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
(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.
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:
- 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 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.
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
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.
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….
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:
- 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!
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.
Have thoughts to add? Leave them in the comments, and share the article on Facebook!
The other bad breath smell can be cigarettes, alcohol, gum disease ( please! see your dentist!) and/or even neglecting to floss. Some very considerate guys make a practice of bringing several changes of shirt (especially to summer, outdoor events) but SOME wear synthetic fabrics that stink something awful when it gets hot. I don’t mind a somewhat sweaty partner if he doesn’t smell…I think it’s kinda sexy, actually…PS Women can stink it up, too!!!
What about people who chew gum constantly. It’s not the breath/odour that’s annoying it’s the action!!!!! They look like they are chewing the cud
That’s me 🙁 Sorry!!! No more gums, promise.
Yes, the chewing can be annoying. I try not to chew gum myself too. Instead I use mouthwash eveytime I take a break and suck on cough drops. I prefer it to mints and my mouth stays fresher longer.
Awesome article Laura!! For me it’s the metal jewelry. When someone ask me to dance, I look at his hands. If he is wearing rings, watch or metal bracelet, I know it would be unpleasant. I feel like I am extra careful and I feel anxiety as I had a friend who was knock on her forehead with a watch and she has a scar from it. Many times, I can also feel the rings rubbing on my hands and finger and it hurts. I do also feel the watch or bracelet on my back or body when he leads me. Even for necklace, some dances would be uncomfortable and if u guys want a woman to feel your neck, don’t wear them. So, I tend to deny dances based on that.
Are there actually any good deotorants and antiperspirants for dancing? For example Im sweating like hell. So I have a feeling that no matter what I will use (and no matter how much), in the 5 minutes since the start everything I put on my skin will was off or end up in my towel.
So all I can do is from time to time spray a little bit of additional deodorant and change a t-shirt. Yet sometimes Im not sure if that is enough :-/
I’m not sure what works for men, but I do know that Secret tends to work very well for women. I’m sure there’s a male equivalent from the same company.
Even if you do start to sweat, the deodorant helps the sweat smell less. The antiperspirant will work to an extent, but only in the application zone for the deodorant (usually under the arms).
The rest of your body is more about starting the night clean and switching sweaty shirts. It’s not normally the fact that there’s sweat, but the soaking-wet or smellyness that can go along with it.
Laura: I agree that other means are probably more importatnt (scrub myslef clean before party, dont eat smelly food and just have enought t-shirts). So far I had no complains about smell (except once when I need to go dancing directly from BBQ party and I apologized to every partner and told them that if they reject me, Im fine with that). But still deodorats make the situation even better. I just have a feeling they work for such short time in my conditions, that Im interested if there are some better solutions (thinging about it I will probably start wearing these aroma trees for car interiors around my neck :-D)
Jimmy, here are a few tips to make u sweat less. Try to drink plenty of ice cold water between dances. If u have to change shirts, wipe yourself down with a cold wet towel/paper towel first. I personally like to also use powder to refresh myself too. You could also ask for the A/C to be turn down or try to dance under a vent or fan. Maybe u could also use less tension in your dance. Some good leads use very little tension and they sweat much less. Also a tip from another guy is to do cardiovascular workout. You would sweat less during dancing and you wouldn’t smell as bad. Hope these tips help.
Arm and Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant works. I like Tom’s deodorant too.
Thai Rock Crystal is an awesome natural deodorant (must apply for at least 30 seconds to each armpit)
I’ve actually used it before… I didn’t find it worked for me at all!
One cologne issue to add…if you wear aftershave, please make sure you wash your hands thoroughly.
I’ve come away from a tanda smelling like his aftershave only to realize it’s on my hands, ewwwww.
Great list! For me, I’ve used Truly’s natural deodorant for over a year now and it was worked great even into the summer months in Phoenix (outdoor dancing as well). The only comments I’ve received into the night are about smelling good, which should be a good thing!
Also, the vest – great for guys when it gets hot. Honestly not a huge change in comfort, and definitely helpful.
Regarding deodorants. It wasn’t easy for me to find something that works and lasts longer than 1 dance. I discovered Tripple Dry, they have versions for men and women. It doesn’t really have any scent, so I’m using Bodyshop or VS mist in addition.
I make my own deodorant and it has served me very well for over 3yrs of my sweaty life dancing, martial arts training, playing volleyball, etc. All you need is: baking soda, cornstarch and (melted) coconut oil. It works so well that a single application lasts all day/night.
I use ~2:1 ratio of cornstarch to baking soda and enough coconut oil to get it to a cake-batter-like consistency (sorry I don’t have exact measurements since it depends on how much you’re making for the size of container you’re going to store it in and your preferred consistency – too much baking soda will make it feel gritty and too much oil will obviously make it oily)
It’s best (faster) to put it in the fridge to set after thoroughly mixing everything but you may need to re-mix it a few times since the oil can separate. If you live someplace hot it should probably be kept in the fridge since coconut oil melts @76F and it will separate if it completely melts. The AC in my house is kept @73-75F so I don’t ever have a problem and the container stays in the bathroom cabinet. If we take a super hot/steamy shower it may soften somewhat but that just makes it easier to apply (just stick your finger in the tub and rub it into your skin)
supposedly you can mix in some beeswax so it won’t melt and can be put into a regular deodorant stick container but I haven’t experimented with that yet
Maybe one note for the ladies… if you go for sensual night (and especially if you like to touch head 2 head) please be carefull what you spray on your hair. I danced with one lady, she had awesome haircur, but it probably needed some chemical stuff to hold the shape. She also probably used lot of some hairspray. And it could be awesome if we were on the romantic date and she would be sitting on the other side of the table. Then I woud proabbly smell just enough and enjoyed that.
But when she stick that directly to my face, I swear I was turning blue at the end of the dance 😀
btw – regarding “bad breath”, its not just about brushing your teeth. I suggest checking if you have tonsil stones and trying to get rid of them somehow. This is a problem many people have and are not even aware of, because it is not easily noticable unless you check for it. But it can create really really bad breath and it is difficult to cover by simple cheving gum or clean teeth. Because all your breathing is going through it.
Just go to the mirror, open your mouth wide and by fingers (carefull with nails) gently push on your tonsils from different angles. You may be surprised what comes out. (and all that get our is something that will not be there when you are on the party. Not affecting your breath anymore)