1. “This is how you do ______.”
Except for very limited circumstances, stopping a dance to explain a concept to your partner is inappropriate. Even if you are a teacher who knows what you’re saying is true, it’s still almost always inappropriate. Avoid floor teaching wherever possible.
2. “Oh baby… you’re so sexy in my arms.”
I have one friend who does this as a joke with close friends only. Even then, it’s borderline and usually earns him a glare.
There may be an exception to the creepiness if it’s someone you are intimate with. But, even then, the middle of a dance is generally not the time or place for verbal sexual overtures. If your partner isn’t feeling the love, it’s a sure way to create the most awkward dance experience ever.
3. Grunts, growls, animal sounds, or sex noises
Need I say more? Don’t do this. Ever. *Growls menacingly*.
4. “It’s OK. I got you.”
This one specifically applies to when someone is trying to make their partner do something they’re uncomfortable with. For example, head movements, dips, drops, or lifts.
If you have to say “It’s OK. I got you,” it means either your partner doesn’t feel like you’ve got them, or that they don’t want to do the thing. So – and here’s the important part – don’t do that thing.
5. “Come on, get closer.”
I don’t care what dance you do. If a partner doesn’t want to get close, you don’t make them get close. End of story. If you really can’t stand dancing a bit further apart, the solution is simple: don’t dance with them again. But, your happy place should not be at the expense of your partner’s comfort.
6. “Why won’t you dance with me?”
If someone rejects you for a dance, please don’t ask why. Potential partners are allowed to reject a dance, and it makes things more awkward if they’re forced to give a reason. Or, it may result in them giving you a ‘pity dance’ because they feel guilty.
Sometimes people legitimately don’t really have a reason other than “I’m tired,” “I’m not feeling the song,” etc. So, trying to mine for ‘extra data’ on why they’re not dancing with you is futile.
Other times they may have a reason, but are trying to spare your feelings by not stating it. By prying further, they’ll either a) lie; or b) be blunt and bruise your ego because they’re fed up with the guilt trip. Once again, it’s somewhat of a lose-lose situation.
7. “I’m going to do ____ next.”
This is for the leaders.
Please don’t tell me what you’re going to do unless there’s a serious reason for doing so. For example, some dance cultures like it when partners ask for consent for close hold, dips, etc. Others communicate this non-verbally.
But, as a follow, I don’t need to know about every single lateral, cross-body turn, swingout, sugar push, ocho, etc. that you’re going to lead. Even if you’re nervous or not sure if it’s going to work, I generally prefer you try the physical (instead of verbal) lead.
Some leads substitute this by saying “let’s see if this works” or “I’m going to try something new.” If you’re worried about making a mistake and want to relieve the pressure, this can be a great way to do it without narrating your dance.
8. “Sorry for the bad dance.”
This one is usually born out of insecurity. And yes, I’m guilty of it too.
If you’ve actually hurt someone or made a big mistake, apologize and move on. For example, crashing into another couple, twisting, grabbing, or other in-dance mistakes can reasonably be accompanied by a ‘sorry’.
But, ending the dance with “sorry” undermines the experience you’ve had with the other person. If you’re overcome by the need to say sorry, try saying “Thank you for such a wonderful dance” instead. Compliments are generally nicer to receive than apologies.
9. “You’re so much better than me.”
This is similar to the “I’m sorry” at an end of the dance.
If you’re dancing with someone, it really doesn’t matter who the stronger dancer is. It’s a shared experience for both of you. But, if you compare yourself to your partner, it can create a sense of awkwardness. Instead, try a full compliment. Maybe say “I’ve been looking forward to dancing with you” or “I really admire your dancing”.
If you’re worried about your own dancing, you can also say things like “I’m a beginner,” “I’m injured,” or “I’m really rusty” to take the pressure off without putting your partner in an awkward position.
10. “You suck.”
I really, sincerely hope that this one doesn’t need to be said. But, I’m including it anyway.
Please: don’t tear down your partner’s self-esteem on the dance floor. Even if you think they’re egotistical, the dance floor is not the place to bring it up.
Caveat: If someone is hurting you, putting you at risk, or is disrespecting personal boundaries, speak up. That doesn’t mean you have to be mean – but always keep yourself safe on the floor.