Part three found here.
Night Club Dancing
So far, we have discussed private dancing parties.
A restaurant, featuring dancing, is quite different. Here your only obligation is to the people of your own party. A cut-in from a stranger should never be accepted… nor should it be offered. A man should avoid leaving his date alone at the table unless it is really necessary. Otherwise, she may be subjected to unwelcome attention.
Most restaurant and night club dance floors are tiny in size. So, in consideration of your partner and your neighbors, you should avoid complicated steps. Dance simply and follow the line of direction. This means to progress around the room, clockwise. Shorten your steps to fit the limitation of space.
One Last Word
It is not bad manners to suggest sitting down before the dance is over. That is, if you suggest the idea tactfully. Either partner can say: “It’s warm in here, don’t you think so? Shall we sit out and cool off for a few moments?” Or, “It’s crowded, isn’t it? I’m anxious to talk to you anyway—shall we sit down?”
From now on, try to think more kindly of the word “etiquette”—it protects you, too; don’t you think so?
A Few Remaining Tips…
- Don’t give helpful pointers while dancing. It makes you sound fault-finding.
- Don’t steer your partner around the floor like a bicycle.
- Don’t dance side-saddle.
- Don’t chew gum in time to music. Don’t chew gum in your partner’s ear. Maybe… don’t chew gum!
- Don’t be so serious. Leave your business face at the office when you step out.
- Don’t say you hate dancing just because you don’t know how.
- If you want to lead a man to the altar—don’t lead him on the dance floor.
- Don’t let old-fashioned dancing date you!
- When you make a misstep, don’t blame the orchestra.
- Don’t brag “I never had a lesson in my life.”
- Don’t keep on dancing for “politeness’ sake” when neither of you is having fun.
- Don’t dance passively—be glad you’re alive.
Part Two found here.
This is a matter of personality but there are general rules of good manners to consider. The first taboo is don’t argue! Dancing is a partnership that depends on accord. Two people cannot move as one and enjoy the rhythm of the music together unless they feel harmonious toward each other. So, avoid subjects that might breed discord; such as politics, religion, school elections, and so on. Even when you discuss songs or bands, remember that the sweetest words ever spoken are: “I think you’re right!”
There are some people who cannot talk as they dance. Theirs is a companionable silence because it is obvious that their minds are occupied with the rhythm of the music and the pleasure of the dance.
The strong, stern, silent man and the frosty-faced, forbidding female don’t belong at a dance. Their partners find them unpleasant and the onlookers will avoid them. There may be some reason not to talk as you dance… but always keep your smile on!
The walkie-talkie chatter-box is a conversational hazard, too. There are always a few at every dance… they are so keyed up or so shy that they have forgotten all about Silence Being Golden. Their chatter is so steady that it drowns out the loudest band. Like the brook, they ripple on and on. Nothing can be done about it but you can profit by their example!
Introducing people is a bugbear to those who are shy… and to those who are young and unpracticed. Actually, the only difficult part is to remember names—and to have them at the tip of your tongue. Otherwise, your cues are easy… you always present the man to the lady, mentioning her name first. Such as: “Lillian, this is Mr. Brown—Miss Smith.” Or, if you are not on a first-name terms with her, you can say: “Miss Smith, may I present Mr. Brown.”
When introducing two women, you present the younger one to the older, such as: “Mrs. Jones, this is Miss Smith.” If they are of equal age, it doesn’t matter which name is mentioned first. “Mrs. Jones, I’d like to have you know Mrs. Brown.”
It is good training to make a point of remembering names; therefore many people form the habit of acknowledging introductions by repeating the name. Such as: “How do you do, Mrs. Brown.” If you have not really heard the other person’s name, it will flatter them to have you say: “Did you say Mrs. Brown? …How do you do.”
Don’t make the famous mistake that was made by a young girl, who was too shy to ask to have the name repeated—and who, later in the evening, asked: “I’m not quite sure—how do you spell your name?” “S-M-I-T-H, plain Smith,” he replied.
Certain replies to introductions have fallen into too much common usage and are not considered good taste. As an example: “Pleased to meet you”… is no longer used. Yet, “I’m so glad to know you” is quite acceptable.
A woman does not rise to acknowledge introductions, unless she is the hostess, or is being introduced to an older person. A hostess rises to greet all of her guests, men or women.
Part one found here.
