Etiquette for the Salsa Dance Class

by Jesus Morales

The basic rules of dance class etiquette benefit you the student, other dancers, and the instructor. Dance etiquette makes class easier, promotes consideration, and allows the class to proceed smoothly and rapidly without interruption and delay, making it more fun for everyone. Aspects of etiquette are categorized by attendance, special awareness, class courtesy, attire and hygiene. Here are some basic rules to follow:


It is important for everyone to get the most out of their time thereby increasing the value of the class.

  • Do not arrive late for class. Arriving late is not only rude to the instructor, but is also discourteous to other dancers as it compromises full and proper warm-up.
  • Remain in class the entire session. If you have an emergency, please excuse yourself with the instructor; otherwise, do not leave early.
  • Each class/lesson is a duration of 60 minutes.

Spacial Awareness

Be aware of your space and that of others. You should maintain a defensive dancing style in exercising awareness of other dancers en-route with you.

  • Be aware of surrounding persons and objects (studio walls, mirrors, other couples, etc) always planning your steps with these obstacles in mind.
  • Be aware of the space your body occupies. Avoid running into/hitting/kicking other dancers by not taking big steps, overextending arms/hands, spinning out of control, etc.
  • Leaders, it is your responsibility to prevent your partner from being hit by other dancers and from hitting other dancers.
  • Followers, it is your responsibility to remain within the dance space created by the leader.

Class Courtesy

  • When the instructor is speaking, please refrain from talking to others. You will miss what the instructor is saying and prevent others from hearing.
  • Rotate partners as soon as the instructor indicates and move on to the next person awaiting you. Doing this speeds up the class and makes the most of everyone’s time.
  • When you are ready to change partners, thank your last partner and always greet your next partner; you will be dancing together, so don’t forget to be courteous with the person you are in physical contact with.
  • Do not correct other students unless you are asked to. (This also applies in the nightclub where people go dancing for fun and not to receive instruction.)
  • Please refrain from bringing devices that make noise-cell phones, pagers, etc-unless they are turned off or on silent mode.
  • PLEASE Turn OFF your cell phone before the class/dance starts.


The instructor pays attention to your posture and alignment. Wear comfortable clothes that will allow visibility of your feet, ankles, knees, hips, elbows, trunk and arms (no cover-ups). Form-fitting dancewear such as jazz pants and stretch shirts are recommended.

  • Please do not wear jewelry. You risk hurting others, hurting yourself, and damaging attire and jewelry by wearing arm/hand jewelry-earrings, watches, dangling earrings, bracelets, etc. Rings, watches, and bracelets, for example, get caught in shirts, and earrings can get caught in hair or your partner’s fingers.
  • Avoid uncomfortable accessories such as belt buckles that protrude or large key chains; that may snag clothing
  • Do not apply hand lotion; the sweat on your hands will make your hands slippery.
  • No street shoes are allowed on the dance floor. Jazz shoes or socks are okay if you don’t have dancing shoes. It is your responsibility to maintain good condition of the dance floor and your body. The wrong shoes can damage your knees, ankles and the dance floor (which is expensive), affect posture, and harm your body (joints, spine, etc).
  • For the ladies: Wear tops that fit comfortably and that are also secure. If you decide to wear a skirt, dancing underwear is highly recommended.


  • Pay special attention to grooming. This issue is not addressed as much, or at all, in other classes because dancing is done independently without a partner. When dancing salsa, you have a partner in front of you, therefore, maintain a good appearance, be aware of what physical contact indicates (smell, feel, sight, etc). It is important that you feel comfortable and, more importantly, that others feel comfortable partnering with you.
  • Wash your hands before and after class. Let’s keep each other healthy. More diseases are transmitted by handshaking than by sneezing or coughing. Salsa Dance Productions provides hand-sanitizing lotion.
  • Perfume and Cologne: Please refrain from putting too much on. No one should be wearing your perfume or cologne after you finish dancing with them.
  • Untrimmed nails are very dangerous.
  • Keep yourself dry throughout class. If you sweat a lot, a towel and extra shirts are required.
  • Check your breath constantly. (If someone offers you a mint, take it). Salsa Dance Productions provides mints
  • Use deodorant, you’ll be very close to someone else.
  • As a suggestion, try to avoid consuming alcohol or spicy foods before class. Eat after; we’ll all enjoy it more.
  • This dance requires a lot of physical contact. Make sure that when you are touching your partner with any part of your body, it does not make your partner feel uncomfortable. Things you might like might not be appreciated by the other person.

