Dance Class Etiquette Essentials

Music fans are familiar with the hierarchy of “essentials” in a musician’s catalog of tunes.

There are the singles that everyone not living under a rock knows. Those are “The Basics.”

Then, there are the songs with which regular followers of a group will be familiar. Those are “Next Steps.”

Finally, there are the “Deep Cuts”. You’ve got to be an experienced listener to have these on your radar.

And, because it’s my dance party, and I can do what I want to…

I’ve applied a similar ranking to the essentials of dance etiquette. Share them with your students, teachers, or anyone needing a reminder.

Dance Class Etiquette

The Basics of Dance Class Etiquette

(Common Sense)

 

  • Dress appropriately and come prepared.
  • Don’t chew gum or bring food and drinks (a closed water bottle is okay) into the studio.
  • Never wear dance shoes outside the studio or wear street shoes in the studio. And check for loose screws …on your taps before you step foot on the dance floor.
  • Don’t wear dangling or sharp-edged jewelry.
  • Come to class showered with brushed teeth or freshened breath.
  • Leave your stuff in a dressing room or locker (unless one is not available). Put any sanctioned personal belongings at the back or sides of unused studio walls (never the front).
  • Don’t come late and if you do, enter very quietly.
  • Don’t leave early. If it is a must, talk to the teacher before class. If you need to exit in an emergency (it better be good), exit as quickly and discreetly as possible.
  • Don’t talk while the teacher is talking. Not even whispering to the person next to you.
  • Completely silence and stow your cell phone. Even vibration is often audible.
  • Listen first, then ask relevant questions.
  • Respect the personal space of others.
  • Respect the dance space. Pick up trash, your clothes, and don’t turn things on, off, up, or down in the space without permission.
  • Watch your language, even when you mess up.
  • Don’t “hang” or slouch on the barre or anywhere else, for that matter. Be attentive at all times, especially when waiting for your turn. Beware of negative body language (like folded arms). And never sit down unless you are asked to.

Dance Etiquette Next Steps

(Habit for Most Dancers)

 

  • If you are late, don’t apologize until after class. Just wait for the okay from your teacher to enter the dance floor. Once permission is granted, find an easily accessible or inconspicuous place to warm up or participate.
  • If you are sitting, or sitting out, sit tall. Never lie down.
  • Develop spatial awareness and demonstrate it.
  • Give the instructor space, but not too much space.
  • Avoid the front unless you really know the combination.
  • Refrain from correcting others (that’s the teacher’s job).
  • Don’t quit in the middle… of the room, of the combination, or of the class. Go with the flow if you’re lost or confused. Never stop traffic.
  • Part like the Red Sea when exiting. Don’t cross center or the paths of other dancers.
  • It’s okay to mark combinations while you wait for your turn if you are out of the way.
  • Do not repeatedly leave and then come back in without permission.
  • If you find you have too many questions about something, save them for after class.
  • At the end of class, applaud or thank the instructor and musician (as part of the group)
  • Don’t visibly yawn or show boredom. You may get away with it in a lecture hall, but not dance class.

Etiquette “Deep Cuts” for Dancers

(Good to know)

 

  • Bring a towel to wipe your sweat and germs off the floor or barre.
  • Don’t take a class way above your skill level. If this mistake is already made, do your best, but stay out of the way of other dancers.
  • Never walk out of a class or go sit down because it’s too hard or you feel frustrated. This is considered rude and you are branding yourself as a quitter. I can’t is not in your vocabulary.
  • Applaud for demonstrators.
  • Once you’ve claimed a space in the center or in a group, it’s generally yours for better or worse. But don’t be pushy or try to reclaim a spot if yours gets taken.
  • At the end of class, it’s especially courteous to say thanks to the instructor and musician (one to one).
  • Restrain movement in a crowded class until broken into groups. If you bump into someone, quietly apologize. Don’t make it a big deal.
  • Never give your 2¢ on choreography to a teacher or choreographer unless your opinions have been requested. And don’t take it upon yourself to correct your fellow classmates.
  • If you want help with something that will take more than a minute or two, do some research on your own and/or schedule a private lesson with your teacher.
  • Don’t record or photograph anything without permission.

This is a big list, but you can help it grow.

