A Newbie's Guide to Dance Forums


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This and the next few posts in this thread are intended to help newbies to Dance Forums (DF) navigate the system and understand some of the unwritten rules and customs. As with all posts on DF, everything I write is my own observation and/or my opinion. Those who have things to add, see things differently or have different opinions are always welcome to add to the thread.


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How To?

Sub-forums, threads and posts
DF is divided into sub-forums for different areas of interest. If you want to start a new conversation, make sure you post in the appropriate sub-forum. If you put it in the wrong one, the moderators may move it.

Each sub-forum is divided into separate conversations, called threads. Any member can start a thread by writing the first post. Other members respond by adding posts to the thread.

You must be logged in before you can post.

Start a thread
Within a sub-forum, click on the “New Thread” button. Type a title for the thread in the small box, and type the contents in the large box. If you want to see how it will look when posted, click the button at the right under the text box (“Preview Post”). You may have to scroll down to see the button. When you are satisfied, click the button at the left under the text box (“Submit New Thread”).

If you take a long time to draft your post, it’s a good idea to review it periodically. If you forget, your session will time-out. Then when you try to submit or review your post, you will get a log-in screen. Just log in again, and you should be returned to the same place without losing your work.

Respond within a thread
When you are logged in, there will be a text box at the end of the thread after the last post. (The text box does not appear if you are browsing without being logged in.) Type your draft response in the box. Drafting, reviewing and submitting is just like for a new thread. Your post will be added to the bottom of the thread.

Respond by quoting another post
Every post has a “quote” button in the lower right corner. Clicking that button will produce a text box with the quote embedded. If you are not logged in when you click the button, a log-in screen will appear. When you log in, the text box (with embedded quote) will appear.

The quote will have programming information at the beginning and end. Make sure you don’t do anything to the programming information. Type your response in the box outside the quote (either before or after). If you want, you can remove or edit portions of the quote to focus on the relevant portion. (If you change any text, please make sure to highlight the changes somehow, for example by putting the changes in bold font. Be careful not to make any changes that might offend the author.)

Search for posts or threads on a specific topic
While you are logged in, type one or more words in the search box on the main menu page. Choose your words carefully because the search function will reject words that are too common (e.g., “dance”) and/or words that are too short (e.g., “win”). The list produced will include all threads where your key words were used, with the key words highlighted. Unfortunately, some threads have many, many posts in them, and you may have to scroll through every page to find the post(s) containing your key words.

If you get stuck, ask Terpsichorean Clod (TC) for help. He has an amazing ability to find relevant old threads.


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Guidelines and Moderators

Dance Forums (DF) is usually friendly, polite and informative, in contrast to unrestricted internet forums where some people have a tendency to post rude, argumentative, irrelevant rants. The DF guidelines are intended to help members understand what actions cross over the line. The moderators will ban a member who does not follow the guidelines.

The moderators work very hard to prevent spam, trolling, or flame wars. For new members, this means:
  • It may take a while for your first post to appear because moderators must check it for spam content.
  • You cannot use a “signature line” at first.
  • You cannot include active links to other websites in your posts at first.
For ALL members, this means you may use DF only to exchange information with other members, not to promote your business, except:
  • Active members may post items for sale in the appropriate sub-forum.
  • Established members may include active links to non-commercial websites in their posts, and active links to websites, including commercial websites, in their signature line.


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Interacting with other DF members

Like all other on-line forums, DF works on the written word alone. You can’t see or hear the other posters to help understand their mood or situation. Some people like to use “smilies” to provide a hint as to how they want others to interpret their posts, but others use just words. It’s VERY easy to misunderstand someone else when they and/or you make assumptions (e.g., that everyone has the same frame of reference). In addition, DF has many members for whom English is not their first language.

Keep your sense of perspective, and your sense of humor.

Try to avoid stereotypes – if you want to write about your objections to certain actions or behaviors, describe a particular situation rather than making a blanket statement like “all [type] dancers are bad because they always do [action]”.

Before you respond to any post, particularly if your reaction to the post is negative, try to understand what the author is saying from his/her point of view. If necessary, ask them to clarify their assumptions or explain the issue further.

There are a lot of “hot-button” issues that come up from time to time. People can be very passionate about their opinions, and may subconsciously react to past arguments rather than to the words in front of them. Sometimes when the moderators see particular topics, they will give a proactive warning to be careful.

Before you post on a topic, you might consider scanning or searching the appropriate sub-forum to see if it has come up before, and whether people feel strongly about it. If you, particularly as a new member, receive a strong reaction to your question or opinion, find out whether it is a “hot-button” issue before you take offense. It helps to realize that some people pose as new members and deliberately post something seemingly innocent just to re-start an old argument. (A “troll” is someone who posts with the intention of causing trouble.)

If you post a comment, observation or opinion, you may not receive any response, or the responses may be negative. Please remember that people are free to respond in any way they choose as long as they follow the guidelines.

If you post a question, the moderators will try to make sure it gets answered in a reasonable amount of time. It may take a while to find the right person, so please be patient.


