Dance Etiquette Tips
Many people wonder about such things as hygiene, correcting one's partner, arriving late, class-level and rotating partners in class. These tips are designed to help you learn by knowing the "right" thing to do and maximize your time on the dance floor.
These tips allow for a social environment that is meant for the benefit of all students (not just the individual).
1) Ask people's name.
It's much easier to ask someone to dance if you actually know their name (duh!!).
2) Deodorant & Mouthwash
You'd be surprised to know that the #1 reason why people don't want to dance with other people is because of the way they smell. If someone offers you a mint or a piece of gum, take it, or at least assume that they're trying to tell you something. It's better to be safe than sorry. Allergic to perfumes and colognes? Partner dancing is going to be tough...consult your physician.
3) Correcting your partner
I hear about this allllll the time. It's simple, don't correct your partner. If your partner wants your advice, they'll ask you for it. Don't assume that they want to learn from you...especially during the middle of a dance. If you want to let someone know the secret of that special move you know, ASK them if they'd like you to show it to them AFTER the dance.
4) How long do I have to dance with him/her?
Realistically, you only have to bear with each other for about 4 minutes (avg. length of a song). If you mutually enjoyed the dance, you can do another but it's safe to walk away after one ride. If you're new or shy, you can always ask someone to dance the final 2/3 of a song by saying "would you like to finish this song?". Since you're only dancing for one song....trying smiling...it makes it more enjoyable for both people. Both people should say thank you at the end of the ride...whether you liked it or not.
5 ) Declining a Dance
This is tough!! Eye contact is 90% of the game. Avoiding eye contact is a polite way of avoiding being asked. Polite excuses (bathroom, tired, thirsty etc) usually works too. But since it's a social environment, try to ask the person who you formerly declined; it's good for Karma. If you find yourself being declined a lot, try engaging in small conversation before asking someone to dance. See advice #1-3 above.
If somebody asks you to dance and you decline the dance, and somebody else asks you to do the same dance, that person should be turned down as well, unless you had that dance "reserved" in addition. This can also come in handy if you want to decline somebody else. You can always say "I'm sorry, I just turned somebody else down".
6) How to ask for a dance
You've learned all the steps but you can't get on the floor without asking someone to dance. Summon up up your courage and learn these simple words, "Would you like to dance? or May I have this dance? or May I have the pleasure?" Men - Step up to the plate and ask others to dance...it's very flattering. Women - Don't think that it's the man's job to be the only one to ask...if you want to dance, learn how to ask too. It's goes both ways! (refer back to tip #1 and #2 as easy ways to feel more comfortable approaching other people).
If someone bumps into you, a wink or acknowledgement or a simple "Sorry" is all that is needed. It does not matter who is in the wrong.
8) Dance Class Level:
A beginner should obviously take a beginner lesson. However many times an intermediate/advanced dancer of another dance may want to jump into the intermediate/advanced class of another dance. This is a mistake. All dances are different, with different names of steps and different lead-follow concepts. Hustle is different from West Coast Swing, which is different from Lindy Hop, which is different from Ballet. If you are new to a dance (even if you are a champion dancer in a another form), please start from the beginning.· Chances are, if you start from the beginning you will progress more quickly.
It is also polite to take the beginner class if you're taking a class with an instructor with whom you are unfamiliar. If you are truly an intermediate dancer, the beginner class gives you an opportunity to work on some basics which might be particular to the instructor. It also gives you the opportunity to work on your form. If you're truly an intermediate dancer, the instructor will notice your fluidity of movement and understanding of the dance.
How do you know if you're ready to move on to the next level? Generally, you should have an understanding of the names of the movements, are able to lead/follow the basic elements and you know how many counts for the respective steps....then you can begin to move on...provided that you aren't holding up the majority of the class. If you happen to be asked not to participate or to "just watch"...don't feel bad. It's not personal (you're not bad and it isn't the teacher trying to make you feel inferior). An instructor is responsible for the safety and effective learning of the entire class. Sometimes it's best to have someone watch instead of participate because it might risk other students' learning experience. A student shows disrespect to other dancers, the teacher and him/herself when trying to jump into a level that is beyond their current ability. Don't lose heart, in due time (everyone is different), most students progress naturally into the intermediate and advanced classes.
9) Late to Class:
If you're late to class...think of it as being late to a business meeting. First, ask permission of the instructor if you can join in late. Just because you flew in from Rome, got stuck in traffic and had to look for parking does not entitle you to be admitted to class. An instructor needs to guide a class with uniformity and continuity. Being late interrupts the flow of class especially since the latecomer has already missed critical material previously taught prior to his/her arrival. If you are allowed to jump into class, be extra attentive...you have just become the weakest link and you're expected to catch up fast.
