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Dance Etiquette

Elements of Dance Etiquette:
Success and Enjoyment in Social Dancing

(Note:  This page is long and will take some time to read.  But it is probably the most important information we could ever give to you about social dancing.   We encourage you to read it all the way through.  Expect that others will be reading it and applying it.)



Contents

(These are not links.  The material should be read all the way through and not skipped - so links have been puposefully left out.  Scroll down)


Introduction

The main role of etiquette is to make interactions in a dance setting enjoyable for everyone. In dancing, much like everyday life, etiquette strives to systematize the behavior so that one does not inadvertently offend (or in the case of dancing, even physically hurt) other individuals. The underlying foundation of the rules of social dancing is consideration for the safety and convenience of one's fellow dancers. Therefore, if in doubt about a specific point of etiquette, it is often enough to invoke the following rule: be kind, generous, and unselfish. One can hardly go wrong with that formula.

What to Wear?

The choice of outfit depends to a large extent on the dance venue and the type of dancing. One needs to consider established protocols, as well as comfort and safety during dancing. The more formal the dance, the more formal the outfit. At a charity ball in New York City, for example, anything short of a tuxedo or ball gown constitutes a faux pas. On the other hand, at local dance lessons and workshops, dress for convenience and comfort, so you can concentrate on learning.

Appropriate apparel and perceptions of formality vary greatly among different dance venues. A Milonga (Argentine Tango) requires a very different kind of attire than, say, a Country Western dance. Going to a dance is equivalent to entering a potentially different cultural environment. It is prudent to show respect for the accepted norms and customs of each culture, if you want to join and enjoy.

The following is a partial list of dress codes:

Comfort and safety:

Another element of dressing has to do with comfort and safety. Specifically, the clothing should make it easy and enjoyable for the partners to dance. In particular:

Personal Grooming:

While the subject of this section is elementary, it can still be useful as a reminder. Dancing is an activity where two people come in close contact. Unfortunately, one can remain unaware of one's bad breath or body aroma. Before a dance:

During a dance:

Asking for a Dance:

When asking for a dance, one cannot go wrong with traditional phrases:

In the past it has been the tradition that men asked women to dance. But this custom has gradually changed. Today, women should feel equally comfortable asking a partner for a dance, even in a formal setting.  If your desired partner is with a group, step up to him/her and make eye contact when asking for a dance. It can make for an awkward moment if a number of people think they have been asked to dance, and you have to tell them that they were not.

It happens, not infrequently, that one's desired partner is engaged in a conversation. Is it appropriate to interrupt a conversation to ask someone to dance? There is no clear, easy answer to this. Some say that one's presence in a dancing establishment indicates a desire for dancing, and therefore everyone is fair game. Another school of thought recommends asking your intended partner if he/she is standing on or near the dance floor, but advises against interruption if he/she is sitting down and talking with someone.

In general, ask someone to dance if you think he/she is ready to dance and will enjoy dancing with you at that moment. This may not always be immediately clear, however, and one needs to exercise sound judgment and common sense in each case.  For example, if someone is sitting closely with their significant other, whispering sweet nothings to each other, then it is probably not a good time to ask him/her for a dance. Now a different scenario: your intended partner is cornered and being lectured on weather patterns in lower Namibia. You can advance and stand close to him/her, looking keen and interested. Once your intended partner makes eye contact with you, smile and say: "Dance?" Usually, that is enough to do the job. If not, it is better to leave him/her to learn about weather patterns in lower Namibia.

Sometimes two individuals simultaneously ask someone for a dance. If this happens, it is not necessary for any of them to back off: "You go ahead..... No, YOU go ahead!" That would make the askee feel uncomfortable. Instead, they should look to the askee to pick one to dance with. The askee should do this graciously and, ideally, offer the other one a later dance.

Whom to Ask:

The question of whom to ask for a dance is not as trivial as it may seem. Force of habit, dancing capabilities, or personal attraction may incline a dancer to dance with the same partner (or a few partners) all the time. This, however, is not helpful to the social dynamics of a dance, therefore dance etiquette speaks out on the choice of partners: To ensure a diversity of partnerships on the floor, and to give everyone a chance to dance, etiquette rules against asking the same partner for more than two consecutive dances.

