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There are a few social rules that can make social dancing a positive experience for everyone. Be considerate of your partner and the other dancers on the floor. Kindness and attention to safety and personal hygiene go a long way towards makeing a dance event enjoyable for everyone.

Go to:  Apparel  |  Hygiene  |  Asking  |  Declining  |  Dance Floor  |  Consideration  |  Teaching  |  Summary

  • Wear leather-soled shoes. Rubber soled-shoes can stick to the floor and can cause an injury.
  • In our dance venue, both casual and dressier clothing is acceptable. Be sure to wear clothing that will not interfere with your dancing and which will not require adjustment during vigorous dancing. Examples of clothing that might be a problem: baggy sleeves, strapless dresses/tops, tops with straps that fall off the shoulder, oversize shirts/tops, full skirts that flare excessively during spins, etc.
  • If you tend to perspire a lot, bring a change of shirt so your partners won't have to touch wet clothing.
  • Avoid wearing large jewelry--especially bracelets, rings, watches, etc.--you don't want to injure your partner.
  • Be very careful with your fingernails.
Personal Hygiene
Dancing is a close contact sport. Be sure you:
  • Have showered and used a deodorant/antiperspirant
  • Have brushed your teeth and used a mouthwash or breath mint
  • Abstain from foods that produce strong odors, like onions and garlic
  • Avoid wearing strong perfume, cologne, or aftershave
  • Avoid the use of alcohol and cigarettes prior to and during dance event
  • Use breath mints during the dance event, especially if you eat or drink coffee during the event
Asking for a Dance
  • Either men or women may ask a partner for a dance.
  • Make sure you have eye-contact with your intended partner when you ask for a dance--it can be very awkward if more than one person thinks you are inviting them.
  • If someone is in conversation, walk up to him/her and wait to see if they make eye contact. If so, you can ask for a dance. If after a few moments s/he has still not made eye-conact with you, it is probably best to ask another time.
  • If two people simultaneously ask the same person, the person who is ASKED should choose one, and ideally should offer to dance a later dance with the partner not chosen.
  • You should not ask the same partner for more than two consecutive dances unless you and your partner are attending the dance as a couple and choose to dance primarily with each other.
  • It is recommended that you invite partners of varying dance abilities to dance. This allows those with less experience to learn from the more experienced dancers.
Declining a Dance
Dance etiquette requires that you should not decline a dance under most circumstances. Valid reasons for declining a dance are:
  1. you do not know the dance
  2. you need to rest
  3. you have promised the dance to someone else.
Appropriate response: "No, thank you, I'm taking a break. Could I dance another dance with you later?" Declining a dance means sitting out the whole song--it is very rude to dance a song with anyone after you have declined to dance it with someone else.
Exception: If someone consistently violates the rules of etiquette by being unsafe to dance with or ignoring proper personal hygiene, a simple "No, thank you" is acceptable. This exception should rarely be used, however. The Dance Floor
Line of Dance
Dancing is done in a counter clockwise direction along the floor, known as the Line of Dance. This applies to traveling dances including Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Samba, etc. Stationary dances--like Rumba and Swing--require little accross-the-floor travel and do not have a line of dance. General rule: the slower you are moving, the closer to the center of the floor you should be. See diagram  (use browser "back" button to return to this page)

Entering/exiting the dance floor
Exercise caution when entering/leaving the dance floor. It is the responsibility of the couple that is entering/leaving to make sure that they stay out of the way of couples that are dancing.

Sharing the floor

  • Avoid getting too close to other couples, especially less experienced ones.
  • Be prepared to change the direction of your pattern to avoid congested areas. This requires thinking ahead and paying close attention to traffic patterns.
  • Do NOT do aerials on the social dance floor, even if you are trained--they are dangerous to the other dancers sharing the floor.
Consideration for your Dance Partner
  • The more experienced partner should dance to the level of the less experienced partner. If you are a leader, start with simple figures when dancing with a new partner, and gradually work your way up to more complicated patterns.
  • Never blame a partner for missed execution of figures. Regardless of who is at fault when a dancing mishap occurs, both parties are supposed to smile and go on. If you feel you must apologize, a simple "Sorry" is usually all that's necessary.
  • Social dancers strive to make their partners comfortable and help them enjoy the dance. Be sensitive--it's usually easy to detect your partner's likes and dislikes and if in doubt, ask.
  • After the dance is finished and before parting, thank your partner, but don't keep them talking after the dance is over unless they seem inclined to chat.
Teaching on the Floor
  • Do not offer criticism or "pointers" to your dance partner unless s/he requests them. Unsolicited teaching can be humiliating and takes the fun out of dancing.
  • Do not expect someone to teach you how to dance at a social event unless you have made such an agreement with him/her ahead of time. If you are asked to dance a type of dance you don't know say, "I would like to, but I don't know how to do this dance." This gives someone the option of offering to teach you or saying "Perhaps we can do a different dance later?."
  • Do not assume that a dance teacher who is attending a social dance wants to teach during the social event--even if the event follows a dance lesson that they have taught. If you need to ask a question about a dance move or variation, approach the teacher when they are sitting out a dance and ask him/her when s/he might be available to help you.
  • If you want to get pointers from someone, wait until s/he sits out a dance, then go ask if they are willing to give you a few tips. Many people would be willing to share their expertise in such a situation.
  • Your outfit and accessories should be comfortable and safe.
  • Make sure your hygiene is conducive to close contact.
  • Be considerate and polite when you ask someone to dance--make sure you have eye contact.
  • Do not decline a dance unless it's absolutely necessary, in which case, sit out the rest of that dance.
  • Dance with various partners at all levels of expertise and don't monopolize anyone.
  • Be considerate of other dancers and follow the rules of the dance floor.
  • Dance to the level of your partner and don't offer unsolicited "pointers."
  • Don't ask someone to teach you during a social dance.

Subpages (1): Line of Dance Diagram