What have we missed?

 

Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world.
Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle (owner/editor)
Nichelle (owner/editor)

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Comments

  1. Great stuff! I would add that deodorant is at least as important as teeth-brushing (I’ve heard complaints on several occasions about students who didn’t wear any). Also, absolutely no teaching your fellow students! If they have questions, encourage them to ask the teacher – that’s what they’re there for, after all.
    For students who are considering private lessons as an alternative, check out an article I wrote on the subject: http://dance-envy.com/ballroom-dancing-groups-or-privates). Happy dancing!

  2. Make it a habit to inspect tap shoes when putting them on. Exposed screw heads cut dance floors.

  3. If someone comes to their very first class not dressed appropriately, don’t call them out in front of everyone and embarrass them. Maybe they didn’t understand completely what the dress code was supposed to be. It’s hurtful and believe me, sticks with a person. Also don’t pin a “name” to them concerning the offense. Great article and very wise lessons to learn:)

  4. If you want some other politeness tips specifically for ballroom or partner dancing, check out article(s) here: http://usadanceboise.org/articles-of-interest/erins-etiquette-corner/

  5. I would also like to add something: when the other group is doing the combination, NEVER stay behind them ,always stay to the side. It may be disturbing for the teacher. He/She may not be able to pay attention to the group which is doing the combination

  6. Great list, Nichelle! One thing that drives me nuts when I take and/or teach class (especially open class) is the fact that so few instructors teach “ballet etiquette” in their classes. Being an artform that comes from kings and queens, that seems a disservice to the art. In my frustration, I’ve also compiled two lists of rules/dance etiquette on my blog; one being the rules of taking open class (http://lifeofafreelancedancer.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-rules-of-taking-open-class.html) and another being the rules of taking company class (http://lifeofafreelancedancer.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-rules-of-company-class.html). I really appreciated your post. Thanks!

  7. Never stand with your arms folded.

    • Yes, especially in your first day. Don’t make it seem like you don’t want to be there. Stand up sraight and keep your eyes wide open.

  8. I love your list, Nichelle! The one I made for school age children overlaps with it, but yours is applicable to my adult tap students, as well! I also want to second Shelly Beech’s advice regarding tap shoes. Thank you for the list!

  9. Everyone should line up along the side or back wall for combinations from the corner! Drives me crazy when everyone sort of clumps in the corner, fills in from both sides, and makes it hard to tell who is forming the next group!

  10. lory bonavia says:

    Great list. I’d like to mention that it’s nice to choose a group or a line and stick with it when doing combos in center. So one has to pay attention as to who’s turn it is.
    Happy dancing

  11. All great suggestions, everyone! Keep ’em coming!

    • If there is a clock in the room, students tend to look at it often. I find it rude. Watches are also unnecessary, unless that person needs to step out early.

  12. Magira Ross says:

    Thank you for this. Is there a printable version of your lists and can you add me to your email list? Thanks again!

  13. Love the etiquette list. Mine is developed with younger children in mind. For example, “red means stop”. That refers to the red tape I have about a foot away from the mirrors! I also have this one: As a courtesy to the instructors and the other dancers in your class with allergy and/or asthma problems, please do not bring animals into the building or wear perfume to dance class.
    Getting ready for my 45th annual recital.!

  14. Thank You!

  15. Great list!! Hair not being put up off your shoulders and neck DRIVES ME BANANAS!!! NO BANGS!! Do not come into class throwing your hair up in a pony tail and staring at yourself in the mirror to see if your hair is “cute.” How can you spot correctly when you have a pony tail whipping into your face? Come to class prepared. When I was younger, if you even dared to enter class without your hair taken care of my instructor didn’t even have to say anything. She would give you that look from her stool next to all her records. Now I know accidents happen, and things aren’t always perfect and your hair can fall out of place, but repeated offenders get kicked out of my class. I will not put up with it. If I could get my 80’s bangs slicked back before class, then everyone can do it!!!

  16. My favorite: “Never give your 2¢ on choreography to a teacher or choreographer.”

    Should be a basic rule: “Never wear tights and leotards, or ballet slippers, outside the studio. If you don’t have time to change, throw a T-shirt and sweatpants over everything – even for a short run out to the parking lot.”

