9.1 On How To Dress For Dancing

Dancing is a contact sport! Remove keys etc. from your front pockets before stepping onto the dance floor. Then take off your watches, rings and bracelets! Watches and bracelets, especially when worn on your right wrist, tend to scratch your partner’s hand, arm, and/or neck. No extravagant belt buckles either! You can test what you choose to wear to determine if it is hazardous by rubbing your hand over it. Jewelry, of course, should be very carefully chosen. Be sure to check your rings, bracelets, and belts for sharp edges or even small points that can catch in your partner’s clothing or jewelry. Long necklaces can also be hazardous, particularly if you’re a fast spinner. Long chains with heavy broaches that can be hazardous when she spins. Same goes for long hair, particularly pony tails. Sylvia (of Jonathan and) Sykes has extremely long hair that she braids and pins to her chest. The way she spins, her hair would be lethal! Ladies, avoid high hair, doubly-so if sprayed. And don’t forget to check your fingernails and any imperfections they might have that could damage someone’s clothes – if there’s anything wrong, borrow a nail-file.

Regardless of gender, when selecting an upper-body garment for dancing, it is _very_ important that it be cut high in the arm pits and not have baggy or loose sleeves that can interfere with your partner getting a hand to your back. Aside from the inconvenience, such garments can also be dangerous as a leader might be looking for a way to get around your garment rather looking to avoid other dancers. You may even have to baste shut men’s long sleeve shirt cuffs because the buttons can get caught in the lady’s hair. The waist and bodice should also not have excessive fabric. Not that you should wear skin-tight garments nor even tight-fitting ones, only that excessive fabric can create problems and accidental undesired body contact. You should also avoid lace where your partner’s hands are likely to be (on the dance floor 🙂 Jewelry can sometimes catch on lace or other loose weaves.

Long skirts that fly out when you spin can often be an interference. This is particularly true when they’re cut so that they fly out from higher than mid-thigh. The shorter the skirt, the higher the fly-point can be. Long skirts provide the lovely sight of flowing fabric, but it’s very important that there be enough room for the leader to get his knee between the follower’s legs; many skirts prevent that. For men who have to wear a jacket and tie to an event: take off the jacket and tie when you dance!

Be sure to wear an undershirt – sweat spots show much worse on your typical dress shirt than they do on the multi-colored rayon shirts so many of us wear as standard dance fashion. Avoid silk shirts without an undershirt.

This is a personal view of what women should and should not wear to facilitate the mechanics of Social Dancing, written by a man. The point of view is primarily Swing, but I think the same general ideas apply to all forms of Social Dancing.

UPPER BODY: Leaders and Followers must have quick and easy access to their partners’ backs. Therefore sleeves should be cut high into the armpit and not have very loose cloth above the waist line, particularly the upper arms. Sleeveless tops are just fine, too.

I’m very uncomfortable trying to Lead from a bare back that’s slippery with sweat. I much prefer fabric that covers the shoulder blades or anywhere else with which I’m likely to have manual contact. I also prefer zippers to buttons because the spaces between buttons are often entered thus allowing contact with slippery skin or bra straps. Garments that expose the stomach are also undesirable for the same reasons as bare backs.

Very clothy upper body garments can conceal exactly where we don’t want our hands to go on the dance floor. Sometimes dancers I know wear such garments and, if they’re wearing a different bra, might not be where I know they were.

And, please, unless you’re so small-breasted that you don’t need a bra, wear one!

LOWER BODY: I think pantsuits are not only attractive and flattering, but particularly suitable for Swing dancing.

Pants of any kind are just fine. For the mechanics of dancing, pants have no negative qualities.

Long skirts are fine if they’re loose enough to, at knee level, pass a bit farther than to the backs of the thighs. Long skirts can also be a nuisance if they’re cut so that they fly high. Bell cuts work well, though.

After pants, short skirts from about 4″ above the knee are best. But not tight ones. Extremely short tight skirts are usually not a problem to dance with but can be a nuisance for the wearer. I find that short skirts that flare are best not only to dance with but to watch, even those that are cut to expose nothing but leg.

JEWELRY: Jewelry, in particular, should be selected with extreme care. Before putting on a bracelet, watch, brooch, or ring, you should pass your hand over it to ensure that it has no sharp edges that can cut or points that can catch in clothing.

Brooches, best not worn, should be placed high on the chest where contact with your Leader’s clothing is least likely.

Necklaces should be no longer than the top of the cleavage/bottom of the chest.

BELTS: About once a month, it seems, a belt hook will slip under one of my rings and bring us to a halt to disconnect. Haven’t gotten hurt yet but I have broken a few belt buckles. Belt closures covered by the fabric of the belt are best. Belts with numerous articulations, particularly those of metal, can be quite hazardous. I will not dance with certain types of them.

HAIR: When Sylvia Sykes had a waist-length braid of great thickness, she pinned it to her chest thus alleviating any hazard it could cause. The way she spins, a blow from that braid would have been disabling! Unless your hair is extremely fine and soft, resulting in a gentle brush of your partner’s face, it can not only be painful when striking a face but hazardous if it slashes through an open eye. If your hair falls below the top of your shoulders, you should style it in such a way that it will not fly into contact with your partner.

You should avoid hair styles that require being held by spray. If you’re a very experienced dancer capable of controlling your Leader’s hand position over your head, you know what you’re doing. But if you’re not, the hair atop your head should be rather close to it in order to avoid getting really messed up. Besides, if you’re dancing properly, you’ll sweat enough to mess up the lovely look you had when you left home, anyway.

HATS: Unless you’re in a C/W competition that requires ‘em, leave ‘em at the check room.