Dance Etiquette


Forró is a very intimate dance, danced in couples. The embrace is so close that you want to pay extra attention to being a pleasant dance partner and show respect towards the ones surrounding you. Since dancing Forró is a social event, you do not only want to pay attention to yourself and your partner, but to everyone on the dance floor and next to it, and this way making sure that everyone can have a good time. Most of the things you will read here are common courtesy and you probably already know them. So, this is more of a reminder of how to behave as a social dancer. Regardless of your skill, you should always pay attention to these few rules and you will be a well-liked partner.

No matter how good a dancer you are, the scent of sweat or garlic breath can ruin an otherwise magical dance. Here you are reminded to pay attention to your personal hygiene. Of course, you show up to lessons and parties showered, but it should not be the only thing you think of. Stay away from food strong on garlic or onion and make sure your breath and clothing do not smell of cigarette smoke. Do not forget to brush your teeth and carry some mints with you to make sure your breath stays fresh. When it comes to chewing gums, remember that the sensation of somebody chewing next to your face is not very pleasant. Put on deodorant and take some with you. If you like you can also wear a light perfume, make sure the scent is not too sweet or heavy, it could make your partner dizzy. If you know you tend to sweat a lot, bring a small towel to dry your face and spare shirts. Your dancing partners will appreciate your efforts and will gladly dance with you.
Now that you smell as fresh as a daisy, let's think about the embrace. While dancing you will be very close to each other. Although a very close embrace is advised for dancing Forró, it is always up to the follows to set the distance between the two partners. That means the lead offers the embrace and the follow goes as much into it as they feel comfortable to do. When following you should use the right arm of your partner as a frame and make sure to keep contact with it. If – as the lead – you feel the embrace to be too close, you can always extend your arm a little bit, thus setting the frame a little bigger. When holding your partner as the lead, make sure not to squeeze and in doing so excessively tighten the embrace. Do not place your arm underneath the ribcage as this can force the follow to bend over backwards. As the follow, be careful not to press down on the lead. This way you guarantee a comfortable dancing experience for both of you, respecting each other’s boundaries.
One of many beautiful things about Forró is that both lead and follow can ask a partner to dance. Since it is not common to have one partner for the whole night, you will find yourself in the situation where you want to ask somebody to dance. This is very easy, you can either approach and just ask, offer your hands and make an inviting gesture with your head or – depending on how good you know the person – by a slight touch of the arm or hand. After finishing the song both lead and follow can ask for another one. If any of the partners leaves the embrace after the song has ended, respect the hint and do not ask for the next one. Also do not ask one person over and over, without them ever asking you. Remember to not only ask your favourite dancers to dance – it is a social event after all and everyone should feel appreciated and comfortable, even though they might have just begun to dance. So please, both follows and leads, take care of the newcomers, it will improve both your and their dancing.
There are a few things to keep in mind when getting ready to go out to dance. That means first of all to dress comfortably for both you and your partner. Skirts that are too tight and limit your steps should be avoided as well as shirts with baggy sleeves. Your partner needs to access your back and their hands could be caught in a sleeve while turning or spinning. Also, heavy jewellery that could hurt you or your partner should be left at home. If you have longer hair, it is more comfortable for your partner if you put it out of your face but be careful with high ponytails as you can whip somebody while turning. In Forró it is common not to wear high heels, instead wear light shoes that enable you to move quickly. If you lead, do not wear shoes that stick to the floor, even if it gives you a good grip, turning and spinning with a rubber sole could injure your knees. Guys, please put your belongings into the left pocket of your pants to not possibly bruise or irritate your partner…
You share the dance floor with many others, so it is quite important to consider a few rules. Obviously, you will mind the couples dancing around you, trying not to hit anyone while dancing and adjusting your movements to the space you have (it is possible to dance nicely on a small area!). Being aware of your surroundings is a responsibility for both, leads and follows. Leads, don’t execute big movements or turns if your partner will crash into another couple. With a more dynamic song you will naturally want to use more space for turns and spins, but you should try to use the space given and never do aerials on a social dance floor. Follows, help your partner by signalling when there is no free space behind their back. Some people tend to close their eyes to enhance their enjoyment. Although this is a very nice gesture of comfort, you should always be careful to close your eyes, even if you just dance on the spot. In case you hit another couple, you should always apologize. After the song is over and you want to engage in a conversation with your partner, leave the dance floor and continue talking next to it, not being an obstacle to other couples.
