When you go out dancing, it’s about more than just you. You are a part of a community that brings people together, from all walks of life to share in this common love, hobby, or obsession. From each individual all the way to the community as a whole, we all have a part to play in making every dance a great one.
It’s About You
- Dancing is a form of exercise. Be sure to wear deodorant and similar products. If you know you sweat a lot, bring an extra shirt or other change of clothes to be respectful of your dance partners.
- Bringing a towel or fan can help you stay cool between dances.
- Be sure to wash your hands to limit the spread of germs after using the restroom.
- Be aware of the lotions, perfumes, and colognes you use – avoid strong scents that may irritate those around you or trigger another dancer’s allergies.
- If you smoke, be conscious that the smell will irritate breathing conditions of other dancers – use mints, wash your hands to alleviate the smells, air out after smoking, change into different clothes to smoke, or simply don’t smoke during or immediately before dance events.
- You will be dancing in close proximity to others, remember to brush your teeth, or use mouthwash, mints, or gum before dances, particularly if you had something strong-scented to eat prior to the dance.
Invitations to Dance
- You can ask anyone to dance, and you are encouraged to say yes to any invitations to dance.
- There are dancers of all skill levels at our events; don’t refuse an invitation just because you think you’re not good enough to dance with them, or because you think the partner inviting you is not good enough to dance with you.
- You can always say no to an invitation to dance.
- Reasons you might say no:
- You’re taking a break
- You’ve already promised this song to someone else
- The person asking you has hurt you before or makes you feel uncomfortable/unsafe. In this case, please also talk to a board member.
- If you do turn someone down, be polite and honest. For example: “Thank you, but I need a break/rest/water/etc”.
- If you already had a dance request lined up for this dance, it’s considered impolite to accept a dance request from someone else for the same song.
- If you would like to dance with this person later, find them and ask them for a dance later. Alternatively, when you turn them down, consider telling them when and where to meet you for a dance.
- Reasons you might say no:
- If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, find a club board member and talk to the board about the situation so we all can make this dance community safe and welcoming for everyone.
- Do not apologize for being a beginner – everyone had to start at the beginning, just like you.
- Inebriation – some of our dances occur in places where some drinking can be expected. Be respectful of your dance partners and know your limit. Make sure you are sober enough to maintain your own balance and not hurt your partner.
It’s About Your Partner
- Ask your partner’s name if you haven’t danced with them before or have forgotten it.
- Be aware of your partner’s personal space – avoid their “no-zones” and do not put your partner’s hands on your body in places that they may not be comfortable with. Avoid breathing on them in close proximity.
- Protect your partner from collisions. If one does occur, always apologize to the other party – regardless of fault – and check on your partner to see if they were injured.
- If an injury does occur, escort your partner off the dance floor and help get them attention. Seek out a board member for additional assistance.
- Almost everyone has a past or current injury they may be trying to protect. Respect your partner’s feedback if a given action causes your partner discomfort or pain – understand their situation and try to help accommodate them. Do not assume you are right and they are wrong – they know their bodies better than you do.
- Avoid throwing your partner into dips, drops, or other fancy tricks without prior consent. Do not assume that your partner has the same flexibility, balance or confidence to do all the same tricks you do.
- Aerials are strictly prohibited – regardless of your and your partner’s capability – due to the high likelihood of injury to the partners and to other dancers.
- Thank your partner after the dance and escort your partner off the floor, or until they find their next partner.
Invitations to Dance
- Just like you can say no to an invitation to dance, your potential partners can as well. Be respectful of their wishes and try not to take their “no” personally.
- Dances are social activities – be respectful of others:
- Be cautious when interrupting someone in conversation to invite them to dance.
- Avoid asking someone to dance when they are on their way to the bathroom or in the middle of eating.
- When asking someone who is part of a group to dance, be clear whom you are asking, to avoid any awkwardness or confusion.
- Do not demand a dance or pull a partner’s hand without first making eye contact or a verbal request.
It’s About the Partnership
- Leaders and Followers are two halves of an equal dance partnership.
