Part 3, To Dance or not to Dance, that is thy Sport…Friday, April 30, 2010, 17:59
by Jean-Claude Dimech
Whether taken as a competitive discipline or simply as a recreational moment, dancesport, is an ideal social event where students also learn the importance of social protocol and etiquette. As a social recreation, you will come in close contact with many people. Proper hygiene is essential and students are advised to keep themselves well groomed.
It is important in social dancing like wise in everyday life to follow a set of norms since dancing is also a way of interaction with other people.
The following are some useful dance etiquette tips:
- Do not hurt your partner! This is of particular importance to leaders in general, but followers occasionally hurt their partner by gripping his hand too hard or the wrong way (make sure to have a loose grip while spinning).
- It is still most common for a man to ask a woman to dance, but these days it is also quite acceptable for a woman to ask a man to dance (in some settings other possibilities are accepted, but that varies). It is particularly important for men that they should politely ask the woman they’d like to dance with (ie don’t ask the guy she’s talking to for permission to dance with her – this ticks off a lot of women). Generally a simple “Would you care to dance?” or “Pardon me, but could I have this waltz” is fine.
- If someone asks you to dance, the answer is “Yes, thank-you” except under unusual circumstances (eg that person is in the habit of hurting his/her partners). In the ballroom community strangers routinely dance with each other – many people take it as a personal insult if you refuse to dance with them. The most acceptable rejections are “I’m sorry, but I’ve already promised this dance to someone else, maybe we can have the next dance,” or “I’m sorry, I’m a bit tired and I’d like to sit out a dance, maybe we can have the next dance.” Of course, if you use the latter excuse and then dance with someone else, you are likely to insult the person who asked you first. In any event, if you suggest a later dance, then you should expect to actually dance with the person later. (Generally speaking, you should expect to dance at least once per night with everyone who asks you.)
- If someone agrees to dance with you, you should hold their hand as the two of you walk on/off the dance floor.
- Try to make yourself comfortable to be near: make sure that you have recently showered and brushed your teeth (or at least freshened your breath since your last meal/smoke). People with long hair should make sure it is somehow held in place so it doesn’t hit their partners when they spin. Make sure there are no bulky items such as keys or wallets in your front right pocket (you will probably look and feel better if all your pockets are empty while you dance). Don’t wear sharp rings or any long, dangling jewelry. (Note it is common in some areas for people to bring towels and multiple shirts to dances so as to avoid getting overly sweaty.)
- Make sure to use good floorcraft when dancing. Always be careful not to crash into or corner other couples on the dance floor. (It is, of necessity, the primary responsibility of the better dancers to avoid the less experienced dancers on the floor.)
- Do not otherwise block the flow of the dance: Progressive dances always move counter-clockwise around the outer portion of the dance floor. If you want to be on the dance floor during a progressive dance, then either move with the flow or move to the middle of the floor. Going to the edge or the corner of the dance floor to “get out of the way” puts you exactly where the other dancers are trying to go. (Bear in mind that just because you are doing a dance which is not progressive, doesn’t mean that nobody else is doing a progressive dance – make sure you leave room for some couples to do fox trots while you’re doing swings.) Finally, clear off the dance floor when you’re not dancing – don’t stand around chatting with your partner if you happen not to like the next dance. 
Dance students naturally want to get the most they can from their lessons, but often lack a clear understanding of how to do so. In fact, any student’s progress depends mostly upon how they approach and use their lessons. Fast, complete and efficient progress will result only from a logical and structured approach to learning.
The following are some tips for complete beginners and all those who endavour to continue within the career of Dancesport:
- Set a Goal – Quite simply, unless both the instructor and the student have a clear understanding of the skills and abilities that are to be developed, then progress suffers. A frank discussion of goals and the formation of a solid teaching plan are essential.
- Correct Frame of Mind – The student-teacher relationship is one of both physical and mental participation. Knowledge can only be gained through focused attention and a willingness to learn. Students should take care to apply themselves to the task at hand, and to do their best to perform the new elements according to their instructor’s direction.
- Concentration and Focus – Sometimes students, in a desire to “do everything right”, will focus on one facet of dancing while the instructor is attempting to work on another. The experienced instructor will not expect their students to correctly perform all of their old skills while learning something new. The student should direct their attention only to the topic which the instructor has chosen, and the instructor will later amalgamate the new knowledge with the old.
- Allow the Instructor to Teach – The student is wasting their instructor’s skills if they do not allow the instructor to exercise their own judgment and abilities. Many students, who would not dream of telling their doctor what medicine to prescribe or their mechanic how to repair their car, will not hesitate to tell their instructor which part of their dancing most needs attention, and how they should be taught. Instead, the instructor should be given rein to teach as they see fit, so long as they are working to the best of their abilities towards the student’s goals.
- Remember also that learning to dance is different from learning pure mental skills — sometimes understanding comes only after correct performance, instead of the other way around. The student should always try to allow the instructor to complete a presentation, since quite often full understanding dawns only when the presentation is complete and a “feel” for the action is obtained. If at that point the student does not understand, then they should ask for clarification. Otherwise, they should try to allow the instructor to exercise their professional skills.
- Practice – Practice is probably the most under-rated aspect of a student’s learning. Those students who apply themselves to their practice invariably show more consistent progress than those who do not. Students of tennis, skiing, martial arts, music, golf, or most other physical pursuits consider practice an integral part of their learning, but all too often students of social dance do not. The human mind can consciously demand only so much of the body at one time, and is not capable of simultaneously monitoring or directing more than one or two aspects of the body’s movement. In order to correctly perform several different dance elements, the body must be able to function independently of concentration — in other words, good dancing skills must be habitual. Habits can only be formed through repetition. This can also be a pitfall, since a repeated action will become habit whether that action is desirable or not! Care must be taken to ensure that CORRECT performance is practiced AT LEAST 50% OF THE TIME, since the body will “remember” those actions which it has performed MOST OFTEN.
- Regularity – Regularity also has a bearing on progress, since too much time between lessons breaks up the continuity of the learning progress, allows the student to forget too much of any lesson’s instruction, and forces the instructor to unnecessarily repeat topics.
- Lesson Types – Smart students also participate in different types of lessons; private lessons, group classes, practice sessions, coaching lessons and workshops all serve to strengthen, reinforce, and diversify the student’s learning.