How to Consent in Social Dance

The not just for beginner’s guide to consent

When one first treks onto the social dance floor, the main goal is very clear: to dance with someone and hopefully many, many other someones! However, how one goes about getting someone else to dance with them in a way that is socially acceptable can sometimes be very confusing and intimidating. This is where consent comes into play and it is essential to establish the permission to safely interact within another individual’s personal space. Without this crucial step, we are taking away another person’s right for choice which can really put a damper on the whole having fun thing.

Before We Dive In…

It’s important to realize that there are many ways to communicate and that consent can be given both verbally and non-verbally. Both forms are equally effective given the right situations and either one can be ineffective depending on the person or the circumstance. If one method of communication is not working, be sure to use another! This is especially so for ladies and other indirect communicators – if nonverbal body language isn’t working, it’s perfectly ok to switch it up and use verbal communication!

So, How Do We Start?

Asking someone to dance is the first instance where we typically encounter consent. We want to make sure that we are giving the person who we are asking the opportunity to have a choice in the matter. This can be done in a number of effective ways using nonverbal, verbal or both. It can be as easy as making eye contact while approaching our desired partner with our hand extended and our eyebrows raised, walking up to someone and asking them “Hey, do you want to dance?” or some mixture of all of the above. Be creative and come up with whatever works for you.

How to get consent

Whatever asking method we choose, be sure to wait for the person to respond before dragging them out to the dance floor in a flood of exuberance; just because we are asking someone for a dance does not mean that they automatically have to say yes. In fact, there are a whole host of reasons that someone would say “no thanks” to a dance: fatigue, injury, thirst, unappealing song, catching up with friends, etc. Whatever the reason, please keep in mind that they are not rejecting you as a person, but simply saying no to that particular dance and would most likely say yes at a later point in time. If we don’t get the affirmation that we are looking for, just move on to the next person! By the way, it is generally considered socially acceptable to interrupt conversations in order to ask someone to dance. It is common to do so but is can be a gray area depending on the situation, so if it looks like a deep conversation, just keep on moving.

If we are the one saying “no” to someone else, please be kind about it – it can take a lot of nerve for someone to build up the courage to ask. Some people like to tack on the reason why they are saying no, but this is not a requirement and no explanation is necessary. Again, feel free to respond in whichever effective means of communication you like, but do be cognizant about why we are turning the other person down. Nobody wants an earful of contempt and condescension especially if we are a more experienced dancer. Doing so will kill a welcoming atmosphere and slowly yet certainly erode a dance scene.

Got consent? Let's dance!

Got Consent – Now are We Free and Clear?

Not quite yet. Just because we made it to the dance floor with someone who gave their consent doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want with them while we are there. Consent still comes into play in different ways and there are pitfalls that we need to watch out for. Want to know more? Check out the video above to find answers to questions like:

  • What exactly did we agree to?
  • My hands go where?
  • How close is too close?
  • Other things can touch?
  • How will I know my partner is cool with what I am doing?
  • What the heck is the “80/20” rule and how do I use it?

What do you guys think? Was anything left out or was there something that you felt should be expanded upon? Voice your thoughts, concerns, epiphanies and experiences below!

*Special thanks to the dynamic teaching duo of Krystal and Adam Wilkerson from Huntsville AL for sharing their thoughts and helping to put together such a wonderful video!




Matthew Vazquez
Dance Instructor, DJ and Owner

One thought on “How to Consent in Social Dance

  1. Loved this video Matt, these are all very important points and Adam and Crystal added a good perspective too.

    So another question that might come up is if someone turns you down, and you go back later to ask again and they turn you down again, the question is how many times do you try before not asking that person again and how can this be not personal. And if someone says they are tired and want to sit one out and then accept a dance from someone else, is that not personal.

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