Trip the Light Fantastic…Not Your Partner’s Feet! Ballroom Dancing Etiquette


Ballroom dancing is not only an enjoyable sport, it’s also an art form and in case you weren’t aware of it, there is also a very decided code of conduct and etiquette that accompanies ballroom dancing. If you have any doubt about that whatsoever, just make a wrong move on the dance floor and you will quickly discover the truth.

One of the biggest questions most people have about ballroom dancing is in regards to what to wear. Proper ballroom attire is an absolute must-not only to meet proper protocol but simply in order to perform the proper moves on the dance floor correctly.

It is imperative that you obtain the right footwear. Most ballroom dance instructors will tell you that sneakers are absolutely forbidden on the dance floor. This is true even in practice lessons and the rule applies for a very good reason. The best type of shoes to wear are those with a smooth sole. This type of shoe allows you to turn and spin properly with little friction on the floor. Sneakers are a no-no because they cause your foot to stick to the floor.

When it comes to clothing for ballroom dancing, you should always opt for clothing that is comfortable and clothing that does not restrict your movements in any way. Avoid tight pants or skirts.

Generally, the formality of your attire will depend upon the formality of the event. At a bare minimum, proper ballroom attire for men indicates a coat and tie. For a more formal occasion, a gentleman may be requested to wear black tie. This type of request indicates that the man should wear a tuxedo, although a tailcoat is not necessary. The phrase ‘white tie’ is the most formal degree of attire for gentleman and indicates that a man should wear a tailcoat, matching pants and wing collar shirt. For a black tie optional event a man may wear either a tuxedo or a suit with a nice bow tie. A stated formal event indicates the requirement of a nice suit and tie for gentleman while a sport coat and slacks or a nice shirt, slacks and tie will suffice for a semi-formal occasion.

While many things have changed in our modern world, it is still anticipated that a woman will wear a nice dress or blouse and skirt for occasions and events that involve ballroom dancing. The length of the skirt or dress is somewhat left up to debate; however, proper ballroom attire does not typically include a skirt that is any shorter than mid-calf. The one exception to this rule is for events with a stated Latin dance them. In this instance, it is acceptance for a woman to opt for shorter skirts or longer skirts with a slit.

Depending upon the formality of the event, it may be more appropriate for a woman to wear an actual ball-gown. A ball-gown is classified as an evening gown with a long, full skirt.

Depending upon the formality of the event, it may be more appropriate for a woman to wear an actual ball-gown. A ball-gown is classified as an evening gown with a long, full skirt. The dress may feature an open back or low neckline. Ball-gowns are considered to be proper attire for both white tie and black tie events; although a white tie occasion will also generally require the addition of elbow length gloves as well.

For a semi-formal occasion, a lady does not necessarily need to wear a ball gown; however, proper protocol does require a long or full skirt. Both evening dresses and cocktail dresses are acceptable for black tie optional and formal occasions, while a dinner dress or evening dress would be proper for a semi-formal event.

While hairstyles are not an absolute must for women, it is a practical to take this matter into consideration; especially if you happen to have long hair. Many women find that wearing their hair up and off their neck in a nice bun or chignon allows them to move freely without the worry of hair flying into their eyes as they spin and turn. Finally, it should be noted that while the restriction of jewelry is not a matter of protocol for women, it does make good sense; particularly in regards to long or loose necklaces as well as any jewelry that could easily catch on a dance partner’s attire.

About the Author:

Jason Petrina is the Editor and Publisher of Article Click