    • One of my favs too, Carla. I’ve encountered the occasional student who assumes that because we’re working out bits of the choreography in rehearsal that it’s open season for making suggestions. Choreography can and often is a collaborative process but there’s still an invitation within that collaboration that must be extended from choreographer to dancer to give suggestions, opinions, etc. The dancer in a collaborative situation could carefully ask permission to provide a suggestion, but I think this takes great emotional intelligence on the dancer’s part — you need to be able to ‘read’ the choreographer’s openness in that moment — so generally I think it’s better to keep a lid on it. These courtesies mirror the boss-employee relationship but some dancers (especially ones new to the process) don’t always seem to be aware.

      In a class, I’ve found it’s usually when a student is a peer or older than a teacher that the protocol of unsolicited advice breaks down.

      I did mention no dance shoes outside in the basic rules. Since this was more general and not all classes wear leos and tights I didn’t go that far but you’re right, it definitely extends to other dancewear!

      • I think most dance students and parents think of leotard and tights as a uniform or costume, when it is actually a proxy for nudity. (It is what allows ballet training to happen without studios being raided by the cops!) You have to be able to see all the lines and muscles in the body in order to teach and learn the technique. That’s why Balanchine’s decision to put dancers in many of his pieces in practice clothes was so revolutionary – he was effectively making them dance naked. So: just as you wouldn’t dream of dashing out into the parking lot naked, you shouldn’t dash out in your dance attire. Parents and teachers need to exert authority and make this an iron-clad rule from the beginning. It is about respect – not just for the traditions of ballet, or the reputation of the studio – but respect for your own body.

      • I found these statements really interesting.

        “These courtesies mirror the boss-employee relationship but some dancers (especially ones new to the process) don’t always seem to be aware.

        In a class, I’ve found it’s usually when a student is a peer or older than a teacher that the protocol of unsolicited advice breaks down.”

        I’m one of those older than the teacher student (by about a decade or so, so, significant age difference). But I learned to keep my mouth shut 99.9% of the time, for the reasons you mentioned (an experience with a different dance teacher taught me this lesson). The point I want to make here is that yes, when you’re new to the industry, or the process, sometimes you really just don’t know better. Especially when you’re in a work environment where ideas and discussion are usually encouraged and welcomed because they may spark a solution to a problem.

        And in class (although it’s not ballet, so I don’t know if the Latin/ballroom world is different), doesn’t the boss/dance coach have a responsibility to the student/dancer, also? I wasn’t thinking so much choreography, but even there, it can apply. Like having the choreography well thought out, clear counts, etc…before practicing the choreography begins (although of course there are always some changes, or maybe a count here and there could be off, etc.)

        I’m in a situation now where the instructor changed the rules of being at the school midgame. New/more requirements, more commitments, etc. that were not present when I signed up at the school. All pretty much not only without warning, but done in a somewhat intimidating way.

        Don’t students – especially the committed ones – deserve more than that? Or is it always that the instructor is right, if you don’t like how I go about it, go to a different school?

        I feel like just in the business world, there are instructors who are better leaders than others, and who work on their leadership skills. Who are better at motivating their students. Who make sure their students feel cared for – which involves asking them – and really listening – to what they need. Not assuming.

        So it shouldn’t automatically be that the instructor is always right, sometimes that’s a little bit lazy thinking, even though I do understand being very selective when giving “opinions” and being courteous and tactful, even when invited to give them. I think the instructors also need to remember that I pay to be there. I’m a client too, aside from being a student.

        • …correction in post above:

          I feel like just *like* in the business world…

        • Thanks for commenting, Mary. Of course, there are teachers who are better at leading, or motivating, or organizing, or communicating, or… we all -teachers and students alike- have our strengths and weaknesses. We’ve reviewed the characteristics of great teachers here: 12 Traits of Terrific Dance Teachers. As a customer and student you always have the option of discussing questions and concerns with your teacher. Timing and tact are essential in your approach and we even have a post or two that cover some of these situations but like any relationship, knowing what you value most in a teacher and what you want from dance training is key to knowing whether or not the relationship is really a fit for you. If not, it’s okay to walk away.

