Basic Etiquette for Latin and Ballroom Dancing
Every dance has its own etiquette and it's not always perfectly intuitive. By understanding the following list of unspoken rules, the dancing party can be comfortable and bring enjoyable experience for all. The etiquette we describe below was merged from analysis of various dances and is quite universal: it’s applicable for most Latin, Social and Ballroom dances, including Salsa, Tango, Waltz, Foxtrot, Samba, Rumba, Jive, etc.
1. The Preparation Phase Before the Dance
A proper preparation at home before the dance is a key to successful dance experience. It sounds obvious that personal hygiene is essential, but still some people forget about it. Bad breath, body odor and excessive perspiration are common offenders. Please, be sensitive to your fellow dancers. Strong scented cologne, perfume or any chemical can be also offensive, besides, some people may be too sensitive or have allergic reaction to the chemical ingredients of the scent or simply may not like how it smells. Too much water drowns the miller, so don’t overflow yourself with perfume.
Follow the dress code for the dance if possible. We wrote about dress code for men and women as standards for professional dance competitions. In case of dance parties and clubs it’s much more simple. Feel free to wear what is comfortable for you that won’t immobilize your dance moves. It’s better to wear light or “smart” clothes, that adapt to the temperature and provide thermal comfort by effectively taking away extra heat from your body. Recommendation for men: if you sweat a lot, bring an extra shirt or a couple with you.
Ladies, keep in mind that dancing can affect how your dress sits on you and active movements can reveal what was not expected to be seen. Don’t forget to do mirror test at home to avoid wardrobe malfunction and getting into piquant situation. If you wear accessories or jewelry, make sure they do not turn into assault weapons while dancing.
Don’t forget to take your dance shoes with you. Read more about various dance bags that can have a stylish and elegant look and have special compartments for storing shoes.
2. The Invitation
The most elegant way to invite someone to dance is to use the eye contact. If you don’t possess such eye powers or telepathy skills, then you can invite someone verbally. Always be gentle and gracious, no matter if you invite somebody or if you are being invited. It’s OK for ladies to decline the invitation without explaining the reasons. Don't confuse a declined dance invitation with personal rejection. Being kind and friendly with everyone, including those who may not dance with you, creates a warm and inviting atmosphere for all.
If the person doesn't accept the invitation, do not immediately switch and invite another person next to him/her. No one wants to be a consolation prize. Seek out those looking to dance, avoid bothering anyone who has no desire to dance. If lady is escorted by a man (husband, boyfriend, brother, etc.), it’s better to ask his permission first.
The main policy in social dances is having as many partners as possible. So, invite someone you never danced with and have a unique enjoyable experience. It’s unacceptable to dance with the same partner during the whole evening.
If the invitation is accepted, the gentlemen lets the lady pass to the dance floor first and accompanies her by the right side if possible. In crowded places, man usually goes first and the lady follows him.
3. Dancing Is the Top Priority
Never walk across the dance floor while people are dancing! When you get up to meet your dance partner, move on the outside edge of the dance floor. During the dance concentrate on your partner, keep smiling and preserve eye contact. Chatting is not permitted during the dance, it’s better to have conversation after that.
4. The Right Of Way
A dance floor can be compared with highway, where cars move here and there. As a driver you should always observe the situation and keep it under control. On a crowded dance floor, always establish eye contact with the dancer approaching at your left before entering the line of dance. Enter the dance floor only after receiving acknowledgment to avoid collision. Safety of you, your partner and other dancers is in your hands, so try to avoid unnecessary risky movements.
5. Floor Craft
Each dance has a special pattern how the dance couples should move relatively to each other. It’s very important to follow this pattern, otherwise collisions will be inevitable. Every dance style from Tango to Cha Cha can be categorized as either a Spot Dance or a Progressive Dance. Spot dances are characterized by movements which cause the dancers to remain in one general area of the floor throughout the dance, whereas Progressive dances contain movements that cause dancers to travel continuously. The latter use the “line of dance” term, which represents the counterclockwise flow of traffic around the dance floor. Every couple should follow this line of dance, avoid weaving between couples, and passing anyone. This ensures that the dance floor flows properly and that no one gets hurt.
