Tips for Proper Dance Etiquette
By Bill Sherman.

The basis of proper etiquette is consideration for others. In particular, that includes your partner(s) and the other people at the dance. Here are a few tips:

  1. Do not hurt your partner! This is of particular importance to leaders in general, but followers occasionally hurt their partner by gripping his hand too hard or the wrong way (make sure to have a loose grip while spinning).
  2. It is still most common for a man to ask a woman to dance, but these days it is also quite acceptable for a woman to ask a man to dance (in some settings other possibilities are accepted, but that varies). It is particularly important for men that they should politely ask the woman they'd like to dance with (ie don't ask the guy she's talking to for permission to dance with her - this ticks off a lot of women). Generally a simple "Would you care to dance?" or "Pardon me, but could I have this waltz" is fine.
  3. If someone asks you to dance, the answer is "Yes, thank-you" except under unusual circumstances (eg that person is in the habit of hurting his/her partners). In the ballroom community strangers routinely dance with each other - many people take it as a personal insult if you refuse to dance with them. The most acceptable rejections are "I'm sorry, but I've already promised this dance to someone else, maybe we can have the next dance," or "I'm sorry, I'm a bit tired and I'd like to sit out a dance, maybe we can have the next dance." Of course, if you use the latter excuse and then dance with someone else, you are likely to insult the person who asked you first. In any event, if you suggest a later dance, then you should expect to actually dance with the person later. (Generally speaking, you should expect to dance at least once per night with everyone who asks you.)
  4. If someone agrees to dance with you, you should hold their hand as the two of you walk on/off the dance floor.
  5. Try to make yourself comfortable to be near: make sure that you have recently showered and brushed your teeth (or at least freshened your breath since your last meal/smoke). People with long hair should make sure it is somehow held in place so it doesn't hit their partners when they spin. Make sure there are no bulky items such as keys or wallets in your front right pocket (you will probably look and feel better if all your pockets are empty while you dance). Don't wear sharp rings or any long, dangling jewelry. (Note it is common in some areas for people to bring towels and multiple shirts to dances so as to avoid getting overly sweaty.)
  6. Make sure to use good floorcraft when dancing. Always be careful not to crash into or corner other couples on the dance floor. (It is, of necessity, the primary responsibility of the better dancers to avoid the less experienced dancers on the floor.)
  7. Do not otherwise block the flow of the dance: Progressive dances always move counter-clockwise around the outer portion of the dance floor. If you want to be on the dance floor during a progressive dance, then either move with the flow or move to the middle of the floor. Going to the edge or the corner of the dance floor to "get out of the way" puts you exactly where the other dancers are trying to go. (Bear in mind that just because you are doing a dance which is not progressive, doesn't mean that nobody else is doing a progressive dance - make sure you leave room for some couples to do fox trots while you're doing swings.) Finally, clear off the dance floor when you're not dancing - don't stand around chatting with your partner if you happen not to like the next dance.

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