Naturally, individuals tend to dance with others at their own level, but excluding partners based on their level is not acceptable. In particular, to constantly seek the most skilled partners is against the spirit of social dancing. Better dancers are especially advised to ask beginners to dance. Not only does this help the social dynamics of a dance, it also helps the better dancer (although it is outside the scope of this discussion to explain why or how).

Unfortunately, one sometimes comes across dancers who consider themselves too good to dance with beginners, who cannot "keep up" with their level of dancing. It is often the case that these dancers are not as good as they think. They need good partners because only good partners can compensate for their mistakes, bad technique, or other inadequacies. The truly good dancers often seek the challenge of dancing with those at lower levels, and enjoy it. Good dancers make their partners look good.

Declining a Dance:

Especially for beginners and shy individuals, being declined can be difficult, and may discourage them from social dancing. Dance etiquette requires that one should avoid declining a dance under almost all circumstances. For example, there is no correct way of refusing a dance on the basis of preferring to dance with someone else. According to tradition, the only graceful way of declining a dance is either (a) you do not know the dance, (b) you need to take a rest, or (c) you have promised the dance to someone else.

Note that the last excuse should be used sparingly, if at all, because it is improper to book many dances ahead. When declining a dance, it is good form to offer another dance instead: "No, thank you, I'm taking a break. Would you like to do another dance later?" Furthermore, declining a dance means sitting out the whole song. It is inconsiderate and outright rude to dance a song with anyone after you have declined to dance it with someone else. If you are asked to dance a song before you can ask (or get asked by) your desired partner, that's the luck of the draw. The choices are to dance it with whomever asked first, or to sit out the dance.

In a perfect world, one would never come across unpleasant partners. But unfortunately, there are instances (hopefully few and far in between) where someone monopolizes a partner by asking for too many dances, is not safe to dance with (frequently steps on partner's toes, or collides with other couples), or consistently violates other rules of the dance floor. While promoting politeness, etiquette does not wish to put the dancers under the tyranny of the inconsiderate. It therefore cautiously allows one in these cases to say: "No, thank you," without explanation, in the hope that the perpetrator will realize he/she is in violation of the rules of social dancing. However, this option should be exercised with great restraint and only in the case of repeat offenders.

Being Declined:

The first thing to do when one is turned down for a dance is to take the excuse at face value. Typical social dance sessions can be as long as three to four hours, and there are few dancers who have the stamina of dancing it through non-stop. Everyone has to take a break once in a while, and that means possibly turning down one or two people each time one takes a break. The advice to shy dancers and especially beginners is not to get discouraged if they are turned down once or twice.   However, since social dancers are generally nice and polite, being repeatedly declined can be a signal. In that case, it is a good idea to examine one's dancing and social interactions to see if anything is awry.

 

On the Dance Floor

Line of Dance:

The dancing on a floor is done along a counter clockwise direction, known as the Line Of Dance. This applies to traveling dances including Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Quickstep, and Viennese Waltz, as well as Polka and two-step in the country western repertoire. Latin and Swing dances are more or less stationary and have no line of dance. Sometimes it is possible to dance more than one type of dance to the same song. For example, some Foxtrots can also be swings, and many Lindy Hop songs are just great for Quickstep. In that case, swing dancers take the middle of the floor, and the moving dancers move along the periphery in the direction of the line of dance.

Getting on the floor:

Some caution should be exercised when getting on the dance floor, especially if the song has already started and couples are dancing on the floor. It is the responsibility of incoming couples to make sure that they stay out of the way of the couples already dancing. Specifically, before getting into dance position, one should always look opposite the line of dance to avoid blocking someone's way, or even worse, causing a collision.

