CLINTONS NOTES ON SOCIAL DANCE ETIQUETTE:
Each dance culture is different. Most ask you not take food or drinks onto the dance floor.
In ballrooms it is expected you wear proper suede bottomed dance shoes, sometimes heel protectors, in order to protect the sprung dance floor. It is also considered bad etiquette to teach on the dance floor or stand talking on the dance floor, which moves counter clockwise.
If you are doing a stationary dance, such as swing, to a moving dance such as quickstep, then you should dance in the center of the floor and allow moving dancers to continue unimpeded around the outside of the dance floor.
This is what I was taught when I started salsa
THE GOLDEN RULE – NEVER TURN DOWN A DANCE!
What makes Salsa
, Swing and Argentine Tango social dancing so much fun is you don’t need to go with a partner. Everyone dances with everyone. I was taught never to say no to a dance invitation with someone I don’t know.
This saves ladies from sitting all night. Ladies it is perfectly acceptable to ask a guy to dance… So everyone gets the chance to dance. If the fella says no, ask someone else. Keep asking, there’s a lot of gents out there who will happily dance with you.
The MANNER OF ASKING A LADY (AND DECLINING AN INVITATION)
You can ask a lady to dance in several ways. I usually will make eye contact, if I catch the ladies eye and she deliberately looks away from me, nuff said! I’ll move on. If the lady holds my eye, I come within a respectful distance extend my hand and say would you like to dance? Usually the gesture alone, extending my hand in an invitation to lead the lady onto the Dance Floor, is enough and she will accept or decline. I usually lead a lady on to the dance floor by the hand, it’s our responsibility to make sure she’s safe, so pick an open space, carefully lead her to it and then integrate into the crowd and stake your territory.(slot).
Ladies, if you decline, I suggest a polite but firm NO THANK YOU or Shake of the head , an acknowledgement of the ask and disengagement by looking away.
Gentlemen, it’s just a couple of minutes out of your life and an opportunity to make someone’s night, encourage a beginner or make a new friend. That being said, it’s also good etiquette to ask someone near your own level. Slightly better is fine, we all want to learn: but if you’re a beginner, probably not a good idea to ask the best dancers on the floor just yet.
BTW its ok to say no, too. But this idea of inclusivity encourages all to dance and is a foundation to social 0partner dancing.
Argentine tango has it’s own highly ritualized etiquette around asking for and agreeing to a dance. Which you’ll learn very quickly at your first Argentine Tango Milonga. By the way if someone wants to write the AT Etiquette I’d be happy to include it.
Hone your skills and work your way through the levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced. Suggest you stay within your level.
Gentlemen; it’s courteous and magnanimous to accept an invitation from a lady. Once. The rest is your choice. If the same beginner asks me a second time I usually say no, to dissuade them from asking me every other dance.
NO JEWELRY Sharp rings and bracelets can cut and scar. Latin dances are often fast with quick arm movements. You can tell advanced dancers because they’re the ones with no jewelry (they’re rigged to fly LOL!).
NO HANDBAGS Beginners: don’t try to dance with something in your hands! Focus, grasshopper! If you’re worried about people stealing stuff, don’t bring anything with you that you can’t afford to lose. If you have a bag, put it down and try to keep an eye on it or have your friends do the same.
NO FOOD OR DRINKS ON THE DANCE FLOOR Toronto has many dance floors. There’s nothing worse than someone spilling their beer on the floor and you wiping it off with your new dance shoes. Please respect the floor and keep it safe for other dancers.
KEEP IT SAFE Advanced dancers respect their partner AND OTHER DANCERS and keep them safe from getting hurt. You need to learn how to dance without putting your partner or other dancers at risk. This means keeping it small if the floor is crowded. It means not taking big back steps or swinging your partner out into the path of other dancers.
IF YOU OR YOUR PARTNER STEP ON SOMEONE show some courtesy and take a moment to acknowledge it and apologize…usually eye contact, a nod and rueful smile will show you’re sorry.
DIPPING AND TRICKS Ladies, if you are dipped, know that you’re not supposed to drop your body weight on your partner – you’re supposed to support your full body weight so you keep yourself safe at all times. Gents: don’t dip or do a trick with someone you don’t know without asking them first. Some have neck or back or shoulder problems and don’t want to get hurt.
DON’T BE RUDE! If you just turned someone down, it’s rude to get up and dance immediately with someone else. Don’t keep stepping on someone. If you do, it’s your fault. Go find somewhere with more space or take smaller steps. One good rule of thumb is: the faster the dance, the smaller the steps.
KEEP YOUR PARTNER IN MIND – I sweat a lot, so I take a towel and extra shirts. My record is 6 shirts in one night. While it’s not mandatory, it is polite not to soak someone while you dance with them…
Same with dancing at your partners level. I must confess sometimes I get in my head and run through different patterns to practice them or so I don’t forget them, GUILTY. It can be perceived as rude.
If you have additional suggestions, please let me know and I’ll add them.
With love for our wonderful Toronto Dance Communities