Those of us that have been in the social dance scene for awhile know our basic social dance etiquette like we know the back of our hand. For some though, dance etiquette doesn’t seem to come as easy, and those lacking these non verbal rules can come off as rude without even meaning to be. These rules encompass almost all the social dances (salsa, bachata, kizomba, west coast swing, cha cha, two step, etc). Here’s a few simple rule and tips to help you understand the best way to approach the social dance floor.
- My personal number one rule, and pet peeve, is no critiquing on the dance floor! We are all always learning, and it is very rude to critique, tell someone they are not doing something right, give funny faces, or try to correct them while social dancing. Even when someone asks me personally to tell them if they do something wrong, I won’t do it because it’s distracting and I’m not in the business of breaking people’s spirits.
- Make sure your outfit is “social dancing” proof. Are your earrings too heavy? Do the buttons on your coat tangle in girl’s hair? Is your skirt/dress too revealing when spinning? Test it out before you head out to dance.
- Wash your hands! Not just when you go to the restroom, but every once in awhile too. Remember that in social dancing, you’re touching someone who has touched 10 other people, who those people have touched 10 other people, and so on.
- Don’t pressure or guilt someone into dancing if they don’t want to.
- Always hold your lady’s hand and walk her on to the dance floor.
- Lead her to a safe and open spot. Don’t have her go first expecting her to pick the spot unless she asks.
- Do basics in the beginning to assess your dance partner’s level and adjust to his/her level.
- Do not try to show off by going crazy on someone who is not comfortable with patterns, you’ll intimidate them and likely make them scared to dance with you again.
- Build up the energy by taking it easy at first, and then really go off once the music starts poppin’.
- Ladies, don’t back lead. We have a certain amount of control over our styling and how we look, but leave the patterns up to the guys.
- Guys, if you’re practicing a new move and it’s not working after two or three attempts, then try again on a different dance partner when you’re done dancing with your current one. It may be that your partner is not quite that level to follow that pattern yet.
- Always smile! Nothing is worse than looking sour while dancing, even if you don’t mean to. I understand it’s hard to smile while thinking really hard about doing the pattern right or making sure you’re following well, but try your best to make a habit of smiling.
- Don’t look too distracted while dancing with your partner. Partner dancing is all about connecting with another person, so when you are (or look) distracted, it takes away from that pleasure.
- At the same time, don’t stare uncomfortably at your partner the entire time. Maintain a good balance of connecting visually.
- Guys, be diligent in taking care of your partner. Guys who throw girls around in turns and cross body leads without looking around first put that girl in danger of getting hit or stepped on. Please, look around, make sure there’s enough room for her to step when you take her there, and be aware of any crazy dancers around you as well.
- Be courteous to others by staying IN YOUR SPACE when the dance floor is very full. It’s very annoying to get hit constantly by the same person or to be pushed into this tiny space on the edge of the floor.
- Ladies, don’t let styling get in the way of following well. Following comes first, styling is secondary. As a tip, you can always move your hips and shake your shoulders at almost any point while dancing without taking away from the lead.
- This goes without saying, but I am going to say it anyway. Do not feel up on your partner if she doesn’t want to be felt up!! Don’t be that guy (or girl, lol) that everyone refers to as “The Perv.”
- You should not be doing any tricks that could put your partner or others around you in danger. Simple dips are usually pretty safe for the social dance floor, but make sure nobody is right above your partner as your bring her up. A long time ago, I personally was hit on the nose so hard with someone’s elbow when my partner lifted me back up from a dip, it almost felt like my nose broke. Safety first!
- If you’re belligerent and drunk, it’s best not to dance with anybody. Trust me, you’ll thank me later for this advice.
- When the dance is over, thank your partner politely for the great dance.
- Please wear deodorant and stay aware of the smell of your breath. When you are breathing through your mouth and/or drinking something other than water, your breath will most certainly begin to go rank. So stay on top of it!
- If you are taking a rest and deny someone a dance, it is considered good manners to find that person later when you are dancing again and make up for the dance.
- Above all, HAVE FUN! It’s not social dancing if it’s not fun, so enjoy it without worry.
Sarah Vazquez is a professional salsa dancer and instructor in Houston, TX and is the Co-Director of Culture Beat Entertainment. She has been dancing salsa since 2005, and has had previous dance training including jazz, hip hop, ballet, and lyrical.