There is a right and wrong way to ask a lady to dance. It puts her in an awkward spot if you say: “Have you the next dance taken?” What girl wants to admit that her dances are not taken! Instead, say: “May I have the next dance?” Don’t forget this… it holds true for all invitations. It is more polite to say: “Will you go dancing with me on Friday night?” …than to tactlessly say: “What are you doing on Friday night?” See the difference?
At the end of each dance, a man must always escort his partner back to where she was sitting. He must never leave her in the middle of the floor. But don’t forget, he doesn’t have to take her by the arm to lead her off!
When leaving a girl after dancing with her, a man should make some pleasant remark like: “Thank you so much—I enjoyed dancing with you.” He should be careful not to say: “I’ll be back later,” unless he plans to return. A man is well protected by the rules of etiquette. If he has had an uncongenial or dull partner, he can make his exit very smoothly by saying that he must find the girl with whom he has the next dance. Or, that he has not yet dance with the hostess.
This is an acceptable custom at almost all dances that are held in America. If a man wants to cut-in on the girl of his choice, he should wait until she is dancing fairly near him, at the outer edge of the floor. Then he can easily step up to her side and nod pleasantly, saying “May I?” to her partner.
It is considered childishly bad form to refuse to “break”. Instead, the man who has been cut-in on, should step aside good-naturedly, with a slight bow and a smile, and join the stag line. From there, he can do a little cutting-in himself.
There is a generally accepted rule that there must be an intervening cut-in before a man can return to claim his original partner. For instance, if Bill cuts-in on John… John should not cut back on Bill. He should wait until another man is dancing with the lady.
The cut-in system is very cruel to a woman. Even when she likes the partner she has, she yearns for cut-ins, to prove her popularity. But, no matter how welcome the “cut” is, a woman should not show undue glee. She should smile equally at her original partner and at her new one.
A girl who pounces on a new cut-in with obvious delight makes him wary and suspicious. Further, her stock goes down with a bang because she has been noticeably insulting to her original partner. Neither can she show reluctance to break, even when her original partner is her dream man. Ladies must chart their course very carefully for smooth sailing.
Many people seem to shy away from the word “etiquette”. It has an old-fashioned sound. But etiquette, after all, is merely the practical application of good common sense and attractive manners.
Ballroom dancing is a partnership and group activity and so it concerns other people beside yourself. There is never any excuse for faulty manners that might affect or react on others. A popular member of a dancing group is considerate—and shows regard for the comfort and pleasure of partners, a hostess, and the other guests.
Once you have accepted an invitation to a dance, you have automatically agreed to live up to the obligations it implies. You are expected to be suitably dressed, to be pleasant company, and, above all, to be able to dance.
No one would dream of accepting an invitation for tennis or bridge unless they could play. But many will accept dancing dates when they know quite well that their dancing is not good enough for a partner to enjoy. It’s odd, isn’t it?
If you can’t dance with confidence, have the courage to refuse dancing invitations. Wait until you have the ability and can appear in the best light possible. By starting to practice immediately, you’ll be ready and in demand the next time!
A man who accepts an invitation to a dance cannot spend the entire evening with the one partner of his choice. By accepting, he has agreed to add to the festivity of the evening by mingling with the group, by asking several partners to dance, or by changing partners with other couples. Natural courtesy dictates the rule that he must seek out and invite the hostess to dance. If she has daughters or sisters present, they must not be overlooked.
A lady must wait to be asked to dance, but she has her obligations to the party. She cannot, for instance, refuse one partner and then turn around and accept another. Neither should a girl attempt to tie strings to a partner—to hold on to him. She must release him gracefully so that he can get about and dance with others.
When entering or leaving the dance room, the lady always precedes. Men never go first unless they need to do so to give assistance, such as in helping someone out of a car, bus, or so on.
It is no longer considered good taste for a man to take the lady’s arm when they are walking to or from the dance floor. This has been out-of-date for years.
In a whole roomful of dancers, did you ever spot one person whom you wished could be your partner? You’ll notice that it isn’t appearance alone that attracts you. There is another quality that draws your attention like a magnet. Call it “charm”—or “personality”… however you describe it, it shows in everything you do.
You can develop that extra something that will make your dancing personality colorful, attractive. It’s easy, once you know the tricks that will do it.
First of all, accent your dancing! Give it highlights. Accent in dancing is a great deal like accent in speaking. A person who talks in a flat, level, unvarying voice is a bore to listeners. They may know a great deal and have a fine vocabulary at their command but it all goes to waste because of their dreary, droning voice.