6. Distance Between Couples
Always keep a safe and constant equal distance to the couple ahead and behind of you in the line of dance. It ensures that everybody has enough space to easily execute a turn and other dance figures. If the distance to the couple in front becomes large, try to reduce it, so that you do not block the couples behind you. Backwards movements should always be avoided: they are risky, invade the space that belongs to the couple behind you, and in most cases it leads to serious collisions.
7. When The Dance Floor Is Crowded...
More people means less available space, the distance between the couples can become drastically small. You should always adapt your movements to the size of the crowd. The safest method is to keep all movements within the embrace! Avoid leg kicks, jerky actions, sudden turns, etc. If you notice that another couple is going to bump into you, and you can’t avoid the collision because of insufficient space or time required for the evasion maneuver, try to protect your lady partner and soften the shock.
8. Apologizing In The Event Of A Collision
If, despite all your precautions you are involved in a collision, keep it cool and apologize with grace, and continue the dance.
9. Music Tact
If you dance with your partner it’s expected that you perform the whole dance and will not leave too early without finishing the dance. Usually it happens when the music ends and new one is played. In Tango and Milonga the situation is different, because the dance is performed during a tanda. Tanda is a set of several dance songs, so that a single dance is performed until the end of the tanda when all the planned music compositions are finished. If you only want to dance two songs in tanda, you have to wait until the tanda is two songs from the end to invite your partner to dance. The alternative, known as “breaking the tanda,” is considered extremely rude.
10. Small Talks During the Dance?
Conversation is fine and is even obligatory between the dances, outside the dance floor. But it’s not a good idea to chat during the dance, just enjoy dancing – that’s the main reason to be on the dance floor! Also, do not continuously apologize to your partner if you make mistakes.
11. Finishing The Dance
Always show your gratitude by saying thank you to your partner, but only do it when you’re done dancing. If you say thanks in the middle of a tanda, your partner will think you’re breaking the tanda with them.>Never respond with “you’re welcome,” because it implies that dancing with you is a favor you’re bestowing, when the whole point of dancing is mutual enjoyment. Instead, be as charming as you can, and say "Thank you," “It was my pleasure,” or something equally delightful.
When you finish dancing, leave the floor as quickly as possible, ensuring those on it are given their space. The leader always escorts the follower back to the original point of rendezvous, extends his gratitude and walks away gracefully.
12. Staying Fresh All Night
Dancers with good stamina start dancing at 6 p.m. and finish at midnight and later. Many people can dance all night long and leave the venue at 5 a.m. in the morning! Besides, it’s a common practice to visit several dance clubs during the night. So, it’s very important to stay fresh all the time. Simply use breath fresheners frequently, mint taste is most effective. It’s better to avoid some species in food, for example garlic, onions and curry linger on the breath, skin and clothes for a long time. Use a towel or handkerchief between dances to remove sweat. Men often bring a couple of extra shirts to change through the evening. If you're wearing a sleeveless dress, then check that your deodorant is transparent, because some of them may leave a white residue on your partner's sleeve.
Dance party is not a dance training and is not a dance school! So, don't give or ask for feedback. Reserve the comments on improvements for dance lessons and dance classes - and only if requested. No matter how good your intentions are, or however helpful your suggestions can be, offering advice or criticism can hurt the feelings of your partner and even eliminate the desire to dance with you ever again. It’s better to ignore the mistakes that your partner does, and simply mutually enjoy dancing together.
After the party you can grade yourself how good you performed. If you are not satisfied with results, you can spend more hours with your teacher at the dance studio to sharpen your dance skills. It will help you to improve, besides, it gives makes you more attractive as a dance partner, because it’s more pleasant to dance with someone who has the right skills and experience.
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