For those who are just starting to learn how to dance, attending a social dance can be a bit intimidating. You many be thinking that you are not good enough to ask someone to dance, or, if someone asks you to dance, you may be worried about not knowing how to respond to different cues. There are a variety of dance levels on the dance floor, and the more advanced dancers should be able to accommodate beginners so that their social dance experience is a good one. We were all beginner dancers at some point!
Social dancing is an intimate activity that requires trust and respect from complete strangers. There are some general rules of social dance etiquette that dancers of all levels should follow to ensure that everyone has a good time:
- Asking Someone to Dance – There is no rule as to who can ask someone to dance. Generally it is the man (or lead), but ladies (or follows) can also ask people to dance. It is ok to say no if you don’t feel like dancing at any point, but do so in a polite manner and wait until the next song before accepting a dance from someone else to avoid any hurt feelings.
- Start off Simple – As a lead, it is important to get a sense of your partner’s dance abilities before doing any complicated moves. More experienced follows should not try to “back lead” their beginner leads. Be positive and encouraging.
- Giving Dance Lessons/Tips – A social dance is for fun, and dancers should avoid trying to teach or be critical of their partner while dancing. On the flip side, dancers should not expect free lessons on the social dance floor. Even if your partner happens to be a dance teacher, lessons should only be done at the dance studio or, at the very least, off of the main dance floor if both parties are agreeable.
- Dance Space Awareness – On a crowded dance floor collisions do happen. Be mindful of taking smaller steps and keeping styling relatively close to the body when it’s really crowded. It is the lead’s job to watch for other dancers while in couple position. If there is accidental stepping on toes or bumping into other people, a polite apology goes a long way.
- Dips and Tricks – Leads should not dip partners that they don’t know without asking them first as there may be unknown injuries. It is best to avoid any trick moves that take people off their feet on a crowded dance floor. Leave these types of tricks for the performance stage.
- Hygiene – Use good personal hygiene before heading to a social dance. Shower beforehand, use deodorant, wear clean clothes, and have breath mints. If you sweat a lot, bring a change of shirt (or two) and a towel to wipe away excess sweat. It is also a good idea to keep your hands clean by washing them frequently or using hand sanitizer.
- Dance Shoes – More experienced dancers will have separate dance shoes that they bring to a social dance to change into. Dance shoes are more comfortable because they are flexible and have suede or hard leather soles that allow for easier turning. Certain venues with pristine dance floors do require no outside shoes to preserve its condition. Whatever the venue, avoid shoes that are very “grippy” (lots of traction) as that can lead to injury.
- Food/Drinks on the Dance Floor – In most social dance venues, food and drink are never allowed on the dance floor as that can lead to accidents (slipping on a wet floor), or at the very least, ruin your expensive dance shoes. This may not be the case in a typical “bar” setting.
- Dancing with Jewellery – It is best to avoid wearing certain types of rings, bracelets or necklaces when dancing as that can lead to injuries to you or your partner. If you must wear jewellery, low profile rings and short necklaces are best.
- Safety – No one should feel unsafe when dancing at a social dance. Even when dancing very close, one’s personal space should be respected without unwanted groping or grinding. If someone gets too close for comfort and does not stop when told no, stop dancing with them immediately.
- Smile and Thank You – Always try to be friendly. Smile and thank your dance partner after the dance is done even if you did not enjoy the dance.