A Lesson In Ballroom Dance Etiquette

Dance instructors have been teaching the world to dance for over 90 years; but what is also taught and often overlooked is the social skills and etiquette that accompany dancing.

Outlined in this article are some common dos and do nots of which you might or might not be aware.  It is our sincere hope that you will find this information beneficial and helpful.

ON THE FLOOR

 1. Both ladies and gentlemen should ask their partners to dance in a polite manner.  (ie. "May I have this dance?" or "Shall we dance?")  Doing the 100 meter dash to get a "choice" partner would not be considered proper.

2. Being declined is always unpleasant and one should avoid declining a dance under most circumstances. If you do decline due to reasons such as not knowing the dance, or taking a rest, accepting a dance from someone else is considered to be improper.

3. Gentlemen, escort your partner off the floor or until either of you are intercepted.

4. Both the lady and the gentleman should thank their partner.

5. Smile. Be warm, personable, and nice.  If you are a perfectionist in your dancing, leave it behind.  Aim to be playful and lighthearted, and focus on your partner instead of yourself. This will ensure that people will want to dance with you again.

6. Never criticize or blame your partner for mistakes. (This includes a spouse or significant other.) Gentlemen, avoid questions such as "Don't you know this pattern?" as this type of question also assigns blame.

7. Never correct or teach other dancers (even if it is solicited).  Leave it to the professionals.  This way, the correct information is sure to be delivered with no chance of you being the cause of hurt feelings, or injured pride.  Simply refer the dancer to their teacher for the additional information.

8. Both the lead and the follow should be aware of who is around them (including what is happening behind you.) at all times, and should assist in preventing collisions.  Ladies, preventing your partner from a collision is not considered leading.

9. If you do step on (or bump into) anyone, apologize to all partners involved immediately, and ensure that everyone is okay.

10. Observe the line of dance.  In traveling dances such as waltz, tango, foxtrot, samba, Viennese waltz, and quickstep, traffic should always move counterclockwise on the floor. Faster, more experienced dancers should be in the outermost lane, intermediate dancers in the middle lane and inexperienced dancers in the centre of the ballroom.

11. Gentlemen should never exercise forceful leads to achieve a pattern.  Pushing and pulling a lady into position will never feel comfortable. A good dancer will show sensitivity and only lead what is appropriate to his partner's current level of skill.

12. When a woman accepts a dance, she is agreeing to let the man lead.  While this does not imply that she needs to have mastered the skill of following, it does mean that she should not try to lead the man and in turn reject his contribution to the partnership.  This applies to choice of dance and timing as well as patterns.

13. Although this may have been considered charming in years past, kissing a lady's hand or any other part of her body without an invitation to do so can very easily be considered a serious invasion of one's personal space and even sexual harassment.  Accepting or asking for a dance does not necessarily imply personal interest even if the dance is a passionate or provocative one by nature.  Both the lady and the gentlemen should consider each dance much like a brief conversation at a party where they will then move to the next chat.

14. When attending a group class, show consideration for both the teacher and other students by not interrupting and by adhering to the material assigned.  Remember that some students are learning the material for the first time and will appreciate having the opportunity to practice.

15. Avoid foul language or humour that is in poor taste.

16. Avoid talking during spotlights.

17. When practicing in the ballroom (which is highly encouraged), be considerate of the lessons in progress.  Private lessons should never be interrupted unless it is a matter of utmost importance.

18. When at the front desk, be considerate of other students who have been waiting prior to you and avoid interrupting their bookings.  Assume everyone's time is as valuable as yours.

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