Dance Etiquette

by Roger Weiss

With apologies to the people I’ve unintentionally offended while dancing, I’d like to offer 12 points of etiquette that will help make you more charming on the dance floor.

Before the Dance

  1. Personal Grooming:
    Dancing is quite aerobic and so it’s usually a good idea to bring a towel to wipe off excess sweat. In some cases, a change of shirt (or two) is also appreciated. Remember, you’re dancing with a lot of people, so try to look (and smell) your best!
  2. Asking people to dance/being asked to dance:
    If there’s someone you want to dance with, go up to him/her, excuse yourself (if necessary) and ask him/her to dance. Body signals are often not enough of a cue. If you’re not comfortable doing the asking, try standing (not sitting) on the side of the dance floor, moving to the music, acting involved, making eye contact, and smiling.
  3. Turning people down:
    If you must turn someone down, be sure to thank him/her and ask if you can dance later. Then make every attempt to do so. If you don’t ever want to dance with that person, either say, “No, Thank you”, or tell him/her why. Try to be as pleasant as possible.
  4. Booking ahead:
    This is extremely dangerous and very often rude, as some people spend an inordinate amount of time lining up enough partners, instead of talking to their current ones. Needless to say, people often forget whom their next dance is with.
  5. Interrupting people who are talking to ask one of them to dance:
    A lot of people feel that if you’re not dancing, you’re available to be asked to dance. Often, they’ll interrupt a conversation between people standing on the side of the hall, or between people who have just finished dancing. This is rude, on the one hand, but accepted behavior on the other. We need some rules. I submit that if you want to talk to someone, you should sit down and maintain eye contact or leave the dance area. As the asker, be sure to excuse yourself before asking someone to dance. Remember, you’re the intruder here, and you need to be sensitive to the situation.

While Dancing

  1. Teaching while dancing:
    Unless requested to do so, don’t do it.
  2. Dancing at your partner’s level:
    In couple dancing, the goal is to make your partner look good, not to show off!
  3. Bumping into other dancers:
    Be sensitive to the amount of space around you and adjust your dancing accordingly. If space is tight, take smaller steps and don’t do all of your hot moves (on other people’s feet). Always apologize if you bump into someone or step on their feet.
  4. Apologizing to your partner:
    Usually unnecessary. Don’t worry about blowing a lead or not following perfectly. Enjoy yourself and try it again. Relax, it’s only dancing!
  5. Dancing close:
    This is usually determined by the woman (follower). The man (leader) needs to hold and guide the woman, and she will determine how close she feels comfortable dancing. People have different spatial requirements, and these need to be respected.

After the dance

  1. Appreciating the band:
    When the band finishes a song, be sure to applaud and show them you like what they’re doing. A happy band will usually provide you with better music.
  2. What to say and do at the end of a dance:
    Thank your partner for the dance and perhaps, compliment him/her. Then either ask for the next dance or walk each other off the dance floor.

Copyright Roger Weiss, ©1990 All rights reserved by the author. Duplication or use in any other medium, including but not limited to print publication, another web site, or downloading to a storage medium on CD, floppy disk, hard drive, zip drive, or tape, without the written permission of the author is prohibited.

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