friends of Greenfield Dance

Safe Dancing Etiquette

Welcome to the dance community at Guiding Star Grange. Here, we strive to accept each other’s differences while celebrating our mutual love of dance, music, community and friendship.

A contra dance is a community social dance comprised of dancers, musicians, a caller, a dance hall and dance organizers. Anyone is welcome to join the dance. No partner is necessary because dancers change partners after every dance. By observing simple rules of respect for other dancers in the community, all dancers will experience the joy that is contra dancing. [Note: This page is currently being developed, but currently contains materials adapted from the Country Dance New York.]


  • Our primary principle is respect: for your partner, for the line, for the musicians and caller, for the space, for all members of the community, and for yourself.
  • Anyone may ask anyone to dance. Go ahead, ask someone new! We especially encourage folks to ask dancers who have been sitting out, and experienced dancers to ask new dancers, so that everyone gets a chance to dance and to learn the ropes.
  • When the caller asks for hands-­four and starts teaching the dance, give them your full attention. Listen attentively to the caller and refrain from conversation. Talking over the walk­through is impolite to the caller, and is distracting to others in the hall who are trying to listen.
  • Folks of any gender may dance either role, or both. If you know how to dance one role and want to learn the other, plenty of folks in the hall will be happy to partner with you and help you out. It is polite to ask which role your partner would like to dance. If you would like to dance a specific role, you might say, for instance, “I’d like to follow, is that OK with you?”
  • Dance with whoever comes at you. Don’t assume which role someone is dancing based on their gender presentation. (If you meet a pair of unfamiliar dancers in line and they seem confused, you can nicely ask which role they are dancing and help them get back on track.)


  • You are always free to say no when someone asks you to dance. You don’t have to give a reason; you can just say “No, thank you.” If you ask someone to dance and they say “No,” take it gracefully and move on. If someone has declined to dance with you, the etiquette in our community is not to ask that person again that same night. If they would like to dance with you, they can come ask you—it’s their turn to do the asking.
  • Communicate your needs to your partner so they know how to give you the most comfortable dance. You can always speak up if a dancer is doing anything that makes you uncomfortable. If you feel especially uneasy or unable to communicate such an issue with your partner, please seek out a board member or the dance manager—we’re here to help!
  • Check in with your partner every now and then.
  • If you like to use flourishes ask your partner if they like being twirled before each dance. Even if you have danced with someone on previous occasions, it is good to ask each time because they might have a new injury, for instance, of which you are unaware. Remember that every flourish is an invitation plus an acceptance; if you are attempting to flourish someone, it is your responsibility to pay attention to your follower’s responses, and only carry out flourishes if your partner accepts them.
  • Respect people’s space. If you like swinging in a close embrace (a close blues pivot), ask your partner if they too enjoy this before initiating such a swing.


  • Don’t fret if your hands-­four gets mixed up.  Smile and use clear gestures to help our new dancers (and everyone) through the dance.
  • Use gestures and physical demonstrations to show new dancers how something works, and keep verbal instructions to a minimum—it’s hard for newer dancers to listen to you, the caller, and the music all at the same time!
  • Experienced dancers are always welcome at beginners’ lessons to help show newcomers the ropes.
  • Refrain from twirls, spins, and other flourishes with newer partners. Fancy add­ ons can be disorienting, and may slow the learning process for those newer to contra. Please make sure new dancers have a solid base for understanding contra dance before adding any extras. Please also refrain from flourishes during walk throughs as it is confusing to newer dancers who are trying to learn the basic steps.


Safe Dancing at the Guiding Star Grange

Creating a Dance Environment that is Safe for All