Square Dance Etiquette


I am sure you have all come across this before, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate for the new dancers to our wonderful activity:

Whether you are thinking about attending a square dancing lesson or you are a seasoned dancer, knowing a few common etiquette tips will help you understand and enjoy your square dancing experience much more than you would otherwise.

Be Gentle with other Dancers

While dancing, hand holds are very important, but please be gentle. Dancers need to establish contact with adjacent dancers in their formation. It is the way in which dancers guide each other, since no one can be alert every second; however, you should hold on loosely so the other dancers can get away if they are supposed to move and you don’t realize it. When doing arm turn calls (left allemande, turn thru, etc.) touch lightly. In waves, gently touch fingers and palms to adjacent dancers. Don’t grab thumbs.

Mistakes are inevitable

If mistakes are made or a square breaks down, it is a waste of time and energy getting angry with yourself or anyone else, so please don’t yell or glare at your fellow dancers, this is a sure way of ensuring they don’t return to the club.  We all make mistakes and the goal of square dancing is to have fun. If mistakes are made, try to gently guide your neighbor back into place if possible but don’t push, pull, or shove. If the entire square should break down, (no one knows where to go), it is best to simply go to your original home spot and then form lines. This is done by the head couple sliding over to the side couple’s position while the side couple slides over to make room for them. Presto! Two facing lines.

Cleanliness is key.

Square dancers value personal hygiene, so please make an effort to bathe prior to attending a lesson or dance and be sure to apply deodorant, perfume, or cologne. You may also consider taking a breath freshener because you will be in close proximity with several other people and halitosis is frowned upon.

Follow the dress code.

It is important to note that men should wear long sleeves because grabbing a sweaty arm during a dance is unappealing. Women should refrain from wearing excessive amounts of jewelry because the jewelry has the potential to injure other dancers. Name tags are a must for both genders.

Know your capabilities and stick to them.

Do not try to dance above your level because your lack of ability will ruin the dance for the rest of the dancers in the square. Be courteous to everyone and sit out if you are not yet at the same level. However, you may join a dance that is above your level if you are explicitly invited by the square to do so.

Do not abandon a square early.

Never leave a dance before the song is over. Square dances depend on having eight people to dance correctly and if you leave the square you are also leaving your partner high and dry. Your skill level or the level of other dancers in the square is not an excuse to leave early. If you must leave mid-song to tend to an emergency, it is common courtesy to find a replacement.

Fill in the square nearest to you.

It is bad manners to pass by a square in need of another dancer in favor of another square unless you have prior arrangements to dance in the other square. Be courteous and fill in the square nearest to you as soon as the music starts. It is rude to force callers to “beg” people to join the square. At times it is permissible to arrange a square in advance, though to do so too often is considered impolite.

Remember to applaud the caller and thank fellow dancers.

Calling is hard work, so the caller deserve a round of applause at the end of each tip and a personal thanking at the end of the dance. Also remember to thank your fellow dancers for participating.

Square dancing has plenty of unwritten rules that make the dances go smoothly, so taking a moment to familiarize yourself with these rules is a surefire way to make sure that you and your fellow dancers have a great evening.