Dancing Graces

Grace On-line

May 1, 1998

Dear Grace:

When I was dancing with this guy recently, we passed someone he knew. He leaned over and asked her for the next dance, and then continued dancing with me. What should I have done?


Dear Mortified:

Obviously this person has a very short attention span. He has also broken the Cardinal Rule of Couple Dancing, namely: for the few moments before and for the duration of the dance your partner is the only person in room—even better, in the world. This rule is only to be waived insofar as the personal safety of some other dancer in the room is at stake. Otherwise, your partner should only have eyes for you.

While you may be sorely tempted to recapture his attention by inflicting some injury to his person, i.e., a right hook, Grace does not recommend sinking to his level. Instead, smile sweetly at your partner and vow privately to reject him if he ever has the gall to ask you to dance again. Alternatively (or additionally), you might send him a copy of this column, anonymously of course. Do not fear that he will guess who you are; his sort is almost certainly a repeat offender.

Dear Grace:

As I'm sure you are aware, it isn't always possible to find the person you most want to partner in the two or three minutes between dances. So if I see someone I want to dance with, even if I already am engaged for the next dance, I often ask her for the following dance, or the one after that. What I don't understand is why some people seem annoyed at this. After all, I'm just showing that I'm interested, right?


Dear Confused:

Of course you're confused! And so is everyone else who may be trying to remember just who they've contracted with to dance the third, fourth, or fifth or tenth dance. The idea of booking dances ahead comes from an (alas) bygone era of ballroom dance cards, when gentlemen and ladies wrote each other's names in little cards next to numbered dances, and the only pitfall was not being able to read your parters' handwriting. Unfortunately, it just won't do in our degenerate times, when people cannot read, much less write.

You also risk breaking the Cardinal Rule of partner dancing (see above). Once you have engaged the hand of a lady for the next dance, she and only she should be the focus of your attention. Otherwise, she may think that the only reason you have asked her to dance is because you like the music, or the band, or (horrors!) because you couldn't find anyone else to dance with, and not (as of course the truth of the matter must be) because you wish to have the pleasure of her company, if only for the next seven or eight minutes.

From the Boston Swing Dance Society Newsletter, July/August, 1994. 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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