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Dance Etiquette

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Joined: 18 Mar 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:16 pm    Post subject: Dance Etiquette Reply with quote

Hello Salseras/Salseros,

I'll be making a number of posts to the forum regarding a common topic that I found to be of significant importance when I first started dancing: Dance Etiquette.

So you learned your first steps toward becoming a dancer. You're ready to go out and test out your skill on the dance floor. Well, dancing in a social setting and on a dance floor is more than just doing the steps in class - enter the world of dance etiquette. Smile I will be posting tips on a regular basis - hope you enjoy them!

Asking/Being Asked to Dance

If there is someone you want to dance with – ask him/her. I heard that it used to be the custom for the man to ask the woman to dance, but from my experience, anything goes. Smile That’s right ladies – it’s okay for you to ask a guy to dance. Go for it and have fun!

I know it this can be intimidating (especially if you’re a beginner). Ladies – because you’re the follow, the leader should tailor the level of dance to your level (I will talk more about this in a future post). Fellas – women usually don’t mind dancing with beginners - you can go ahead and inform them that you’re a beginner but generally women are normally very good about dancing with beginners.

Here are some points to keep in mind:

Always accept an invitation to dance unless you’re taking a break or you don’t know the dance. If you are sitting out, sit out the entire song. It is bad form to accept a dance from another person after declining an invitation to dance moments before.

If you decline, it is common to provide a reason (i.e. you are resting, you don’t know the dance). If a person has asked you to dance, follow up with that person later on after you have rested or when there is a dance that you do know.

Asking a person to dance is very simple. A simple “Would you like to dance?”, “May I have this dance?”, “Do you salsa?” work well. So does smiling and offering your hand.

If there is a person you want to dance with, ask them directly. Don’t send a friend to ask for you. Don’t ask a person if they know how to dance and then pawn them off to a friend. Be direct. If you want to dance with someone, ask them.

If there is a group of people and you want to dance with one of them, make eye contact and be clear as to whom you are asking to dance. Make your intentions clear. It can be embarrassing for people to think that they were being asked to dance and it turns out they weren’t.

Do not dance with the same people or monopolize dancers at higher levels. Dancing with different people makes you a better dancer. Dancing with people of different levels also helps develop you into a better dancer. People who are at a higher levels generally dance with everyone, including beginners, but they also like dancing with people at their own level as well.

But most importantly, go out, get dancing and have fun!
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice advice Roadee! I actually wrote a whole guide on this too a few years ago. Here it is - hope it helps!

Salsa Dancing Etiquette – A Guide for Salsa Students and Dancers

Salsa clubs have their very own code of ethics and conduct that may sometimes not be apparent for new dancers. To make your dance experience as well as your partners' and the dancers around you more enjoyable, please take note of the following salsa club guidelines and tips.

• Positioning yourself on the dance floor

You have just arrived at the salsa club and are anxious to begin dancing. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the surroundings and the dance scene. Every club is different in terms of where it is appropriate to socialize, stand and dance. The edge of the dance floor is a great place to position yourself when you are ready to begin dancing. Try to refrain from bringing glasses or bottles close to the dance floor as it can be dangerous. Be aware of the dancers and give them enough space to maneuver. Do your best to always navigate yourself around the edge of the dance floor (not through the centre) and take your time to ensure you do not bump into a dancer. There are many instances when a female is being spun and is bumped into by a passing patron/worker/dancer. This can be very dangerous and frustrating. Try not to congregate or socialize in groups around the dance floor. Most clubs have an area around the bar or to the sides for this and it will be less obstructive to the dancers.

• How to ask someone to dance - the male and female perspective

Gentleman, there is a right and a wrong way to ask for a dance. Please be polite. A smile and a general inquiry of "Would you like to dance?" is usually the best method but if you are not comfortable it is also appropriate to offer your hand (with a smile of course) to the lady. Once she accepts, an introduction of yourself will put her more at ease and create a connection.

Ladies, don't feel that you have to wait for the men to ask you to dance. It is quite appropriate for you to do the asking. Remember that most men are very open to dancing. They may just be uncomfortable with doing the asking or afraid of being rejected. They will be relieved to have this task out of the way. If you have a good connection on the dance floor, the chances are great that the man will take over the asking task in the future.

