The Gentleman’s Guide to the Ballroom

Gent-le-man: A chivalrous, courteous and honorable man

Ballroom dancing seems to attract the type of man defined above… chivalrous, courteous, and honorable. When I swerved from Merriam Webster’s definition, and asked men how they would define a gentleman in their own words, I received responses such as, “stylish, polite, and self-controlled.” These characteristics sound great to me, and reminded me of how applicable they are to the Ballroom, and to partnerships. Some points will be blaringly obvious – look at them as gentle reminders, or pat yourself on the back if you’ve got them in natural use! Others, I hope, will inspire some light bulb moments of unique ways and behaviors that will have a lasting impression on the woman you are dancing with.

Let’s Waltz on in…

1. Hold the door open: Isn’t this the quintessential image that comes to mind when you’re picturing all thing’s “gentleman”? Now there may not be a lot of doors in the ballroom, but, let’s deconstruct this in a figurative sense. In its element, the concept comes down to manners, for example, the way you ask a lady to dance, the way you escort her on and off the floor, the niceties.

 2. Connect with people: If we boil dance down to its element, it’s all about communication. To connect with your partner, focus on putting them at ease. This can be accomplished by showing a genuine interest in dancing with them. Shift your focus from your dance “to-do” list, to concentrating your attention on creating a great experience for her.

*Pointer:  If your method to connection is accomplished by giving the Lady “tips” about her dancing or patterns, this is a risky strategy, and I would suggest other methods.

 3. Keep your hygiene in check: If we bring it back to the beginning, where we identified ‘stylish’ as a desirable trait, we must then know hygiene is a must! Dance is a close contact physical activity. Since we are in such close proximity to one another, here are a few of the basics to keep in mind:
  • Keep your breath fresh – Always keep a pack of mint, or gum in your shoe bag. Watch onions and garlic on dancing nights.
  • Deodorant – Another great thing to keep in your shoe bag. Its okay to apply, and slip away to reapply, when you’re dancing the night away!
  • Wardrobe – Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable, confident, and stylish. Watch if clothes have been left sitting in the wash to long; once you start moving the scent will become more prominent.
  • Keep a towel – It is natural to sweat – actually it’s encouraged! Carrying a hankie or Kleenex to stay fresh between the dances is a much better alternative than wiping it off with your hand -and then holding your partners.
  • Wash your hands often – wash in-between putting on your shoes, sneezing, and snacking.
4. Be clear about what you want: A confident lead is a sought after partner in the ballroom world. This can be a bit tricky initially, when you’re learning your own patterns, timing, and floor craft, while respectively have to think about communicating it to your partners. Here are a few tips to help you “fake it till you make it”… also, these are not solely for the new dancers; if you’ve been dancing a long time keep in mind these old habits that may be lingering:
  • Watch counting out loud – It’s okay to take your time to hear the music, and have the occasional count slip out when trying newer choreography, but as early as possible, try to nix this habit, so your partner can relax into dancing with you.
  • Dance patterns you know well – When we dance we are in a constant state of development. Similar to construction, we lay the base, do the framing, add the fixings, and then reveal to public. Evaluate your patterns in the same methods – if you are laying the base, don’t open the doors to the public.

I hope you’ve got some gentle reminders, and new ideas to experiment with. Let me know what has worked for you, or what you’re most excited to try!

Until next time,

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