What the readers say
My article on
dance ettiquette provoked a lot of responses, pretty much all positive
(I don't remember any negatives) and pretty much all from women (struck a
nerve, I see). Apparently, however, I didn't cover all the questions
that many of you still had and wanted answered. Many of these questions
are not areas where I'm qualified to answer and/or don't have a particular
opinion. However, I will attempt to
collect some the comments that I've received from my readers (some of whom
I would consider the "experts") about how they
feel about the issues I've discussed and about other topics related to the
dance experience. Feel free to throw in your two cents.
I want to thank everyone for all their feedback (especially the compliments!).
I haven't been dancing much lately and this has allowed me to get more
involved in dancing than I have been in a long time. It's been a lot of
- "For the record, sweat on my partner doesn't bother me at all,
no matter how wet he is; I just figure the guy is healthy."
This is a surprise. How many of you agree? Disagree?
On October 11, 1998, I finally met the young lady who gave me this
response. She told me that she changed her mind. :-)
- Asking for a dance
This applies to both leaders and followers. Someone wanted to
know about the ettiquette of asking a man/leader to dance if that
person is (much) more skilled than she is. I say, go for it. He
should be polite enough to say yes unless he's tired. There are
generally many more women than men on the dance floor so the aggresive
ones are the ones who will get to dance. Don't wait for a guy to ask
you to dance! (some of us are *extremely* shy!)
- Teaching on the dance floor
So far I had a few followers who didn't mind being taught on the
dance floor. One was a beginner and was eager to learn as much as
possible. How do you veterans feel about this? One friend of mine
will say, "Do it again!", if her partner leads something new and she
wants to learn it. I think that guys/leaders should *never* initiate
teaching on the dance floor...ever.
- Unintentional criticism...
Be careful here. Sometimes a random comment can come across the
wrong way. A little consideration might be a good thing. A guy
might casually say, "You need to relax more when you dance". The
obvious retort might be "Yeah? Well YOU need to learn how to lead
better, pal!" Even if the observation was accurate, the delivery of
a casual comment can turn nasty, even if unintentional.
- A local teacher says, "...a class and a dance are different things.
You go to each with a different goal. Class is to learn and practice.
A dance is a place to do just that...dance. In class, comments about
things not working generally are more accepted (but be careful since
many people take comments about their dancing very personally!).
Doing the same move 50 gazillion times is sometimes appropriate in
a class - after all, practice makes permanent! On the dance floor,
though, more than 3 times in a row of any move is too much.
- Women with long hair
"I would prefer to wear a ponytail when dancing, but if I do, I
can inflict damage. While it would be nice if leaders could avoid the
positions where they'll get hit, I prefer not to offend my partners
with a mouthful of hair (sometimes, I'd like to dance with them again ;)
I have figured out two workable solutions, depending on how long my
hair is, both based on the same idea.
Both of the styles work pretty well - they've proven to be lindy
resistant, easy to style and not too bad looking. -
- If shorter, I simply put my hair in a ponytail, then grab the
ponytail above the elastic and divide the hair above the elastic
in two, then pull the ponytail throught the space. This looks
decent, creating a sort of forties roll to it, and the rest of
the ponytail is shorter and held closer to my neck where it is
less likely to cause injury.
- When my hair is longer, I do the same thing, but after I have
pulled the tail through, I braid it and tuck it back up under the
elastic and pin it (I don't use regular bobby pins, they just pop
out when dancing, I use hard to find, expensive double helix
hairpins called 'Hair scroos' - don't laugh, they work).
Women's dance fashions
One reader (and a nice dance partner) senses that guys often like to see
styles that are more appropriate for other activities than dancing, or for
other types of dancing than they are doing. (I'll leave out the rest of
what she said on this topic. :-) )
- pants vs. short skirts vs. long skirts
My friend Martha said that with a long skirt it felt like her
dress was two beats behind. I think that keeping the dresses between
just below to the knee or just above the knee produces the best
effect (like the 1940's swing era look). Any shorter and she'll spend much of a dance showing off
her dance pants or underwear (or something else). One of our esteemed Dukes of Dance
says, "Personally, I don't like the aesthetic of bike shorts under
dresses. Either wear a dress or pants. But, I think I'm alone here."
He's definite *not* alone in that opinion.
