What is Dancing Etiquette?
• Though it can be done informally, there is a strain of formality running all through modern Scottish Country Dance. The extent to which etiquette is observed varies from group to group and also depends on context (it is more relaxed in a class than at a party, and very closely observed at a formal ball).
• Dancers of either gender may ask their partner to dance. It is expected that if you arrived with a partner you will dance the first dance with them, and one other on the program (either the last dance or one favourite), and dance with others for the rest of the evening.
• It is considered bad manners to start forming up sets for the next dance before it has been announced. Wait until either it is announced or the band has played the first few bars of the tune. Do not walk through a set of dancers – walk around instead.
• When forming sets on the dance floor, join the set at the bottom– don’t try to crowd in “wherever”. When the sets have been counted off do not try to change your position in the set, say from first couple to fourth couple, as this is very confusing to your fellow dancers and also to the MC.
• The first man in each line of dancers should do the counting – count down the line telling each couple clearly what position they are in their set. If your partner is late coming into the line, stand on the men’s side of the set during the count. This ensures that one line holds the right number of people.
• When the MC is briefing the dance, do not talk to others or try to re-explain it to others in your set. This makes it very difficult for others to hear the MC and get the full benefit of the briefing. This is especially critical if a walk-through has been allowed.
• Each dance will begin and end with the musicians playing a chord, which is used to acknowledge one’s partner: gentlemen give a shallow bow, ladies a shallow curtsy.
• It can be fun to embellish the dance if you are confident with your dancing and with the dance. Remember you can put other dancers off by doing this. Be particularly courteous to beginners – they find the whole thing confusing enough anyway without you going out of your way to complicate matters.
• When the dance finishes, thank your partner and your set. The dancer who did the asking then escorts their partner off the floor.