          • Nichelle,

            Thank you so much for your reply, and for pointing me to those articles. I had missed them, even though I frequent your blog often. Loved the Terrific Dance Teacher one because it addressed so much beyond teaching skills…and the posts about approaching the dance teacher because it gave specific advice on how to do it. Do you have any posts that cover how to be a Terrific Dance Student?

            But yes. Whenever along the way I’ve felt disappointed with something, or wish something was done in a different way, or felt annoyed, I’ve always weighed it against the positive things I get out of the school. So far, the positives have always won out.

            I think sometimes I just feel scared it will get to the point that I am so intimidated to say anything I don’t talk to her about anything – even when I should. It’s not easy navigating that sometimes. But like you say in your posts, not reacting in the moment and stepping back and examining any issue unemotionally first is the first step. I’m glad life experience has at least taught me that, even if I still struggle with some of the rest of it.

            Mary

            • Yes! Looking for the positives and weighing them is always a great idea, Mary. And you’re right there is a fine line sometimes – not all teachers are equally approachable but in 99% of cases, if a student is aware and considerate of a teacher’s experience and time, he/she is much less likely to get a negative response. Thanks again for commenting and for following the site.

              We have a post about How To Make The Most Of Your Dance Classes and I think it speaks well to what it takes to be a great student. I also penned this one over at the Rockettes website: How To Be An A+ Dance Student.

    • Sometimes my teacher will ask for our opinions, or moves we’d like her to put in a dance…or sometimes what kind of dance and to what song we should do…no disrespect, but we are the ones doing the dance…
      But I also see what you mean, because sometimes people in my dance class complain when we’re learning a dance that a move is too hard or that it doesn’t work , then I’m just like, you guys are ruining her vision, like calm down. And if dance teachers always listened to our complaints, we would never grow

      • Yes, opinions when asked for are fine! However, making suggestions when you haven’t really been asked is usually just extra “noise” for the instructor or choreographer and the dancers. Not all choreographers will annoyed at the dancers for offering opinions but if they want opinions, they’ll ask. At all other times it’s really just best to keep ideas or thoughts to oneself.

  17. Parents do not sit in on Math class, what makes them feel entitled to sit in on dance class. Space is limited, dance class is a learning environment and parents making corrections is unacceptable.

  18. I love this list! I’m just a teen student but some of these things really irk my dance teacher, especially the talking and stopping in the middle of the dance floor. Like, sometimes if someone, most likely a new student, is doing an across the floor combo and they stop halfway and walk across, she gets this really pissed off look on her face and barely gives them any attention for the rest of class (which is kind of harsh)…
    But for her, when you do something like that, she immediately labels you as someone who doesn’t care or is not willing to try, so she refuses to waste her energy looking at you, just to be upset, because she is really passionate..
    And sometimes, mostly in company rehearsals when everyone is together, she yells at us for talking (because we’re all really good friends)….
    We need a list like this at my studio, lol

  19. I love this list and people at my conservatoire really need to read this… I would add (and this is what drives me insane the most in a dance class):

    Don’t consecutively go twice (or three times!?) across the floor and in combinations (unless instructed to do so). You’re taking time from everybody by doing so and in combinations you might be taking space from the dancers who’s turn it ACTUALLY is. Going twice every once in a while can be alright, but please consider that you’re not the only one present who wants to improve and if everybody went more times than allocated, the class would go nowhere…

  20. Meg Lund says:

    Thanks for all of the tips on how to have proper dance class etiquette. I definitely agree that you should listen first and then ask relevant questions. If you listen carefully to the full instructions, you will probably get the moves faster, and then your questions will be for the betterment of the class. Thanks for the insights and ideas. I’ll definitely use them for when I go to my next dance class!

  21. This is a great list, and great comments. I would add that when you are given a correction from a teacher you simply say “Thank you.” Don’t apologize, don’t give excuses, just say “Thank you!”

  22. When you are split into groups to perform and you are not currently perform, make sure you cheer your peers and pay attention to how they interpret the chorey – don’t ‘mark’ it on the side, as this is rude and distracting.

    • This is good point, Jmac. There’s sort of a distinction between choreography/phrases and exercises across the floor. Do you agree? I suppose for some it’s never okay but, as a teacher or participant, I’ve never felt offended by sideline marking during an exercise. But, you’re right when it’s choreography or phrase work, there’s an expectation to watch and learn and appreciate.

