Tag Archives: dance etiquette

Dance Etiquette for Dummies: Encore Edition

After my post a couple weeks ago with  some people who can’t get off their phone in yoga class, I went to a show where I got a double dose of inconsiderate theatergoers.  We were in the middle of the ingenue’s ballad when I heard a scrtich scratch scritch scratch behind me.  Someone was actually filing her nails in the middle of the show.  It was like the theater gods had put her in my path on purpose, telling me that my job was not yet done.

Since it would be a three-act tragedy to go against the theater gods, I’m following up on last week’s post about class etiquette with audience etiquette.

Take care of your personal hygiene at home.  Maybe you brush your teeth while watching TV at home, but we’re in public.  Here’s the short list of things I’ve seen audience members do during the show:

  • Clipping and filing nails
  • Flossing
  • Brushing hair
  • Putting on mascara
  • Putting on deodorant

Leaving during the final scene.  Do you just stop reading a book when you know what happens at the end?  Do you stop driving one exit away from your house?  I think the idea that these early rises have this strange idea that if they leave five minutes earlier, they’ll magically miss LA traffic.  It’s not saving you that much time, and you’re missing out on the epic finale number.

Stretch - Bad Theater Goes WIlkes
John Wilkes Booth was the ultimate bad theatergoer: he not only shot the president, he jumped from the balcony and ran across the stage. RUDE.

TURN OFF YOUR CELLPHONE.  SERIOUSLY.  Nope, not to vibrate. Turn it off.   You may think that no one will notice you updating your Facebook status from the audience, but even the dimmest cell phone setting illuminates your face, meaning that you stand out like a lighthouse in a sea of faces. And you’d be surprised how far we can see.

This is my BIGGEST pet peeve about going to the theater.  I get it.  I also think that the zombie apocalypse will hit minutes after I turn off my cell phone, and I’ll lose my chance at getting out on time.

However, by leaving your cell phone, you’re really robbing yourself.  Live performance is an amazing, yet fragile experience.  It can be a transformative, amazing experience if you let yourself get lost in the world that the artists have created, but it is very easy to break that fourth wall.  You’re not only stomping all over the hard work of the performers that you paid to see, but on the impact of the performance for yourself.

So do yourself a favor: put away the cell phone and the nail clippers for two hours of your life, sit back, and enjoy the show.  Believe me: they’re still be there when you get out of the show.

Note: Know what’s surprisingly okay at a show?  Falling asleep.  Performers know that theater isn’t always exhilarating for everyone, not to mention it’s dark, sometimes we’re actually singing you lullabies, and the seats can be pretty comfy.  The biggest faux pas disturb the performance, but so long as you don’t snore to loudly, you won’t attract the ire of (most) performers, though we may giggle about it backstage.

Dance Etiquette for Dummies

Stretch - Phone Dancer
Don’t pay more attention to your phone than your technique!

You may not know it, but there’s an art taking a dance class—and it’s not just in doing the steps.  In each  genre there are certain unspoken rules of do’s and don’ts.  Break the unspoken rules of dance etiquette and you’ll stand out for all the wrong reasons.

(Many of these rules apply outside of dance, too.  Just last week I was next to someone in yoga who was checking his phone in the middle of downward dog).

In this world where we have so many distractions, we also need a time to devote our whole attention span for an hour or two.  The key to getting the most out of a dance class is about being tuned into the moment and focusing on what’s inside…not the distractions on the outside.