At the end of the dance:

After the dance is finished and before parting, thank your partner. This reminds me of a social partner who, upon being thanked at the end of the dance, would answer: "You're welcome!" This always gave me a funny feeling. The proper answer to "Thank you!" on the dance floor is: "Thank you!" The point is that the thanks is not due to a favor, but to politeness.   If you enjoyed the dance, let your partner know. Compliment your partner on her/his dancing. Be generous, even if he/she is not the greatest of dancers. Be specific about it if you can: "I really enjoyed that double reverse spin. You led/followed that beautifully!" If you enjoyed it so much that you would like to have another dance with him/her again, this is a good time to mention it: "This Waltz went really great! I'd like to try a Cha-Cha with you later." Although remember that dancing too many dances with the same partner and booking many dances ahead are both violations of social dance rules.

Leaving the floor:

When a song comes to an end, leave the floor as quickly as it is gracefully possible. Tradition requires that the gentleman give his arm to the lady and take her back to her seat at the end of the dance. While this custom is linked to the outdated tradition requiring the gentlemen to ask ladies for dances, it is still a nice touch, although it may be impractical on the more crowded dance floors. In any case, remember that your partner may want to get the next dance. Don't keep them talking after the dance is over, if they seem ready to break away to look for their next partner.

Leaving entrances free:

Some dance floors, especially in country western dance establishments, have limited access space (most of the periphery is railed). Dancers and onlookers should avoid blocking these entrances. In particular, avoid stopping to chat immediately after exiting the dance floor. Another issue in Country Western dancing regards line dancers, who sometimes share the floor with other dancers. They should avoid blocking entrances from the inside while dancing.

Sharing the floor:

Responsible usage of the floor requires that one stays out of the way of others. Some figures require a momentary movement against line of dance. These figures should be executed with great caution on a social dance floor, and only when there is no danger of collision. Avoid getting too close to other couples, especially less experienced ones. Be prepared to change the directions of your patterns to avoid congested areas. This requires thinking ahead and matching your patterns to the free areas on the floor (floorcraft). While this may sound complicated to the novice dancer, it gradually becomes second nature.

In the case where there is a gender mismatch, if you are a member of the over-represented gender, withdraw once every few dances to allow everyone to get a partner. The same is true if the dance floor is too crowded; withdraw every few dances to let everyone dance.

Another aspect of sharing the floor is to match one's speed to that of others. In a recent social dance, a particularly tall and handsome couple caught my eye. They were moving with great speed and skill across the floor, and I began to enjoy watching them dance. But then I noticed they were coming dangerously close to other dancers on the crowded dance floor, and many times other couples came to a stop and moved out of their way. While this experienced couple will probably not have collided with them, coming close to less experienced dancers at great speed was making everyone uncomfortable. Other dancers were justifiably unhappy about this couple "taking over" the floor.

Aerials and choreography:

The only thing to be said about aerials on the social dance floor is: don't do them. While they may look "cool," the execution of aerials requires training by a qualified instructor. Don't do them by yourself unless you are trained, and certainly don't do them on the social dance floor. Dancers have been badly hurt by either participating in aerials, or unluckily being in the proximity of those who did. In fact, in 1996, a swing dancer died during the execution of an aerial. Aerials can be extremely dangerous, please take this issue seriously. The same principle applies to other lifts and drops, as well as choreographed patterns that require a large amount of floor space.

No-Fault Dancing:

Never blame a partner for missed execution of figures. Once in a social dance I accidentally overheard a novice couple, where the lady said: "I can do this step with everyone but you!" The fact that she was wrong (I had seen her other attempts) is irrelevant. The point is that she was unkind and out of line. Even if the gentleman were at fault, she was not to say something like that (more about this in the section: "dancing to the level of partner.")

Regardless of who is at fault when a dancing mishap occurs, both parties are supposed to smile and go on. This applies to the better dancer in particular, who bears a greater responsibility. Accepting the blame is especially a nice touch for the gentleman. But at the same time, do not apologize profusely. There is no time for it, and it makes your partner uncomfortable.

My personal preference is the following: whenever something unsuccessful  happens, I first see if my partner noticed. Sometimes the partner may not be aware, for example, that a figure was slightly off-time or that a fine point in technique was missed, in which case it is better to let it go. If she has noticed, I just smile and whisper "sorry..." and go on, regardless of whose fault it was.

 

Did Your Partner Enjoy the Dance?

