People sometimes display the strangest, often not the safest, habits on the dance floor and here are some observations.
The drinks carrier
Why would you even consider crossing a dance floor, whether it is packed or empty, with a drink in your hand? I can, in some small way, understand crossing an empty hall but when the same hall is likely to be packed with scores of dancers later in the evening, surely even the slightest of spillages is going to be a hazard? During busy dance nights I have often witnessed people carrying drinks straight across the floor, through dancers spinning and moving in all directions and I can but wonder whether they stop to think what would happen if one of those dancers were to plough into them with their drinks. Liquid spillage would cause untold mayhem, and often does, when a simple walk around the edge of the room would cause far less danger.
Ignoring your partner
When you learn to partner dance, one thing you are taught early on is to keep eye contact with your partner and especially with their hands. Without such observation, the follower would have no idea what move is coming next, which direction to move in and which offered hand to hold onto. Interaction between dancers is key to reacting to such visual cues and leads. As the lead it is important to look at your partner for safety reasons to allow you to gauge how to be an effective leader. Its no use zoning out midway through a dance, and then expect the dance to go well.
Trying to lead a partner who is drunk
Partner dancing requires concentration and coordination (see above) and dancers who come along to dance events well under the influence of alcohol are often putting other dancers in danger of injury. While it is not seen very often, once now and again we see a dancer arrive at a dance having had quite a bit to drink, and then to continue drinking throughout the evening. Their dancing becomes more erratic and they pull harder as they try to stay upright because of impaired balance. My own husband has suffered a shoulder injury when trying to lead a clearly inebriated lady who was flinging herself around with abandonment. He politely asked her if they could finish the dance early, and he led her back to her seat but a lot of dancers do not have the confidence to do that. It is our responsibility to remain alert and capable of leading or following.
Bumping into other dancers
Inevitably, bumps will sometimes happen although not as often as you might imagine. Most dancers are aware of the space around them and lead their partners into free space with confidence. However, the odd bump is always going to happen and the only way to resolve such incidents is to check over your shoulder (for example) that all is well with the other couple, smile and politely mouth the word ‘sorry’ and move on, a little more carefully. Minor collisions can mostly be avoided but do happen. Be kind and remember nobody bumps into you intentionally.
Treating a beginner like an advanced dancer
Dance teachers cannot reiterate enough, how important it is not to dance above your partner’s level. This is more applicable when your partner is a beginner but always be aware of limitations. Some dancers do not want to be dropped almost to the floor or may have injuries which restrict some moves. Mostly, the dancer will tell you if they need you to be careful, but always be aware of your partners level which you can often gauge by how comfortable they appear. In general, when dancing with someone for the first time it is good etiquette to start off with easier to follow moves, progressing until you feel you have matched their level. Most dancers do want to be stretched (figuratively) to their limits and learn new moves but do it with manners and take it down a level or two if they appear to struggle.
Let’s have a lesson right here, right now
If a partner doesn’t follow your move, don’t stop the dance and try to become a teacher in the middle of the dance floor. Unless they ask you to show them by stepping through the move, they would more than likely prefer you to carry on dancing and either sneak the move in again with a clearer lead or leave it out. Its quite embarrassing to be stopped in the middle of a crowded floor to be shown how to do a move which you have clearly not followed, often because it was not led well in the first place.
The hand hold pressure
One of the first items covered in a beginner class is the hand hold. Ceroc dance leads are told to offer their hands at waist height with palms facing inwards and with thumbs as far away from the follower’s hands as possible. Thumbs are not there to press on the back of the follower’s hand and they are most definitely not there to stroke your partner! The grip should be loose enough for escape to be possible but just firm enough to push against each other and for the lead and follow to take place with ease. The follower drapes their hand over the lead’s offered hands in a hook shape with wrists low. Again, thumbs should be kept well out of the way. Neither one of you should be squeezing the other’s hands, a gentle grip is far more conducive to a flowing dance, whereas a tight grip can hurt the dance partner.
Be honest if you are being manhandled!
If, during a dance, you feel any physical discomfort – maybe a move twisted your shoulder or your lead is being unintentionally rough – you should feel able to mention it quietly. Most dancers will be more than happy to adjust their moves to prevent this from happening but if it continues, never feel afraid to make your excuses and leave the dance floor. Nobody should suffer injury or feel unsafe on the dance floor.
Don’t dip if in doubt
If you plan to dip your partner, make sure there is plenty of room around you and you have a firm grip on your partner, who you will already have ensured is capable. On occasion, ladies being dipped have hit the floor and injured themselves, actually been dropped or crashed as they are dipped int someone else’s dance space. You look a fool if you don’t do this properly and you risk injury and embarrassment to your dance partner. If in doubt, leave it out!
Remember, every dancer deserves to be treated politely and safely on the dance floor. let’s keep it a friendly, fun and accident-free zone.