Guide to Understanding Dance Etiquette 

To improve the quality of your experience on the dance floor, Fred Astaire Dance Studios put together a beginner’s guide to ballroom dance etiquette.  


Ballroom dancing has its roots in the grand European courts of the 17th century. Courtiers followed strict etiquette guidelines to avoid scandal and improve marriage prospects. Young ladies were escorted by chaperones and carried dance cards. Wearing gloves and dancing with a wide variety of partners was the norm. While ballroom dancing has evolved from its rigid past, there are still unspoken rules to follow.  


As you begin your ballroom dancing journey, learning the rules will make it easier to grasp new dances and help you have fun shaking a leg. Mastering ballroom dancing requires learning both the steps and dance etiquette. Below are a few important rules to remember before you trip the light fantastic. 


Dress for success. Make sure your clothing is comfortable for dancing. Women typically wear flared skirts, and men prefer slacks. Shoes should be comfortable, but sneakers are frowned upon. It’s always a good idea to avoid wearing clothes that are too revealing because it may make partners uncomfortable. Pay special attention to grooming. No one wants to dance with a partner who has bad breath or forgot to put on deodorant. The same can be said for a partner who applies perfume or cologne too liberally. 


Share the love. If you’re attending one of Fred Astaire Dance Studios’ practice parties, make sure to ask a wide variety of people to dance. Dancing with different partners not only improves your own skills, but it gives everyone an opportunity to take a twirl around the dance floor. 


Respect the flow. Ballroom dancers traditionally travel counterclockwise around the dance floor. Respecting the flow will ensure every couple has a positive experience. Couples with less experience or who are still learning the steps should dance closer to the center of the floor. 


Acknowledge the bubble. Recognize your partner’s personal space. Crowding a dance partner can make them feel uncomfortable. The distance between dance partners is always up to the person who is following. 


Keep moving. Even confident dancers make mistakes. When you make a mistake on the dance floor, shake it off and keep dancing.  


Say you’re sorry. Inevitably, you will step on your partner’s toes at some point while you’re learning new moves. Make sure to apologize to the injured party. 


Say thank you. It’s customary at the end of a dance to applaud and graciously thank your partner. 


Asking someone to dance can be intimidating. Take a look at these clips to see how it’s done. 


In the 2019 version of “Little Women,” Jo and Laurie share an unusual first dance.



Relive the awkwardness of high school dances by watching this clip from the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”  




Get a glimpse of the earlier days of ballroom dancing with this snippet of Elizabeth Bennett, played by Keira Knightley, dancing with two of her love interests in the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice.” 



Learn to Dance at FADS 


Now that you know the rules, it’s time to get groovy. Fred Astaire Dance Studios offer private and group ballroom dance lessons for both singles and couples. Contact your local Fred Astaire Dance Studios location to schedule.