Dancing to the level of partner:

It often happens that the two partners dancing socially are not at the same level. It is important that the more experienced partner dances at the level of the less experienced partner. This is mostly a comment for leaders: when dancing with a new partner, start with simple figures, and gradually work your way up to more complicated patterns. You will discover a comfort level, file it away in memory for the next time you dance with the same partner.

The same principle applies to Latin and Swing followers, although to a lesser degree. Doing extra syncopations, footwork, free spins etc. can be distracting and even intimidating for a less experienced leader. Although I must say that the "show-off" follower is rather rare; most of the violations of this sort are by leaders who lead inexperienced partners into complicated figures.

Being sensitive to partner's preferences:

Social dancers strive to make their partners comfortable and help them enjoy the dance. This requires sensitivity to the likes and dislikes of the partner. These preferences can take a variety of forms. For example, I remember that one of my West Coast Swing social partners found neck wraps uncomfortable. In the same manner, some dancers don't like spins (or many spins in a row), while others really enjoy them. Some like extended syncopations and others don't. There are many more examples in various dance venues. Be sensitive to your partners. It is not too hard to detect their likes and dislikes, and if in doubt, ask.

Demeanor:

Be personable, smile, and make eye contact with your partner. Try to project a warm and positive image on the dance floor, even if that is not your personal style. Many of us lead hectic lives that include a difficult balance between study, work, family, and other obligations. Having a difficult and tiring day, however, is not an acceptable excuse for a depressing or otherwise unpleasant demeanor on the dance floor. Because of the setting of a social dance, we do not always dance with our favorite partners. This is also not grounds for a cold treatment of the partner. Once one asks or accepts a dance, it is important to be outwardly positive, even if not feeling exactly enthusiastic.

The social dancer is also well advised to be watchful of an unchecked ego. While a healthy self esteem is helpful in all social interactions, it is more attractive when mixed with an equal dose of modesty. Don't let perceived dancing abilities or physical attractiveness go to your head. It is helpful to remember that overestimating one's dance prowess or attractiveness is quite common.

 

Teaching on the Floor:

(There are two aspects to this point of etiquette: )

Unsolicited teaching:

This is unfortunately one of the more common breaches of dance etiquette. Ironically, this error is often committed by individuals who are not fit to teach! Experienced social dancers dance at the level of their partners. Instead of trying to teach someone a pattern in a few minutes, it is better to concentrate on doing what both partners can do, and enjoy the dance. Unsolicited teaching can be humiliating and takes the fun out of dancing.

Soliciting teaching on the floor:

This is not necessarily a flagrant violation. There are times in fact when it is flattering to be consulted about a point of dancing. However, this issue should still be approached with a little care. Here is a worst-case scenario, to illustrate the point: A polite dancer is excited when his favorite song comes on, and he asks the closest stranger for the dance. She replies: "I have never done this dance before. Can you please teach me?"

It is debatable how much one can learn, from scratch, in the 2-3 minutes a typical song plays, but that is beside the point. This may be a song he really wants to dance to. For this or any other reason, he may not want to spend time at that moment teaching someone, but she has left him no polite way of getting out. In this situation: (a) She doesn't know him (so cannot justify the imposition based on friendship), (b) she solicits teaching at the time he is asking her to dance, which puts him at a disadvantage, and (c) she does not know anything about the dance, so he cannot say: "let's just do what you already know."

Being considerate does not necessarily limit interactions between dancers. People do learn quite a bit from each other in social dancing. Observing a few simple points, however, will make this process more enjoyable for all parties concerned:

Summary:


Beyond Dance Etiquette:
Success and Enjoyment in Social Dancing


Contents:


Introduction:

People dance socially mostly for the pure joy of it. For the dancing enthusiast, nothing compares to the thrill of moving with grace and harmony to a beautiful piece of music with that wonderful partner of the moment. But anyone who has ever been to a social dance notices that not everyone is having a good time, or at least not equally so. While some sit out many dances, others are constantly in demand. These fortunate dancers seem not only to have a great time, they also transfer their sense of joy to others around them. There is something about these individuals that transcends good looks and dancing skill. How do they do it? What are the personal qualities, habits, and skills that lead to success on the social dance floor? This article explores answers to these questions.

