Salsa Dancing Etiquette

Whether you have been dancing for years or only just started, if you stick by these guidelines, you will not go wrong.

Introduction –

Dancing is a very active and at times an intimate social activity. As with other social situations there is an etiquette that you need to be aware of to make sure everybody has fun and does not feel uncomfortable.

Below are some guidelines on salsa etiquette that applies in any dance situation.

Personal Hygiene

Most Latin dances are danced close. So remember it is very important that you are clean and smell nice before you go out dancing.

This means:

– Trying to shower before going out dancing
– Bring deodorant/perfume/cologne along when dancing. But don’t overdo it, lighter smells are better.
– Brushing your teeth before going out dancing and bringing gum/mints to keep you minty fresh. It’s also a good idea to avoid eating strong smelling foods like onions and garlic on the day of dancing.
– Bring a towel and spare t-shirts (recommended). Dancing is physical so perspiration is expected.

During Lessons

Firstly please always turn up on time…  as turning up at the last minute causes lessons to start late, and turning up after the lesson has started is very disruptive, and unfair to your instructor and fellow class mates.

When participating in group lessons the teachers deserve your full attention at all times. We are all there to have fun, but if you are chatting away with somebody during the class it is disrespectful to both the teacher who is trying to instruct and to the other students who are trying to learn.

Questions are always appreciated in class if not a requirement! So if you have a question; please speak up as generally if you have a question, someone else in the class will have the same question and will appreciate you asking it. Remember you are there to learn!
However please don’t ask the same question over and over again, it will slow the class down for everyone else. Please ask the teacher at the end of the class to see if he/she can help, but remember the teacher is not obliged to help after the classes. That is what Private Lessons are for.

If you find you are really struggling in a certain level class, then come see the teacher and find out why. It’s most probably just the fact you have pushed up a level too quickly. Don’t be disheartened if the teacher says you are not ready for a certain level. All he/she is trying to do is teach you properly and get you a better dancer quicker. This does not mean pushing up the class levels as quickly as possible. In fact, you will take much, much longer in your dancing progress if you do this!

And lastly… – very important! Do not teach anyone!
If you are dancing with someone and they are specifically struggling. DO NOT make the teacher aware or everyone else in the class aware of it. You will make that person feel very small and very embarrassed. The teacher will know exactly what is going on with everyone in the class. He/she will have eyes in the back of their head! If they think someone needs help they will help them in their own time, without making a big issue in front of the whole class. Just carry on smiling and carry on.

If they ask for your help; normally the best thing to do is tell them to ask the teacher, or say you do not know their step (even if you do!) just incase you teach them wrong. Even when people ask you for help, they don’t like being told what to do by someone they don’t know!

Asking Somebody to Dance

Both men and women can go and ask somebody for a dance.
Unfortunately ladies, men do tend to be less confident about asking ladies to dance though. So don’t just sit there. If a guy is sitting down, then go over and politely ask him to dance. It is very rare you will get turned down. But if you are turned down, don’t take it personally. Normally it’s because he has been dancing allot and needs a rest, wants to socialise with some friends, he doesn’t like the specific song playing, or he is very nervous and only likes dancing with specific people.

This does not mean men that you can get out of asking ladies to dance just because they can ask you. It is very important that you ask ladies to dance too, so they feel wanted and appreciated. It’s not nice when people come to a salsa class/event and are just sitting there all night not dancing. If you see this happening, then make an effort to go and ask them to dance. I guarantee you will make their night! And like above, if you get turned down, don’t take it personally. There are loads of reasons. So just say thank you very much and move on to the next person. There are always plenty around!

Important: Don’t keep pestering someone to dance. If you have been turned down at some point through the night, then don’t ask them again. Wait for them to ask you. It is not polite to keep asking someone to dance, if they have already said no to you, for whatever reason.

One more thing….
If someone is in a conversation, then leave them alone, it is not polite to interrupt them as they will feel obliged to dance with you and not want to turn you down. Leave them finish their conversation and ask them later in the evening.

Also try not to grab someone straight off the dance floor. Ladies we know there are never enough men, but let them at least get off the dance floor, before asking them to dance the next song. Remember they are going to get tired constantly dancing.

Being Asked to Dance

In general, you should try and dance with anybody who asks you.
If you simply do not feel like dancing at that particular time, for example if you’re tired, you want to chat to your friends, or go to the toilet, then politely decline. But make an effort to dance with that person later on in the evening. If you specifically do not like dancing with someone, then figure out why, and see if it can be fixed.

For example;

– He cannot lead; This is a part of dancing, he needs to learn, which means he needs someone to dance with. The more he dances the quicker he will become better at leading and give you more dances in the future
– She always tries to lead me; Politely mention to her that you feel like she is leading and it is putting you off. She may not realise what she is doing. Remember guys, the lady needs to learn how to follow. It is a very hard technique to do! So try and stick with it, so she can learn how to follow properly, and become a better dancer.
– He/she always tries to correct me when I am dancing; This is a very important one NOT to do! Unless someone specifically asks you to help, NEVER correct them or teach them to dance. No one likes it. That’s what the teachers are for. If they do ask for help, then quickly go over something small, and leave it and carry on dancing, so they can have fun and not stress about that they are doing it wrong.

Dancing Close

Although as we said above Latin dancing is normally danced close, you will find allot of people only dance very close if you are familiar with the other person. You have to use your judgement here based on your partner’s willingness or resistance to being close. Don’t push it any further than your partner is happy with.


– Do not flirt inappropriately, especially if they’re not single or in your age range.
– Do not use sexually suggestive language

Most girls dance salsa for fun, not to pick up guys.
So if you are a guy and the girl is dancing close or styling in a very sexy way, this does not necessarily mean she’s interested in a romantic way.
More likely she is just having fun and expressing herself and making the dance look good.

This goes the same for guy’s ladies! Just because he is asking you to dance more often than the next lady. It does not mean anything. He probably just enjoys how you dance and feel when dancing with him.

Bumping into others & standing on them

Dance floors are often overcrowded and at some point you are going to bump into somebody or step on their feet. If this happens, apologise. If somebody bumps into you, apologise even if you think it was their fault.

If it keeps happening, then you are both doing something wrong!  (The person being bumped/stood on and the person doing it)
It is important to remember to dance within the space you have. Which normally means, very small steps, no big arm movements and be aware of who else is dancing around you. Adjust your moves to the space available. If there isn’t much space then stick to moves that are tighter, otherwise you will keep bumping into everyone around you.

Teaching on the Dance Floor

During social dancing and lessons, you should not correct or teach your partner unless clearly requested. If your partner leads or follows a move incorrectly, it is not an invitation to teach them. Instead, if you’re the guy, try simpler patterns. If you’re the girl, just follow the best you can.

Even when they do ask you to help, try and help them as quickly and friendly as possible, or better yet – just say you are not sure and ask a teacher. Even when people ask for help, they normally don’t like being told!

After the Dance

Smile, thank your partner and lead them off the dance floor. Don’t just leave them there in the middle of the dance floor as you walk off.


If you’re sick, you should stay at home. Nobody will appreciate you for giving them a cold or flu

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