Dance Etiquette 101

When you’re just starting out partner dancing it can be a daunting prospect. Everyone seems to know what they are doing and who each other is. It’s completely normal to feel this way and will pass if you stick at it!

We’ve created this post to give you the confidence to survive your first few weeks and also, so that you know what to expect from one of our salsa nights.

Like everything in life, with time you’re going to find your own style but if you’re just starting out, or you need a refresher, here’s our dance etiquette 101:

  • You don’t need a partner to attend our events; people will ask each other to dance. Most British people take someone asking them to dance as a sign that they are interested in them – but that’s not it at all! At first you’ll probably feel pretty nervous, but we promise that you’ll get over the initial awkwardness quickly and soon be whizzing around the dance floor without a care in the world.
  • Everyone is there for the same reason, to have fun and to learn something new. It’s really easy to spark up a conversation with someone. Just use those magic words, ‘hi my name is …, nice to meet you!’
  • Generally speaking it’s a good thing to accept a dance when someone asks, although there are exceptions. It helps to build the other person’s confidence, and conversely rejecting them can really shoot them down. Don’t reject someone because of their ability, everyone has to start somewhere. Also, at the end of each song we usually move on to a new partner.
  • If you get a bad vibe from someone, then be aware that you don’t have to accept a dance. It’s worth remembering this useful line ‘I’m just sitting this one out’ – don’t be afraid to use it.
  • In salsa as in life there are a few bad apples, if anyone is inappropriately close during their dance then please let one of the organisers know. This is not acceptable under any circumstances but particularly with new dancers who don’t know what is and isn’t acceptable. We keep a close eye on the dance floor and work hard to maintain a safe and respectful environment.
  • One easy way to maintain a comfortable distance is to use “the frame”. Your teacher will explain the frame in your very first class. Don’t hesitate to walk off the dance floor if someone is being inappropriately close or just not letting go of you for 3-4 songs. You haven’t signed a contract to finish the dance! If you’re feeling uncomfortable, just politely say “I’m sorry, but I really need to sit down”.
  • If you have a dance with someone that you don’t enjoy, then don’t dance with them again. This is our best defence against bad apples. You guessed it… ‘I’m just sitting this one out’.
  • If you see someone leave the toilet without washing their hands don’t keep it to yourself. Tell people what have you have seen, we have a strict name and shame policy on this frankly disgusting phenomenon. If you’re getting a lot of ‘I’m just sitting this one out’ then have a think about the last five points and adjust your behaviour accordingly. We have unisex toilets in Distrikt so there really is no place to hide.
  • The man leads, but the woman is in control. Partner dances have a lead, usually the man; and a follow, usually a woman. That said, we often mix it up at Salsa Dance Leeds as dancing the other role is a great way to take your dancing to the next level. But the dance is a conversation. The lead indicates a move but it’s the follow’s choice and responsibility to respond. If a move goes wrong, first of all it doesn’t matter – that’s part of the fun, but it is always the lead’s fault, male or female.
  • Make sure you smell good and your breath is fresh. You’re going to be dancing in close proximity with people and there is nothing worse than body odour or bad breath. Plus it’s very hard to approach people about the subject so people might not tell you. That’s why you need to be extra careful that you are smelling fresh!
  • Please don’t be too quick to form an opinion. Most salsa dancers are very friendly and welcoming, and you may find that unusual at first, but just give it some time. The salsa crowd as a whole are a friendly bunch.
  • And finally, have fun! If you have any questions on the night, direct them at any of the teachers or friends you’ve made, they’ll be happy to help. And also, tell us what you really enjoy about the night and what can be improved. It’s with your feedback and support that we can keep improving our classes and socials.

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About Jake

Jake is the founder of StreetSalsa, he regularly contributes to several blogs on the subject of salsa and teaches in and around Leeds.

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