• Turning down a dance

It cannot be stressed enough that rejecting someone's offer to dance can be a very negative experience for that dancer and has even led some to give up dancing. Do your best to accept every offer unless you are uncomfortable with the person. Remember that people have very long memories and one rejection (for whatever innocent reason it may be) may be remembered for a long time. The salsa scene is a small one and people do relay stories about others. Be as gracious as possible. If there is a legitimate reason for the refusal, please specify it (e.g., I have just been dancing up a storm and am taking a break, I promised someone else this dance but maybe we can dance later, I am just about to leave, etc). Don't forget to ask that person to dance later on if it is possible as a show of respect. Try to never reject a person and then go dance with another person immediately after. Dancers, especially beginners, are trying to build, gain and maintain confidence. This can be very hurtful and affect a person's ability to ask others to dance.

If you are on the other side of this scene where you have been rejected for a dance, keep a practical and positive perspective and remember that it is not a rejection of you as a person but potentially the circumstance. There are many other dancers who would be more than happy to accept a dance.

• Ladies - how to get asked to dance

If you are not comfortable in the asking role, there are many tips to use to be more approachable. Always make yourself visible. Stand at the edge of the dance floor. Make eye contact with potential dance partners around you and those coming off the dance floor. Let your interest and eagerness to dance show and never stop smiling. Remember the rules of body language - gestures such as crossing your arms, looking down, looking bored, uninterested or unapproachable and congregating with groups of friends are just a few things to avoid. Dance with anyone who asks as women who dance throughout the night are seen by male dancers as more likely to accept their invitation to dance. A man is more likely to ask a woman as she is walking off the dance floor after completing a dance then one who is standing around. Also, the more partners you accept, the more dancers you get to know, and this opens up new networks and groups of dancers to you, as dancers often introduce you to their friends and fellow dancers.

• How to read your partner's skill level

Every partner you dance with will be at a different level. If you are a male the best process to use is to start slowly and gain momentum according to your partners' skill level. Begin by executing basic footwork, turns and basic cross body variations. If your partner is following with ease then slowly introduce more difficult moves. If you are a beginner female, specify this when you are asked to dance so the male is aware of your position and can work with your skill level.

• What moves are appropriate to execute

A crowded dance floor is not the right place to practice new moves so only execute moves that can be followed by your partner. Try to practice new moves in a classroom, a practice session such as an afternoon or evening social or during a slow club night. Dangerous moves such as dips, tricks and lifts are also not appropriate in a busy club as you are endangering yourself, your partner and those around you. Gentleman, consider yourself drivers and please watch where you are leading your partner. Every traveling move should be executed only after checking the direction that you are taking the follower. Be aware of your surroundings and the skill set of the dancers in your immediate vicinity.

• Respect on the dance floor

The best position to dance in is the slotted position in a linear formation. It is much easier to go into someone else's space when you are dancing in a circular formation. Keep your movements clean and small and ensure your partner is doing the same. Try to keep your heel up when stepping back so as not to step on others. This is especially true for ladies wearing high heels. Please be considerate of other dancers and keep to your space. If you do bump into someone, please do not ignore the situation. Make eye contact and apologize at that moment. Gentlemen, please respect your partner and treat her with care. She is entrusting you with her safety and this needs to be the forefront consideration in every leading decision you make. Ladies, please do not execute moves you are not comfortable with or cannot execute properly as you are endangering your partner and others.

• Partner communication and connection

Salsa is a very connected dance. Every leader has different moves to execute, every follower interprets the lead in a different way and every dancer has their own style, strengths and areas of improvement. Communication and forming a connection is the key to ensuring both parties have the best dance experience possible. An introduction is always a great way to build a connection. Eye contact throughout the dance will ensure you are aware of each other's lead and follow and can react/alter your movements appropriately. Gentleman, the women are relying on your lead so please lead. That means having a firm frame, consistency in your pulls and pushes without any surprises and jerky movements and a close lead. The busier the dance floor, the more the closed hand hold should be used to keep the follower closer to you and safer. Keep your elbows in and take small steps. Ladies, please mind you own business and focus on your dancing responsibilities: creating resistance having a strong frame, keeping your core engaged for balance, staying alert and reacting quickly and safely to each lead.

• Timing vs. Moves

Gentlemen, you have the very difficult task of balancing the rhythm/timing of the music with the types of moves you execute. Some men will compromise proper timing to execute more complicated moves. From a female perspective, most women would rather dance with someone who understands timing and can stay on time and who only executes simples moves as opposed to someone who is constantly skipping from one beat to another while executing complicated moves.

