Dance Etiquette

Hints and Tips

On the Dance Floor

Personal Hygiene

Good hygiene before and during the dance party shows respect and consideration for the other dancers.

  • Take a shower and brush your teeth before going to a dance.
  • Avoid eating foods that have onions or garlic and spicy foods before a dance or lesson. On Prom Night, breath mints and mouthwash are available in the restrooms.
  • Wear antiperspirant deodorant. If you do perspire a lot while dancing, it is a good idea to bring a hand towel with you so you can wipe off the perspiration in between dances. It is not fun to dance with a dripping partner. Some dancers usually bring an extra shirt or two with them and change throughout the night. Cotton shirts absorb perspiration well, plus have the added benefit of cooling you! Antiperspirant deodorant is available in the restrooms on Prom Night.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Dancing can cause dehydration, which causes dry mouth and this can result in bad breath. Before and during dinner on Prom Night, water is available at your table. After dinner, water stations will be set up around the perimeter of the ballroom.
Comfort and Safety

Your outfit and accessories should be comfortable, safe, and easy to dance in.

  • Take sharp keys out of your pockets. Gentlemen: if you have no place to leave your keys and loose change, carry them in the left pocket of your trousers. This makes it less likely to bruise your partner. Ladies, use your right pocket.
  • Do not to wear any sharp or protruding rings, long necklaces, bracelets or hair decorations, or take them off before you hit the dance floor. Less is always better when it comes to jewelery.
  • Remove watches, brooches and big belt buckles as they can be hazardous on the dance floor. They can catch in partner's clothing, scratch and bruise.
  • Stiletto heels are sharp enough to pierce a foot. Wear your dance shoes as these don't damage the floor.
Asking for a Dance

"May I have this dance?" "Would you like to dance?"

  • It is believed that traditionally the man is expected to ask the women to dance. This is merely derived from observation rather than by knowing the rules on the subject.
  • When asking for a dance do not ask from a distance as it can make for an awkward moment if a number of people think they have been asked to dance, and you have to tell them that they were not.
  • Make eye contact when asking for a dance. If your partner says yes, smile, offer your hand, and escort him or her onto the dance floor and into dance position.
  • If someone is sitting closely with their significant other, talking quietly to each other, then it is probably not a good time to ask him/her for a dance.
  • If someone appears to be in a normal conversation with another, approach, standing close and interested. When your intended partner makes eye contact, smile and ask "Dance?"
  • If two men ask the same lady to dance at the same moment, neither man should stand down, the lady must choose one or the other. It is often most appropriate to offer the next dance to the man who was turned down. The same applies when the genders are reversed.
Accepting a Dance

"Yes, thank you, I'd love to dance."

  • When someone asks you to dance, your response should nearly always be, "Yes, thank you, I'd love to." It is never acceptable to say "no" to one person and then "yes" to another, "better" dancer on the same dance. Few experiences are more demoralizing to the rejected partner, and your three minutes of fun are not worth ruining someone else's entire evening.
When and How to Decline a Dance

Dance etiquette requires that one should avoid declining a dance unless you absolutely have to. However, a social dance is not an endurance marathon where you must dance until you drop.

  • You can decline a dance if you need to take a rest. You must be consistent, if you tell one person you are too tired to dance, you should not then dance with another.
  • You can also decline a dance if you have promised the dance to someone else.
  • When declining a dance, one should ask for a later dance instead: "No, thank you, I'm taking a break. Would you like to do another dance later?"
  • Being declined can be difficult, especially for beginners and shy individuals, who may be discouraged from social dancing.
  • Etiquette allows an out from the rules so that one does not become oppressed by the inconsiderate. If such a situation arises one is allowed to say: "No, thank you." without further explanation.
Being Declined

When turned down, one should at first take it at face-value. When a dance can last for hours, there are not many people who can keep dancing non-stop and therefore will need to take a break from time to time.

Increasing Your Chances of Being Asked for a Dance

The most effective way of becoming popular in the dancing circles is to be a good dancer so practice to improve your dancing. You don't need to know hundreds of moves but must have a good lead/follow.