- Be respectful of your partner’s abilities and do not drag them through patterns. This doesn’t mean that you need to “dumb-down” your dancing for your partner, but be aware of their abilities and help elevate your dancing as a partnership so you both have a good dance.
- Eye contact and smiling can help your partner feel at ease and make for an enjoyable dance.
- Pro-tip: Look at their forehead or chin if you are shy or uncomfortable about making eye contact.
- Not everyone is good at multitasking. Be respectful of that and keep conversation during the dance to a minimum.
- Do not apologize for not being “good enough” for your partner if you miss a lead or pattern.
- Do apologize for things that could be uncomfortable for your partner like bumps or hand slips.
- Don’t abandon your partner on the dance floor mid-song, unless there is a health or safety emergency.
Improvisation, Feedback, and Mistakes
- Connection is an important part of the dance, and it is different for everyone.
- Do not grab, yank, squeeze, or otherwise force your partner during a social dance.
- Do not assume a mistake is your partner’s fault. Check yourself first.
- If you and your partner want to figure out how to improve a particular pattern or move, take it off the social dance floor to allow others space to dance.
- Do not repeatedly attempt a move that didn’t work with a partner to get it right.
- Everyone has their own style and likely learned from different people than you. Do not assume your way is “right” and avoid the phrase “you’re not supposed to do it that way”.
- Never correct your partner’s dancing on the floor during a dance. Even if you are trying to help, limit your comments to encouraging words only.
- Only give advice or feedback when asked for it specifically, and refer less experienced dancers to a teacher or visiting professional.
- Be aware of the slotting in the room – do not slot yourselves perpendicular to the line of traffic on the dance floor.
- Leaders – you should scout out a space on the dance floor and get the attention of other couples before committing to your slot to avoid collisions.
- If the floor is crowded, dance smaller and avoid patterns that take you off your slot into another couple’s space.
It’s About the Dance and the Scene
- Introduce yourself to new people at the dance. Try to dance with as many people as possible and don’t just dance with people you know.
- Don’t discriminate or make assumptions about someone’s dancing based on age, gender, aesthetics, or body shape. Your assumptions will frequently be incorrect and you will miss out on amazing dances.
- Dancers are here to have a good time and enjoy themselves.
- Every dancer – whether more experienced, less experienced, or of similar skill level to yourself – can help you learn more about your own dancing if you give them a chance and dance with them.
- Being “more experienced” than your partner does not give you license to teach, tutor, or coach your partners, or take someone off to the side to “help” them if they have not asked for it explicitly.
- Teachers and professionals are also here to have a good time after their lessons are done.
- Do not ask them for feedback or advice after a dance unless you have a prior agreement or arrangement.
- Do not corner them in the bathroom or other inappropriate places to ask for advice, tips, or private lessons.
- Be sure to give them their space, they also have the right to say “No” to a dance and take a break.
- DJs work hard to make sure you have enjoyable music to dance to all night long.
- Do not crowd or distract them when they are working.
- You are encouraged to ask a DJ to dance, but understand they may need to turn you down or postpone that dance until they are not busy with their job. They also may need to leave the dance floor slightly before the end of a song to tend to their duties, so do not feel bad about this if it happens to you.
- Be respectful when making requests and understand that your song might not get played depending on constraints of other requests, music flow, and the length of the event.
- “Steal Dances” are a fun game dancers play at social dances occasionally where you steal and switch partners. Do not steal into a dance if either partner is not interested in participating in the game. This is always an “opt-in” game.
Respect the Venue
- Be aware of the rules of the dance space – keep street shoes off the dance floor and bring special dance shoes for indoor dancing only, or dance in socks.
- Some treats, snacks, and other food may be provided by the club. Be respectful and keep food off the dance floor to avoid creating dance hazards. Some venues may not allow any food or non-water drinks to be consumed in their dance space – ask someone running the event what the rules are if you’re not sure.
Thank you to Canadian Swing Champions for inspiring this document and providing great resources to dancers. Learn more at: https://www.canadianswingchampions.com/the-ultimate-wcs-etiquette-checklist/