Etiquette and Beyond:

Success in a social activity requires awareness of accepted norms of behavior. The importance of dance etiquette to the social dancer can hardly be overstated. Etiquette is important everywhere, but especially in dancing, a delicate activity where unpleasantness has no place. Dance communities tend to be fairly small, giving a nice self-enforcing characteristic to dance etiquette. Inconsiderate individuals may temporarily enjoy themselves at other dancers' expense. But they quickly develop a reputation, mostly unbeknownst to them, and become outcasts. A good reputation, as a considerate and enjoyable partner, is a social dancer's best asset.

In the following we touch on a few of the more important aspects.

One may argue that the remainder of this article is also etiquette-related. True, to the extent that etiquette, in promoting happy social interactions, shares many of the motivations of the discussions to come. Where exactly etiquette (mandatory behavior) ends, and smart voluntary behavior starts, is an academic issue. The skillful social dancer seamlessly combines etiquette with other considerations, to create for himself/herself an enjoyable dancing atmosphere. We proceed to talk about some of these considerations.

Make Your Partner Happy:

The single biggest secret of success in social dancing is to make your partners happy. Once you succeed at this task, your popularity will soar and you will never have a shortage of willing and enthusiastic partners to dance with. Realization of this fact and the commitment to use it as a guideline in social dancing is an important first step. Then, one needs to master the skills needed to actually implement this policy. We will revisit different facets of this concept, but for now, a few concrete examples:

The annoyance factor:

There are many things that may be acceptable in everyday situations, and yet can be very annoying when done at very close proximity, as one has to be while dancing. In particular, avoid humming to the music, counting the steps, or chewing gum while dancing.  It is worthwhile to repeat once more the cardinal rule of social dancing: You are happy when your partner is happy.

Who is Popular?

At this point you are a considerate social dancer who always puts his/her partner first. But building a reputation takes time. What makes someone popular at first sight? If you look around a dance hall at the start of a song, you will see dancers going around, scanning the crowd, looking for their next partner. Surely, you think to yourself, they don't all know their potential partners. Then what are they looking for? Here are some answers:

Dance Partners:

We already know about not monopolizing a partner. Dance etiquette has ruled that no more than two consecutive songs be danced with the same partner, so that everyone can find a diversity of partners to dance with. To do this is not only fair, it is smart: you will get to dance with everyone and improve the prospects of your social dancing.  Dancing with a wide set of partners is a cornerstone of social dancing. This general principle applies to everyone, including dancers who are romantically involved. A romantic pair that dances only with one another undermines the structure of social dancing by refusing to contribute to it.

Romantic couples who refuse to dance with others often act out of fear and inhibition:- fear of damaging the romance by dancing with someone else, or feelings of insecurity when their sweetheart is dancing with someone else. These negative emotions are unfounded, and arise from completely invalid notions of social dancing. Requesting or accepting a dance carries no commitment outside of the duration of a song, typically 3-5 minutes. Think of it as a brief chat with someone in a cocktail party, before moving on to the next conversation. Going to a dance and declining to dance with everyone is as boring and pointless as going to a party and not speaking to anyone. We will say more about this topic in the section on Dancing and Romance.

A great way to increase one's circle of dance acquaintances is to ask beginners to dance. Dancing with beginners is not only an excellent way to develop your lead/follow, but also is a great human investment that will pay off handsomely, because novice dancers don't remain that way for long. Don't think of dancing with a novice as charity, you are doing yourself a favor.  On the other hand, be judicious about asking those more skillful than you. If everyone was constantly seeking dance partners better than themselves, virtually no dancing would take place. Dancers are nice, so the skillful partners that you seek may not decline at first, but if you continue to hunt them down, they will start avoiding you. The rule of thumb is: the frequency of asking someone to dance is inversely proportional with their level of dancing. If someone is far more skilled than you, then ask them only sparingly (of course feel free to accept whenever they ask you, which could be often). If someone is equally or less skilled than you, ask them more often.  How do you get dancers, especially better dancers, to dance with you? Just be a considerate, warm, fun-loving partner, and keep improving your dancing.

