Dance Floor Etiquette
DSJ’s Guide to a Happy Dance Floor
1. Have Fun!
Dancing isn’t about being the best, knowing the most complicated patterns, doing the most spins, or showing off to an audience. It’s about simply having fun by connecting to the music and the person you’re dancing with. Keep that in mind and you’ll never get bored on the dance floor!
2. Have Fun!
Seriously, it’s dancing!
Make eye contact every once in a while and connect with your dance partner; let them know you’re enjoying the dance you’re sharing. A beginner dancer who’s exuding positive energy is generally way more fun to dance with than an experienced dancer who looks bored on the floor. Note: that does not mean to stare down your partner the entire time. (Creepy!) Small doses, please! The shoulder area is a good place to divert that stare.
4. There’s No Need to be Shy.
Dancers are usually excited to see new faces on the floor. We all had to start from square one, understand what it’s like to be a beginner, and know that the only way for new dancers to get better is through practice. Furthermore, dancing with beginners is good practice for the advanced dancers, too! So no matter what your level, whether you’re a lead or a follow, just get out there and ask everyone to dance! (Yes, ladies, you can ask guys to dance, too!) Don’t worry about people watching you. They’re either watching the people they want to steal moves from, or too busy dancing themselves!
5. Dance with Everybody!
Don’t be that jerk that only dances with good looking or really talented dancers. Not only will you miss out on some awesome dances that way, but people will notice. Chances are the people you turn down are good friends with the best looking, most skilled dancer in the room, and now that person is turning YOU down because you were rude to their friends. Our dance community is an extended family, and there’s no room for snobbishness in our family. Furthermore, dancing with beginners is more challenging and a great opportunity to focus on technique or styling, while dancing with the same couple of people all the time can be very detrimental to your lead and follow.
6. The Answer is Yes!
It takes a lot of courage to ask someone to dance, especially for those who are new. Saying no to a dance can not only shatter a new dancer’s confidence, but also deter others from asking you to dance in the future out of fear of rejection. Try to accept as many invitations as possible, especially from those with whom you have not yet danced. However, if someone is monopolizing your time or making you feel uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to politely decline. If you need a break, you can deter people from asking you to dance by looking busy. Grab a bite or a drink, play on your phone, or strike up a conversation with someone sitting beside you. If you have to turn someone down for a dance because you need a break, hunt down and grab that person next. Don’t hurt their feelings by letting them see you dance with someone else 5 seconds after turning them down. On the flip side, if you want someone to ask you to dance, put that phone down! Look engaged in the music. Tap your foot, nod your head to the beat, or even do your basic on the side line.
7. Be Respectful
Don’t try to force someone to dance closer than they’re comfortable with, or try to use bachata or kizomba as an excuse to grind on someone, sneak cuddles, or get handsy. There are ways to make a dance look sensual without taking advantage of your dance partner. That’s not what social dancing is about, and if you treat it that way you can scare a lot of girls away from ever dancing with you again, or from dancing in general. Ladies, if someone is making you feel uncomfortable on the dance floor, let them know and walk away from the dance if you have to. Please don’t feel obligated to dance with them; they need to know the consequences of being disrespectful. There are also ways to discreetly use your frame to defend your personal space; ask your instructor for some dance floor self defense techniques.
8. One Song at a Time.
Don’t hog someone on the dance floor for more than one song at a time. They might have others waiting to dance with them. After the song is over, say thanks for the dance and grab someone off the bench! And no, don’t go running right back to that same person after just one song. Make an effort to dance with everyone before you go back for seconds.
9. Stay in Your Slot
Followers, it’s your responsibility to have control over your spins and be able to travel within your lane. If you’re having trouble with this and/or find yourself crashing into others on a regular basis, you (and the people around you) might benefit from your taking a few classes to gain a little more control. Also, try to always look before you style to prevent smacking someone! Leaders, it’s your responsibility to be aware of your surroundings and protect your lady from incoming traffic. If you notice a couple beside you is having trouble maintaining their slot, give them some extra space and guide your lady to a safer spot on the floor.
10. Don’t Force It
Dancing should never feel like arm wrestling. Relax those arms and keep the tension in your scapula. Using excessive force is like yelling. If someone is new to the language or just having trouble understanding you, raising your voice won’t help. Instead, try speaking more clearly, or in this case, try using cleaner technique. If it’s still not working, save that move for another dance and try something else. Resorting to excessive force is dangerous and the leading cause of many dance injuries. Furthermore, focusing on a move your partner is having trouble with can become awkward fast. Ladies, don’t go around asking guys to give you a strong lead; that’s just asking for trouble. If you’re having a hard time following light leads, try adjusting your tension or investing in some classes for your own safety.