A man may know a great variety of steps and yet be a dull dancing partner. He must learn to accent his dancing to give it life and pep. Ladies, too, must accent the beat and rhythm of the music before they can dance with expression.
To accent in dancing, merely emphasize the same beat of the music that the orchestra does. You can find this most easily by listening for the bass drum beats. Turn on your radio or phonograph and listen. Note that in a Waltz, the drummer strikes in measures of three beats but that he strikes hardest on each first beat.
Practice the Waltz, accenting or emphasizing the first of every three steps. Because a man always starts dancing with his left foot, his first accented step in the Waltz will be taken with his left. A woman will start accenting with her right foot.
It will take a few hours of practice before you can do this easily and automatically. But it’s worth the time—it will make dancing more fun for you, more exciting for your partners, and more attractive to onlookers.
The Law of Opposites
Here is a secret of showmanship that will help you to express a sophisticated, smooth dancing personality. I call it the “Law of Opposites” and it is a rule that is used by every good dancer.
When you step forward with either foot, bring your opposite should slightly forward.
Try this movement of the body, while walking toward your mirror. It will remind you of the graceful, controlled steps that a high-diver takes on a springboard. Follow the rule of opposites in your dancing—it gives strength and assurance to the personality that you show.
The Face Must Dance, Too!
No dancer can attract partners by body and foot motions alone. The face must dance, too. Remember this—you are not dressed for dancing until you put on a smile! Show the cheerful side of your character when you dance—it will be contagious to your partner and to everyone who watches. Let them say of you… “What a wonderful personality!”
Part Two found here.
Do your knees crra-ack as you bend? You can oil them with his exercise—it’s mean to overcome stiff knee joints. It will help you to take smooth dancing steps, rather than the jerky movements of a beginner.
To begin: stand up straight in a natural position.
Take a long forward step with your right foot and place the weight on that foot. Bend the right knee and keeping your body erect, bend down as far as possible.
Not so easy? The results will be worth it—try again.
After bending, rise and resume your standing position. Now, without moving out of place, step forward with your left foot—weight on that foot—and bend as before.
Do this exercise gradually, a few times a day at first or you may need rubbing oil for your knees!
If you are practicing to music, allow three beats of a Waltz for the downward bend and three beats to rise to place.
Ladies who are not good dancers always dread dancing forward, toward their partners. It makes them feel insecure, clumsy—and they are in fear of stumbling over the man’s feet.
Good dancers must be able to glide forward easily. In the Waltz, for instance, almost half of the girl’s steps will be toward her partner. This exercise will give you the security and confidence that you need; practice it.
Without bending your body forward, raise your right foot until it is parallel with the floor. Stretch your toes out—not up.
To develop dancing poise, hold your foot up for about five seconds, then lower it slowly. Repeat ten times, then try it with the other foot.
It puzzles a man when he finds that some big, stout girls are easy and light to lead—while a slender 100 pounder may be as heavy as lead.
If you want to hear a man say to you: “You’re wonderful to dance with—you’re as light as a feather”… then train your arms. This exercise will do it—and further, it will add to your balance and poise.
Rise up on your right toe, raise your left leg backward, as high as you can. Let your toes lead and point outward. At the same time, bring your right arm up extended. Hold this graceful pose for three beats of a Waltz measure, then slowly lower your hands and feet. Important! Always make sure your wrists lead when using your arms and hands.
Part One found here.
If you find it difficult to keep your balance during this exercise, don’t be discouraged—it merely proves that you need the practice. It will come easily after a few tries.
This is glamour training—it will develop supple muscles in your diaphragm and waistline.
Stand with your heels together, and your hands held loosely at your sides.
Step sideways on your right foot to the right, and draw your left foot behind the right. At the same time, bring your arms and hands up over your head. Sway to the right.
Then step with your left foot to the left and bring your right foot up to and in back of your left. Sway to the left.
It is helpful to practice this to slow Waltz music, using three counts for each swaying movement. 1, 2, 3 to the right; 4, 5, 6 to the left.
When you first try this exercise, you may feel insecure. If so, lean on the top of your dresser or on the back of a chair until you can hold your balance.
This movement will train you to hold your head up high and it will gracefully arch your back. A stiff, unyielding back makes a girl feel wooden to her partner.
Begin by standing erect, with your hands at your sides and your heels together. Then swing into the following figure-skater-like position: one leg extended backward, toes pointed, and both arms held out straight behind you. Your head should be tilted back to elongate your neck.
