Dance etiquette is a set of guidelines that help us navigate the social dimensions of dancing. Why do we care about dance etiquette? Because it is nice to know how to go about in the dancing circles. It makes a big impact between having a happy or unhappy dancing experience. Plus - the difference between people wanting, or not wanting to dance with you. Repeat....the difference between people wanting, or not wanting to dance with you.
(you'll notice - everything is #1)
1) Respect The Dance Floor
- NO POWDER: Remember, there is a lot of work that goes into maintaining a dance floor, and when people put powder or "floor juice" on the dance floor. Not only does it scuffs & scrapes the wax off, but we may be charged for refinishing the floor. (trust me, we don't have enough $$ to cover that).
- FLOORCRAFT / LINE OF DANCE - Pay attention of other dancers on the dance floor. If you have an extra wild & crazy swingout, do NOT do it in the middle of the crowded floor. If you are your partner consistently keep running into dancers, then it may be time to double-check your frame and keep your movements smaller. Nobody likes to sit out dances because you got injured because someone ran into you or bruised your foot by stepping on them.
- LINE OF DANCE: This is used at a ballroom or country dance where people travel around the dance floor in a circular pattern - usually counter-clockwise. This is mostly happens when you visit - or Lindy Bomb - another venue or style dance event. Always be aware to stay out of their way or dance in the middle of the circle. Don't be THAT person who dances in their way and constantly runs into people. You are a guest at their event.
1) Teaching on the Floor
First answer is DON'T! Second is DON'T. and Third is maybe. There are three major aspects to this point of etiquette:
Unsolicited Teaching: This is unfortunately one of the more common breaches of dance etiquette. This often happens when a dancer stops in the middle of a song to correct his or her partner, or tell them how to execute a dance figure. Ironically, this error is often committed by individuals who are not fit to teach! Experienced social dancers dance at the level of their partners. Even for experienced dancers, the social dance floor is not the place to teach or to correct your partner. It is better to concentrate on your partner and what they can do and enjoy dancing. Unsolicited teaching can be humiliating and takes the fun out of dancing. If you can't lead the move without telling/showing them how to do it, then leave it out of the dance.
Soliciting Teaching on the Floor: This is not necessarily a flagrant violation. For many, it is flattering to be consulted about a point of dancing or how to correct something. However, a little care and caution is always a good idea. This should be off to the side, because they asked you to teach them. It still shouldn't be taught in the middle of a dance that you asked someone for.
Improper Teaching: This occurs when a experienced dancer teaches a dancer at someone else's event. If you are at a workshop/lessons/dance given by another studio or instructor, please do not give another dancer "instruction". Ask permission first for the host. It may sound like common sense, but often abused. Also, make sure that you are teaching the SAME style and techniques as the workshop instructor. Example: there are a gazillion ways to do a swingout, you will only confuse the new dancer by giving them mixed signals and mixed styles. If you are not sure, then you probably should not do so.
1) Whom to Ask
If each person dances with only one or two others, the social dynamics of dancing will be compromised. For that reason, dance etiquette strongly encourages everyone to dance with many different partners. This is to ensure a diversity of partnerships on the floor, and to give everyone a chance to dance. Specifically, dance etiquette rules against asking the same partner for more than two consecutive dances.
People generally tend to dance with others at their own level, but you should try to dance socially with partners of all levels. Dance etiquette frowns disapprovingly on those who only dance with the best dancers on the floor. Although this is not a terrible offense, it is still bad form. Better dancers are especially advised to ask beginners to dance. Not only does this help the social dynamics of a dance, it also helps the better dancer (although it is outside the scope of this discussion to explain why or how).
1) Declining a Dance
Being declined is always unpleasant. For beginners and shy individuals it is even harder to take, and may discourage them from social dancing. Dance etiquette requires that one should avoid declining a dance under most circumstances. For example, there is no correct way of refusing an invitation on the basis of preferring to dance with someone else. According to tradition, the only graceful way of declining a dance is either (a) you need to take a rest, (b)you do not know the dance , or (c) you have promised the dance to someone else. The last excuse should be used only sparingly. When declining a dance, it is good form to offer another dance instead: "No, thank you, I'm taking a break. Would you like to do another dance later?''
Also, declining a dance means sitting out the whole song. It is inconsiderate and outright rude to dance a song with anyone after you have declined to dance it with someone else. If you are asked to dance a song before you can ask (or get asked by) your desired partner, that's the luck of the draw. The choices are to dance it with whomever asked first, or to sit out the dance. Does dance etiquette allow declining a dance outside of the cases mentioned above? The answer is yes, if someone is trying to monopolize you on the dance floor, make inappropriate advances, is unsafe (e.g. collides with others on the floor), or is in other ways unsavory, then you are within the bounds of etiquette to politely but firmly decline any more dances. Perhaps the simplest, best way is to say "No, thank you,'' without further explanation or argument. Dancers are encouraged to use discretion and restraint when exercising this option.
1) Being Declined
The first thing to do when one is turned down for a dance is to take the excuse at face value. Typical social dance sessions can be as long as three to four hours, and there are few dancers who have the stamina of dancing non-stop. Everyone has to take a break once in a while, and that means possibly turning down one or two people each time one takes a break. The advice to shy or beginner dancers is not to get discouraged. However, since social dancers are generally nice and polite, being repeatedly declined can be a signal. In that case, it is a good idea to examine one's dancing and social interactions to see if anything is wrong.
1) At The End Of The Dance
After the dance is finished and before parting, thank your partner! If there is a live band, make sure to applaud the band, then your partner. If you enjoyed the dance, let your partner know. Compliment your partner on her/his dancing. Be generous, even if he/she is not the greatest of dancers. Be specific about it if you can: "I really enjoyed that double reverse hip spin hammerlock double-axle twirly thing. You led/followed that beautifully!'' If you enjoyed it so much that you would like to have another dance with him/her again, this is a good time to mention it.