(As with tip #8) If you happen to be asked not to participate or to "just watch"...don't feel bad. It's not personal (you're not bad and it isn't the teacher trying to make you feel inferior). An instructor is responsible for the safety and effective learning of the entire class. Sometimes it's best to have someone watch instead of participate because it might risk the class' learning experience. A student shows disrespect to other dancers, the teacher and him/herself when arriving late to class and taking it upon him/herself to just trying to jump in. Remember, always check with the instructor.
10) Rotating partners in group class
Do I have to rotate partners? Since partners are not required, attendees are rotated so that everyone gets to enjoy the learning process (which is customary in the learning process of social and partner dances). Many people are nervous about rotating because it means interaction with new people but changing partners can be one of the most beneficial aspects of a group class. By having many partners, one can figure out different nuances required for leading anyone (which is essential in partner dancing). Additionally, by not rotating, you add to the confusion of others who are rotating, which can make conducting the class for difficult for the instructor (always a bad idea).
Do I have to rotate if I brought my own partner? Many people feel that if they come with their own partner that they should not have to rotate. This can be very detrimental to the learning experience. Generally, most partners are approximately equal in ability, this can make the learning process longer. Sometimes the partnership has high emotional stakes (spouse, boy/girl friend). There can be great frustration and friction trying to learn something together, especially since newcomers either get embarrassed at their own ability or blame the other person for their lack of understanding. In short - you have to rotate if the instructor requests it...you'll get a chance to dance with your partner permanently during the party. Or better yet, take a private lesson.
11) Dress Attire
I know this might come as a surprise: guys should generally not wear shorts for social dancing (either the class or the party). Leave the tank top at home or at least wear it as an undergarment, but don't think that your partner wants to lather up in your sweat (see #13). Women - if you're going to wear a dress (long or short), please wear dance-shorts underneath. You'd be amazed how much you show when you are given a double turn...and even though the guys might appreciate your gratuitous exposure, other people might remember you for something which you might want to forget.
Bring different types of shoes for your day/night of dancing. Since floors can have a wide range of speeds, bring different footwear to accommodate this issue. Guys - Please DO NOT wear tevas, flip-flops (unless you've won the US Open), or Birkenstocks...it simply looks horrible and it's insulting to your female partner who might have spent hours making her feet look appropriate for open toed high heels.
13 ) Warming Up
After signing in, changing your shoes and ordering your favorite drink, please warm up. Even if you are taking a beginner class, your body will be challenged in movement. There are good chances that your day at work, at home, or in the car has not prepared your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back for movement.· Most importantly, injuries suck! Spraining a body-part due to lack of a simple warm up can prevent you from having fun for a couple of weeks. If you need some warm up ideas, please ask your instructor.
It's true...we all sweat. Some sweat more than others. Nothing is a bigger turn off than dancing with someone who is wet and slippery. I've seen people turn down their best friends because they didn't want to go for a "swim". There are 2 major suggestions that usually make all these types of problems subside:
#1 - Bring a small towel to the dances. You can either use the towel to dry off or to wash up in the bathroom (splash cool water on your face and wrists to fool your body that's it's cooler than it really is).
#2 - Bring a change of shirt. I know a lot of dancers who carry 2 or 3 shirts with them so that they can always feel dry and look cool.· And here's my own wacky tip: try an undershirt. Although it might seem that the extra layer would make you warmer, the undershirt tends to absorb moisture before the outer layer. Of course, you'll have to refer to Tip #2 if you soak through your outer layer.
15) Coughing and Sneezing
Coughing or sneezing into one's own hands can seem polite, but it's almost the worst thing you can do. Partner dancing has a lot of hand-to-hand contact which makes anything on your hands transmissible. If you have to cough or sneeze in class or in a social setting, do so into your elbow. If anything happens near your hands, please go and wash them thoroughly. Ask for some antibacterial hand sanitizer if a sink is not close.
I recently had a student to was constantly coughing into his hand, then he extended that hand for a handshake, I shook his hand then ran to the bathroom to wash my hands. Moments later, he coughed and covered again...then re-shook my hand as he left. I had to wash my hands again.
16) Saying "Hello" to the Host
Some people attend local dances and do not say "hello" to the host. This can easily be considered rude or an offence to the host. Please remember that the host has gone to great lengths to create a fun and social environment. The host may be busy during your immediate moment of entry and you should make every effort to exchange pleasantries.
Please see a full commentary about Saying "Hello" to the Host
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