Ask almost any dancer, and they’ll tell you that there are some KILLER habits that have nothing to do with your actual ability to dance.

When I say ‘killer’, I don’t mean super-cool; I mean they will kill your desirability as a dance partner. For some people, these things are obvious. Others have (somehow) avoided hearing about these tricks. Last, there are those who know the tricks and think they’re doing OK – but in actuality are the worst offenders.

For the purposes of this article, assume every piece of information applies to you. It really can’t hurt – it can only help.


Body Odor & Cologne

Body odor is caused by the bacteria on your skin breaking down proteins into acids. Usually, this happens when you sweat.

Almost everyone showers if they’re dirty. Most people also have the common sense to:

  • Put on deodorant (preferably with antiperspirant).
  • Not ingest large amounts of garlic, smelly foods, and onions in the 12 hours before they go dancing.
  • Bring deodorant for re-applications during dancing.
  • Go gentle on the cologne/perfume.

The problem is that there are a surprising number of people who do not do all of the above.

Yes, that’s right. All.

There is almost nothing worse than the partner who enters close-hold, oblivious to the fact that noxious body fumes are overpowering their victim partner.

(Don’t know if you smell? Ask a friend!)


On ‘Natural’ Deodorants

Several of the people I’ve had to ‘talk to’ about personal hygiene were genuinely shocked because they do wear deodorant – the ‘all natural’ ones.

There are some great natural deodorants out there for day-to-day life. I have yet to find one that holds up to the rigors of social dancing (if you know of one that *actually* works, feel free to share in the comments).

Coming from a family who loved the ‘all-natural’ slant, I’ve tried lots of ‘natural’ deodorants: crystals, powders, sticks, and more. Many of these work great for daily, not-so-sweaty life, but They. Don’t. Work. For. Social. Dancing.


On Cologne/Perfume

It’s great you want to smell good. I enjoy it when people I’m dancing with smell good. I (and my boyfriend) enjoy it markedly less when I leave the dance smelling like that person’s cologne.

People with allergies enjoy strong cologne and perfume even less. Seriously – they may just flat-out not be able to dance with you!

Cologne and perfume should be used in gentle moderation. It is also not the equivalent of deodorant or antiperspirant. DO NOT cover up body smell by drowning yourself in cologne. It does not work.


On What you Eat

Some people believe that onions, garlic, and other smelly foods are OK if you brush your teeth well and carry mints.

It’s not that simple. 

Your sweat can be smellier because of your dinner. So, avoid foods that can cause stench for at least 12 hours before dancing, if you can.

If you are eating some ‘smelly’ foods, double-check your deodorant situation and make sure you have showered relatively recently. Also, eat the offending foods in moderation.

Some common offenders:

  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Curry/Cumin
  • Asparagus
  • Spicy foods
  • Coffee & Alcohol
  • Red meat (this one surprised me!)

So you forgot your deodorant…

Sometimes, even the most conscious can forget their deodorant at home. Your best bet is to head to the washroom or hand-sanitizer.

Both soap and hand sanitizer kill bacteria. A lot of body odor is caused by bacteria. Therefore, soap and hand sanitizer reduce body odor.

If you’re starting to smell stinky, use some to cut down on the issue. It really can help, even if it’s not a full replacement for proper deodorant.


Bad Breath

Bad breath is the other big hygiene offender at dances. It can be caused by:

  • Not eating,
  • Eating/drinking certain foods and beverages,
  • Dehydration, or
  • Poor oral hygiene.

Most dancers do brush their teeth. So, most times, oral hygiene isn’t the issue.

(If you don’t brush your teeth: start – with toothpaste. Carry a toothbrush with you if you can’t get home before a dance. Flossing is even better. I’m assuming I don’t need to explain how to brush your teeth.)

But, not everyone pays attention to the other factors associated with bad breath.

If you’re not sure if your mouth smells, ask a friend.


Empty Stomach

An empty stomach can cause your breath to smell. If you feel that rumbly, gnawing feeling in your stomach, pay attention.