  • Dancers are more likely to ask those they see dancing on the floor. Do your best to get in the first few dances once you arrive at a dance event; it gets easier afterwards.
  • Dancers look for dancers: At a dance event where people don't know each other, you will see experienced dancers scan the crowd, not looking at faces, but looking at the feet! Making an investment in a pair of dance shoes is a sign of enthusiasm for dancing. Dancers know that, so wearing dance shoes will increase your chances of getting asked to dance.
  • Dancers seek those who say "yes". Being turned down for a dance is never fun. If you decline dances, or if you look hard to please, your chances of being asked to dance will be reduced.
  • Stand close to the edge of the dance floor. Watch the dancers on the floor; tap your foot to the music. Smile. Dancers will be attracted to you if they feel you want to dance.
  • A great way to increase one's circle of dance acquaintances is to ask beginners to dance - today's beginners will be the good dancers of tomorrow, so be nice to them and dance with them.
On the Dance Floor

Modern jive freestyle dances are one of life's rare opportunities for pure fun but this fun can easily be ruined by a snobbish attitude and lack of consideration for your fellow dancers. Freestyle dancing is an activity that enables us to share with another person our love for music and dancing - it is not a competition where one has to win or lose.

  • The floor is for dancing. When not dancing, stand clear of the dance floor! If you want to get to the opposite side of the dance floor walk around the edge, not through the dancers.
  • Be considerate of other couples on the floor. If you step on someone's toes, stop and say, "Excuse me" even when it may not be your fault.
  • If the dance floor is very crowded, dance in the space that you have. Avoid Charleston's and kicking steps and don't travel from area to area.
  • During the dance, be sure to be aware of your partner. Smile and make eye contact.
  • You are here not only to have a good time yourself, but also to make your partner comfortable, dancing at a level that is enjoyable for both, and maintaining a good sense of humour if something goes wrong.
  • Don't do moves that you know your partner cannot do.
  • Never blame your partner for mistakes.
  • No unsolicited teaching on the floor. Teaching your partner while dancing, even if you are a professional, is not accepted, so don't do it. However, there are appropriate times when a simple word or two could help, like: "You need to hold on to me" before a drop.
  • Unless someone specifically asks you to make a correction, you should never volunteer criticisms of your dance partner's technique. A dance party is an evening of fun and relaxation. Your dance partner is doing the best that he or she can.
  • Apologize if you feel it is necessary, but do not overdo it.
  • If you are practicing moves, do it off to the side and not on the main dance floor. When you're practicing, it's more difficult to watch out for those around you and being away from the crowd, you'll be able to concentrate better on what you're practicing.
  • Protect your partner. Anticipate the movement of other dancers, and match your figures to empty spaces on the floor, so that you do not run into other couples. If there is imminent danger of collision, pull your partner close and turn, so that you absorb the blow. The follower can also protect her partner by keeping an eye out behind his back. If a couple is approaching from his blind spot, a small pressure on his shoulder or hand will warn him of possible collision.
At the End of the Dance

"Thank You"

  • After the dance is finished and before parting, always say thank you to your partner.
  • When thanked, don't reply, "You are welcome." The proper response to "Thank you." is "Thank you." The thanks are due to politeness not to a favour.
  • If you enjoyed the dance, let your partner know. Compliment your partner on her/his dancing. Be generous, even if he/she is not the greatest of dancers. Be specific about it if you can: "I really enjoyed that double reverse spin. You led/followed that beautifully!"
  • Generally if you did the asking (male or female) you should escort you partner off the floor. It is not necessary to walk them all the way back to their seats, unless you interrupted a conversation or they were with a date or you both are sitting in the same area, etc. You should never just turn your back and walk away.
When Leaving

Don't just disappear, say good-bye to people you met and danced with and thank them for the dances. This will help them remember you the next time they see you. They may even invite you to join them at another dance class / evening dance. If you liked the music tell the DJ. If you enjoyed the lesson tell the dance teacher.

Used by permission. Jive Hive