The idea that lifts shouldn’t be done on the social floor is well-known. I agree with this, the vast majority of the time. But, every time we mention that it’s a no-no, there’s some lead out there who knows this one person follows are happy being lifted by.

And, they want to do it too.

So, let’s go through all the things a leader must do in order to lift someone on the social floor in an acceptable way.

If even one of these pieces is missing, you are not in a position to do lifts in a social dance-acceptable way. You may be able to “get away with it” – but you certainly shouldn’t be doing it.

1. Lift Training

If you don’t know how to lift a partner, you need to take a class on it first. And no, I don’t think it’s something you can ‘figure out’ on your own.

Yes, you could get lucky – but when it comes to lifts, too many things can end up going wrong for you and the follow. Get the training first.

2. Strength

If you are going to lift someone, you need to be sure that you able to support and control the movement simultaneously the entire time the partner is off the ground.

This means that if something is going wrong, you need to be able to stop and exit the partner safely and comfortably.

3. Using the Right Lift

For a lift to be socially acceptable, it must:

  • Keep the partner’s head pointed away from the floor
  • Allow you and your partner to exit the lift safely at any time
  • Provide the opportunity for the follow to decline the lift
  • Keep the feet close to the ground

The most common ‘social lifts’ are getting into a modified close hold, lifting the follow slightly off the ground, and either turning or walking. There’s a reason for that: it’s one of the safest lifts you can do.

Social lifts never:

  • Go above your head
  • Point the follower’s head towards the ground
  • Flip the follower, even for a brief moment in time
  • Are unabortable
  • Have the feet rise to higher than thigh level

4. Follower-Reading Skills

Part of being able to do a lift in an acceptable way is being able to make a split-second call on whether your partner is willing, able, and ready to do the lift with you.

For example, you need to have the expertise to know if the follower:

  • Has engaged their frame in the right way for the lift
  • Is prepping for the lift with you
  • Is pulling away or not responding
  • Is uncomfortable with where things are headed
  • Is losing their ability to maintain the lift
  • Is not physically capable of completing the lift

If you are not able to read all of this in your partner, you are not ready to do a lift socially. If you know but ignore it, you are being a terrible dance partner.

5. A Willing (and Able) Follower

This is tied into question 4. Many follows, even if they know what they’re doing or are totally lift-able, don’t want to be lifted. Some follows are also physically unsafe being lifted, even if they don’t look like it.

If you do not have a willing follower, do not lift her. Ever. At any time. For any reason.*

*exempting life-threatening situations where an unsanctioned “lift is appropriate include: the dance floor opens beneath the follower to reveal a pit of burning magma, and a lift is the only way in which to avoid certain doom.

The best way to make sure you have a willing follower is to ask before doing the lift. Most leaders who do social lifts successfully only do them with follows they know.

Also note that just because a follow likes it when someone else lifts them, it doesn’t mean they’ll like it when you lift them.

6. The Right Floor Conditions

If the floor is crowded, uneven, unpredictable, or unsafe for any reason, social lifts are unacceptable. In order to take care of a partner in a lift, you need to be able to focus exclusively on making sure the lift goes well.

Bad conditions where you need to worry about floorcraft and other obstacles don’t give you this opportunity.

7. A Safe Exit

If you are going to propose a lift to a follower, you need to provide a way for her to not get lifted. This means you have to give her an ‘out’.

If you don’t know how to give her a safe ‘out’ at the slightest hint of hesitation, you should not be doing lifts on the social floor.

“That’s a lot to remember. Does it all really matter that much? It’s just a simple lift!”

Yes, it does matter that much. Take this from someone who has been lifted – willingly and unwillingly.

The amount of leaders that are able to execute lifts in a social dance-acceptable way are very few. Almost all of the ones who do have significant contemporary/ballet training and extensive social dance training. And, many of the leads that are capable of social lifts choose not to do it because it is such a nuanced thing to do.

The reason why is that they understand their partner’s bodies and dancefloor mechanics. They understand the need for safety and security. And, they understand how to read the follower and provide an option for a safe exit. In short: they are able to satisfy all the requirements listed above when they have the right space and partner.

Until you are positive you are able to fulfill all these requirements, keep your lifts away from the social floor.

P.S. – Even if you’re doing lifts in a routine or class, most of the same principles still apply. The only differences are that you know your partner is willing and the conditions are right, and you have the time to ‘think through’ and practice the lift.