11. Listen to Your Lady
It takes teamwork to make each other look good. Leaders, be the perfect frame to set off that piece of art that is your follower. Don’t try to steal her spotlight by doing ten times more spins than her and throwing her through a gauntlet of crazy patterns she’s not ready for. If you see your lady wanting to break away to jam out to a segment of music, let her shine! If she looks like a dear in the headlights when you let go, don’t ignore her while you shine up a storm, be her hero and pick her back up! If she asks you not to dip her, then don’t dip her. No matter how many times you’ve danced with someone, always take time at the beginning of each dance to get a feel for both the music and your partner, and to let her get a feel for you. Start off with some basics, test the waters with some simple moves, and gradually work your way up. If you see your follower start to stumble, tone it back down and keep the dance to her level. Take pride in providing a fun, smooth dance that your follower walked away feeling good about, even if the moves were simple. Sometimes less is more. Ladies, if you want more complicated moves thrown at you, looking into some classes might be a good idea. Focus on controlling your spins; you never want to have to rely on a guy to keep you upright.
12. No Teaching on the Social Dance Floor
People go out dancing to have fun, not to get judged. If they want to learn more, they’ll go to a class and learn from a trained professional. Counting out loud for someone, stopping a dance to break down a move, or offering unwanted advice can be very offensive and can also break a person’s confidence, no matter how good your intentions. Socials, clubs, and parties are simply not the best environment for learning, either, and if you’re not properly trained on how to teach a move, you might accidentally misguide them to their next bad habit. It’s also not nice to ask someone to take time out from the dance floor to teach you. Asking someone who is not a professionally trained instructor opens yourself up to potentially bad advice, and asking the pros opens them up to spending the rest of their night out answering everyone else’s questions. If you want to learn more, that’s great! But be respectful of people’s time, save your questions for the classroom, and for now just try to enjoy the party.
13. Laugh Off Mistakes
When something goes wrong, there’s no need to stop and play the blame game. Don’t let mistakes get you down; laugh them off and move on. That’s half the fun! No matter how good you get, mistakes will always happen. If you watch some of the most talented dancers, you might catch them laughing after they made a mistake and covered it up with another move. (Fake it ‘til you make it!) Lots of awesome new moves are invented this way!
14. On1, On2, Who Cares?
Knowing how to dance both comes in handy, but does not make you special. Don't force an On1 dancer to dance On2 (or vice versa) just so you can brag about how you can tell the difference in the music. While each has a different feel, neither timing is better than the other, and you can enjoy any salsa just as well on either count. (Cha Cha, however, is On2.)
15. Acknowledge the Significant Other
Having your sweetheart swept up onto the dance floor by half the room can be very intimidating to some newcomers. If you see that someone you would like to dance with has brought a date, try to acknowledge them both before you steal one for a dance. A simple friendly hello goes a long way to ease the nerves of a potentially jealous date. This isn’t usually a big deal to couples who are both dancers and accustomed to the scene, but is still a nice courtesy. (Likewise, it’s a nice courtesy to excuse yourself to both parties for interrupting a conversation for a dance.)
16. Hygiene is Your Friend
Don’t forget deodorant, and it’s ok to sneak some extra in your purse just in case. It’s very common practice to bring an extra shirt or two (or three) to change into if you know you’re going to dance up a sweat, and having a small towel to use as a sweat rag can be as fashionable as it is practical. If you need to, sit a song out every once in a while to cool off. A dab of perfume or cologne is nice, but keep in mind some people are allergic. Avoid using strong scents on your wrists or flat out showering in them. Breath mints come in handy, too! (Also, try not to breathe on your partner's face. Thanks!)
17. Beware of Dangerous Accessories
While giant, heavy earrings will slap yourself in the face when you spot, long necklaces will slap your partner in the face when you spin. Try to stick to shorter necklaces or tuck them into your shirt. Bracelets that don’t lock on securely can become projectile weapons. If you have thick hair, try keeping it up in styles that minimize whipping your partner in the face. Gentlemen, it’s a nice courtesy to take off your watches so that the ladies’ hair doesn’t get caught in them. Also, if your sleeves have buttons, roll them up because hair can get caught in them as well.
18. Keep the Drinks Off the Floor.
Don’t take your drink with you onto the dance floor; try to keep them safely off to the side. Spilt drinks make the floor sticky and hard to dance on.
19. Don’t Drunk Dance.
While having a drink or two might take off the edge, having too many drinks can seriously hinder your timing, balance, and overall ability to dance. You might think you’re at your prime, but in reality nobody wants to dance with you when you’re flat out drunk! Know your limit and play it safe.
20. Stay Humble
There’s always more to learn. It’s not about being the best, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with striving to be your best. Having good technique can broaden your horizons and make dancing more enjoyable for both you and your partners. No matter what level you’re at, there’s always room for improvement. New moves, styles, and awesome combinations are being invented every day. Leaders, be careful though not to get too caught up in learning crazy pattern after crazy pattern. Make sure you thoroughly master the technique, timing, and flow to cleanly execute each move before you move on or your fancy moves will go unappreciated. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. A simple smooth dance is usually far more enjoyable than a rough over-complicated one. When you’re learning a new move, try it once or twice in each dance. This way guarantees you lots of practice without burdening any one follower, and allows you to still use the rest of the dance to focus on the important stuff: connecting and having fun!
P.S. No Thumbs! ^_^