In terms of what timing to keep, the truth is it does not actually matter what beat you begin dancing every set on - depending on what part of the world you are in, who you have learned from and how you interpret the music, a male can lead on any beat (hence the terms "dancing on 1", "dancing on 2", etc). The key is to keep that same beat for the entire song. So if you begin the dance "on 1" which is the first beat of the set of 8 salsa beats, you should start every set on 1.

• How to make a graceful exit

There will be those times when a dance becomes unsafe or uncomfortable. In these situations it is best to end the dance as soon as possible, even if that means stopping the dance half way through. There are two ways to approach the situation. If you feel the need to let the person know that they are rough in their lead or follow, please do so kindly. Many dancers are just getting started and strong criticism could affect them. Gently let them know that you are having a bit of difficulty following or leading them. Many will be open to advice or feedback but don't give it to them unless they ask for it. If you are not comfortable with this approach, it is always best to let them know you are getting tired/hot/thirsty and need to take a break. Always thank them for the dance and be gracious.

• Who should you dance with?

It is always best to dance with as many dancers are possible with a variety of levels and skills. If you are a beginner dancing with other beginners may be more comfortable. However, also consider asking those who are more experienced then you to dance which will offer you a good opportunity to follow a more complicated lead if you are a follower or experience a smoother follower if you are a leader. Remember that everyone was a beginner once so don't be intimidated by others. If you are more experienced please be gracious and dance with beginners if asked as we all had someone help us learn and we need to keep this circle continuous and give back to the salsa community.

• Hygiene

You do not want to be the male or female who others do not want to dance with because of hygiene. Knowing that salsa is a close body contact type of sport where you touch others in a hot, sweaty environment, please be considerate and adhere to the following guidelines. Fresh breath is a must. Bring breath mints or gum to any dancing event. Anti-perspirant and/or deodorant are also a must. For excessive sweating, try Drysol. It can be bought at any Shopper's Drug Mart and really works in controlling sweat. Some people bring a change of shirts if they know they are going to perspire a lot. Others use talc powder for damp palms. Some bring small towels or handkerchiefs/bandanas Take breaks often and keep yourself hydrated. Avoid heavy cologne, perfumes or oils as they can get musty in that environment and others may be allergic.

Following these tips will allow the salsa experience to remain a positive one for everyone involved. Remember that good manners, respect for others and awareness of the environment you are in will go a long way. Take the time to get to know your dance partners as it is a wonderful networking and social opportunity. But most of all, listen to the music, feel the energy of the crowd and enjoy the dance
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome tips!

Another quick note I'd like to add is this:

Ladies: do not be afraid to ask guys to dance! There's nothing better than having a lovely salsera ask us to dance. Flattery will get you many many more dances!

Beginners: ask helpers/instructors and great dancers to dance. It's funny but the more experienced you are, it seems like the less you get asked to dance and trust me, we love love love to dance so ask us! I really try my best to ask beginner dancers for a dance but love it when they ask me. The best part with dancing with an experienced person is that you learn so much even in just a 2-6 minute period of time!

Men: if you're dancing with someone who doesn't double turn or do fancy moves then give her easy moves like cross bodies w/ a turn but then make all of your self-turns into doubles. While she may only be doing a single turn, you can easily do doubles and make you and your partner feel like she's the queen of the dance floor.

If your partner doesn't do cross bodies' w/ a turn then work on your styling in your basics.

And I can't stress hygiene enough (in class, at socials or outings)...
here's a great tip I learned a while ago: buy another deodorant stick, body spray and pack of gum and put it in your dance shoe bag. Before you dance make sure you apply all three. This way you know you're smelling great and you'll never be too far away from a quick freshening up!
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great sharings.
Hope these will help me to throw off my shyness in dancing.
andrew reynolds
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:05 pm    Post subject: Dance Etiquette - Part 2 Reply with quote

I came across this interesting article that provides some more information on Dance Etiquette. Many of these have already been mentioned in Sharon’s previous post but there are a couple additional points that you may find useful. I particularly like the information on No-fault dancing and Unsolicited Advice.

Happy reading!