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People on Dance Forums (DF) use many of the same acronyms used elsewhere. Common acronyms include:
  • AT (Argentine Tango)
  • BR (ballroom)
  • DH (dear husband), DD (daughter), DS (son), DW (wife), though LW (lovely wife) is more common.
  • ECS (East Coast Swing)
  • FT (Foxtrot)
  • FTFY (fixed that for you)
  • IMO, IME (in my opinion, in my experience)
  • LOD (line of dance / line of direction ... the direction that travelling dances move)
  • MIL (Mother-in-Law) … DIL, FIL, SIL
  • OP (original poster; the person who started the thread)
  • TA (Tango Argentino)
  • TDNWMH (this does not warm my heart – a DF exclusive)
  • VW (Viennese Waltz)
  • WCS (West Coast Swing)
  • YMMV (your mileage may vary)
A good place to check other acronyms you may come across is Urban Dictionary at http://www.urbandictionary.com/ (if you can get past the foul language in some definitions).


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Social and Competitive Dancing

Social Dancing

The mix of dances at a social event depends on the interest of the people running and/or attending the dances. Usually the majority of dances at a function fall into only one or two categories. It’s possible, though unusual, for a function to include dances from ballroom, Argentine Tango, Salsa/Latin, Swing, and Country-Western.

Common DF topics related to social dancing are:
  • requesting / accepting / rejecting invitations to dance
  • the wisdom or propriety of teaching or “helping” one’s social partners
Competitive Dancing

Competitive ballroom (BR) has four main subsets of dances:
  • American Smooth: Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Waltz
  • American Rhythm: Bolero, Cha Cha, East Coast Swing, Mambo, Rumba
  • International Standard: Foxtrot, Quickstep, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Waltz
  • International Latin: Cha Cha Cha, Jive, Paso Doble, Rumba, Samba
Dancers who compete in all American ballroom dances are known as 9-dancers; those who compete in all International dances are known as 10-dancers; those who compete in all categories are known as 19-dancers. Ballroom competitions often include dances other than those listed, including Peabody, Hustle, Nightclub Two-step, etc.

Most ballroom competitors memorize routines. A routine for a travelling dance will often include a series of patterns for a “long wall” and another for a “short wall” to fit into the expected size of the dance floor. A skilled couple may modify a routine in response to floorcraft challenges or to better interpret the music, but very few competitive couples rely entirely on improvisation.

Country-Western competitions include modified versions of some of the ballroom dances in addition to dances such as Country two-step. Country-Western competitors wear cowboy boots instead of shoes.

Swing competitions usually focus on Jack and Jill competitions in which competitors are randomly assigned to partners and the judges include evaluations of the improvisational ability of the partnership in their scores.

There are several different governing bodies for competitions, each with different rules. Competitions are usually divided into different levels by both experience and age. Most competitions accommodate dancers of every level, including absolute beginners. In addition, competitions can be classified by the type of partnership, including:
  • Amateur/Amateur (Am/Am): both partners are non-professional dancers. Collegiate competitions usually include only Am/Am dancers.
  • Professional/Amateur (Pro/Am): the amateur partner is the student of the professional partner.
  • Professional/Professional (Pro/Pro, or just Pro): both partners are professionals.
Common DF topics related to competitive ballroom are:
  • technical information (e.g., how can I improve my …?)
  • which members plan to attend an upcoming competition,
  • performers,
  • results,
  • tips on preparing for competition.


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Dance Types

People unfamiliar with the many varieties of partner dancing may lump everything under “ballroom”, but there are many distinct subsets and offshoots. Most other types are typically not considered “ballroom” by their participants and/or by ballroom dancers. For more detailed information, explore the appropriate DF sub-forums.

Partner dancing can also be different depending on its purpose. The three main divisions are performance, competition, and social. Performance and competition are related in that the focus is on how the dance appears to others, while social dancing is usually done just for fun.

Ballroom dances can be thought of as those that originated in social ballrooms of Western European and American tradition. The formal (competitive) list includes Bolero, Cha Cha, East Coast Swing, Foxtrot, Jive, Mambo, Paso Doble, Quickstep, Rumba, Samba, Tango, Viennese Waltz, and Waltz.

Australia has a type of ballroom dance called New Vogue. It is similar to American Round dance in that all couples on the floor perform the patterns in unison. In competitive New Vogue, the couples are judged partly on standard technique and partly on the style they bring to the required movements.

Salsa is both a specific dance and a generic term for latin “club” dances that are primarily social. Salsa venues include dance-oriented clubs as well as bars frequented by non-dancers. Salsa competitions and “congresses” are occasional events that bring dancers from different areas together. Salsa has many variants, so it helps to know the name of the type you have learned when you go somewhere new. An unfamiliar partner may ask what type you dance (e.g., On1 or On2, LA-style or NY-style, etc.) or they may just assume that you dance the same type they do. One variant, called Salsa Rueda or Casino Rueda, involves changing partners. Salsa dance events often include related dances such as Bachata, Cumbia, Merengue, Reggaeton, etc.

