Navigating the Dance Floor

Navigating the dance floor will help you have a safe and fun dance experience. Every lead should know how to navigate, and the follows should be familiar with these concepts as well. Popular dance styles vary by region, so I will give you a rundown of where each style happens on the floor so you know where to fit your country two step in the mix.

Gentlemen, start your engines

I like to use a driving metaphor when it comes to navigating the dance floor:

  • The line of dance is the same as a race track, counter-clockwise.
  • Watch for others around you and mind your distance to others.
  • Exercise extra grace and caution around “new drivers.” Newbies learn socially, so set a good example.
  • There are varying speeds of travel on the track, and rules for merging to and from faster lanes.

Unlike driving, there will be different expectations depending on the style of dance. And there may be multiple styles happening at one time on a single dance floor. All dance styles fall into one of these three categories:

  • Progressive Dances travel around the outer lane of the dance floor counter-clockwise. The outer lane is the fast lane, and the inner lane is the slow lane where you may stay in one place for a short while.
    • Ex: Waltz, Fox Trot, Polka, Progressive Two Step, Texas Two Step, Cowboy Cha-Cha
  • Spot Dances or Rhythm Dances are done in one place, toward the middle of the dance floor.
    • Ex: East Coast Swing, Lindy, Country Swing, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Pony Step, Salsa, Mambo
  • West Coast Swing is a slot dance, which means it is done in a line up and down the dancefloor with minimal horizontal space.

If there is no progressive dancing happening, spot dances can be all over the dance floor. The reverse is also true: if there is no spot dancing happening, you can add more tracks toward the middle of the floor. As for West Coast Swing, the best place is either on the very edge of the dance floor or the middle of the dance floor depending on what is happening. It is not very common that a song can accommodate both West Coast Swing and a progressive style at the same time, so the outer edge is often the best unless there are many couples doing West Coast Swing. In whatever case, match the vertical or horizontal orientation of the other couples on the floor.

A few general tips

  •  Pass others by entering the fast lane of the dance floor.
  • Country Swing and Rhythm Two Step are the focuses of this blog. They blend a combination of spot dancing and progressive dancing. When you want to do combinations that are done on the spot, move inward on the dance floor. When you are finished and want to travel elsewhere on the dance floor, look for an opening in the outer lane and merge into the fast lane.
  • Different clubs have different predominant dance styles. So when you arrive, it’s a good idea to watch the dance floor for a while to get a sense of how the dancers are moving around on it. Knowing the traffic pattern will help you navigate the floor like a pro!
  • Maintain a close connection by drawing your elbows back toward your side. Full arm extensions take up a lot of space, and they will sabotage your connection if you don’t use them in moderation.


Occasionally you will bump into people or cause a collision of some kind. It’s bound to happen on the dance floor, especially if alcoholic beverages are involved. If you bump into another couple it’s best to apologize with a smile. Don’t hold a grudge or place blame. You’ll look like a good person, your partner will feel better, and everyone can keep having fun. If a more serious collision occurs–like a blow to the head–it’s a good idea to check on the person who was injured, and offer help if needed. Respect and courtesy go a long way to impress the person with whom you are dancing.

If another couple seems to be invading your space, stay calm and try to move around them or let them pass you. They may be newer to dancing, inebriated, or have a bad attitude. But their problem doesn’t have to be yours if you don’t get involved. 🙂

Tips for Leads

  • The concept of “defensive driving” works well on the dance floor too. Be aware of your surroundings, and protect your “car.”
  • Don’t use your partner as a battering ram to get through the crowd. I hate to say it but I see guys do this sometimes, and I know their partner isn’t pleased and probably won’t ask for a second dance.
  • If you find yourself stuck in slow traffic, that’s a good opportunity to do some spins and other moves.
  • The more crowded the floor is, the more conservative you will need to be with your space. This might mean reserving big moves for when you have a large clearing.
  • Be sure to look for space behind your follow before performing a dip. Even so, that space could close in seconds, so exercise caution with dips in a small space.
  • Only use a tight grip or pull for emergencies, like when a couple is moving in really fast and about to hit your partner.

Tips for Follows

  • It’s a good idea to watch your partner’s back… literally! Look over your partner’s right shoulder when in closed position. If you have your hand placed on their shoulder, you can use your fingertips to gently pull them closer to you to warn them of another couple that is moving into your space. Your lead will appreciate it!
  • The more crowded the floor is, the more conservative you will need to be with your space. This means you won’t always get a chance for a long, graceful arm lines.