Regular dance partners:

Whether or not to have a regular partner depends on many factors. The obvious advantage of a dance partnership is having someone to take classes and practice with, or to go out dancing with, especially to places not frequented by dancers. However, dance partnerships present unique challenges, and may complicate other parts of your life. A dance partnership is a very special kind of relationship, with a delicate balance, whose maintenance is highly nontrivial. The interaction of dance partnerships with your personal and romantic life is especially something to be carefully considered.

There are many arguments both in favor and against regular dance partnerships; the validity of each of these arguments varies greatly according to the personalities involved. Like any other relationship, a dance partnership requires care, consideration, and expenditure of time and effort. Before getting into a partnership, make sure you are willing to make the personal investment necessary to make it a success.  It is worth noting that one has no claim on the regular dance partner during a social dance. In a social dance, everyone dances with everyone, with the exception of the first and last dance of the evening, which can be reserved.

The Dance Community:

Shortly after starting to dance, you will have come across most of the ``regulars'' who make up the backbone of the local dance community. Dance communities are fairly small. The dance community is like a family, and its members are like family members. Friendships come and go over time, but family is there forever. That is why maintenance of relationships within a family is critical: few of us ever choose new parents or siblings. Once a relationship within a family has soured, its effects are long-lasting and painful. In the same vein, it pays to maintain good relationships in the dance community, because as long as you go dancing in the same geographical area, you will run into the same people over and over again, and awkward situations will remain, well, awkward.

Avoiding unpleasant situations is easy, especially because most dancers are easygoing, nice people. Just don't go out of your way to aggravate anyone. Easily done, because there is so much dancing going on, there is hardly time for anything else. All one has to do is to observe elementary social graces. Despite this, there are a few situations where dancers are prone to get in trouble.

One of these sticky situations involves dance etiquette. Everyone seems to agree to dance etiquette in abstract, but there is a wide variation in what individuals believe applies to them in practice. When you see someone who is, in your opinion, in violation of dance etiquette, it may be awfully tempting to go and give the offender a piece of your mind. Or at least, to try and politely point out the mistake. Don't give in to that temptation!

It is very difficult, in fact next to impossible, to change people. Few of us have that magical combination of tact, insight, and charisma to be able to change someone's behavior in a meaningful way. You are likely to generate resentment without accomplishing anything. Furthermore, you will look like a silly busybody to onlookers. The exception is the case of a close friend, whom you feel obligated to help out. In that case, any related conversation had better take place tactfully and in private. But in general: Etiquette, yes. Etiquette police, no!

Does this mean that etiquette offenders go scot free? Not really. Etiquette has a wonderful self-enforcing mechanism. Consistent violators will find themselves more and more isolated, and thus problems usually take care of themselves. In some cases more direct action may be needed, especially when the violator puts others in serious immediate discomfort or danger. Action should then come not from the average dancer, but from someone official, for example the emcee or DJ. In that case it is very important that the rules are stated unambiguously and enforced uniformly. Your job, however, is finished once you bring a violation to the attention of emcee or DJ.

It is also a good idea to avoid old, tired, and unresolvable arguments, dance-related or otherwise. For example, there is nothing original left to be said (if there ever was any) about the superiority or inferiority of International vs. American style, Swing vs. Jive, Country Western vs. Swing vs. Ballroom, and so on. More often than not, these are questions of taste, people have made up their minds, and will not be swayed by anything that you have to say. Enjoy the dance and the company of your dancing friends; don't put them down.

A phenomenon one sometimes sees in social dancing is dance cliques, groups of individuals that only dance among themselves, and implicitly or explicitly discourage others from dancing with them. There is very little you can do if you come across them. But if you are part of them: do yourself a favor, lighten up!

Dancing and Romance:

Dancing by its nature is a romantic activity. It involves music, and the close proximity of  the opposite sex. For most of us, this is part of the attraction of dancing. Where else is the opportunity of having an attractive stranger in your arms within a few seconds of meeting them? However, the connection of dancing and romance can unfortunately also lead to misunderstanding and unhappiness.