Swing can also be classified as a “club” dance, though it is often done at swing-only events as well as at clubs or bars. Different subsets have separate events – for example, it is uncommon for Lindy to be danced at a West Coast Swing event. Subsets of swing include Balboa, Lindy, Shag, West Coast Swing (WCS), etc. Although Jive is also a subset of swing, it is usually done at ballroom events rather than purely swing events.

Argentine Tango (aka AT, Tango Argentino, TA)
AT developed in Argentina as a social dance but is now done world-wide. It has expanded beyond social dance and is sometimes seen in performances and competitions. It is distinct from ballroom tango, though they have the same roots. There are two types of social AT events; “practicas” where practicing and sharing information between partners is encouraged, and “milongas” where teaching or “helping” one’s partner is frowned upon. AT is danced in a range of styles.

Common DF topics related to AT include:
  • The advantages/disadvantages of different styles of AT (“traditional”, “salon”, “nuevo”, etc.)
  • Whether certain styles should even be called “AT”
  • Whether, when and/or how to use specific etiquette (“codigos”) at AT events
Folk dancing

Folk dancing is a catch-all term for dances that are/were danced by ordinary people within specific cultures. Some dancers focus on dances from their own cultural heritage, others explore a different culture that happens to appeal to them, and others learn dances from a wide variety of cultures. Some dances are thoroughly researched for authenticity as to music, movement and any associated cultural influences, others are simply choreographic agglomerations of steps, but most fall somewhere on the scale between the two extremes.

Most folk dances were originally danced with a degree of improvisation within a well-defined structure. Some dance communities learn the dances of the culture well enough to maintain both the structure and the improvisational nature of the music and dance. Many other folk dance communities, particularly those that learn dances from a wide variety of cultures, dance specific choreographies to specific pieces of music.
There are few truly “solo” folk dances, though some have a solo component in which a participant dances alone while others watch for a few moments. In some other dances, the dancers move individually within a group structure, in yet others the dancers will break connection at certain times, but in most dances some sort of physical contact between dancers is maintained.

The most basic grouping is two people, frequently (though not always) a man and a women. Dances of this type were the ultimate origin for all ballroom-type dances. Some dancers learn these couple dances well enough to maintain the original lead-follow dynamic. But most international folk dancers learn choreographies that don’t require advanced lead-follow skills.

Dances involving more people can be done in lines or circles with the individuals connected to each other in one of a variety of ways (hands, fingers, shoulders, arms, belts, handkerchiefs …).

As a general rule, the closer the dancers are to each other, the more coordinated their movements must be. Dancers in a line or circle using a simple hand-to-hand hold can readily vary the size or timing of their movements without disturbing their neighbors in the line, but those who dance shoulder-to-shoulder have little freedom for variation. All line dances, though, involve coordinated movement. The dancers must always consider everyone else in the line because of the physical connection. As a practical matter, the most important “partners” are the two on either side; next are the two (in either direction) beyond the first, and so on.

Most line dances and some circle dances have a lead-and-follow aspect. In a line dance the leader is at one end of the line (usually on the right). The leader is responsible for setting the tone of the dance and determining the direction and distance the line will move. The leader must know the dance thoroughly and dance with confidence. The leader is determined by cultural protocol, whether explicit (x paid the band for this dance; y is the eldest lady of the family) or implicit (x is known for doing this dance well; y in particularly fond of it). Taking or accepting the lead position is a statement, to a greater or lesser degree depending on circumstances.

In some line dances the leader chooses the patterns to be done, in others the leader chooses when to change from one pattern to the other in a pre-determined sequence, but in many others (particularly choreographies) the leader just has to remember the patterns and perform them clearly and on the music. It’s usually acceptable for those who don’t know a dance well to join a line and “follow the leader”. People who join that way have a responsibility to ensure they do not unduly disturb other dancers with their mistakes … there’s a lot of etiquette around this.

Most circle dances don’t require leaders. But if there is an improvisational aspect to the dance, one or two people will control the improvisation. As in line dances, these leaders are selected by cultural protocols.

Another major formation is “set” dancing in which the dancers move in geometrical patterns on the floor (e.g., American square dancing). There are set dance variations from England, Ireland, Scotland, the US, and parts of France, among others. The dancers move as individuals or sometimes couples. The steps are simple because the focus is on the patterns of movement with the other dancers.


Well-Known Member
Holy cow, impressive, Zhena, thank you! A whole lot of work went into this, and I am in awe. Not to mention that it warms my heart to see that TDNWMH made it to the acronym list. ;)


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A couple more orientation notes:

In general, the custom on DF is to revive and add to older threads rather than starting new ones on identical topics. So when you have a question to ask or an issue to discuss, it's a good idea to do a search first. You may find your question already answered. If you do start a new thread on a topic that has been previously discussed, a moderator may merge the threads so that everyone has access to what's been said before, and so that future searchers have fewer threads to dig through.

The search function just pulls up a list of threads where your search term appears. To save yourself the time of reading through all the posts on each thread, once you open a particular thread, you can use the "search this thread" function to find specific posts.

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