Country Western Dance Floor Etiquette

by Dan Harkins
After learning the rules comes the hard part: learning the steps.

After learning the rules comes the hard part: learning the steps.

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Enter the country-western dance hall, and it's not just belt buckles and rattlesnake boots. A familiar etiquette controls many aspects of the affair, especially when it comes to the dance floor. Brush up on these finer points of cowboy hospitality and you'll decrease your chances of an uncomfortable encounter. As with any place where alcohol is frequently served, the first rule in most cowboy bars is "Learn your liquor."

Standard Formation

Throughout the thousands of country-western dance clubs across the world, a few traditional points of etiquette are observed, particularly concerning the flow of dancers. In the center of the floor, line and swing dancing should kick off, with two surrounding streams of two-step dancers flowing in a counterclockwise direction. On the outside is the fast lane, with the slow two-steppers on the inside.

General Prohibitions

Taking your drink or cigarette on the dance floor in a country club is usually considered a no-no. With all the activity taking place there, it's important to avoid accidental spills and burns -- as well as to preserve the hardwood surface. It's also poor form for center circle dancers to mindlessly impede the flow of the circling lanes. Be considerate of the other people.

The Right Lane

Being self-aware will help you keep to protocol and not arouse any bad vibes. You may think you should be in the fast lane but really should switch over to the slow -- or vice-versa. Watch the dancers for a little while before choosing your lane. That way you won't hold anybody up or pressure anyone else to go faster. Keep an eye out for your neighbors and they'll keep an eye out for you.

Erratic Improv, Loitering

Standing around is for anywhere but the dance floor. Take your loitering to a stool. Another borderline infringement of the rules is erratic, individual movements that aren't in line with the flow. Though improv is sometimes welcome, such as by improvising with the hands in line dancing, standard form is following the accepted steps of the dance, so other dancers can easily predict what your movements are going to be.

About the Author

Dan Harkins has been a full-time journalist since 1997. Prior to working in the alternative press, he served as a staff writer and editor for daily publications such as the "St. Petersburg Times" and "Elyria Chronicle-Telegram." Harkins holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of South Florida.

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