Repeat, swinging back on the other foot.
This can be practice to slow Waltz music or by counting 1, 2, 3. Don’t bring your feet together again until after the third beat.
Note that the toes of the back-swinging foot are leading—and pointed outward.
Caution: Do not repeat these exercises too often the first time—or you will regret it the next day!
If you can do this exercise correctly, with your body erect, you will develop a good sense of equilibrium. Practice it until you are well satisfied with your appearance in your mirror.
Simply extend one foot to the side and raise it as high as possible. Note that—again—your toes should lead.
Practice this ten times with one foot and then repeat to the other side.
When you have mastered this, with good balance and keeping your body erect, then rise on the toes of the foot carrying the weight.
Count: 1, 2, 3, 4. Raise foot 1, 2. Lower foot 3, 4. Try it to slow Foxtrot music.
This exercise will not only train you in balancing, but it will enable you to follow any quick side step that a partner may take.
At every newsstand you will find books of instructions for playing tennis, golf, swimming, and so on. This information is easy to read and digest—but do you feel that you could perform these muscular activities just by knowing about them?
Dancing deals with the muscles, too. You can pick up steps just by watching them—or reading their description… but you will have your knowledge in your head only. Your feet and your body cannot respond to your will and desire alone—your muscles must first be trained to obey your command.
Men who want to be good dancers must learn only their own part—and train their muscles to follow the steps they choose to do. But ladies are in a different position… they must be able to follow many partners—some tall, some short; some with a great variety of intricate steps, some with a weak lead and faltering steps.
The way to become an alert, agile partner—ready to follow anyone, is to train your muscles to obey quickly and to strengthen them to support you in any direction you choose to move.
You cannot dance merely by wanting to—any more than you can be a fine tennis player just because you know the rules and know that the game is fun to play.
To exercise sufficiently takes character and determination. It takes enthusiasm, too. If you really want to be a far better than average dancer—one who is sought out as a partner—you will study these exercises carefully. They are a sure means of training your dancing muscles quickly and effectively. Remember, no one can do it for you… but once you’ve achieved your ambition to be an attractive, popular partner—everyone will envy you.
Here are eight (the first two in this part) exercises for you to use—you will find it more entertaining to do them in front of your mirror, in time with music.
Have you ever wondered why some girls look better standing than others do? Or, have you ever wished that you knew how to stand when someone takes your snapshot?
Count One of this exercise will give you the same standing posture that the best photographers’ models use. Count Two will give you the backstep technique of an exhibition dancer.
To make your feet look well as you stand, train your heels to always come together. The toes should be turned out and the knees should touch each other. Look in your mirror!
On the count of One, bring your heels together so that your knees touch and your toes point outward. Now, on the count of Two, kick your right foot as far back as possible—toe pointed out and leading. Return to correct position of Count One. Repeat this same movement with your left foot and continue in time to slow Foxtrot music.
This is an exercise that will train your feet and ankles to look attractive from any angle. It will teach you to automatically turn your toes outward—a definite “must” for any girl who wants to look well while dancing.
Place your feet together as in Exercise 1. Take a peek in your mirror to see how you’re doing. Then, step backward with your left foot, counting One—draw your right foot up to your left, counting Two.
Now try the same thing with your right foot back.
Repeat this movement, going backward around the room. Don’t forget that your toes must be turned outward.
This back step may seem exaggerated to you… but remember that most of your partners are going to walk you backward very often. You must prepare your muscles to carry you easily.
Don’t start off on the wrong foot! The man always starts with his left foot—the girl with her right. Easy? Sure, if you know your left from your right… do you?
Don’t, ladies, oh don’t hang your full weight on your partner’s arm… he can’t dance for both of you. You’re a big girl now—balance on your own two feet and support your own weight. If you can’t, then stay home and take your vitamins.
Don’t, brother, don’t walk forward all the time. Your girl friend will get mighty tired of backing up all evening. Try strolling backward for five minutes straight and you’ll get the idea.
Don’t criticize your partner’s dancing… this goes for all genders. Finding fault with the other fellow is a sure sign of a beginner—or worse, of a sourpuss.
Don’t, little lady, blame your crushed toe on your partner. Maybe your back steps are too short. Test yourself—are the toes of your new slippers soiled already? Then, practice long steps, stretching back with your toes. Get out of his way!
Don’t be a sad-eyed Sammy or a sour-apple Sue. The dance floor is a place for fun… do your worrying on your own time. Smile now… or you’re apt to have no one to smile with.
