Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ballroom Dancing Etiquette


by: Meg Sommers

Ballroom dancing is an art and it is also a form of socialization that has its own etiquette. Here are some really helpful basic tips that every novice ballroom dancer should take to heart. Even when they are not followed rigorously, awareness of these rules really helps improve everyone's dance experience:

Like other types of exercises or sports, selecting the right clothes is essential. If you're new to a dance studio, try to take note of the dancers' fashion sense and find clothes that are comfortable yet appropriate with the studio's culture. You don't want to look out of place with your fellow dancers. Keep in mind that your clothes shouldn't get in the way of you and your partner when dancing. Wearing clothes in layers can help you avoid wardrobe malfunction and embarrassment.

For everyone's safety and especially yours, wear dance shoes that allow you to move comfortably on the dance floor. Shoes with rubber soles such as sneakers can stick to the floor during turns and spins and this can lead to injuries. Shoes with leather soles are most suited for dancing. If you dance regularly, really consider investing in quality shoes designed for ballroom dancing.

Do pay attention to your personal hygiene as ballroom dancing is a partnership sport! In addition, there's a high chance of dancing with several partners. So take time to refresh yourself during breaks and wash your hands after using the rest room. Avoid eating pungent foods a few hours prior to the dance session, bring breath mints, and brush your teeth. Do not use too much fragrance as this can be irritating for some people, and if you tend to sweat a lot, consider bringing extra clothes.

The dance floor also needs proper care and maintenance. Do not bring food and drinks onto the dance floor as these can spill and cause potential injuries. Be careful of the accessories that you wear and choose items that don't fall off.

Whether you are having a lesson, participating in a dance practice party, competition or social event, you're going to share the dance floor with different people of different age groups, backgrounds, and ethnicity. This makes it very likely that you will encounter dancers who have cultural behaviors that are entirely different from yours. For example, it's possible that a shy person can be mistaken as being cold or unfriendly. So be sensitive to the attitudes and cultures of others.

While traditionally, men are supposed to ask the women out to dance, nowadays it is OK if done otherwise. Be polite when asking people to dance even when you're very familiar with them. Nodding towards them, snapping fingers, and waving towards the dance floor are inappropriate gestures when asking people to dance. Instead, you should walk up to them, make direct eye contact, reach out your hand, and ask them politely.

It is usually polite to simply accept an offer to dance. In some cases, it is OK to decline a request politely for some valid reason (e.g. that person has hurt you in the past). In this case, it is better not to dance that particular dance with anyone else.

The line of dance is the direction that dancers should follow and this is counter-clockwise. Dancers should have have at least a basic knowledge of where they should be on the dance floor. The dance for is divided roughly into three lanes:

Outer/Fast Lane:

Progressive dances such as the Fox Trot, Polka, Tango and Waltz should be done outside the floor.

Inner/Slower Lane:

This is for the slower dancers. They should let the faster dancers pass on the outside.


Stationary dances such as Cha-Cha, Mambo, Rumba, Salsa, and Swing should be done on the middle of the dance floor. The dancers should endeavor to stay aware and out of the path of those in the outer lanes.

Couples just coming onto the dance floor should give way to those who are already dancing, and men should take extra care of their partners and be prepared for urgent moves to evade a collision. The ladies should also look past their partners' shoulders to prevent up coming collisions.

Dancing should be more compact when you're on a crowded dance floor. When this is the case, keep your steps small and your elbows to yourself. You need to reduce the size of your turns and of course, as much as possible, try not to bump into other dancers. If you do collide with another person or couple, do not swear or blame them. Smile and apologize sincerely. Be considerate all the time and if you find dancers who aren't, do not pick fights with them. Just move to another section of the dance floor.

Novice dancers should never be ashamed that they are new. Everyone starts out as a novice, even today's experts. And it is definitely more embarrassing if you pretend to be a pro when you are not. Ballroom dancing is a learned activity and even long-time dancers need to brush up on their skills often. Do so with a smile!

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