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Throw-back thoughts from Barbara White - Dancing Etiquette

01/20/2020 11:40 AM | Linda Walton

From the newsletter archives......Jan - Feb 2011


Dance etiquette is nothing more than polite consideration of your dance partner and others around you as well as a concern for the safety of everyone involved.  Good dance etiquette helps to avoid accidentally offending or harming other dancers or people around you.  When in doubt about a specific point of etiquette, just remember the Golden Rule and treat others as you would like to be treated and be kind, generous, courteous, and considerate of others.   The following is information that has been found on other shag club sites and I would like to share it with you.  It covers everything you ever wanted to know about dance floor etiquette but didn‘t know to ask!!  You don‘t know what you don‘t know but after reading this, go forth and be ladies and gentlemen that the Richmond Shag Club can be proud of.

Everything here applies to both males and females whether you think it does or not!  And remember – they are just suggestions, not the gospel; however, it is good etiquette.  Although some of this stuff may sound negative, most of the time it is never an issue when dancing – but there are always the ―clueless and the ―special people‖ that think that the rules and graces don‘t apply to them. Try not to be one of them and . . . Good luck on the dance floor!         

1. Show your appreciation.  If dancing to a live band, applaud the band. If dancing to music played by a DJ, tell the DJ how much you appreciate him/her and they don‘t mind applause when it‘s appropriate either. They don‘t just play for the money! The more you show your appreciation, the better they will play and feel.   Also, don‘t forget your waitresses and bartenders! They work hard to accommodate you so show your appreciation and be kind!

2. The dance floor is for dancing.  If you‘re having a conversation or learning something new, move off the dance floor.  Dance space is a premium, so, if you‘re not dancing, stay off the dance floor.

3. The dance floor should be treated with care.  Beverages, food, lighted cigarettes, and chewing gum should never be brought on the dance floor.

4. Asking for a dance.  It is equally permissible for a woman to ask a man to dance as it is for a man to ask a woman. Take your partner‘s hand onto the dance floor and at the end of the dance, thank your dance partner.  Typically, it‘s good etiquette to accept an invitation to dance, but if you don‘t want to dance, say so politely by saying, ―No thank you.‖ If someone turns you down, accept it graciously and ask someone else to dance.  Don‘t be persistent, take them at their word. It‘s considered bad social etiquette to refuse a dance on the basis of preferring to dance with someone else.  In addition, declining a dance means sitting out the whole song.  It is inconsiderate to dance a song with anyone after you have declined to dance it with someone else. The choices are to dance with whoever asked first, or to sit out the dance.

5. Keep your opinions to yourself.   It is not polite to correct your partner on the dance floor. Remember, this is social dancing!  If someone does ask for help or instruction, kindly take them off to the side away from the other dancers.

6. Dance class instructors should do the teaching.   If you are in a dance class, let the instructor teach.   The instructor will ask for your help if needed.

7. Use Selective Floor Placement.   Establish your slot and continue to dance in it.  Usually the first couple on the dance floor will establish the slot.

8. Dance small.   Don‘t dance all over the floor as nobody likes to be pushed around the floor.  Also, save the arm waving, long and wide footsteps, and wild leg movements for elsewhere.   Aerials, drops, and slides are best left for jam sessions, competitions, and performances.  These type patterns are not appropriate for the social dance floor.   You are not the only one on the dance floor and you could hurt someone!

9. Leaders are responsible for looking out for the safety of their partners since they are directing their movements.  Keep them out of danger and be aware of the dancers around you.

10. Leaders, make your partner comfortable.   If you are dancing with a less experienced dancer, dance to their skill level.  Work as a team, don‘t showboat.

11. Leaders, keep it quiet.   If you must count and give verbal leads, keep it low enough that just you and your partner can hear.  It can confuse those around you.  

12. Pay attention to the beat of the music.   Just because you can count doesn‘t mean you‘re on beat. 

13. Be aware of the dancers around you.   Bumping into other dancers is inevitable. If you bump into someone, kick someone, step on someone‘s foot, or if they bump into you, always apologize whether it was your fault or theirs. (Even a short non-verbal gesture will do in some situations.  Show concern that no serious injury occurred.

14. Take care of your personal hygiene.   For your partner‘s sake, avoid eating garlic, onions, or spicy foods, and always brush your teeth and shower before going out dancing. If you perspire a lot, pace your dancing, or bring extra shirts, T-shirts, blouses, etc., and change sweaty clothing. Sometimes mints or deodorants will be the right choice! 

Please remember the instructors cannot teach properly if there is ―other instruction going on by the desk.  It is very distracting.  If someone asks for your help or wants to learn a new step, please take them out into the hallway or to the lobby (if not occupied by hotel guests) to show them privately so as not to take the focus off of what people are trying to learn.  Finally, if you are an experienced dancer and you are  helping to partner because of a shortage of men or women in the class, we ask that you please do not jump ahead of the instructor and show them higher level steps during class. Please help to instruct only what the students are learning – keep it simple so as not to confuse. Let‘s have another great year of dancing and fun!


The Richmond Shag Club is a 501(c)7  Social Club, P.O.Box 35771, Richmond, VA 23235

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