Dance Etiquette

Note: please read Protect Yourself - a great document by R. Crane on building a safe dance environment, improving communication, and avoiding creepiness on the dance floor.


Be cheerful and generous - no one wants to dance with a dour, picky dancer. If you sit on the sidelines, people may assume that you want some quiet time alone.

If you are an experienced dancer, ask beginners to dance. Don't try to teach/correct them, unless they ask; dance within their level, don't try to show off.

Listen to your partner's "voice" - feel how they are moving, and try to alternate between how their body wants to move, and how you hear the music. Don't force them to dance the way you want to dance. If you really can't connect during the song, you can politely say no to that partner for future dances - until you, they, or both improve enough in your dance that you are able to hear/respond to each other's voice.

Note to Leads: Follows control the minimum distance they choose to dance with you - don't force your partner into Close Embrace - just welcome them into it. Follows: if you are dancing with someone new, feel free to avoid Close Embrace by maintaining Closed Connection through firm compression on your Lead's shoulder - then relax into Close Embrace if/when you feel comfortable with their lead. Leads: likewise, you may choose to avoid Close Embrace - by maintaining compression with both hands.

True for all partner dances: don't squeeze your partner's hand/fingers - just connect like a comfortable handshake. Don't dig into your partner's back to drive a lead - use the palm of your hand to guide, but not push/pull. Don't lead by pulling/pushing (or stepping) - lead by moving/turning your Emotive Core (your sternum, near your heart) and driving with your legs; your shoulders/arms will follow.

In Close Embrace, if you are close to the same height, it's usually most comfortable to point your nose towards your partner's ear - rather than nose-to-nose. Some find it uncomfortable if you maintain eye contact during Closed Connection - if so, reserve eye contact for those moments just prior to an energy/direction change or accent - both for style, and to check that your partner is in sync with you that something is about to happen.

Always feel comfortable in refusing a dance (whether you are a Lead or Follow) - but decline in as friendly/supportive (yet firm) way that you can. It takes a lot of courage to walk up to a stranger and ask them to dance, particularly if you are new to the dance, community or venue... whether you choose to dance with them or not, make them feel welcome to the dance.

If someone is really obnoxious or behaving offensively, notify your dance host. We all want this to be a joyful experience and a welcoming/supportive community.

If you are refused a dance by a person (even repeatedly) - don't take it personally. They may be having a bad (or special) day, and just want to dance with the people they know. If they refuse over multiple nights, there are many others that you can ask. If no one is dancing with you, it's possible that people have perceived you to be doing something offensive - something that you may be unaware of - ask your dance host.

Most social dance communities include a rule of etiquitte that if you decline a dance, you should sit out the remainder of the song. This rule is not strictly adhered to at many Blues dance events - so use your judgement, particularly when declining a newcomer who may be accustomed to this rule.

Blues dancing is not about crotch-grinding - if you want to avoid offending partners - keep an upright posture with knees bent. When leading turns, be careful of your hand placement.

Follows - in general, lift your arms in turns/spins and watch your elbow-placement - it makes it easier for the Lead to reconnect, and minimizes the chance that you'll clock your Lead in the jaw with your elbow. Some instructors recommend lining your elbow up to the Lead's throat during a turn/spin; if in doubt, raise your elbow up next to your head, then lower it as you reconnect with your Lead.

Gender Neutrality - in many contemporary Blues venues, men and women will lead and/or follow. Usually, if there is a Lead/Follow imbalance in a lesson, more advanced dancers will switch roles to balance the class. Learning the other role will significantly improve your dancing - both in better understanding how the other role works, and in assisting novice partners, if they ask for help. Same-gender Blues dancing is not uncommon, it's generally not related to sexuality, it's often a great way to learn new technique/energy, and can be a lot of fun - so don't be surprised if you're asked - and be polite if you choose to refuse.

PLEASE be courteous with your breath. We dance in close embrace - clean teeth and a fresh breath are not just good manners and hygiene, it's mutual survival! Unfortunately, it needs to be said: always bathe and wear fresh clothes to the dance - coming straight from the gym is not pleasant.

If you sweat a lot, bring a change of shirt or a sweat rag (handkerchief) to control your sweat.

Don't spread germs: if you are sick, avoid going to the dance; if you cough/sneeze, wash your hands.

Leads - avoid doing lifts (some events ban them altogether) unless you are properly trained to do so (don't practice at a social dance), and only do so when there's room (generally later in the evening). Do not assume that your partner is ok with lifts and dips (with you) - don't try them with people until you get to know them better.

If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, please let your host know! They want to keep their venue/event as safe and welcoming as possible, and can't fix problems if you don't let them know what's happening.