Don’t, ladies, believe for a minute that all you have to do is relax. To relax is to collapse. Be alert, full of pep, on your toes—then you’ll be fun to dance with!
Don’t forget that the best position for dancing is the same as for walking—keep erect. Dancing with hips ‘way back is out-of-date. Besides, remember the stag line’s view… you owe something to your public!
Don’t clutch your partner’s hand too firmly. You may not know your own strength! And, ladies, don’t take a death grip on the poor guy’s thumb… you’ve got him safely hooked for the dance—he can’t get away.
Don’t hum or sing loudly—you’re only an inch from your partner’s ear. Humming or singing is fine if you’re good enough to compete with the orchestra. But if you aren’t sure of the tune or the words, do your warbling in the shower. Soaping and singing make a swell duet.
Don’t be a butterfly, little lady. You have arms, not wings. A loose hold will make you miss the lead and stumble. What a comedown that will be! Hold your left hand in a firm grip on the back of your partner’s shoulder… you’ll keep your balance and your partner’s praise.
Don’t hug the floor! Lift your feet! Lift your feet a fraction of an inch off the floor and move through the air. Air offers no resistance—therefore, you can step lightly and effortlessly. Lift your feet slightly for graceful dancing.
Don’t keep apologizing. When you make a mistake, say “I’m sorry”—but just say it once. If you protest: “Gee, I’m clumsy” too often—someone may believe you.
Don’t expect a happy home life if you dance once with your wife—and then park her for the evening. You know what happens when cars are parked too long… they get cold; they gag and splutter, their carburetors overflow and their feed-lines don’t work right for a long, long time.
Married couples shouldn’t dance together for the whole evening. But, the way to do it gracefully is to change partners with another couple. Four divides into two-and-two… and a much better combination than three.
Don’t go to extremes. A stately tread belongs in marble halls… bouncing high is for the village green. They are both too exaggerated for present day dancing.
Dancers used to hop high in the days of the Galop, Polka, and Leaping Waltz. Then, fashions changed and swung far the other way. Dancing became overly conservative, dignified. Every step seemed meticulously measured.
With this vogue for dignity—in about 1900—came the theory that good dancers must not lift their feet. Dancing teachers of the day preached: “Do not permit a crack of light to show between your feet and the floor.”
This certainly made dull dancing. How can you dance lightly, with expression and animation, when your feet scrape the floor? Yet, even today, some pupils look surprised and skeptical when I tell them they must lift their feet while dancing.
Good balance is the ability to maintain your equilibrium easily, lightly. If you have ever noticed a small child, toddling about, you have seen that it takes times before a steady, upright walk is achieved. We learn to balance our weight through practice.
Before we go on, supposing you try this simple balance test. Place your weight on the toes of one foot, raising the other foot off the floor several inches, either forward or backward. Do you feel as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar? Most people cannot hold this pose, without wavering, for more than a few seconds.
But, good balance is easy to acquire. In dancing, there are just two things necessary… first, to strengthen the muscles of the toes which carry your weight—second, and for girls only, learn to use your left hand as ballast—to give you added support.
Both men and women can improve their balance and strengthen their toe muscles by dancing alone and by practicing the exercises in this book. Many men feel self-confident—they are not afraid of being wallflowers because they know that they can always ask a girl to dance. But, if those men who “get by” with poor dancing could hear what their partners say about them in the Powder Room, they might be more anxious to improve their technique.
Strengthening the toe muscles will serve you well in other fields than dancing. Good balance is required for football, basketball, tennis, skating, boxing, track, and golf. Further, good balance gives you an attractive and tireless walking posture.
Try the “balance test” again; placing your weight on the toes of one foot, with the other foot extended in the air. Now place your left hand on the top of your dresser or on the back of a chair. It’s easy to stand steadily now, isn’t it?
When you dance, train yourself to hold your left hand very firmly on the back of your partner’s shoulder. Don’t be afraid, you will not seem heavy. He will not feel the slightest discomfort from that pressure. Instead, you will seem lighter to him. If you would like to prove this to yourself, lead one of your girl friends. Have her hold onto your shoulder, steadying her full weight with her left hand. You will find that you can lead her easily, even if she drops her right arm completely.
This is the first bit of training that I give to every female teacher in our studios. My experience has been that I must repeat this warning several times to each girl… Hold your left hand firmly on the back of your partner’s right shoulder!