Nothing jars you out of you a wonderfully flowing dance movement faster than an unexpected bump from behind. It’s just one of the things a leader must watch out for on the social dance floor, along with stepped-on toes, elbows to the face, mule-kicks to the shin, and bruised egos. Yet most collisions on the dance floor can be avoided, with a little awareness and the right instincts. The following 6 techniques will teach you the unspoken rules of dance etiquette, so you can take care of yourself and your partner on a crowded dance floor.

1. Dance is a Highway

Especially when ballroom dancing, follow the ‘rules of the road’. Make sure there’s room behind you when ‘merging’ to avoid cutting off another couple’s running step. Look ahead, anticipate where you and your partner will be at the end of a figure, and keep a 1 metre buffer between you and nearby walls, tables, chairs, and onlookers. Like driving a car, it’s not enough to make space for your body alone! Always leave room for two.

Followers, if you see your leader is about to back into someone, a quick increase of pressure on his back will warn him to change direction.

2. Watch From the Sidelines

The dance floor is for dancers – if you’re not dancing, take it to the sidelines. There you can practice the step that didn’t work, or have a chat with your new acquaintance, or exchange numbers, etc. Standing on the dance floor, especially a ballroom dance floor, is like standing on the highway, with predictable results.

3. Watch for ‘Drunk Dancers’

Whether they’re literally drunk or just oblivious to the dancers around them, keep a sharp eye for these over-zealous performers. There’s one on every dance floor, and they may include one or more of the following: unbalanced-dippers, battering-ram spinners, hyperextended back-steppers, elephant-walkers, elbow-punchers, mule-kickers, stiletto-stabbers, head-whippers, armstyling-smackers, or worst of all, the showoff-lifters.

Give all of the above plenty of space to protect you and your partner.

4. The Corners, and the Centre

If you’re new to social dancing, take shelter initially in the centre of the room (ballroom), or the corners (Latin). Faster, or more advanced dancers generally avoid these areas, so it’s a good place to build confidence before heading into the jungle.

5. Elbows In!

On a crowded dance floor, learn to take up less space. For Latin dances, make sure your elbows stay down, not out to the side where they can hit the couple beside you. Ballroom can be trickier, but you can still drop the clasped hand hold (leader’s left hand) when working through a tight space.

6. Risky Armstyling

Don’t get me wrong, armstyling can make any dance look great. That said, keep your arms in your periphery, where you aren’t likely to end up picking someone’s nose by accident. Consider favouring arm movements that sweep down and up, or directly upwards, rather than flicking to the side. And if the floor is crowded, shelve the arm styling altogether.

If a Collision Occurs…

Inevitably, mistakes will happen. If the collision is minor, try and catch the other person’s eye and acknowledge the collision with a quick smile. Do this, EVEN if the collision was not your fault.

If the collision was your fault, mouthing a quick ‘sorry!’ to the other couple is a nice touch.

If the collision was more serious, both couples should stop and move to the sidelines to make sure the injured party is okay, and call for help if necessary. At a bare minimum, if it was a hit-and-run situation, the injured person’s partner must make sure they’re fine before continuing.

Dancing should be a fun social experience for everybody. So exercise the techniques above, and let’s keep it that way.