Promoting West Coast Swing Dancing Throughout Northwest Arkansas and Beyond
Dance Etiquette | Ozark Swing Society

OSS Dance Etiquette*

Ozark Swing Society
Dance Etiquette*

1. Personal Grooming

Remember that you’ll probably be dancing with a lot of people. Be fresh and clean when you start. Try a little dab of cologne or perfume! Because there are some people who might be allergic to strong perfumes don’t bathe yourself in it either, just a touch to make things pleasant. If you perspire a lot, try wearing an undershirt. If that is not enough, bring a hand towel and one or more clean shirts.

2. Up Close and Personal

When dancing, fresh breath is a must. Breath mints, sprays, etc. are good. Avoid onions, garlic, etc. since you’re going to be in close contact with your dance partners. Gum should be used only as a last resort. Remember the saying about walking and chewing gum at the same time. Well, it’s more apparent when you try to dance! Besides, nobody wants to step on the gum you chewed with their nice new dance shoes, either!!!

3. The Dance Invitation

If you’d like to dance with someone, go up to him/her, excuse yourself if necessary, and ask the person to dance. If you are a woman who feels uneasy asking men to dance, when you want to dance, stand near the dance floor and smile, rather than sitting down — away from the dance floor — feeling and appearing bored and blue.

4. Turning People Down

If you must turn someone down (because you’re tired or for your own personal reasons) thank the person for asking. If you’re tired, offering to dance with them later might be appropriate. If you tell someone you’re tired or you are just resting, do not dance that song with someone else, even if they are your favorite dancer. Explain politely that you just turned someone down and they will understand. Turning someone down and dancing the same song is rude and gets noticed by many in the room. What goes around comes around! If you don’t ever want to dance with that person, perhaps you should try giving him/her an extremely polite hint why.

5. Monopolizing a Good Dancer

If a top dancer comes to your area, don’t be afraid to ask them to dance. They are there to dance! Yet, do give others the opportunity to enjoy these same moments that you have. Remember that these people also need a little break every now and then — especially if you notice that they have been dancing non-stop.

6. Interrupting to Ask Someone to Dance

Many people feel that if you’re not dancing, you’re available to be asked to dance.  Some people gauge your availability to dance by how close you are to the dance floor.  If you don’t want to dance, want to converse and not be interrupted, or just need to take a break and rest, move away from the dance floor to the edge of the room or go outside.  If you feel that you must interrupt, be sensitive to the level of intensity of the conversation.  If it seems to be small talk, excuse yourself before asking the person to dance and if they agree, allow them a few moments to gracefully finish the conversation.

While Dancing

7. Teaching While Dancing

Unless you are specifically asked to do so, DON’T DO IT. It’s very rude! Besides, you didn’t ask your partner if they wanted a private lesson, you asked them if they would like to social dance. Before you start giving out advice, consider that it might be your lead/follow that caused the problem.

8. Dancing at Your Partner’s Level

For lead/follow couple dances, the goal is to make sure that your partner has a good time, not to show off. Watch their face. If they’re smiling or laughing, they must be enjoying the dance.

9. Bumping/Stepping On Other Dancers

Be aware of what’s going on around you and adjust your dancing to fit. If space is tight, take smaller steps and don’t do all your hot moves (on other people’s feet). ALWAYS acknowledge and apologize to someone you bump into or step on.

10. Apologizing to Your Partner

Apologizing to your partner is usually unnecessary. Don’t worry about blowing a lead or not following all the moves perfectly. Remember, it was not done intentionally. Enjoy yourself and try it again. Relax. It’s only dancing!

11. Dancing Close

Dancing close is generally determined by the woman. Men need to hold and guide the woman, and she will determine how close she feels comfortable dancing with the man. Different people have different spatial requirements; both men and women need to respect that.

After You Dance

12. What to Say/Do at the End of a Dance

At the end of a dance, ALWAYS thank your partner for the dance and perhaps compliment him/her. Then, either ask for the next dance or walk each other off the floor.

13. When There Is a Live Band

After a live band finishes a song, be sure to applaud and show them that you like what they’re doing. A happy band plays better.

14. When There Is a DeeJay

If you enjoyed the choice of music that he/she played, or if you got to dance to a lot of your favorite tunes, go up to them and let them know! Remember that DeeJays are professionals who take pride their work. They spend lots of time and money researching and finding the most danceable tunes. Their job is to keep the dance floor crowded with as much variety as possible, NOT to play your favorite song 10 times a night. Remember that the dance is only a few hours long and that they can’t possibly play everyone’s favorite songs. Also, if there is one, put a dollar in their tip jar if you request a specific song to show you liked what they played. They’ll appreciate it (and it always seems to make them smile!).

In a Dance Class

15. Teaching

DO NOT DO IT. It is not only rude to the student, but it is rude to the teacher. Be quiet and pay attention. Usually, when you start giving advice is when the teacher passes out that hint or tip your partner needed, but could not hear over your voice. If you are having difficulty, stop, get the teacher or assistant’s attention and ask them for help. Do not be afraid to ask questions; that is how you get answers. Concern yourself with your part, which is why you are there. You don’t know what your partner is supposed to do, you are just guessing. Consider the fact that, in most cases, the one passing the blame is the one at fault. It is quite possibly your lead/follow, not your partner’s, that is the problem. If all else fails, ask the “expert” to please be quiet and worry about their part, so that you can hear what the teacher is saying.

16. Rotating

Many people believe that they can only learn or get better with their own partner. In fact, the opposite is true. When you stay with the same partner, usually one or the other will compensate for their partner’s mistakes. That makes the one partner think that he/she is doing it correctly. When they try to dance with someone else, they can’t understand why that person can’t lead/follow like their partner; it’s because that person doesn’t know all their little idiosyncrasies. Rotating also teaches you to adjust to different partners, as when you get one on a lower or on a more advanced dance level. When the teacher calls “Rotate” do not try to sneak in just one more, thank your partner and let them go. You’ll not only get the line to move much faster, but you’ll get to dance more and maybe even get a better partner. Couples, if you insist on not rotating, please stay out of line or on the ends and as they rotate let the next person know that you are not rotating so they can move along.

17. Dance Etiquette Is for Everyone