All social activities have rules of etiquette and social dancing is no different. There are general rules of etiquette that apply to all forms of dancingsmooth, Latin, Texas Two-step, even disco line dance. Knowing these rules will make the dance floor experience enjoyable for everyone.
Before the Dance
There is no delicate way to put this: Please practice good hygiene. Offensive body odors and bad breath are frowned upon on the dance floor. Many dance aficionados will go so far as to avoid eating certain strong foods on the days they are planning to dance. At the very least, a good shower, deodorant, and a swig of mouthwash will ensure that you dance the night away without offending your partner.
Clothing will vary by the type of event formal, semi-formal, dressy casual, even shorts but can also vary by the type of dance. You may choose to wear western wear for country line dancing, or dark themed clothing for Tango. This is not required but if you are a novice it is great way to get accepted into a new dance community. There are a few general rules that apply to all dances:
Avoid big accessories that can get caught in your partners clothing or, worse, scratch or bruise someone.
It is advisable to avoid tennis shoes or any rubber soled, spongy type shoe. These shoes tend to stick to the floor (as they are intended to); if you are executing spins and turns, you can injure an ankle or knee.
Remember that dancing will require a partner. It is not pleasant to touch someones damp, sticky skin so avoid sleeveless shirts and dresses.
Women with long hair should consider wearing it up or in a ponytail to avoid hitting a partner in the face during a spin or having your partners hand get caught in it.
Men should carry keys and loose change in their left pants pocket making it less likely to bruise their partner.
At the Dance
Before you hit the dance floor, you will need a partner. It is considered rude to dance with the same partner all night, even if it happens to be your spouse! If you came with a partner it is generally accepted that they shall have the first and last dance. It is also considered rude to dance more than two songs in a row with the same person.
When asking someone to dance, you should do so politely and accept a refusal just as politely. These days it is acceptable for men and women to ask someone to dance. If you are on the receiving end of an invitation, remember that it is rude to turn down a dance with someone and then accept an invitation from another partner during the same song.
Once a song is over, men should escort women back to their seats or to wherever they were standing prior to the dance. If someone has just finished dancing, wait until they are completely off the dance floor before inviting them back out again. Do not pounce on someone as they are leaving the dance floor.
Do not block access to the dance floor by standing and talking or moving chairs into pathways. Dance spaces are usually crowded so be considerate of others space.
Social dances are categorized into two types progressive and spot dances. Progressive dances travel the floor like the Polka, Foxtrot, and Waltz. Spot dances are typically danced in one spot and include Salsa, Rumba and East Coast Swing. Dancers move counterclockwise around the floor in progressive dances. This is known as the line of dance and is like an imaginary circle going counterclockwise. In addition to the line of dance there are two lanes, the outside or fast lane and the inside or slow lane. Dances such as the Tango, Waltz, and Foxtrot are danced in the two outer lanes. Spot dances such as the Cha Cha, Swing or slow dancing are danced in the inside lanes.
Newbie dancers should move toward the center or outer edges, depending on the style of dance. While newbies should concede more space to more experienced dancers, it is equally rude for experienced dancers to hog floor space with fancy moves which force other dancers out of the way.
By following these simple rules of dance etiquette, you are sure to have a great time dancing the night away!
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