Dancing Graces

Grace On-line

December 21, 1997

Conversation Interruptus

Recently we have received a number of inquiries concerning the thorny social issues surrounding interrupting conversations at a dance.

Dear Grace:

What is the best way to get someone's attention if he is talking to friends and I want to ask him to dance? If I sit around until he is finished with the conversation, the dance may be over!


Dear Awkward:

“Excuse me, would you like to dance?”

If you are not sure whether your would-be partner is already committed to another, try “Excuse me, are you engaged for this dance?”

Although this may seem self-evident, it is remarkable how many of us in the heat of the moment forget the first two works. Saying “excuse me” not only give you the pleasure of your partner's smile, it gives him a moment to think of a polite excuse to decline (if he so desires)—thus saving both of you embarassment!

Dear Grace:

At the last dance I was at, I was deep in conversation with a friend when this guy came over and asked her to dance. She just broke off the conversation and practically ran onto the dance floor! Don't people care about talking anymore?


Dear Insulted:

Had your friend been more tactful, she would have thanked you for the conversation or even promised to continue it later. However, there is nothing wrong with breaking off a conversation in order to dance with someone if you are at a dance. At a quiet luncheon with friends, such behavior would be inexcusable.

If you feel that talking is given insufficient priority at dances, I can only reply as a Jane Austen character did to the suggestion that conversation rather than dancing be made the order of the evening: “That would be much more civilized—but not nearly so much like a dance!”

Dear Grace:

I sometimes find myself chatting with not one but two women between dances. When the music starts, I turn to the one I prefer to dance with and ask her for the next dance. A friend of mine says this is rude. How can I ask one to dance without insulting the other?

In Demand

Dear In Demand:

You can't. The correct behavior in this situation is to excuse yourself, find another partner for the second lady, and return with him to ask both to dance. An alternative is to simply sit with the two ladies unless and until someone else asks one of them to dance, and then ask the remaining lady. Finally, you can smile coyly and hope that the right one asks you.

All three of these acceptable behaviors are so unheard of in the present day that I promise: upon report of an occurrence—I will eat my dance card.

From the Boston Swing Dance Society Newsletter, Jan/Feb, 1995. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Do you have questions about proper behavior on the dance floor? Please send them to DanceNet and they'll be forwarded to Grace.
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