Ballroom Dancing Etiquette – Hygiene, Asking Someone to Dance, Personal Space, Leading and Following, and more!

Are you a newbie to the ballroom dancing scene and are unsure of the right way to dress, and interact with your partner and other dancers? You do not need to worry, as ballroom dancing etiquette is not rocket science, but there are a few simple rules that you should be aware of.

Familiarizing yourself with these rules will help you feel at home on the dance floor, so that you can actually accomplish what you came to do in the first place; dance and have lots of fun!!! 🙂



While personal oral and bodily hygiene seems like an obvious must when dancing with a partner, its importance cannot be overstated enough. Make sure to use deodorant, body spray, breath mints and anything else in your arsenal to make sure that it would be pleasant for another person to remain in close proximity to you. It is best to avoid heavy perfumes and hair styling products with strong smells. More is less when it comes to strong scents, subtle is classy! 😉

Dress Code

First and foremost your clothing should be comfortable and suitable for dancing. Also, bear in mind that your attire should not cause any discomfort to your partner (i.e. hard metal belt buckles, beaded sleeves that brush up against partner’s faces, etc).

Men should always close their jackets or take them off before dancing. Your attire should also be appropriate for the occasion:

Informal: Nice casual attire that you would wear to an upscale nightclub

Semi-formal: Men should wear coat and tie for men. Women should wear a dress of any length.

Formal: Men should wear a dress suit or tuxedo. Women should wear a dress of any length.

Black-tie formal: Men should wear a tuxedo or white dinner jacket. Women should wear a long dress.

Asking someone to dance

While it may feel awkward or scary to ask someone to dance, you need to remember that this is not a typical social situation and people who ballroom dance are there to do one thing: ballroom dance. This means that it is not likely that you will be turned down, unless the other person has a good reason for it.

In the same vein, try your best not to turn someone down if they asked you to dance. If you do turn down a request to dance, it is polite to give a reason. It is all right to say that you are “resting” “sitting out”, or that you are “not familiar with this particular dance”.

If you would like, you can also warn them that you are a “beginner”. It is considered very rude to turn down one person and then accept another invitation during the same dance number. Moreover, doing a 100 meter dash to get a “choice” partner is considered improper.

There are also no complicated pick up lines required, you can simply ask “May I have this dance?” or “Shall we dance?” Ladies, the same philosophy applies to you, in ballroom dancing it is perfectly acceptable for you to ask a man to dance. At the conclusion of a dance it is polite to thank you partner, and the man should walk the woman back to her seat, even if she asked him to dance.

Be sociable, nice and smile:) Introduce yourself to your partner right away and make eye contact. While these are very simple and basic social skills, they will take you a long way in ballroom dancing.

By being open, warm, and focusing on learning while having a good time instead of stressing out about imperfections in your dance skills, you will ensure that people will want to dance with you again.

On the floor

If you are just starting out, it is especially important for you to learn to observe the line of dance. In traveling dances such as waltz, tango, foxtrot, samba, Viennese waltz, and quickstep,couples always move counterclockwise on the floor.

Faster, more experienced dancers should always be in the outermost lane, intermediate dancers in the middle lane and inexperienced dancers in the center of the ballroom. By following this placement you will ensure your own safety, prevent collisions and save yourself a lot of stress.


Both leading and following is an art as much as it is a science that takes practice, diligence and creativity to master. While you are learning, make sure to never criticize or blame your partner for being a poor leader/follower. This will only lead to hurt pride and feelings, but will not be constructive to your learning.

Men should avoid exercising forceful leads to achieve a pattern. By pushing and pulling a woman into desired position, you will only make her feel uncomfortable. Pay attention to your partner’s level of skill and only lead what is appropriate to this current level.

When a woman accepts a dance, it implies that she is agreeing to follow and let the man lead. This means that if you are following, you should not try to lead. By doing this, you reject the man’s contribution to the partnership during the dance. This applies to the choice of dance, patters, and timing.

Collisions and accidents

When you are just starting to dance, collisions on the dance floor can be the cause of stress and anxiety. All you need to remember is that when you get more than two people out on the dance floor, collisions sometimes can happen and there are a few simple things you can do to prevent them.

As a rule of thumb, paying attention to other couples around you and not panicking if you see a couple moving in too close, should keep you and your partner safe.

Ladies, if you notice another couple about to collide into you and your partner, simply tap your partner gently on the shoulder. This will signal for him to move you in a different direction.

It’s important to remain calm and not grab your partner, as this may startle him, making the collision inevitable. If you happen to step on (or bump into) anyone, apologize to all partners involved, make sure that everyone is OK, and proceed with the dance.

No matter how careful or skilled of a dancer you may be, it is important to adapt a lighthearted attitude toward accidents on the dance floor. Chances are that once in a while they will happen!

You may end up dancing with someone who is not such a great lead/follow, someone may step on your feet or you may get an odd shove on a very crowded dance floor. Don’t get angry.Take it with a smile and go on dancing!

Personal Space

While ballroom dancing is passionate, sexy and provocative by nature it does not mean that accepting or asking someone for a dance imply personal/romantic interest. It is very important for both men and women to be aware of and maintain this personal boundary. You do not wan to run the risk of offending someone or embarrassing yourself.

In the spirit of not crossing boundaries, kissing a woman’s hand or any other part of her body without her permission or invitation to do so can easily be considered a serious invasion of her personal space and even sexual harassment. Both men and women should think of each dance as brief light conversation at a party where they will then move on to the next chat.

About Alex the Dancing Fool!

Aleksandr Biyevetskiy is a competitive ballroom dancer, blogger, and a student of life.
This entry was posted in Ballroom Dancing. Bookmark the permalink.