Learn to Dance Together!



Dance Etiquette

Dancing for Dessert Studio is a place where people come together to have a great time. We want to create a safe and fun atmosphere in our school where everyone can be comfortable and enjoy themselves. To that end we have put together some general rules of etiquette for ballroom dancing.

Although we created this list with our own studio in mind, the ideas are universal. They will certainly serve you well at any social dancing event and most other social events as well.

At the core these ideas are based on common sense and consideration for others. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re not sure how to act you can rely on this: common sense and consideration for others will always be appreciated.

Thank you for reading and for doing your part to make our school a fantastic place to learn to dance.

Before You Get to the Studio

Personal Grooming / Hygiene

Although most of this goes without saying, we figured you’d appreciate us saying it anyway.

  • Come to dance class clean
  • Wear clean clothes
  • Brush your teeth. Use mints or breath fresheners
  • Always use deodorant
  • Try to avoid eating foods with a lot of garlic or onions the night of a class or party
  • Avoid using strong perfumes or colognes. While perfumes are normal for most typical social situations, the close physical contact and variety of partners involved in social dancing can make strong perfumes a problem. A rule of thumb is if your partner smells like you after a dance you are wearing too much.
  • Sweating: Exercise is one of the great benefits of dancing and some sweating is obviously expected. On the other hand it is always important to be considerate of your partners. If you sweat a lot it is a good idea to bring a towel to wipe yourself off with regularly. It might also be a good idea to bring a change of shirt for a long party on a hot night.


Different dance situations call for different standards of dress.

Lessons: Classes and Private lessons are the least formal activities in our school. We want students to feel comfortable, but also to show respect to both the school and their peers. In general we ask that you:

  • Wear clean clothes
  • Avoid clothing with stains or holes
  • Avoid wearing shorts
  • Men should always avoid tank tops
  • It is considerate to remove large finger rings and other jewelry which might scratch or catch on your partner.
  • If you are a regular student it is in everyone’s best interests that you buy dance shoes. Dance shoes will improve your dancing and are also better for the floor. Most importantly (men) it is safer for your partner if you have a softer, more streamlined shoe, especially for advanced figures. Kicking your partner’s open toes with heavy shoes or boots is simply not acceptable.

Dance Parties: ‘Dressy Casual’ is most appropriate at our parties. Sweat-pants, shorts, ripped jeans etc. are not dressy enough for these events.

Semi-Formal Events: Jacket and tie for men. A cocktail-dress or other elegant attire is appropriate for ladies.

Formal events: 3-piece suit or tuxedo for men. Ball gowns for ladies.


We appreciate your efforts to be on time for class. Obviously there are always legitimate reasons to be late. Chronic lateness, however, is disruptive to the class and disrespectful to both your teachers and your classmates. Thanks for being on time!

At the Studio

Being a Good Partner

Everyone wants to be a good partner. Here are a few ideas to help you be someone that everyone wants to dance with.

  • Be pleasant and smile. People come dancing to have a good time. Moping, sulking or complaining on the dance floor is unlikely to endear you to your partner. On the other hand a friendly, positive attitude will make up for any lack of skill or style.  
  • Dance to the level of your partner. It can be very tempting to show off your hot advanced moves with a newer partner. Instead of inspiring admiration, however, this usually ends up making your partner feel uncomfortable or even depressed.
  • An advanced man should dance figures that his partner can enjoy. Challenging the lady can be fun for her but embarrassing her is definitely not.
  • An advanced lady should follow her partner’s timing and any strange steps he might invent as well. Back-leading is both annoying and confusing.
  • Avoid extreme hip movements and over-styling with dancers who don’t reciprocate. Out-dancing your partner on a social dance floor is simply bad dancing on your part.
  • Be considerate of your partner’s preferences. For example, some ladies love to spin, while others are very uncomfortable with a lot of turning. Everyone has their preferences and by being sensitive and aware you can be a great dance partner to anyone.
  • Do not criticize your partner’s dancing. Sentences like “I can do this step with anyone but you” or “You’re a lot heavier than ______” are both hurtful and rude.
  • Ask yourself if your partner enjoyed their dance. If the answer to that question is consistently yes then you are going to be a dancer in demand!

Unsolicited Dance Advice

Unsolicited advice is something that we get a lot of complaints about. Obviously students who offer their classmates advice are simply trying to be helpful. Unfortunately the best intentions don’t always translate into a positive effect. In fact, most attempts to teach peers are confusing at best and humiliating at worst.

While there are certainly circumstances where both people could be happy about peer teaching, in general it is best to avoid offering advice altogether unless you are specifically asked for it. Here are just a couple of examples of the kind of things that offend:

  • Adjusting your partner’s hold. Everyone feels different to dance with and adapting to your partners’ hold is part of being a good social dancer. In a class or social dancing situation adjusting your partner to suit your own tastes is almost always unacceptable. The only exception to this would be if you are in pain. In this case you should let your partner know what’s going on and work with them to solve the problem. If this doesn’t help you might have to decline the dance.
  • Timing. Many students have difficulties hearing the music. However, counting for them or trying to help them hear the music is usually a bad idea unless they specifically ask for it.

