn’t stand guys not knowing to wear perfume/cologne?
2. Walking on the side, or leading a girl onto the floor along the side, I always get bumped into ( with no apologies) continuously by dancers. Walking through the floor, I never get bumped, because everyone is avoiding me. Have you heard of “YMMV”?
3. If you’re going to say no to a dance, be sure you don’t ever want to dance with that person ever again, as 90% of the time you’re burning a bridge. 2 ways out – ask the person to dance at a later time to show you meant no harm. Or when you say no, pull the person closer/aside (whatever) and politely explain why you said no. FYI, I’ve been turned down for being “sweaty and not having perfume on”. (how’s that for don’t wear perfume?????). Solution – I went to the car switched to a clean fresh shirt, put on my favorite cologne, and when I came back in, the same girl dragged me to the dance floor, even though I told her no, explaining to deaf ears that I was taking a break and didn’t want to dance (with her of course, but I diplomatically left that out).
3a. Gracious out is good. Just be diplomatic.
I believe your article is targeted to sporadic beginner/mediocre social dancers dancing on sparsely populated effectively air conditioned dance floors. Any good dancer knows all good dancers get soaked with sweat dancing. Try doing that with a partner and not wearing any perfume…
I’m pretty sure I don’t live in a bubble.
1) The point behind perfume is not to soak yourself in it. Overscented is just as bad as unscented. Plus, if you’re using good deodorant/antiperspirant, you don’t usually need cologne or perfume. There are a lot of people who really dislike dancing with overscented people. Perfume is also not a ‘cover’ for bad body odor. It’s something to make yourself smell nice. Dousing yourself in it doesn’t do this – it makes you smell overpowering. Deodorant and antiperspirant are the cures for B.O. – not perfume.
2) Just because you find it works better for you, doesn’t mean it’s a nice thing to do. Also, I’d argue that the more crowded the floor, the worse this habit is. It’s very disruptive and very dangerous.
3) I’m not sure we’re at all in agreement about saying ‘no’ to dances. I’ve written several times my opinion on declining dances. As long as you’re nice, no one should get offended or take it personally. Sometimes, it’s genuinely someone you don’t enjoy dancing with. Others, you really do need a break/water/are feeling sore/don’t like the song.
Luckily, in my “bubble” that consists of a lot of international congresses and travel for dance, people aren’t so easily offended that one ‘no’ burns the dance bridge forever.
Regarding the first point I really believe it was ment to “not over-do it”. Not as “dont use it at all”.
And I have to agree with that point. Once I was dancing Kizomba with one lady who used some crazy hair spray and stick her head to my face…. I swear I was turning blue at the end of the dance. 😀
Smeeling good is nice. But when you smell like chemical plant… that can be even worse than sweaty odor.
Some poor arguments on here…wear a light cologne…change your shirt regularly. Ladies hate wet shirts. Better still invest in a dance shirt…they stay dry. Don’t walk across a dance floor, walk round and never take drinks on the floor. Walk round and don’t stand on the floor talking…its really annoying.
Don’t just dive into a space to dance…check where people are going in their dance. Its ok to taylor your dance to your partner, but unlikely you’ll dance with them again.
How about if someone has asked and committed a dance with your partner, do not dumped him/her as you see someone who danced better compared to the one you asked earlier? Also, if you do say ‘no’ to an invite, perhaps not to dance with someone else on the same song.