Private Lessons

Requirements for group lessons also apply to private lessons in addition to the following guidelines.

  • Do not be late. If you’re late, you’re losing time and money.
  • Cancellations are accepted with at least 48 hours notice in advance. However, it is customary and courteous to cancel at least 72 hours in advance.
  • If you want the private lesson to be on-site, the minimum lesson time requirement is 2 hours.
  • Be very attentive to your instructor’s comments/critiques. Keep in mind that you are paying him to improve your dance and that your improvement is his goal and intent behind all comments/critiques.

Closing Comments

At the close of the class it is customary for the students to applaud. Applause expresses appreciation both for the instruction the teacher has given and for the efforts and performance of fellow students. It is customary to thank the teacher (and/or guest teacher) and other students.
Come to class prepared physically and mentally. Remember, dance classes are sensitive to the attitudes and energy of the students taking the class. The best classes are a result of the positive attitudes and energy that you and others bring to the class.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

Note: Dance is a physical art form, and as part of many teaching methods a “hands-on” approach is often used. If anyone is uncomfortable with this, form of instruction then they need to let the teacher know. General as well as individual corrections will be given. In addition, encouragement and the sharing of experiences will be used to help every student become as good as he/she can be

Etiquette for the Social Dance Floor

“The main role of etiquette is to make interactions in a dance setting enjoyable for everyone. In dancing, much like everyday life, etiquette strives to systematize the behavior so that one does not inadvertently offend (or in the case of dancing, even physically hurt) other individuals. The underlying foundation of the rules of social dancing is consideration for the safety and convenience of one’s fellow dancers.”
Please be aware that as a salsa dancer (both in the classroom and in the community), you will be responsible for traditional dance etiquette outlined here.

Salsa dancing is a close contact activity. It is understood that sometime the line between inappropriate and appropriate can change as partner’s change, so please feel free to communicate with your partner if you are uncomfortable.

Lead and Follow

For both partners, it is importance to be attentive to your partner while dancing. While the fundamental idea that Man leads — Woman follows is true, there is a lot of communicating that can happen through movement and it will make dancing with a partner even more enjoyable. When a women follows well, the expertise in her dancing will affect the character of steps executed and will inspire other steps which the man leads. To achieve this, the utmost attention is required of both roles – lead and follow.

  1. Personal oral and bodily hygiene is of utmost importance. If you notice that your partner is hesitant to get into the proper dance hold, is holding their breath, bolts from the dance floor once the dance is over and repeatedly refuses to dance with you again, take the hint. On the flip side, too much perfume or cologne can also be offensive. Less is more. Optional: Although sweating is an accepted part of social dancing, some dancers bring a small hand towel or a second shirt/T-shirt if they know the first will soak with sweat.
  2. Perfume and Cologne: Please refrain from putting too much on.
  3. If you are not dancing, it is courteous to stay clear of the dance floor.
  4. Unsolicited teaching and/or correcting your partner is very un-cool in a social dance situation. It is recommended to work out your movement difficulties at practices or classes, not at social dances.
  5. Smile, be warm and personable, be nice, and have fun!
  6. Make sure you keep your attention on your partner while you dance, this means usually on his/her face not wandering up and down his/her body, and watch the dance floor ahead and around you to avoid possible collisions with other people around you.
  7. Leaders place themselves between their partner and harm’s way. Treat your partner with concern for their enjoyment and safety.
  8. Avoid declining a dance under almost all circumstances. For example, there is no correct way of refusing a dance on the basis of preferring to dance with someone else.According to tradition, the only graceful way of declining a dance could be for some of the reasons listed below:
    a. you do not know the dance,
    b. you need to take a rest, or
    c. you have promised the dance to someone else.