There are countless other corrections that you could probably make for your peers. In general, however, it is best to simply focus on your own dancing and let them focus on theirs.

At a Dance

Choosing a Partner

Dancing for Dessert is a social dancing school and it is part of the fun and spirit of the school that people dance with a variety of partners.

  • While most students tend to dance with people of a similar level we encourage all of our students to dance with people of all levels. For newer students, dancing with more advanced dancers can push you to advance very quickly. For more advanced students, dancing with newer students gives you a chance to really lead or follow and to take care of your partner. If you can only dance comfortably with the best dancers then you have a lot to learn from dancing with a beginner.
  • Many of the couples who come to our school are looking for a fun way to spend time together. Understandably, they often want to dance together most of the time. On the other hand our parties are social events and dancing with different partners is all part of the fun. Meeting new people, being challenged with different steps and being forced to actually lead or follow are just a few of the benefits of switching it up.

Asking for a Dance

Asking for a dance is a social skill that requires tact and courtesy. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

  • A simple and direct approach is almost always your best option. Make eye contact with the person you are intending to ask, offer them your hand and ask them to dance. A smile is also a welcome gesture.
  • The most obvious words are usually the best:
    • Would you like to dance?
    • May I have this dance?
    • Would you like to Rumba?
    • Care to dance?
  • When approaching a group of people it is important to be clear about who you are asking to avoid embarrassing anyone. In this case eye contact is even more important. If possible asking by name is a great idea.
  • Although it has always been customary for men to ask women to dance, this custom has been relaxed in the ballrooms of today. It is perfectly acceptable for women to ask a man to dance.
  • Try not to be overly aggressive. When people know each other well and are very excited to dance basic courtesy can sometimes fly out the window as primal urges take over! Keep in mind that pouncing on or seizing available partners is not likely to win you friends with either sex.

Turning down a Dance

In general you should try to accept most offers to dance. Obviously, however, no one can be expected to dance every dance in a night and there are many circumstances when it is acceptable to turn down a dance. A few suggestions:

  • If you turn down a dance with one partner, never accept an offer for the same dance from someone else. This would be considered very rude.
  • If you turn down a dance it is nice to give a reason. Sore feet, not knowing the dance or a need to rest are all perfectly acceptable reasons to turn down a dance. Suggesting that you dance the next dance with that person is a considerate gesture.
  • Try not to turn down a dance from someone you have never danced with before. If they are approaching you for the first time turning down the dance sets up a bad precedent for the future. Also someone asking for the first time is usually a newer student and might be more easily discouraged than someone who regularly attends our dance parties.
  • If you are uncomfortable dancing with someone who continuously asks you we would like to hear about it.

On the Dance Floor

There are numerous ways you can demonstrate courtesy and consideration for your fellow dancers on the dance floor. The most obvious thing you can do is simply be aware of people and make an effort to dance under control and avoid collisions. Here are a few less obvious tips:

  • Follow the Line of Dance. Dancers move counter-clockwise around the dance-floor on an imaginary line called the line of dance. Some figures can move backward, especially when there is lots of room to do so. In general, however, it is a bad idea to move against the line for more than a step or two.
  • Newer dancers should dance towards the middle of the floor so that advanced dancers can continue to follow the line of dance on the outside of the room.
  • Advanced dancers should make every effort to avoid bumping newer dancers. In fact, part of being an advanced dancer is being good enough to steer clear of others.
  • Ladies should usually try not to lead inexperienced men. Following the man regardless of poor timing or footwork is part of being a good lady dancer. Leading a man who isn’t comfortable with the steps will only make him more uncomfortable.
  • Ladies should feel free to nudge or even stop their partner if he is dancing into a collision in his blind spot.
  • Collisions on the dance floor are ultimately inevitable. If you do run into another couple you should always apologize, no matter whose fault it was. Any collision on the dance floor is always a shared fault anyway.
  • Unless you are wearing orange and have a pylon on your head please move completely off of the dance floor when you're not dancing.

Ending a Dance

  • When a song ends, thank and acknowledge your partner before moving on.
  • In formal situations it is considerate to escort a lady back to where you encountered her in the first place. At our school parties, this is not always necessary, although it is always a nice gesture. Most times a thank-you and a gracious word or two is enough.

Final Note

Finally, please keep in mind that this is much more a guide than a list of hard rules. It is definitely not a tool to reproach your fellow dancers with. Sentences like “Well, the etiquette guide says that you should _____!” would probably constitute a major breach of etiquette. If you have a problem with someone it is best to either discuss it with them privately or let us know about it privately so we can decide how best to deal with it.

If you have other questions, suggestions or ideas we’d love to hear from you!