Watch that step! Manners and Etiquette on the Dance Floor

by Danielle Hernandez on September 25, 2018

You know how to dance, but do you know how you “should” be dancing? Read on as we take you through dance etiquette most seasoned and popular dancers swear by.

“Dance like no one is watching” goes a famous quote, but in the digital age, you are being watched, observed, and scrutinized every single day. The dance floor is your arena, and it does have certain rules and conventions.

Whether social dancing or dance practices, dancers are expected to follow a set of rules that should be followed. Just like table manners, dance etiquette is guidelines for "correct" (or polite) behavior while dancing.

All etiquette and manners have their roots in practicality, and following guidelines provide for the comfort level of all dancers, which help in maintaining good behavior among dancers, traffic control, direction and safety on a dance floor. 

What to Wear on the Dance Floor

What to wear on the dance floor

Before you panic, remember that dressing for a dance only requires you to match what others are wearing. Social dancing is a group activity, and your clothing choice should be based on formality or style of the event. You can't go on the dance floor in flats or sneakers at a salsa event, can you? 

While practicing too, it makes sense to keep your clothing comfortable. When in doubt, follow the crowd should be your mantra. 

Invest in a good pair of dance shoes to avoid ankle and knee injuries and to keep your feet gliding across the floor.  

When taking part in high-intensity dances like jive, rumba, and salsa, its best not to wear sleeveless shirts or strappy dresses, hot and sweaty skin is so not appealing! 

Remove watches or jewelry or wear them strapped on properly so they don't catch your partner during the dance.

Tie up your long hair so they don’t hit other dancers in the face during twists and turns! 

Focus on grooming and hygiene. There is nothing worse than dancing with a sweaty partner who has bad breath and dirty clothing. 

Asking for a Dance 

Until the late 90s, it was the cultural norm to expect the gentleman always to extend the invitation to the lady on every occasion. To these people, it might feel presumptuous or uncomfortable if a lady asks a gentleman to dance. But these days, it’s ok to step out of your ladylike comfort zone and do a role reversal!

If you are meeting for the first time, introduce yourself first and then invite your prospective partner to dance. Gentlemen usually offer their arm to escort ladies to the dance floor and then back to their seats. 

Thank your partner for the dance. Not flattery, but sincere compliments are welcomed and encourage the dancer. Live bands and all performers should be applauded, during and after the routine.

How to Dance on the Dance Floor 

How to dance on the dance floor

You must have learned the entire dance routine and practiced it more than anyone else, but do you really know how to dance on the dance floor? For some dances such as foxtrot, waltz, tango, two-step, polka, samba etc, the dance progresses in a counter-clockwise fashion. Still, you must remember to always move WITH, not AGAINST the line of dance to minimize the risk of collision. 

Remember- the fast dancers tend to remain on the fringes. Outer edges of the dance floor are for seasoned dancers who can move fast. New dancers, or those who want to try different styles, should be in the center. 

Mind your manners- even if it’s not your fault- remember to apologize for bumping into another dancer/s.No short-cuts, please! To go to the opposite end of the dance floor, take the long route, around the dance floor instead of cutting through other dancers. 

For the couple dances, it's the leader's responsibility to make the followers look good. And it’s the follower's job to follow the leader, even if there are a few mistimed steps by the leader. Nowhere the word "together" is more important than in couple dancing.  

Seasoned dancers are aware of the importance of a strong dance frame. Dance frames are upper body stances and positions of dancers. A strong frame means better chemistry with your partner as then your partner can understand your intended movements better.  

Don’t instruct or offer unsolicited advice or criticism. If need be, bring down your dance level to the less experienced partners’ whether you are leading or following. If there is a mistake, simply smile and carry on. The purpose of dance is to have fun and relax. Don’t get worked up or upset that your partner isn’t as good as your expectations. Telling them what to do is actually insulting them. 

In the same vein, it is important to note that you shouldn’t expect your partner to teach you how to dance on the dance floor. Nothing much can be accomplished in the 3-5 minutes you are dancing in a social setting. Learning to dance should happen separately at dance lessons at your local studio. 

Maintain distance- don’t hold your partner for dear life! They are not going anywhere. You can’t expect to have fun by holding someone hostage or getting held as if you might run off. Neither too tight nor too loose is the rule. You are not there to prove your physical strength so abstain from being too pushy and physical.

Smile, look happy and make proper eye contact at all times! Whether it’s a solo performance, group dance or couple dance, social or on-stage setting, looking cheerful and making eye contact with your partner or audience is really going to make you shine through.  

Always carry food and beverages around the perimeter. Wipe up your own spills. While practicing in a studio, make sure your shoes are not dirty, your dress is clean and you maintain the discipline of the class. Encourage your children to use dance accessories like clothes, shoes, props etc only on the dance floor and not in routine to avoid damage or spoiling.

Don’t zone out while dancing as a couple. Pay attention to your partner. Remember that the two of you are out there to have some serious fun. If you are too focused on dance moves and totally shun the other person out, it will be very difficult to explain later. 

Respect the personal space of others. Try and avoid too flashy and tricky moves. Try and avoid too flashy and tricky moves. You may have self-choreographed a few groovy steps but you may need a lot of space and might inconvenience others in trying them. 

How to say “No” 

In a social setting, you might want to decline a dance request. It requires tact and good manners to do it without sounding rude or condescending to others. 

Why it’s Important to maintain Dance Etiquette? 

Why it’s important to maintain dance etiquette?

Whether you are young or old, beginner or experienced, your dance has a lot to do with the way you carry yourself. Just like any other setting, your polite manners, and attention to detail will help you enhance the joyful experience of dancing for yourself as well as for everyone. 

Everyone wants to fit in with the crowd and dance is a great way to break the ice and make social interactions pleasurable.  

If you respect others, you will get the same respect in return, and there will be ample opportunities to make friends, show your dance skills and build healthy relationships. 

Agreed, some dances like hip-hop and street dancing do not have specified and stringent conventions. But overall, it pays to exude warmth, charm and be welcoming on the dance floor. Even if you make mistakes, if you are a good company for your partners, fellow students, and the audience, they will enjoy as much as you do. Remember, the aim is to have fun and not be a wallflower at any dance forum. Your dance reflects your personality. To keep it classy, follow the correct dance etiquette –watch your steps, have a good time!  

Happy Dancing! 


Please note, comments must be approved before they are published