Dancing is as much as a social event as it is an art form. Whether you’re dancing the Salsa or Bachata, there are rules and expectations that you should stick to when engaging in social dancing classes and events. This way, the entire experience will be enjoyable for everyone.
As far as the expectations for social dancing go, most are unspoken and apply not just for social dancing but in Latin and Ballroom dances too. In this guide, we’re outlining the basic etiquette for social dancing:
Salsa and Bachata Basic Etiquette
Being presentable is a must in any social gathering, including social dancing. Like most dances, Salsa and Bachata require you to stand close to your dance partner. You have to smell good when you're in very close physical contact with other people. Shower well before going out for dancing, put on some deodorant, and wear clean clothes.
Brush your teeth and avoid eating food that produces pungent odors such as garlic or onions. Freshen up a few minutes before the dancing starts and pop a breath mint (bring extras in your pocket for good measure!) to keep your breath fresh. Wear a light body spray and avoid heavy scents because some people are allergic to certain fragrances.
Always keep a hanky in your pocket because dancing the salsa or Bachata will make you sweat! To control body odor in the middle of the event, keep antibacterial wipes handy. The wipes will keep odors away for a good several hours.
Dips and Drops
Bachata and Salsa call for dips and drops, moves that need more floor space. Do the dips and drops with caution so you don’t end up bumping with other dancers. Spontaneous, forced, or uncontrolled dips are a no-no. Do not force the dips or drops by throwing yourself down into your partner’s arms. Even if you are skinny, forcing a dip or drop feels like carrying a ton of bricks and if your dance partner didn’t see it coming, you might end up injuring yourself.
Ladies, if you want to dip, let your lead know. The risk of an injury is just too great especially if your unsuspecting partner has a bad back. Gentlemen, do not push your partner to a dip (or any other trick for that matter) always ask permission! Even if you know your dance partner well, it’s still important to let them know about the dips and drops.
Dancing with Your Partner
Dancing does require standing close to your dance partner but not too close. You don’t want to make your dance partner feel uncomfortable in any way. The level of closeness that a person could take will depend on his or her trust and connection with you. If you’ve just met your dance partner, don’t expect him or her to be fine with standing too closely with you. Dancing too closely with a partner could also throw off his or her balance, which will affect the overall performance. So give your dance partner time to be comfortable with you, stick to the distance that the partner is comfortable to keep, and avoid giving unwelcome moves or gestures.
Save the Dance Lessons Later
If you're an experienced dancer, avoid correcting someone's dance moves. Let the instructor do the corrections themselves. Social dancing is all about supporting one another, not pointing out mistakes. Dancing with more people improves your dance skills as well as others. Don’t tell your partner what he should do and not do unless he asked you to teach him a certain trick or move. If there are mistakes, let them go unless the said mistakes are physically hurting you.
If you have issues with specific moves, be polite and sensitive to your lead’s feelings when you bring it up. Ideally, this should be done once the dance has finished, not in the middle of it. This way, you have more time to explain your problems with the move.
In the same manner, do not expect your lead to teach you how to dance in the middle of a performance. If you are new and you cannot perfect a certain dance move, just let your partner know that you’re no expert and that you want to master the move later - don’t make your lead make the same move repeatedly until you get it right.
Don’t ask the lead to critique your dancing while dancing, something that’s quite common among people who are dancing with a dance instructor. Focus on the song, dance to it, try to connect with your dance partner and have fun!
Share the Dance Floor
Quick footwork and high-energy dance moves are the hallmarks of Bachata and Salsa. Regardless if you are a beginner or an advanced-level Latin dancer, always be mindful of other dancers when you are dancing. Keep yourself and everyone safe by sharing the dance floor. This goes especially if the dance floor is packed.
Avoid taking big back steps or dramatic dips if there’s no room. You might end up injuring yourself and the dancers behind you. Keep the movements small if the dance floor is small so you don’t bump into people. Save the aerials for competitions and demonstrations.
If you inadvertently stepped on someone’s foot or dress, take a moment to acknowledge it and apologize to the other dancer then keep on dancing. No need for a long-winded explanation, just look at the other dancer, give them an apologetic look and mouth the word "sorry."
Finally, if the dance floor looks crowded, wait until the crowd has cleared before dancing. Clogging the dance floor and squeezing in when there's hardly any room left is not only off-putting to others, it also impedes your movement so you cannot dance properly. And if you are done dancing, leave the dance floor so others have a chance to bust a move.
Giving or Receiving a Dance Invitation
Social dancing is all about having fun and you’re bound to receive dance invites or ask someone to dance with you during the event. If you’re getting the invite, you’re not obligated to say yes. While it is encouraged to accept invitations to dance, you don't have to dance with someone if you have a good reason to refuse the invite.
If you’ve accepted the dance invitation even if you don’t feel like it for one reason or another, do not act visibly bored, annoyed, or disinterested. Discouraging others to dance with you this way is plain rude. It hurts other people’s feelings and destroys their confidence. Be cordial with your dance partner and try to squeeze in short convos to make the experience more pleasant.
If you are giving the dance invites, be polite about it. Don’t hound dancers for dance invites all night long because you might end up getting blacklisted. If your invitation has been declined, respect the dance floor boundaries and don’t take it personally.
Accessorizing and Looking Good
Looking good on and off the dance floor is important for most dancers but it’s equally important to be mindful of the kind of accessories you wear in social dances.
For the ladies: If you have long hair, wear a bun or a ponytail so your hair won’t get in your dance partner’s hand, clothes, or face while dancing. Don’t wear your hair in a long braid either because the braid could fly up and hit your lead in the face.
Avoid accessories that could result in an injury or be caught in places they shouldn’t. Brooches, keys, large rings, long necklaces, large rings, belt buckles, etc., are a no-no because these could injure you or your partner while dancing.
Don't take your handbag with you on the dance floor. If you have friends with you, leave your belongings to them for safekeeping. Better yet, do not bring too many things with you if you are worried about your belongings being stolen while you’re dancing. Bring only what you can afford to lose.