1) Leaving the Floor
When a song comes to an end, leave the floor as quickly as it is gracefully possible. Tradition requires that the gentleman give his arm to the lady and take her back to her seat at the end of the dance. While this custom is linked to the outdated tradition requiring the gentlemen to ask ladies for dances, it is still a nice touch, although it may be impractical on the more crowded dance floors. In any case, remember that your partner may want to dance the next dance. Don't keep them talking after the dance is over, if they seem to be ready to break away and look for their next partner - they are. "No parking on the dance floor"
1) Sharing the Floor
Responsible usage of the floor requires that one stays out of the way of others and don't put yourself in their way. Some patterns require a momentary movement against line of dance. These patterns should be executed with great caution on a social dance floor, and only when there is no danger of collision. Avoid getting too close to other couples, especially less experienced ones. Be prepared to change the directions of your patterns to avoid congested areas. This requires thinking ahead and matching your patterns to the free areas on the floor (floorcraft). While this may sound complicated to the novice dancer, it gradually becomes second nature. Sharing the floor sometimes means leaving the floor! For example, if there are too many dancers to fit on the floor, then a considerate dancer would withdraw every few dances to let everyone dance. The same idea applies if there aren't the same number of men and women. Then there is a mismatch and for each song some people will be left without a partner. If there aren't enough partners, it would be nice to voluntarily withdraw every few dances so that everyone gets a chance to dance.
1) Aerials and Choreography
The only thing to be said about aerials on the social dance floor is: Don't Do Them!
While they may look "cool" on YouTube, but the execution of aerials requires training by a qualified instructor. Don't do them by yourself or try to teach a partner unless you are trained, and certainly don't do them on the social dance floor. Dancers have been badly hurt by either participating in aerials, or unluckily being in the proximity of those who did. The same principle applies to other lifts and drops, as well as choreographed patterns that require a large amount of floor space. You may know the move, but your partner may not. Don't force them to do the move just because you wanted to.
1) No-Fault Dancing
Never blame a partner for missed execution of a pattern. Regardless of who is at fault when a dancing mishap occurs, both parties are supposed to smile and go on. This applies to the better dancer in particular, who bears a greater responsibility. Accepting the blame is especially a nice touch for the gentleman. But at the same time, do not apologize profusely. There is no time for it, and it makes your partner uncomfortable. Preference is the following: whenever something happens, first see if my partner noticed. Sometimes the partner may not be aware. If they did noticed, I just smile and whisper "sorry..." and go on, regardless of whose fault it was.
1) Did Your Partner Enjoy the Dance?
Dancing to the level of partner - It often happens dancers are not at the same level. It is important that the more experienced partner dances at the level of the less experienced partner. This is mostly a comment for leaders: when dancing with a new partner, start with simple moves, and gradually work your way up to more complicated patterns. You will discover a comfort level, file it away in memory for the next time you dance with the same partner. The same principle applies to Latin and Swing followers. Doing extra syncopations, footwork, free spins etc. may look really fantastic, but it can be distracting and even intimidating for a less experienced leader.
1) Hijacking vs. Backleading
This is an age-ole topic for when you get a little more experienced and start experimenting with your moves. As far as follows, you'll start learning new variations or footwork replacement to do within your basics: swivels, switches, swoops, sweeps, kick-ball-changes, etc. From a partner's point-of-view, adding those really cool swivel-looking, hip-swinging, booty-shaking moves at the end of are way cool. BUT if the moves take longer, breaks connection, and runs into the next count, then it interferes in the dance. Be sure that the extras stay within the counts and doesn't work against the flow of the dance.
1) Being Sensitive to Partner's Preferences
Social dancers strive to make their partners comfortable and help them enjoy the dance. This requires sensitivity to the likes and dislikes of the partner. These preferences can take a variety of forms. Some dancers don't like spins or too many spins in a row. While others really enjoy them and can do 10 in a row. Some like extended syncopations and others don't. Be sensitive to your partners. It is not too hard to detect their likes and dislikes, and if in doubt, ask.
1) Positive Attitude
Be personable, smile, and make eye contact with your partner. Try to project a warm and positive image on the dance floor, even if that is not your personal style. Many of us lead hectic lives that include a difficult balance between study, work, family, and other obligations. Having a difficult and tiring day, however, is not an acceptable excuse for a depressing or otherwise unpleasant demeanor on the dance floor. Because of the setting of a social dance, we do not always dance with our favorite partners. This is also not grounds for a cold treatment of the partner. Once one asks or accepts a dance, it is important to be outwardly positive, even if not feeling exactly enthusiastic. The social dancer is also well advised to be watchful of an unchecked ego. While a healthy sense of self is helpful in all social interactions, it is more attractive when mixed with an equal dose of modesty. Don't let perceived dancing abilities or physical attractiveness go to your head. It is helpful to remember that overestimating one's dance prowess or attractiveness is quite common.
and the Number 1 Rule of Etiquette...
And for goodness sakes - give yourself a “Hygiene Check”. Do you smell good? Do you sweat like a faucet? Does your breath stink? Do you need deodorant? Most of the times we come from work or from eating out, or grabbed a triple-espresso mochaccino from the local coffee shop. So be sure to have some minty-fresh gum or mints in your dance bag. If you dance your butt off every dance and build up a sweat, always keep extra shirts or even have a sweat-towel handy. No one likes to hold a partner and it goes "squish"!
..now go forth young Grasshopper...and dance.