A social dancer is going to meet many people at events, parties and dance classes. We often act in ways that come naturally to us which may be fine with close friends and family but not necessarily appropriate in social situations. Sometimes we do things and act in ways that might be frowned upon and we don’t even know it. We often do well intentioned things like offer unsolicited advice (bad idea by the way) but it can actually result in negative responses. Hence these guidelines that may bring to light some things you or others are doing and should be addressed.

Grooming and Dress

Question: If there are two people standing at the edge of a dance floor, making themselves available for a dance, and one was neatly dressed and groomed with a pleasant smile but never danced before. The other with wrinkled clothes and a dour expression but is a first class dancer. Who do you think will get more partners?

Just being a good dancer will not necessarily get you many partners if you dress poorly, have garlic breath, or smell sweaty from a workout. If you don’t present yourself well, you may not even get a chance to share your dance skills.

It is also good to consider comfort and safety when choosing your garment. You don’t want loose items that can move out of control or too tight garments that make you hot and sticky in no time. Good rule of thumb: keep it simple whenever you can.

Avoid wearing:
• Loose fitting clothing that can get in the way when you are trying to reach around each other.
• Easily wrinkled fabrics that make you look like you slept in them after just a few songs.
• Strapless dresses that can fall down.
• Running shoes, Birkenstocks, work boots, vinyl soled dress shoes. Anything with rubber soles or marking soles are not appropriate. Soft, leather soled dress shoes are good but proper dance shoes are ideal.
• Loose jewelry can get in the way.

Do a body check before coming to a dance or class. Did you…

Eat a meal with garlic and the like? Mints are a no-brainer here.

Sweaty from work or the gym? Lift your arm and take a whiff if you dare! Keep a fresh shirt and deodorant on hand if you can’t get to a shower between work and dancing. You will get many more dance partners by thinking ahead.

***Remember to check yourself again during a dance as well.

Groom your attitude

A social event has people from all walks of life, ages and skill levels. A great variety of music and you may not like all the songs. The halls are often old and look rundown. But the point of the event is to have fun and, no matter how much effort is put into the ambience of the party, only you can determine if you will have a good time.
Be gracious and friendly. Good eye contact and a pleasant smile will contribute to a great time.

Asking someone to dance

An invitation to a dance is not just the domain of men anymore. More and more women are asking men to dance and rightly so. Use the following tried and true pointers:

When approaching someone for a dance invitation, walk straight to the person with a smile and direct eye contact. This person may be with a group so you want to make sure that everyone knows who you are asking.

Be cognizant of who the person is sitting with. It could be his/her significant other and they may be enjoying a private moment. Make sure the person is available to dance before approaching.

When asking for a dance, it is easiest to stay with traditional phrases:
• ``May I have this dance?''
• ``May I have this Waltz/Rumba/Foxtrot/etc.''
• ``Would you like to dance?''
• ``Care to dance?''
• ``Shall we dance?''

Do not monopolize a partner. Ask many people do dance it is a social event after all.

Turning Down a Dance Invitation

Ideally, you should accept as many offers as possible. It is the only way to know who are most compatible with your dance style and level. You just don’t know until you try and you will be surprised. Look around at the next dance and see how many young people are dancing with older folks. You will find many and it may not only be because the elder can dance well but understands the value of good etiquette and everyone knows it!

When turning down the invitation be gracious and thankful and tell the person you are sitting this song out AND do sit it out. It is a true insult to turn one person down only to get up and dance the same song with someone else.

When your invitation is declined

Don’t take it personally! It may be a shock to your ego but you don’t really know why someone turned you down so don’t assume the worst. Just smile and say something like “Another time perhaps” then stand tall and move on.

Having said this, if you get repeated declines, you may have to look to yourself and see if there is anything like grooming, attitude, dance style that you may need to work on. Do a reality check.

On the Dance Floor

Generally dance floors are busy so you must really be aware of those around you. Make collision avoidance a priority and ensure you have some steps in your repertoire that allow you to move quickly to get out of the way of those who are not watching where they are going.

Make sure there is ample room to make expressive movements otherwise keep things closed.

If the floor is too busy simply stay off the floor every couple songs to let others dance. This way, everyone has ‘elbow room’.

While the above may sound complicated to the novice dancer, it gradually becomes second nature.

Dance at an equal skill level

This one is for you accomplished dancers. If you dance at a higher skill level than your partner then dance at his/her level. Don’t try and execute movements the person doesn’t know as it only results in confusion and frustration. Dance education is for classes and practice time not social events.