When you dance, you want your partner to feel comfortable and to have fun. An easy way to make your partner enjoy the dance is to always dance to the level of your partner. Sometimes, leads want to try as many moves as possible, but be sure to slowly build up to the comfort level of your follow, not making them unable to cope with your leading. Remember: a nice base and small, well executed movements will already create wonderful dances! Be sensitive to your partner’s preferences and do not blame them for anything gone wrong during the dance. Also, be modest about your dancing yourself, there is always room for improvement. Having that said, keep in mind to always thank your partner after dancing.
Sometimes it happens that you ask somebody to dance and the person declines. First, do not feel discouraged! There are several reasons why a person might not feel like dancing with you now. For example, when they want to rest, are on the way to the bathroom, want to drink something, are having a conversation or already promised that song to somebody else. If being declined, you can wait for the person to ask you back, but do not follow them around. Being declined over and over and not getting asked to dance yourself, review your behaviour: Are you being nice and pleasant? Are you giving tips without being asked? Are you comfortable to dance with? Usually being declined a lot has not much to do with your range of movements but can be things like an uncomfortable embrace. If you are not sure what it is, you can always ask a good friend or a teacher for advice, they will help you. If you’re the one declining, make sure that you do it in a polite and respectful way – and maybe ask that person to dance later yourself. It is okay to say no to somebody if you do not feel comfortable dancing with them or if you feel that the dance could be dangerous. But please remember that declining a dance should not happen due to lack of experience, everyone has started dancing some time.
The best way to improve your dance is by getting feedback from your dance partners. Giving feedback can be a delicate topic because everybody tries their best and you do not want to offend someone. Try to figure out when is a good time to give any tips. At parties, most of the people simply want to enjoy dancing, so give feedback only if you are being asked for it. The same applies if you’re the one looking for feedback, don’t be offended if somebody is not in the mood for giving tips at a party. Use the classes to give each other feedback! Keep in mind to deliver your tips in a respectful way and don’t forget that you’re talking out of your own subjective perspective. Be careful not to overwhelm your partner with criticism but encourage them to practice together. Feedback also includes saying what you like 😉 If you still sense that your feedback is not welcomed it can be helpful to ask a teacher to have a look.
Dance classes or workshops are mostly divided by levels. It can be difficult to know your own level, but it’s important to try to assess yourself adequately. From a teaching perspective, a homogenous group makes it easier to construct a class that builds on the knowledge of all participants without unchallenging or overwhelming them. From a participant’s perspective it can quickly be frustrating if you either cannot keep up with the pace of the class or get bored because the teacher needs to lower the class’s standard. If you start Forró or you want to learn the opposite dancing role (lead/follow), you go to the beginners’ class – even though you might already have experiences from other dances or even with Forró. If, after some time, you feel unchallenged within your level you can always talk to the teachers to see if going to a higher level is an option. When it comes to registering for Forró festivals and it is required to select a level, ask teachers or people who have already been to some festivals which level is right for you. Remember, going to a lower level does not mean you learn less! Take your time to get experienced in the dance and to refine your skills. Also, when you’ve reached a certain level, don’t stop taking classes or going to workshops! We can always improve ourselves 😊
As you might have noticed, in our classes we try to always refer to “lead” and “follow” instead of “boy” and “girl”. We think that dancing roles don’t have anything to do with gender. Everyone is free to choose their dancing role. On the contrary, we recommend to all of you to try and experience both roles – it will improve your dance as a whole and make you appreciate the specific difficulties that come with leading and following even more. That also means that you should respect when a girl leads or a boy follows. We know that sometimes, for example, girls who want to lead in a class will follow anyway because there are more boys than girls – you don’t need to do that if you prefer to lead. Guys, when you don’t want to wait in between you can also follow 😉 Please don’t try to persuade anybody to take the follow’s/lead’s part.