Salsa Etiquette – 10 Simple Rules

“Like all social activities, Salsa dancing has a set of etiquette do’s and don’ts.”
Like all social activities, Salsa dancing has a set of etiquette do’s and don’ts. Most experienced dancers know the proper etiquette of dance floor behaviour, but it’s easy for a new, and enthusiastic dancer to inadvertently commit a “faux pas” and unwittingly get put on the “avoid” list before he/she can say “bailamos!”

Following these 10 simple Salsa Social Etiquette rules will keep you off the “avoid” list and ensure you have a long and happy social dance life:

Don’t interrupt
When asking someone to dance, be sure to observe (on your approach towards them) that they are not in a conversation with someone. Interrupting a conversation between two people is never polite and this is no exception in a dance environment.

Be assertive, not aggressive.
When asking someone to dance (who is clearly available to dance), please ASK them to dance, do not just grab their hand and drag them on the dance floor. This is a rule for guys and girls alike – gentlemen, be a gentleman and always offer a hand and lead your lady on to the dance floor. Ladies, don’t be shy to ask a guy to dance!

Be polite.
When turning someone down from a dance (for any reason) do not then turn around (during the same song) and ask someone else to dance or say yes to someone else’s offer to dance, even if the offer is from someone that you’ve been waiting to dance with all night. If you have turned down an offer to dance, good manners dictate that you must sit out that dance.

Don’t hog.
Unless you are very good friends with the person you are dancing with, do not “hog” a dancer (especially if they are a popular partner) for more than 2 dances. Even dancers who are known couples should not dance together all night – Salsa dancing is a social activity and part of being an active and friendly member of the community is to change partners every 2 songs or so.

Keep dry and odors to a minimum.
If you are especially sweaty (it happens) then be sure to either dry off frequently or change outfits! A good heavy-duty deodorant goes a long way, but strong perfume and cologne does not (many dancers are allergic and strong perfume or cologne is usually a turn off). ‘Nuff said.

Adapt to your dance partner.
Leaders, this means getting to know your partner (especially if you’re dancing with someone the first time) and BE GENTLE! Followers, this means keeping styling to a minimum in the beginning of a dance until you know your partner’s skill level and being attentive to your Leader’s technique. All experienced dancers will tell you that every dancer is different and that you must adapt to your Leader’s/Follower’s strength and weaknesses. Paying attention to your dance partner and their comfort level in turn patterns, embrace, and styling will make for a more enjoyable experience for both of you.

Stick to your lane.
As much as possible, be conscientious about staying in your dance space. Real estate on a crowded dance floor is a prized possession but should not be fought over. When you find a spot on the dance floor be mindful of the couples around you and adapt your dancing according to how much space there is. If the dance floor is crowded keep your turn patterns small and simple, and styling to a minimum. More dance floor space means more room to breathe and the possibilities of practicing your more fancy moves, but always remember that all dancers have a right to be on the same dance floor and therefore should all have equal opportunity to room to dance. Nobody enjoys a shoe heel stab in their foot or an elbow knock on the head – a night of Salsa dancing shouldn’t be a game of bumper cars!

Don’t be a lurker.
If you are not dancing, steer clear of the dance floor. Do not lurk or linger on the dance floor space as you will probably be taking up precious dance floor real estate and the couple dancing next to you would probably really appreciate it if you moved back just a foot or so. Appropriate places to hang out, socialize, and watch the action is up against the bar or (literally) on the side-lines. If you need to get around the club or studio to get to the coatroom, washroom or exit, skirt the edge of the dance floor, do not cut through the middle. Walking through a dance floor at any other time than at the beginning or end of a song is not cool.

Relax, cowboy, it’s just dancing.
This rule is more for Leaders, but can also apply to Followers. Stick to turn patterns that you know you can execute safely and comfortably. In Salsa dances this means avoiding lifts, tricks (unless you are an experience professional dancing with another seasoned professional) and complicated dips. In Bachata and Kizomba dances this means avoiding deep dips, leg tricks and body movement styling – without proper technique instruction these can end up feeling awkward and uncomfortable, and in the case of dips and tricks, can cause injury.

Relax, cowboy, it’s just dancing.
No, this isn’t a typo. This last rule bears repeating. Remember that everyone on the social dance floor is there to enjoy him/herself in an easy-going atmosphere. Performance and “serious” dancing has a time and place (like on a stage) and it’s not on the social dance floor. Social dancing isn’t a test so you don’t need to execute absolutely everything you know as much and as fast as possible. Breathe, relax, smile, and have fun. Every dance is a journey, so enjoy the ride.

There are many other Salsa Social Etiquette rules that you will discover over time. If you think I missed a few, write to us, the list is always growing.

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