Ballroom Dancing at the Cubberley Pavilion
Ballroom Dance Etiquette for Beginners
What follows is a brief guide to ballroom etiquette. This is not an exhaustive, all-encompassing manual, but a short introduction for those who are new to dancing.
We provide etiquette guidelines for Dance Parties as well as group dance lessons.
What is a Ballroom Dance Party?
A Ballroom Dance Party, in the traditional sense, is an informal gathering where people meet to dance with each other. In the 1960s, the ballroom dance party was largely replaced by the cocktail party (and borrowed many of the traditions). A ballroom dance party is quite a bit different from a nightclub, just as a potluck supper is quite a bit different from a restaurant.
Some of these differences are listed below:
|Dance Party /|
|Dance Club /|
You can go alone or as a couple. You can expect to socialize with the rest of the guests, and should not be offended when they approach you and invite you to dance. Often, you'll develop close friendships with the other party-goers.
Usually you go with a partner. You probably don't know the other people in the room, and you are not expected to mingle with them. It is perfectly acceptable to interact exclusively with the person you came with, and nobody else.
It's not unusual to see old friends, and make new ones.
By chance, you may briefly run into some people you know. You'll be spending most of your time, though, with the person you came with.
Dance Party Etiquette
Asking Someone to Dance
- It is perfectly OK for a woman to ask a man to dance.
- Unlike the 50s, it is impolite to "cut-in" during a dance. (There's plenty of music to go around.)
- Don't worry if you are a beginning dancer -- everyone you see was a beginner once. And it's OK to say I'm new at this, or I'm still a beginner. Go, dance, and have FUN.
- If someone asks you to dance, the best response is Yes.
- You may politely decline a dance if you are taking a break, if you don't really know the dance that well, or have already agreed to dance with another person. (In these cases, it is gracious --but not necessary-- to add something like, Perhaps we can do the next Waltz/Tango/Lambada together?
- If you are taking a break, you are "tagged-out" for the rest of the song. This means that, for the remainder of the song, you must say no to anyone else who asks you to dance (even if they are really, really cute). It is considered very rude to say Sorry, I'm taking a break, then take another partner as soon as their back is turned.
- This rule applies even if the person asking you to dance is a first-night beginner, is not as attractive as you are, or is not as polite as you are.
On the Dance Floor
- Look where you're going. (There's a reason why you shouldn't be looking at your feet!). If you accidentally bump-into another couple, both couples should smile and apologize. (This is the "No-Fault" collision rule.)
- Unless your partner asks, do not volunteer to teach. (Even if you are an accredited professional dance instructor.) If you have asked a beginning dancer to dance, though, it's OK to offer to demonstrate the basic step. Would you mind if I quickly showed you how to do the Basic Step? is completely acceptable. However, saying No, you stupid dummy. That's not how you do it. It goes like this is not.
- No aerials. This means that your feet (and your partner's feet) stay within a few inches of the floor (usually below knee-level). There are several reasons for this:
- If you accidentally drop your partner, you can really hurt them. (And you will likely be held liable for their medical expenses.)
- It's way too easy to hit and injure other nearby dancers -- especially on crowded dance floors. (People are not expecting to see a foot fly past them at eye-level!)
- Even if you are a professional performance dancer with a spotless safety record, the 70-year-old beginner who sees your moves (and tries to copy them) will probably not be so fortunate. (I've seen this happen!)
- Remember that there are many styles of dances, and that the type of waltz/swing/tango that you learned in class is not the only valid form.
- Cleanliness. Hygiene. Wash your hands, brush your teeth, comb your hair. Snack on mints instead of the Garlic/Onion chips. Take it easy on the cologne and perfume. (An "icky" dance partner is never a popular one.)
- Dance with many different people -- beginners as well as old-timers. (It's also generally OK to ask the DJs and dance instructors to dance.)
- As in any other type of classroom situation, pay attention to the instructor, and try to keep noise & conversation to a minimum.
- Cooperate with the instructor. If they ask you to change partners ("rotate"), for example, you should strongly consider it. You and your partner will learn much faster.
- Don't be in a hurry to join an "Intermediate" or "Advanced" class. Keep taking "Beginners" classes until you are really, really comfortable with the beginning material. Many beginners assume that you just need to attend one "Beginners" class before joining an "Intermediate" class. (Big mistake.) Learning to dance is like learning a new language -- you cannot learn all the "Beginner" material in just one lesson. Stay in the Beginning classes until you have mastered them.
- If you arrive late to class, do not expect the instructor to start over for you. (It's usually OK to ask him or her for a little help after class, though.)
- Do not videotape a class unless you have received permission from the instructor.