Dance class etiquette 101: flirting and suggestive behaviour – no matter how “jokingly” intended – is never okay in a social dance class.
Imagine that a person you do not know very well makes a suggestive comment about your appearance in a social situation which makes you feel uncomfortable – what would you do? The obvious answer would be to walk away (possibly following a stern word or two, depending on the severity of the over-step). Now, imagine that same person says that same thing in a situation where you have body-to-body contact and walking away would mean disrupting dozens of other people and drawing attention to yourself. If you’re thinking situation number two sounds WAY more uncomfortable, you’re right. Unfortunately, it is also WAY more difficult to get out of without embarrassment, which is why many people subject to this kind of behaviour during social dance classes choose to just grin and bear it, when they shouldn’t have to.
Our classes are built around respect, enjoyment and community spirit, so instances of our students being made to feel uncomfortable are relatively few and far between. However, it does sometimes happen and more often than not the perpetrator meant no harm and had no idea they made somebody else feel uncomfortable. All it takes is a suggestive joke, a flirtatious comment, over-familiarity or a minor personal space invasion. While none of us think we would be the one to over-step these boundaries with another person, it can happen all too easily in a fun and relaxed class environment.
Social dancing depends on a physical connection between two people. Developing that connection and learning to lead and/or follow a dance effectively is only possible when both partners can relax and feel comfortable. For those who are new to dance, connecting with people they do not know can feel a bit peculiar or even a little intimidating. After all, beyond the occasional handshake how often do we physically connect with people who are not our immediate friends or family? Inappropriate comments and suggestive behaviour can rob somebody of their right to feel comfortable and learn, no matter how innocently that behaviour was intended.
When the unfamiliarity and discomfort subside, most social dancers would agree that connecting to another person and sharing movement to music is a WONDERFUL experience. It is respect, trust and communication between two bodies. Unless you happen to be in a relationship with the person you are dancing with, there is absolutely nothing sexual, flirty or suggestive about it (to be honest, it is not particularly sexual even if you ARE in a relationship!) Everybody has the right to feel safe, comfortable and happy in a dance class. Make sure you’re doing your part: think before you speak, respect other people’s boundaries and if you have any concerns – speak to your teacher! We’re here to help.