When asking for a dance, it is easiest to stay with traditional phrases:
- ``May I have this dance?''
- ``May I have this Waltz/Rumba/Foxtrot/etc.''
- ``Would you like to dance?''
- ``Care to dance?''
- ``Shall we dance?''
In the past it has been the tradition that men asked women to dance. This custom has gradually changed. Today, women can
feel equally comfortable asking a partner for a dance, even in a formal setting.
If your desired partner is with a group, be unambiguous and make eye contact when asking for a dance. If you vaguely approach
a group, two individuals may think you are asking for a dance. You can imagine that the one not getting the dance is going
to be disappointed. Avoid such awkward moments by a decisive approach and solid eye contact.
What if you want to ask someone to dance, who is enganged at the moment in a conversation? Is it acceptable to interrupt
a conversation to ask someone to dance? Some would say that one's presence in a dancing establishment indicates a desire for
dancing and everyone is fair game. Others say that interrupting a conversation is rude.
In my opinion, ask someone to dance if you think he/she is ready to dance and will enjoy dancing with you at that moment.
This requires you to be a good judge of the moment. Also, if you know someone well enough to know they don't mind being interrupted,
then go ahead and ask them.
Perhaps one way to handle this is to walk gently to the edge of your intended partner's "personal space", which is about
3-4 feet. It will give you an opportunity to ask them to dance. If your presence is not acknowledged, then it may be a good
idea to find someone else for that dance.
Exercising courtesy, common sense, sensitivity, and social skills is always a good idea. N
Sometimes two individuals simultaneously ask someone for a dance. In that situation, dance etiquette recommends that the
object of attention should accept one of the dances, while offering a later dance to the other one.
If each person were to dance with only one or two others, the social dynamics of dancing would be completely
compromised. For that reason, dance etiquette strongly encourages everyone to dance with many different partners. This
is to ensure a diversity of partnerships on the floor, and to give everyone a chance to dance. Specifically, dance etiquette
rules against asking the same partner for more than two consecutive dances.
One violation of this rule occurs when someone dances most of the night with their escort. The ruling of etiquette in this
case is much the same as for the traditional (formal) dinner parties: one never sits down to dinner next to one's spouse.
It is assumed that if spouses were interested primarily in talking with one another, they could have stayed home together.
By the same token, going to a social dance demonstrates a desire to dance socially. This means dancing with a host of partners,
and not just with one or a select few. I have heard a version of this rule that reserves the first and last dance of the evening
to be done with one's escort, and other dances with others.
You should avoid dancing with only those at your level of dance experience. Rather, you should try to dance socially with
partners of all levels. Dance etiquette frowns disapprovingly on those who only dance with the best dancers on the floor. This
considerd rude and bad form. 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 more skilled dancer as they reach out to and encourage others.
Unfortunately, there are some social dancers who consider themselves too good to dance with beginners, who cannot ``keep
up'' with their level of dancing. Truly good dancers often seek the challenge of dancing with those at lower levels,
and enjoy it. Gracious dancers make their partners look good, and enjoy the benefit of making many new friendships.
Being declined is at times unavoidable. For beginners and shy individuals, the thought may discourage them
from social dancing. However, Dance etiquette requires that one avoid declining a dance whenever possible. It is never acceptable
to refuse an invitation on the basis of preferring to dance with someone else. 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.
When you must decline an invitation to dance, you should always offer another dance instead: ``No, thank you,
I'm taking a break. Would you like to do another dance later?'' Additionally, declining a dance means sitting out the whole
It is not permitted to dance a song with another individual after you have declined the dance with someone else. If
you are asked to dance a song before you can ask (or get asked by) your desired partner, the choices are to dance it with
whomever asked first, or to sit out the dance.
Does dance etiquette allow declining a dance outside of the cases mentioned above? The answer is yes, if someone is trying
to monopolize you on the dance floor, make inappropriate advances, is unsafe (e.g. collides with others on the floor), or
is in other ways unsavory, you are within the bounds of etiquette to politely but firmly decline any more dances. Perhaps
the simplest, best way is to say ``No, thank you,'' without further explanation or argument. If a situation proves problematic,
always inform the host or a chaperone for assistance in handling a difficult situation with sensitivity.
The first thing to do when one is turned down for a dance is to take the excuse at face value. Most social dances can
be as long as three to four hours, and there are few dancers who have the stamina of dancing non-stop. Everyone has to take
a break once in a while, and that means possibly turning down one or two people each time you takes a break. The advice to
shy dancers and especially beginners is not to get discouraged if they are turned down once or twice.
Accepting an invitation to dance:
This is the easy part. Simply smile and say : "Yes, thank you!" "I would love to." "I would be happy to." or something
similar. If you were standing with another individual or group, be sure to excuse yourself before entering the dance floor.
In the vast majority of cases, you will accept the offer to dance (or your request to dance will be accepted!) After
the dance is finished and before parting, ALWAYS thank your partner. The proper response to your partner's "thank you" is
not "your'e welcome", but rather: ``Thank you!'' The point is that the thanks is not due to a favor, but to politeness
and mutual appreciation.
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.'' Remember however, that dancing
many dances with the same partner or reserving many dances ahead are both poor dance form.