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Local dance professionals on dancing with other people's partners

You're fairly safe asking this gentleman or lady to dance; they look more like family than a romantic couple.
You're fairly safe asking this gentleman or lady to dance; they look more like family than a romantic couple.
Ashley Balcazar

O.P.P., how to explain it? Let’s take it frame by frame. “O” is for “Other,” “P” is “People’s.” The last “P” well, that’s quite simple… It’s “Partners.”

Is asking someone else's partner to dance a do or a don't?  Let's discusss.
Ashley Balcazar

When you venture out to a salsa bar you’ll inevitably scope out the dance floor, where you’ll see varying degrees of partnerships moving in tandem. There will be people who have never encountered one another dancing together. There will be friends dancing together. There will be dance partners dancing together and there will be couples dancing together. So how do you determine whether or not the person you want to groove with is available? Is it appropriate to ask a stranger to dance? Is it appropriate to ask someone with a partner to dance? Or are you stepping on someone’s toes if you cut in? In an effort to adequately address these very pressing questions, DSE consulted with two local professionals.

Luis Xzavier Herrador, founder of Dance con Xabor, is a professional dancer and sterling example of a gentleman. He shares his expert opinion and states:

To me it’s okay to ask someone else's partner to dance as long as you do it with respect. You have to treat it as a relationship. And what I mean by that is not that all partnerships are items. A partnership is when they dance, practice, perform and teach together on a daily or weekly basis. It means the two people have a connection and chemistry, not necessarily a sexual chemistry/connection (a dance chemistry/connection that they see in each other) and that’s why they dance so well together. They don't need to be lovers to be dance partners. I do think it’s great for other people to ask. But ladies and gents, respect the other person. If they are on the dance floor and they never get off the dance floor, please do not interrupt until they are off the dance floor. That means they only want to dance with each other at that moment. Once they are off then yes, you can ask politely. Do not just grab him or her away from the other person.

Yamid Pulido-Martinez partners with Sonia J. to teach the Dallas Diva Boot Camp, a month-long intensive addressing styling and choreography for female dancers. Yamid contributes his two cents on the subject and says:

It’s a tricky question for me. But by respect of course I will always ask for permission to take someone out to dance if I see they have company. You never want to disrespect anyone or just come across the wrong way to someone new. That’s definitely something to keep in mind. In my case I’m used to just grabbing a girl or a guy and saying, “Let’s go!” But just with people I know well enough.

So here’s rule #1 in this O.P.P. establishment – be respectful and it won’t offend her or him. The second rule also involves common courtesy. Don’t interrupt a couple in the middle of a dance. Movies notoriously depict a determined individual approaching a couple on the dance floor, tapping his or her target’s partner on the shoulder while asking, “May I cut in?” In the real world this is neither commonplace nor courteous. Always wait until the song is finished and the couple retreats from their dance frame. Finally, if in doubt, wait and watch. Don’t stalk. That’s just creepy. But pay attention to your surroundings. Is the person you want to dance with only dancing with one person? Or is he or she a social butterfly on the floor? Look for subtle cues that might indicate their willingness to pair up with someone new for a song.

All things considered, we can conclude that dancing with other people’s partners is perfectly acceptable when done with proper etiquette and respect. There’s no guarantee you’ll get your dance but the odds are better if you mind your manners.