- tight vs. loose
"Tight clothes can be restrictive. Too loose and clothes
can get in your way".
"The problem with tight clothes is that
you need the self-confidence to go with them," says one well-known
Boston dancer. "If you've got it, then enjoy!"
- tank tops vs. sleeves
I guess this goes back to the comment about sweat on exposed skin.
One woman says that comfort is always important, as well as
being able to move appropriately in your clothes. Murph says that she
never wears clothes with super low backs while dancing because she
doesn't want sweaty palms on her back. One guy said "Think about
sweat and how your partner would feel."
- hair down vs. hair pinned up
I had one dancer catch her long hair on me when I bent my arm
and clamped on her hair. Another dancer told me his girlfriend caught
her hair in his glasses! (ouch!) What's comfortable? Well, having
your hair whip in your face or your partner's is probably not
comfortable or pleasant (usually happens with ponytails). "Super long
hair is not good for a closed dance position because the leader ends
up with a fist of hair. Clips and barrettes, if chosen poorly, can
be lost during a dance, particularly during spins." says one who knows.
- flat shoes vs. heels
I think that heels help women produce that right walking movement
in West Coast Swing that is so cool (plus the fact that I like the
way women look in heels. :-) ) Flats or low heels would be more
in Lindy and/or East Coast Swing because of the constantly changing
movement. However, I'm sure that if guys had to wear heels, the
heels would fall out of fashion fairly quickly. One guy said that he
was more comfortable dancing with women who wore flats. It would be
awful if a woman twisted a leg because of heels. "Lindy is about
being crazy and quick, not tall and sexy," in one man's opinion.
"Heels have always accentuated women's legs, but I personally prefer
flat shoes since I dance both [ECS and WCS] styles", says Jitterbug
"Heels are impractical for swing dancing", says the Lindy Man.
In ballroom, "heels are de riguer". "Get shoes that have ties or
straps to secure the shoe to the foot. There's nothing more annoying
than trying to keep your loose fitting pumps on your feet while you try to dance.
And it's embarrassing when a shoe goes flying." The real fashion problem
women struggle with is how to get comfortable dance shoes (such as the
black & white lace-up lindy shoes) to look good with an elegant
(short or long) gown or even a basic skirt. Perhaps that's why some
women dance only in pants.
Pay attention to this, guys. My favorite leading lady (ha!) says,
"Men's shirts with collars also
convey a more "dressy" appearance than T-shirts. So, if you are at a
more upscale kind of event, don the collar shirt."
- 'When I asked the teacher to explain the followers role in a dance
move, his answer was "you don't need to have it explained, all you have
to do is follow". As far as I am concerned, he insulted half his
class. I give him lousy grades for a teacher. I would not want to
dance with this person.'
'Do you think that dancing draws a particular type of
controlling personality? I would seem that I am consistently running
into leaders who have a control problem. While the leader is supposed to
be in "control", you don't have to be rude about it.
It is fun to be nice and it makes dancing more enjoyable.'
No, it isn't who you think it is. :-P Guys, pay attention to this.
Look at which guys get asked to dance the most and find out why. It
might not have anything to do with how well they dance.
- Dancing with Pain
"I read with interest your letters re: dance ettiquette. I have a
simple rule I use and I teach to the students.
If someone asks you to dance, say yes, and dance one dance, then say
thank you and move on. It's rude to say no. If you know of a partner
who you'd rather avoid, say because they lead by pulling your arms out
of their sockets, you need to learn to keep your wits about you, avoid
eye contact with them, and if you see them coming, ask someone else to
dance quickly. It wouldn't hurt if you ask someone new to the dance
floor, and helped tutor them along for one dance- didn't people help
you out at the beginning? I think everyone has a duty to do a tutor
dance or two every time they go out dancing. ?
This sounds like some common-sense advice.
Agree? Disagree? Write
to me and let me know what you think.
Copyright © Benson Wong,
1997, 1998. All rights reserved
by the author. This article are intended for the reading pleasure
of the DanceNet On The Web readers. Duplication or use in any other
medium, including but not limited to print publication, another web site, or
downloading to a
storage medium on CD, floppy disk, hard drive, zip drive, or tape, without
the written permission of the author is prohibited.
Last updated January 14, 1999.
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