    Note that is it is improper to book many dances ahead of time and once you decline dancing with one person, it is inconsiderate and outright rude to dance the song with someone else.

  9. It is the lady’s prerogative to how close she wants to be held. The gentleman can readjust if he feels she’s too close but not if he feels she’s not close enough. Do not take offence if your partner does not want to dance really closely with you. We all have our levels of comfort.
  10. On crowded dance floors, adjust your dancing: no lifts, jumps, wide arm movements, or dips that bring the woman’s head near the floor.
  11. Stationary dancers (e.g. swing dancers) stay in the middle, traveling dancers move on the boundary along the line of dance. The line of dance goes in the counterclockwise direction.
  12. Switching partners is not required in the social setting, especially when one has brought one’s own. However, if solo, do not monopolize one partner for the whole night Ask everyone to dance
  13. Ladies, be respectful of other styles. If it is different than what you’ve learned, please do not assume it is wrong.
  14. Do escort your partner off the dance floor. Never leave him/her in the middle of the dance floor.
  15. Avoid apologizing for dance mistakes that did not cause personal injury. Just dance your best.
  16. It often happens that the two partners dancing socially are not at the same level. It is important that the more experienced partner dances at the level of the less experienced partner.

Dance Floor Etiquette and Floor Craft

Floor Craft

The lead is responsible for protecting the follow from collision. One way to do this, is to be careful of the direction he leads her to. The other is by dancing himself between his dance partner and unruly couples on the dance floor. It takes time for leads to develop such floor craft skills and some small collisions are simply unavoidable. Here are a few tips to help:

  • both partners always keep elbows pointed downward instead of sideways towards the walls.
  • both partners: assuming good posture will help you incorporate a better awareness of those around you.
  • both partners: never let your arms fully extend
  • in crowded situations, both partners keep their heels near the floor for all moves
  • in crowded situations, both partners keep their feet under their torso throughout movement and especially during back steps
  • followers: if you feel your partner is choosing to neglect good floor craft, causing near collisions, you may want to indicate your discomfort about close calls.
  • followers: If a collision is approaching from behind your partner as he is about to do a back step you may apply a slight pressure of your left arm against the back of his shoulder when dancing in the closed hold. When dancing together in the open hold, you may bend your elbows slightly toward yourself. Both are accepted and appreciated ways of letting him know.
  • followers: with more experience you will learn how to still follow the lead while redirecting your movement away from harm’s way. This must be done with the subtlety that only experienced followers possess. Not following or “back leading” can cause confusion and possibly worsen collisions.

The Followers

  • Action – reaction try: not to anticipate what is coming next. Let the man lead
  • Pay attention to your partner
  • Smile! A smile can alleviate any nervousness your partner may feel about this.
  • Clear your mind of any expectations of your partner that could be perceived as judgments.
  • Focus and work on your own challenges

The Leaders

  • With unfamiliar partners, start with moves she knows,
  • slowly, gradually introduce more difficult patterns.
  • Don’t insist on repeating steps she’s having trouble with. This will not instill her confidence in your lead or in her own dancing. She will not relax.
  • Be sure of every step she makes so you are sure she is still corresponding with you.
  • Pay attention to your partner and the manner in which she executes steps rather than have your mind be completely preoccupied witch what you will execute next.
  • Be clear about your lead, do not change your mind mid-step

“Shines” & Footwork

In executing separate, intricate footwork or moves called “Shines”, stay attentive to your partner. This determines what to do and how long to do it. Continuity in your dance with your partner can be interrupted if the partners dance apart for too long.