Much of this unhappiness can be avoided by awareness of the basic premises of social dancing. Social dancing is exactly that, social. Once again I will use the metaphor of a cocktail party: a dance is like a brief chat in a cocktail party, after which one moves on to the next conversation. Each of these conversations may in turn be funny, heated, professional, elegant, or provocative. Nevertheless, they are nothing but brief conversations, enjoyable at the moment, but certainly not signifying or requiring a long-term interaction.

The same principle applies to social dancing: Each dance is a brief, and hopefully enjoyable, social encounter. Newcomers to dancing sometimes have a hard time understanding this, but to ask or accept a dance does not necessarily indicate a personal interest, even though the dance itself might look passionate or provocative.

Dancing is about fun and fantasy and make-believe. It often involves imagination and the telling of a story: the majesty of Waltz, sensuality of Tango, aristocratic nobility of Foxtrot, the irreverent fun attitude of Swing, or the almost-rebellious abandon of Country Western. A particular dance may look alternatively elegant, provocative, strong, or sexy, but it is only a role-playing game. Correspondingly, a social dance event is a safe haven where one can play these games and have a degree of uninhibited fun, with the understanding that our actions on the dance floor, especially during a dance, are not to be interpreted according to the more serious (and conservative) standards of the outside world.

The common understanding of the dance community makes this level of fun possible; it has been agreed that we come together, enjoy our dancing, and that our dancing activities have no implications beyond the dancing itself. To read more into what happens on the dance floor would be a mistake. Two facets of this mistake that can be particularly hurtful: The first is to misread the attention and mannerisms of a partner, during dancing, as genuine romantic interest. While romances do develop in the dancing community (as anywhere else), be careful about making any assumptions. You will save yourself from an awkward moment, or worse, endangering your dancing friendships.

The second facet of this problem involves romantic partners that both dance. The key to their dancing and romantic happiness is, once again, that dancing is merely role-playing, and that what happens on the dance floor is not for real. Each of them should feel free to dance with other members of the dance community. Realizing this, they can spare themselves much pain and anguish, and build a stronger relationship.

Despite the fact that much of dancing is fantasy and make-believe, and that many dancers keep their romantic and dancing lives separate, there is nothing against looking for romance in the dancing circles. This may indeed seem a natural place for it, since dancing is an activity that brings the two sexes together. However, if you participate in dancing only for romantic purposes, it is advisable to be subtle and artful about it.

Looking Inside:

When all is said and done, your happiness in social dancing depends more on you than anyone else. If you are determined to have a good time, and have a good attitude, you have a good chance of enjoying your dancing experience.

The first ingredient of a good attitude is a sense of humor. Take all that comes to you in stride. If you are not asked for dances, or are turned down a few times, don't be bothered. If a particular dance does not go well, if you misstep in a pattern or two, let it pass. You can do no better than your best. Be nice to other dancers, continue to improve your dancing, and you will have a progressively more enjoyable dancing experience.

Dancers are in general a likeable bunch. But in dancing, as elsewhere, you will come across all types. Sooner or later, someone may rub you the wrong way, or even worse, be directly obnoxious to you. You may see gigantic egos, unsightly ambitions, and plain unkindness. Especially if you are a novice dancer, these circumstances can be frustratingly difficult to deal with. Thankfully these situations are rare, but at such times it is especially important to look inside and draw on your strength of character.

The key to enjoyment in dancing is awareness of your goal: to enjoy dancing. Enjoyment is contagious and cumulative. People like to be around individuals who enjoy themselves. Be one of those individuals. Be determined not to let small things spoil your evening of dancing.

To enjoy dancing, you must enjoy the music. If you are not already a musical person, develop an understanding and appreciation of the music. It will also help your understanding of the dance.

Active, outgoing personalities have an advantage in social dancing. Even if you are not naturally that way, try and cultivate a pro-active approach to your dancing. If you like a song and want to dance, if you like a partner and want to dance with him/her, don't hesitate to go and ask. Make friends in the dancing community. You would be surprised how much an occasional smile and salutation can do. There are virtually hundreds of individuals out there waiting to be friends with you. All it takes is a minimum level of effort from you.

Ultimately no-one and nothing can make you happy or unhappy. Only you can make you happy. Dancing can help.


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