Imparting Social Dance Etiquette

Dancing is a social activity which requires interpersonal as well as physical grace. Being a considerate and thoughtful dance partner helps ensure a wonderful experience and is even more important for a social dancer than dance technique.

There are six aspects of social dancing etiquette.

1. Asking for a dance
2. Saying “no”
3. Personal hygiene
4. Partner’s ability
5. Floorcraft
6. Group classes

In a social dance situation it is customary to dance with a variety of people. (This is also a great way to improve one’s dance skills). Therefore …

When YOU ask someone to dance, be sure to make eye contact with your prospective dance partner, offer your hand and ask directly, “Would you like to dance?” If the person says yes, then smile, offer your hand and walk with him or her onto the dance floor and into dance position. This helps a partner feel supported and at ease.

When social dancing and someone asks YOU to dance, your response should nearly always be, “Yes, I would love to!” It is not acceptable to say no because you do not think the dancer is good enough for you or because you are hoping someone “better” will ask you. It is important that all dancers are supportive and kind to each other at all skill levels.

During the dance, be sure to be aware of your dance partner, including your dance partner’s comfort and skill level. Smile and make eye contact, but do not stare. Be gracious and appreciative At the end of the dance, always thank your parter and walk with him or her off the dance floor.

When a person asks you for a dance, it is appropriate to say no under a few circumstances:

If you are really tired when someone asks you to dance, say that you are taking a rest now and would be happy to dance later. Then be sure to keep this commitment.

If you come to the dance to watch and someone asks you to dance, it is fine to say, “Thank you, but I’m just watching tonight.”

If the same person asks you to dance repeatedly, it is acceptable to tell him or her that you would like to dance with others right now and would enjoy another dance later.

If the person has been physically or verbally abusive to you on a previous occasion, it is of course appropriate to say “no!” It is also appropriate to say “no” if the person is obviously drunk or threatening in some way. If you feel that a social dancer at the party is physically dangerous to the other dancers, report the situation immediately to the person in charge (e.g., the teacher, front desk or management).

Social dancing is an intimate activity in that it requires a certain degree of physical closeness. Good hygiene before and during a dance party shows respect and consideration for the other dancers. Considerations include:

Bathe or take a shower, use deodorant and wear clean clothes.

Brush your teeth before going to a dance. Use breath mints or gum at the dance if necessary.

Bring a towel and/or a change of clothes if you tend to sweat a great deal. If you get excessively sweaty on the dance floor, stop, dry off and cool down for a few minutes.

Use a light touch applying perfume or cologne, or avoid wearing it altogether, as many people are sensitive or allergic to fragrances.

Get along with partners of varying ability levels. For example:

Compliment rather than correct your partner. Unless someone asks you directly to make a correction, never volunteer criticisms of your dance partner’s abilities. Know that your dance partner is doing the best that he or she is able.

If your dance partner is dancing off time, consider ways to make it fun for yourself. For example, you might view the situation as a challenge to dance to the same internal rhythm as your partner, an opportunity to have fun dancing slightly off the music or simply a chance to appreciate the experience of moving with another person.

If your partner is physically hurting you, it is probably inadvertent. Stop dancing for a moment and say something like this, “I’m sorry, but you’re holding my hand a little tightly. Could we do it again?” If you receive an inconsiderate response or your dance partner seems unwilling to modify his or her behavior, it is then appropriate for you to say, “Thank you, but I’d like to stop now.” Social dancing should not be physically painful or dangerous.

In order for a dance to be enjoyable for all the social dancers, it is crucial to be considerate and aware of floor craft. No matter how inspired you might be to let go and express yourself, have respect for the other couples on the floor. Careful observation of the traffic lanes in a ballroom helps prevent mishaps. Here are some guidelines:

In social dances that travel (i.e., Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep, Peabody, Samba and Argentine Tango), ballroom dancers move in a counter-clockwise circle known as the line of dance. The line of dance has lanes, similar to those on a highway.

*Fast Lane: the very outside lane of the line of dance is the “fast lane.” This lane is generally used by very experienced ballroom dancers who cover a lot of ground.

*Slow Lane: The middle and inside lanes are for beginners and less experienced social dancers who are not traveling as much as those in the fast lane. Beginners dancing basic steps and not traveling as much should stay on the very inside lane.

*Center of the Floor: When repeatedly practicing a figure that does not travel (e.g., the Waltz Box with Underarm Turn), use the center of the ballroom dance floor.

Get along with each other as you rotate partners.

Say hello and introduce yourself to each new partner.

If you only want to dance with the same partner for personal reasons, you may do so by stepping out of the circle when it is time to rotate. This way, it is clear that you are not part of the rotation. To help avoid confusion when rotating, direct fellow students to rotate past you.

If you’re having real difficulty with the figure, it is perfectly acceptable to tell your partner that you need to step out of the rotation for a minute to practice the dance steps on your own. If you want help, feel free to ask the teacher.

It is not acceptable to refuse to dance with someone in a group class simply because you are of the same gender. There are many reasons why social dancers choose to learn the non-traditional role (i.e., women dancing as Leaders and men dancing as Followers). Reasons range from being teachers in training who need to know both roles, to wanting to learn the other role to improve their dancing, to simply preferring the non-traditional role. If you are a male Leader or female Follower, you may not be accustomed to dancing with someone of your same gender. Nevertheless, dance etiquette requires that you respect other dancers’ choices, regardless of their reasons for choosing the non-traditional role.

SOURCE: TEACH LIKE A PRO by Diane Jarmolow

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