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Dance Etiquette

The Tradition of Dance Etiquette

It might seem stiff and archaic, but there is a proper way to act in all situations and so we will go over “The Rules”: written and unwritten (until now).

Rule #1: Have Fun. This includes you and your dance partner. Our first dance instructor said, “If you’re not having fun, get off the floor to make room for those who are.” When you are dancing with your partner, whether they are your spouse, significant other, friend, or someone you just met, if they are not smiling and enjoying themselves then find a remedy or ease off the floor. There is no use being miserable. Dance is meant to be enjoyable.
Rule #2: Everyone starts at “Square One.” When you are dancing with someone and his or her skills are lacking, you must remember that we all started out on “square-one.” There are no natural dancers, no one has natural rhythm, and no one has natural grace. There are only people with different learning curves. My experience as a student and teacher has taught me that some moves come easier than others. The differences between then and now are practice and experience.
Rule #3: Finish the dance. The next rule is finish the dance. There are very few exceptions to this rule. Your partner’s lack of skill is not one of them. We all have bad days and we all have good days. Just because your partner is not dancing up to your expectations does not make them a bad dancer.


Gentleman’s Etiquette

We refer to the men as gentlemen because that is the way men should act. No matter what, it is a privilege for men to have someone to dance with; after all a woman always has the option to say “no.”

First, a gentlemen should ask the lady to dance. In these modern times the lady may ask you, but do not expect to be asked. A lady will appreciate you if you are the one doing the asking. When you ask a lady for a dance, if she is accompanied, ask her escort if they mind you asking.

As you request a dance tell her what style of dance you are planning on doing. For instance, “This is Swing, would you care to join me?” or “Would you like to Waltz?” Most of all, do not be upset if she declines your offer.

When going to a dance, dress appropriately. This means no blue jeans (they will constrict your movement), no tennis shoes (they will cause too much friction with the floor), no T-shirts (you might as well wear a stop sign), and no baseball caps. Also, before you go, take a shower and use mouthwash. Dancing involves activity; if you already smell bad it will get worse quickly. As for the mouthwash, well that is just common sense. If you smell, no one will want to be in close proximity with you and you cause the dance to be uncomfortable for your partner.

As you dance with the lady be aware of her abilities. If she appears less experienced, take it easy on her. She will feel like she is disappointing you if you consistently lead her into moves with which she is unfamiliar. If she appears more experienced than you, do your best to give her a fun time. Do not feel inadequate if she knows more than you; ladies are not always expecting Fred Astaire.

Gentlemen, when you are dancing in frame, watch out for your wandering right hand. A good dance instructor would have taught you to keep your hands in the proper areas. If you do not know the lady you are with, keep your right hand north of the equator, meaning above the waist. Do not cause the lady to be uncomfortable; you may scare her from the dance floor permanently. If you dance with someone you know, then still be respectful. If you are intimate with her, then be respectful of others. The only exception may be in Latin dancing where you may place your right hand on the hips of your dance partner, with their permission, for a moment that causes an over accentuation of Cuban motion.

Keep your distance. In a social dance there should be a distance equal to the width of the man’s fist between the dancers’ abdomens. My dance instructor told me that he knew people who were married for decades who would not even dance that close, so do not push it.

The most important thing to remember is, Get over your ego! If a woman says no to a dance, it is not your place to ask why. The answer is no. If she is awkward to your lead and you do not “look good,” it is your fault for not giving a proper lead based on her abilities. If some couple on the floor looks better then you, then “so what.” Get over yourself before no one wants to dance with you or even be around you.


Lady’s Etiquette

If the men are gentlemen, then the women are ladies. What “being a lady” means has just about gone out the window with the term, “being a gentleman.” In couples dancing, ballroom, etc. this means that you should drink alcohol in moderation, avoid cursing out your partner or another person/couple and refrain from hopping around on the dance floor while other people are trying to dance.
The benefit to being a lady is that the dance is about and for you. The gentleman is supposed to make the dance adventurous and delightful. His mission is to “show you off.” Your mission, as the lady, is to allow him to lead you through the journey.
Traditionally the gentleman is supposed to ask the lady for a dance. In this modern age it is acceptable for the lady to ask the gentleman, but do not make a habit of it. It is primarily the man’s job. A lady should be upset if she is not asked all of the time. It is not because no one wants to dance with you. There could be many reasons, from shyness to a jealous dance partner. Likewise, you are not obligated to say yes.
During the dance, give the gentleman an even break. If you are not as experienced as him, tell him; a good partner will adjust. If you are more experienced than him, allow him to do his best. Most important of all, do not stop during the dance to correct him, unless he asks. They are not all trying to impress you. When in frame, give the gentleman good tension with your arms and torso. Also, if he isn’t allowed to grab your butt, you can’t grab his.

Be aware that no dance is perfect. If you or he missteps, so what, keep going. All that is expected from you is to do your best and have fun. If he leads you out and you break into an improvised solo, it’s okay. Keep in mind though, that if you keep doing solo pieces in the dace you may be bruising his ego and the chance of another dance.

I advised the gentlemen about what not to wear and so I’ll tell you. It is not recommended to wear running/gym shoes; the grip on the floor is too great and may cause torque injuries to your foot and ankle. Avoid wearing blue jeans; they are very constrictive and the heavy fabric will cause you to perspire. Skirts and dresses will make you look elegant and add flair to your dance. Be aware of loose shirt buttons, loose bras, and deep cleavage dresses, unless you desire a wardrobe malfunction. Make up is up to your preference, but leave the wild makeup for another time.

Being a lady is an image that commands admiration and respect from the gentleman and subtle emulation from other ladies. If you desire this then you have to become the embodiment of a lady and the rest will follow.

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