  • Turn your phone off.  What if there’s a major disaster in the middle of class?  What if someone just liked your status?  Chances are your phone updates can wait.  And I don’t just mean turning it to silent—turn it off.  Don’t check it during breaks, don’t glance at it during warm ups.  Besides, then you can feel extra popular when you get out of class and see the build-up of notifications. 
  • You can look, but not judge.  I love watching other people mess up in dance class—because I’m usually doing the exact same thing.  When I see someone figure out how to correct a mistake in their form, or do a move that much better, you learn from them.  But there’s a fine line between constructively pinpointing improvement points, and making yourself feel superior because someone fell out of a turn.  Class is about making mistakes and learning from them—be respectful and remember that someone not getting a combo right doesn’t make you a better dancer. 
  • Keep the chatter to a minimum. It’s hard when you finally get to see a bunch of your friends, but make sure that your conversations don’t distract from the class, and never speak in the middle of a dance combination.  Feel free to cheer when someone knocks a combination out of the park, though! 
  • Be aware of your personal space bubble.  Sometimes you’ll be crammed into a packed class with barely enough room to lift your hands above your head.  Always, always, always be aware of the space around you.  It’s expected that your space bubble will bump into a few others, but try send your awesome extension into your neighbor’s nose.
Stretch - Room for Everyone!
See? There’s plenty of room for everybody!
  • Remember what your mother taught you.  It’s a good practice to always thank your teacher at the end of the class.  It’s a tough life to be a good dance teacher—often full of long days, whiney students, and sweaty studios, and a genuine acknowledgement at the end of the day can remind them just how much we need them.  

What are your dance class pet peeves?  Feel free to chime in on our Facebook, Twitter, or below in the comments about what dance etiquette is important to you!

Life Lessons Learned From Dance Class

I’ve been dancing since I was three years old, but it’s only recently that I realized that all that time spent onstage has taught me some vital life lessons beyond pointing my toe correctly and fluffing my tutu.

1.  Be nice to your costume designer.

In theater, one person you never want to piss off is the costume designer.  Why?  The costume designer can make you look fabulous…or they can stitch your pants just tight enough to show your muffin top.  Not many of us have costume designers in real life, but this important life lesson has taught me that every job is vital, and every person has their specific purpose.  An architect’s design is only as good as the team who assembles it.  Treat everyone with the same respect, even if they aren’t the ones in the spotlight, because chances are they’re the ones who can make your job that much easier…or make you wear a mustard yellow spandex unitard.


Stretch - Dance Class

2.  Practice makes permanent .

In my dance studio growing up, the phrase wasn’t “practice makes perfect,” but “practice makes permanent.”  If you practice the wrong things, that’s what’s going to stick.  If you always procrastinate, or if you only do your work with half the focus, that’s how you’re training yourself to respond to all situations.  The same holds true outside the studio as well.

3.  How to set goals like a pro.

I also learned that progress is a series of tiny, almost invisible improvements.  I don’t aim to do everything perfectly in dance class, but I focus on a few goals to get me through the day, like lifting my leg a little higher, or going for an extra pirouette across the floor.  Life is the same way.  It can be hard to try a new fitness routine, or on keeping my car clean, or to cook more than I eat out, but if I focus on the baby steps each week, I’m much closer to make progress.

4.  The small things will get you hired…and fired.

There is a very strict, mostly unspoken etiquette in dance. Showing up early, wearing clothes that don’t get in the way of dancing, turning off your cell phone, and a strong focus on the task at hand prove a dancer’s mettle almost as the diva who can whip out 32 fouettes, but shows up half an hour late all the time.  These same mannerisms, along with my ability to pick up on unspoken etiquette, has gotten me jobs outside the theater.  It’s amazing how much the little things can make an impression on others…and conversely, I’ve seen others deal with the fallout that seemingly insignificant practices.

5.  The final performance is out of your hands.

Now matter how many weeks and hours you practice, live performances are subject to last minute disasters.  I’ve seen broken bones, fire alarms, slippery floors, tangled jump ropes, broken shoes, and countless other small catastrophes that are almost impossible to prepare for, but at the end of the day the show must go on.  Life is a live performance.  It’s important and necessary to prepare as much as you can, but at the end of the day, you have to work with what life throws at you.  It’s no use beating yourself up about what you couldn’t prepare for, so be happy with what you did accomplish and get on with the show!

Stretch - Denai Being a Badass