Dance etiquette during social dancing is important and has been followed for centuries. Everyone should feel comfortable when dancing and although most of it is just common sense, it’s still pretty good to know them just in case! It applies to MDS and if you decide to go out partner dancing anywhere else.
Asking someone to dance
Traditionally, it’s always been the lead’s job to ask a follow to dance but nowadays it’s totally acceptable for a follow to ask a lead. You could ask “May I have this dance?” or “Would you like to dance?” but it’s okay if you’re less formal about it.
At MDS we encourage an open, friendly and welcoming community. You’ll find people from beginner to advanced level and everyone is free and encouraged to dance with people of different levels. It’s great for the community and it’s great for your dancing! Try not to dance only with the people you know but dance with someone new and, better yet, with someone of a lower level than you. Remember when you were a beginner dancer! Don’t leave them to look on, but help to include them. That new beginner dancer might be your favourite person to dance with soon.
If you’re dancing with someone then you can ask them again for a second dance straight after (and this can be a great compliment) but after that it’s considered that you are monopolising that person. In the same way, don’t just dance with the same person for the whole time and not ask others to dance! The whole point of social dancing is to be social and dance with lots of people.
If you don’t want to dance with someone then it’s okay to decline them (and you’re not obligated to give them a reason) but do be polite and keep in mind that rejection can hurt! It can take a lot of courage to request a dance, even for advanced dancers. It’s great to offer to save them a dance later if you can. Prior requests always take priority, so make sure you explain if you’re already booked.
As a member of the friendly MDS community, be conscious of your reasons if you’re going to refuse. Are they good reasons (you’re tired / don’t like that style / need a drink) that you can explain to them, reasons you could make them aware of (they were a bit rough last time) or are you just not being generous? Try to be a generous dancer. You can still choose to dance with someone else after declining someone, but be aware that this makes the rejection more obvious. Certainly don’t do this if the reason you gave them was that you were tired!
On the flip side, try not to get upset if someone turns you down. They might have a number of reasons that you’re unaware of (maybe they had a bad day and just want to socialise). You can always ask them again later but if they turn you down again don’t hassle them, find someone who does want to dance! The only thing you can do is work on your own dancing and have fun with the people who do want to dance with you.
It’s also important to stress that just because someone has agreed to dance with you doesn’t mean that they’ve consented to anything further so please don’t harass people at classes, dance parties or any other events. If you encounter any problem then please contact the committee straight away.
At the end of the day you must ask yourself this question: what kind of dance community do you want to build? Be one of those dancers.
This one is pretty obvious but sometimes overlooked. You have to be in a state where others would be happy to dance with you. Dancing is a contact sport so you have to take it pretty seriously. Make sure you’re carrying deodorant, and have a change of clothes if you tend to sweat a lot. It’s also good to wash your hands with hand sanitiser before and after you’ve finished dancing. It’s also good to use it before and after a dance class since you’d be switching partners. Grabbing a mint isn’t a bad idea either if you’ve recently had a meal.
Dancing is a contact sport and you’ll often find yourself surrounded by people. It’s very common to bump against someone or step on someone’s feet but that’s not an excuse to start a fight with them or deliberately bump into them while dancing. You have to take care of your partner especially if you’re leading and their safety should be your first priority. If someone is in your way then it’s best to stop and let them go before you continue moving.
Some of the dances travel anti-clock wise on the floor so make sure you’re doing the same and not charging everyone from the opposite direction. In latin dances, make sure you’re not throwing your arms around without being aware of your surroundings. It’s pretty easy to hit someone if you’re not careful. In general, be respectful of each other and immediately apologise if you hit someone regardless of whose fault it is.
Practice sessions and social dancing
If you’re at a practice session then you’d be wanting to practice what you’ve learned in class. It’s easy to get the best out of a practice session if everyone follows some rules. It’s never okay to change the music half way through the song unless you have everyone’s permission to do so since others might still be practising to that song even if you’ve finished. Also if someone is running the practice session then it’s better to ask them to change the music instead of doing it yourself unless they give you permission. If a particular style of song is playing which is not what you’re practising to then you should give way to those who are practising to that song and try not to interrupt them in any way. Always leave the floor and step to the side if you end up in a conversation with someone since it’s considered very rude to chat in the middle of the floor while people are dancing. This also applies during social dancing. If you have plenty of room on the floor then don’t stand right next to the other couple when you’re about to dance.
If there are more experienced people around then it’s okay to politely ask them about something but don’t forget that they’re also practising their own dancing so make it brief and try to ask them when they’re taking a break and if you still have other questions or don’t fully understand then it’s better to save it for your teacher. During social dancing, it’s never okay to correct someone’s mistake unless they ask you about it and even then they’d have to ask you again before you can help them. Again if you end up in long conversation while trying to help someone then leave the floor and step aside.
Care of the dance floor
It is your responsibility to make sure that you don’t spill food or drink or anything else on the floor which could affect the dancing of others and make it dangerous. Always clean after yourself if you spill anything and use the rubbish bin outside the room to throw away anything. If the floor is very slippery and you’re wearing suede shoes then you can improve the grip by adding a little water but don’t put water on the floor or put so much on your shoes that you leave footprints everywhere which could affect others.
Don’t forget that it’s all about having fun so go and dance!