Social Dance Etiquette : Dance Musings
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Social Dance Etiquette

by Jersey Dance Team on 10/08/16

Social Dance Etiquette

Social dance etiquette is something that everyone should be aware of, but is very seldom taught. At a social dance there are certain guidelines that everyone should follow to make the evening pleasant for everyone. Too often I hear people complaining about a dancer with poor etiquette and many times the offender is not aware he or she is doing anything wrong. This is a short guide that will be universal to many social dance environments.

First is the actual dancing. It is expected that people stay moving in the line of dance (everyone travels around the floor counterclockwise). This means two things. First, do not go against the line of dance. It interrupts the flow of traffic and causes many problems. Just think about what would happen if someone drove their car the wrong direction on the road! The second point is this.  If a dance where most couples would be moving around the floor is playing (for example, waltz), and you decide to stay stationary or "on the spot," move to the middle of the floor and let the traffic travel around you. Likewise, if you are dancing and for some reason need to stop, it is best to clear to the side of the floor (like a disabled vehicle pulls over to the side).

Next is social interactions. If you would like to ask someone to dance, ask. A male may ask a female, but it is perfectly ok for a female to ask as well. Most people are very gracious about dancing with people they don't even know regardless of level (but please, introduce yourselves by the end of the dance. I make it a rule that if you dance with someone you should know their name by the time you finish dancing together).  It's a great way to meet new people at socials. Please do not physically grab or demand that someone dance with you, just ask politely. It is also generally accepted that people do not usually dance multiple dances in a row at a ballroom social (this is not a steadfast rule and certain other types of dancing, such as argentine tango, have different expectations).

More advanced dancers who are moving more quickly are expected to use floorcraft to avoid beginner dancers. Beginners are not responsible for "dodging" advanced dancers coming at them. In general, I like to use the rule that if you are standing in a spot, you own that piece of floor and no one can take it from you. Of course, collisions do happen (usually by accident). Make sure no one is hurt, apologize and move on. No use in making a little bump ruin your whole evening!

Of course these are guidelines and nobody expects everybody to be perfect. I am providing information you might not have already had. And the most important thing at social dances: have fun and share your joy! Let those you dance with know you enjoyed dancing with them. A little heartfelt compliment will go a long way and you will enjoy many dances to come!

~Jennifer

Jeff's Note:

Here is something I see all of the time so I wanted to add it to the conversation.  As soon as some dancers get a little knowledge, they get passionate and start feeling like they need to "teach" everyone they are dancing with (spouse or other) how to dance "correctly".  Honestly, teaching takes place best in classes or lessons.  In a social setting, it at minimum reduces the experience of the person dancing with you and at worst case makes them not want to dance with you again at all.  Your goal should be to make the other person feel like they are doing everything right so they forget about the details of the dancing and just enjoy dancing with you.  Unrequested correcting, fixing or suggesting changes to your partner's dancing takes them out of that special place by making them feel unsafe.  If the other person makes a "mistake", the only thing the leader should do is alter what they are doing so their partner doesn't notice anything happened. 

 

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