No-Fault Dancing

Never blame a partner for missed execution of figures. Once in a social dance I accidentally overheard a novice couple, where the lady said: ``I can do this step with everyone but you!'' The fact that she was wrong (I had seen her other attempts) is irrelevant. The point is that she was unkind and out of line. Even if the gentleman were at fault, saying something like that helps no one and is ungracious.

Regardless of who is at fault when a dancing mishap occurs, both parties are supposed to smile and go on. This applies to the better dancer in particular, who bears a greater responsibility. Accepting the blame is especially a nice touch for the gentleman. But at the same time, do not apologize profusely. There is no time for it, and it makes your partner uncomfortable.

Consider this: a misstep is an error. Errors can be very good if people choose to learn from them. If you always blame instead of being constructive or polite, your partner will definitely learn that s/he does not like dancing with you.

Unsolicited Advice (A really really bad idea!!)

A student (let’s call her Lisa) complained to me one day that she was at a dance and three different partners started telling her what they believed she was doing wrong. One even said that she was a terrible follow. (How’s this for bad etiquette?)

Lisa has been dancing for six months and has little experience with dancing at social events. She went to the event to get practice in but was devastated by insensitive leads. We have been working at rebuilding her confidence ever since.

Look, dancing is about communicating with your body. If your partner is doing something wrong try to lead/follow with your body, not your mouth. It will only serve to improve your skill. It is just 3 minutes that will go by much more easily if you follow the common sense guidelines.

Giving unsolicited advice can only serve to confuse especially if it conflicts with what they are being taught or, what if they are getting unsolicited advice from other partners that conflict with what you just said? Can you see how this leads to problems? You may think you are helping but you are not.

If you get unsolicited advice just say politely: ‘Thank you but I prefer to be taught by my teacher.’

This is just as important in the class setting. Good teachers spend years and thousands of dollars with training, coaching and practice so they can do their job. In a class setting there will always be students who know a little more than others. Fair enough but there is no sense in getting instruction from a teacher then practicing what was just taught only to get more unsolicited instruction from a fellow student.

If something is not working call the teacher over to help or, even better ask the question in front of the group so everyone can benefit from the answer.

Please try to remember to not give unsolicited advice but, don’t worry, if you forget we’ll be happy to remind you.

Did your Partner Enjoy the Dance?

People join social events, clubs and the like to be – well – social! So be gracious, smile, and always thank your partner for the dance even if you didn’t enjoy it. Ensuring your partner enjoys the dance is the priority. If you are in a bad mood, leave it at the door or stay home. Had a tough tiring day? The dance will help you unwind but only if you let it.

A dour mood is easily recognized and felt by others and word will get out about you then you will not get many partners.

Keep your ego in check. It can really get in the way of a good time.

Remember, if your partner is not as experienced as you, dance at his or her level.


• Etiquette is here to ensure everyone has a good time in a social dance setting, so pay attention to it.
• Your outfit and accessories should be comfortable, safe, and also reflect the culture and level of formality of the dance group. Most importantly, do not forget your dance shoes.
• Ask many people to dance. Do not monopolize one partner for the whole night.
• Today's beginners will be the good dancers of tomorrow, so be nice and supportive.
• Do not decline a dance unless you absolutely have to. Having declined a dance, you should not dance the same song with someone else.
• Avoid patterns that your partner cannot do: dance to the level of your partner.
• Never blame your partner for missteps.
• No unsolicited teaching on the floor!
• Smile, be warm, be personable, and be nice.

If you have encountered any etiquette examples that should be addressed here, please do not hesitate to post them!
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    PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 3:40 pm    Post subject: Dance Etiquette Reply with quote

    All great feedback!

    I just have one thing to add, but its a safety related one - please, please, please - if you want to get across to the other side of the room and you are not dancing, please do not cut through the dance area - mainly because you can harm yourself and others by tripping them (mid-move - i.e. during turns, dips, dance patterns in general) or bumping into people and disrupting their dancing.

    Go around the dance area, might take a few seconds more to get around to where you intended, but at least no persons will be potentially harmed or disrupted. That or wait till the current song ends and the floor clears and you have clearance to cross safely!

    Thanks in advance Smile
    The truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music. Bodies never lie. ~Agnes de Mille
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