      Teachers could sometimes make this clearer, especially for less experienced students since it may sometimes be hard for them to know when it’s okay and when it’s not. I don’t have a problem with students marking during exercises or when practicing brand new choreography. In my classes with students there’s always a point, though, where we do “perform” it and I make it clear that it’s now time to watch. I’d expect marking over all much less at the professional level and definitely not when performing in groups.

  23. Great list!
    Especially the thing about don’t walk out in class or sit..also add, no quitting halfway across the floor. My dance teacher absolutely hates it when people stop in the middle of the floor when we’re going across, and walks across. She literally tells them to go back to where they stopped and continue. It’s really disrespectful and shows you’re a quitter, and unwilling to try. I’ve been in dance classes (mostly HipHop or sometimes turns and jumps classes) when I don’t get it, I keep going because you want want to try and get the movement. And for turns, of you fall out of them, then catch yourself and re-prepare and start over, am I right? The aim of class is not to get it perfect, but to progress, and learn through mistakes.
    Also, the dress code. A lot of people, when they hear rehearsal, the dress code is abandoned. I know rehearsal is technically not class, but you’re still coming to dance, so at least look the part. My studio’s dress code is full black (pink tights for ballet, tan tights also accepted for other styles). I’m guilty of ignoring dress code (one time we had a ballet rehearsal, and most of us wore full black yes, but minus the tights, because pink tights are the worst, in my opinion) but I’ve since learned, so if I’m going to a jazz rehearsal, I’ll wear a leotard and shorts, or a ballet rehearsal, wear pink tights (she might even allow us to wear shorts some times, which are the best days)
    But there need to be more lists like these, when I just started dance three years ago, these were lpmy life, and they’re pretty interesting too

  24. Thanks, It’s always good to be reminded of things you may know already and learn new points from others.
    This list is going out to my students and colleagues.
    We also have compulsory hand washing, with soap.
    I just finished teaching and one 6yr old really had a nose blow. The children are taught to wash hands before and after class.
    Some mothers are really pleased that we do it.
    Students go off sick, but we teachers have to try and stay healthy.i

  25. Great list
    Here’s 2 more.
    Always leave the studio covered up in additional clothes eg school team wear or other clothes. 1) for weather, hot bodies and Cold air not a good combination 2) leotards and tights grab the wrong type of attention in the street. Depending on where you dance studio is may even demand this more! A studio is still a stage and the front door is the stage door same rules apply!

    2) Each studio has a different set of rules but the teachers goal is the same! To make you the best you can be! Be respectful of this and understand each set of rules will make you not only a better performer but a better human being who can cope with any situation thrown at them in the real world!

  26. Never stand in front of the piano/pianist/musician.

  27. I’d like to add my one pet peeve to this list….
    When I was growing up we showed respect for our teacher and fellow students by moving away from the barre where the teacher stood to demonstrate. If it was a center barre everyone from both sides moved away. This not only gives the instructor room to show what they need to show without worrying about hitting any students but also allows ALL dancers in the room to see the teacher. I rarely see dancers do this now however on World Ballet Day 2015 I saw dancers from the Australian Ballet move away from the barre during the demonstration of exercises. It made me smile. I don’t know how many times I have nearly kicked, stepped on, or collided with a dancer because they do not do this.

  28. Dancers are territorial. If you’re new to a class wait and see where other stand at the barre and in center before taking your place.

  29. I grew up dancing and doing ballet. I didn’t realize that the etiquette I learned in dance transferred so strongly into my daily life. Now as an adult in daily life, people drive me nuts with their lack of etiquette. I often forget that I do things a certain way thanks to my dance teachers.

  30. No need to take a sip from your water bottle after each combination. Do not adjust your pointe shoes or worse remove them to retape toes or the like during class. Refrain from teaching yourself (rolling your eyes or showing anger with self when you think you’ve made an error) you are not teachable in this state. Refrain from tears in class, you can cry later, we all did. Do not take abuse from a director or teacher. Gone are the days when humiliation was an acceptable teaching practice. You can walk out if personally insulted or disrespected.

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