Dance Etiquette for New and Old Dancers
Items 1 - 15 of this etiquette list were compiled by Leslie Hyll from Miami Valley Folk Dancers. She says, "It has been structured to apply to international folk dancing, but pieces may have value to contra, square, swing, vintage, or other types of social dance. The reader is welcome to plagiarise, modify, adapt, add to, or delete from this list to make it useful for whatever genre."
Items 15 - 22 were gleaned from suggestions posted to the Rec.folk-dancing Newsgroup.
Every once in a while we all need to be reminded.
- When you lead the program, please tell us when we should
and shouldn't get into a dance we don't know.
- Always join a line dance at the end of the line. (90% of
the time, the left end is the end. Watch out for those
dances whose ends are on the right!)
- Always join a contra line or longways set at the foot of
the set (the end away from the music).
- Respect other dancers and leaders and treat everyone with
- Do not offend others with your high flung legs, or
overzealous endeavors to help others who may hesitate, by
pulling, grabbing, or pushing them, or by speaking loudly
or harshly to them.
- Be quiet and attentive to the instructor even though you
know what is being explained or you are not dancing.
Perhaps someone else needs to be briefed.
- There shall be only one instructor at a time. Do not try
to teach when someone else is teaching. Maybe the
instructor wants to do the dance in a different manner
- Bathe diligently, that the sweet aroma of soap and lotion
may assail the nostrila of your associates. Similarly
take care that the word of your mouth is not scented with
strong smelling herbs, such as garlic, onion, or
- Folk dancing requires "reflex action" much the
same as driving a car, so refrain from using alcoholic
beverages before and during dancing.
- Wear a name tag at all times. New members don't know
old members; old members don't know new members.
- Do not be a snob, considering yourself too good to dance
with any and all, by sitting out mixers, or by leaving a
set lest you be required to dance with those you deem
unworthy of your talents.
- Be conscious of the feelings of those around you and do
not let the stranger in your midst sit on the sidelines,
or fail to speak to him. Be friendly at all times -
everyone needs fellowship.
- Never forget that you were once a beginner, and that
others helped you become a good dancer by tolerating your
mistakes. Remember, always help new dancers - that's
how to keep folk dancing alive!
- Make it a practice to thank guests for coming,
instructors for teaching, program leaders for leading,
everyone who made your evening a pleasant one.
- And as always, dance only for the FUN which you find in
- If you do find yourself in a dance that is too difficult for you, please bow out before you trip, step on, or otherwise injure yourself or others. Try following the dance from behind the line instead. Alternatively, stand between two people who know the dance well and who are happy to assist. If you know the dance well and can see someone struggling dance next to them and guide them. Remember we were all beginners once and how you felt when someone guided you.
- In dances with unusual hand/shoulder holds, try to dance next to someone of your approximate height. Shoulder holds are uncomfortable when you're 5'3" and the person next to you is 6'2", and in a dance with a baskethold, the tall person's arm will cross against the chest of the shorter person.
- Be aware of how your body position in the line or circle affects those next to you and the line and circle as a whole. If you twist your body while in a shoulderhold, you will also twist the arm of the person next to you at an uncomfortable angle.
- Try to move as fast as the others in the line so it doesn't back up behind you, and try to keep circles circular by not straying too far forward or backward.
- Relax - don't grip your neighbours' hands with a deathgrip or squeeze their little fingers tightly in a fingerhold.
- Try not to wear rings or watches that are so large or sharp-edged that they might gouge others' hands.
- In an elbow hold (such as for a swing) cup your hand (with thumb tucked alongside index finger) around your partners elbow - do not grasp it with your thumb on top. It often bruises badly.
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Last modified 20 Apr 1999
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