Even eating something small can help quiet the angry stomach acids that cause bad breath from hunger. Breath mints and gum do not usually help very much.



Dehydration is another one – especially at hot and extended dance evenings. If you’re noticing that your mouth feels dry, drink water. That dry-mouth feeling can be a tip-off that your breath may not be the freshest.

It’s best to drink water rather than pop gum for this problem. While gum can help short-term, it can actually dehydrate the mouth more – leading to bad breath revenge.



Not everyone realizes that more than just onions and garlic can make your breath smell. Other culprits include:

  • Coffee and alcohol,
  • Sugary foods,
  • Spicy foods, and
  • Curries.

If you’re eating foods like this, it’s even more important to carry breath mints and/or gum. Use them frequently.


So you forgot your gum and mints…

Borrow. Someone will give you one. The other thing that helps is making sure you are fed and that you drink lots of water throughout the evening.

If you’re really truly stuck, avoid putting your face close to your partner.

What You Wear (Men & Women)

I’m not talking about how ‘well’ you dress – because quite frankly, I don’t really care all that much.

Even if you want to wear something that affects your ability to dance well, so be it. It’s your body, your choice. If you think that super-tight pencil skirt is a great choice of dance gear, it’s your call. I will heartily disagree, but it doesn’t really affect me.

But, you should make sure that what you wear does not negatively affect your dance partners.


Jewelry, Watches, and Other Metal Things

Metal and precious stones are the bane of social dancing.

Please, if at all possible, leave your rings, watches, long necklaces & earrings, bracelets, and cuff-links at home. They scratch, whip faces, get caught in hair, and plunge themselves deep into the flesh of dance partners.

They may look pretty, but they are not dance-appropriate. Plus, long earrings and necklaces have a vicious habit of turning on the wearer.


Sequins and Buttons

Sequins are pretty. They can also be rather sharp, if your partner has bare arms. Don’t learn this the hard way, like me. Be smart. Avoid slashing sequins.

Buttons are functional. They can also be very good at getting caught in hair. If your partner has long hair, consider rolling up sleeves over wrist-buttons if you go near the hair. Save your partner’s scalp. Avoid entanglements.


Super-Sweaty Clothes

If you sweat, bring a change of clothes. Bring several, if necessary. This is super-important if it’s a close-hold dance.

For guys, there are some who choose to bring a vest to wear over shirts for the express purpose to create a barrier between sweat-shirt and lady-arm. This is probably one of the most considerate things I’ve ever heard of leads enduring. If you can do it without dying, do it (plus, it looks awesome).

For girls, be aware of the backless top. If you’re not doing a super-sweaty dance, they are awesome. But, people don’t generally like to put their arm on a super-slippery sweat-drenched back during social dancing.


Ponytails and Braids

If you are wearing your hair up or in a braid, make sure it’s not a whip. If it’s a ponytail, make sure it’s not face-level. If it’s a braid, make sure it’s secured.

Never, ever, wear a braided ponytail. Those things HURT!

Never, ever wear beads at the end of mini-braids. These, like long necklaces, tend to turn on the wearer. I did it once, and I almost lost an eye…

Imagine getting those braids in your face. Ouuuuch….


In conclusion…

Be aware of your hygiene and what you wear on the dance floor. One of the most sure ways  of limiting your dance opportunities is to be a physically unpleasant partner.

Luckily, this is completely in your control! Just follow the 3D’s:

  • Diet
  • Deodorant
  • Dress code

Of course, you have the right to dress and maintain hygiene however you want on the dancefloor. Just be aware that you may be limiting your dance opportunities because of your choices!

Addition: Cigarettes

After a comment on the blog, I realized I forgot a super-important one: Smoking.

Smoke stinks – both mouth and body are affected. If you simply must smoke, bring a change of clothes and a lot of gum. Preferably, give yourself a chance to ‘air out’ after a cig before you come back to the social floor.


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