Salsa Etiquette: Why You Shouldn’t Dip Your Dance Partners

In Richie’s post on God Awful Dancers – which is a rather entertaining and worthwhile read – he mentions “The Screamer” who unexpectedly pierces your ears as soon as you do a dip. The fact is, nobody should ever meet The Screamer and she shouldn’t have been dipped in the first place. So, to avoid such embarrassments and do a service for all salsa men and women going forward, I’ve compiled the following wisdom on dipping etiquette.

Dipping looks great, it’s sexy, the pros do it, but you probably shouldn’t.

Every beginner salsa dancer romanticizes about giving or receiving that perfect sexy dip on a horn hit or to finish off a perfect dance. After all, it’s what we’ve seen so many times before. But there’s more to it than just to do it. Does your partner want one? Can you give one? Should you give one?

When it comes to dipping on the social dance floor, you’ll find that followers have all sorts of mixed feelings towards the act – some love it, some hate it and some are just plain scared of it (see The Screamer, mentioned above).

Dips can be sexy and dips can be fun, but when dips cause a broken nose, dislocated vertebrae or neck strain, they aren’t so cool anymore and they leave your partner in bad health.

Leads, your partner’s safety is your responsibility.

As the leader of the dance, the ball is in your court to make sure your partner has a comfortable and enjoyable experience. This includes knowing if dipping is on the menu or not. If you’re considering a dip or you’re someone who regularly whips your partners down into dips, check yourself…

  • Does your partner have the technical ability to be dipped safely?
  • Do you know how to dip properly and safely?
  • Does your partner trust you, a stranger?
  • Is there enough space on the dance floor?
  • Are there other couples around that could hit your partner?
  • Does your partner have an injury that might flare up?
  • Is your partner ready to expose what’s under that really nice dress?
  • Did you ask your partner if they’re okay with dips?

There are very few leads who go through that checklist before dipping, but you can be one of those awesome ones who doesn’t flash the crowd, tweak your partner’s spine, break a nose or make followers scream. Great opportunity to stand out, right?

There Are Exceptions

Naturally, there are some followers out there that love to be dipped! That said, the point of this post is to bring about awareness that not all followers desire to be dipped and that it’s a sensitive subject.

If you know your partner is game and you’re making an informed decision after mentally going through the above checklist (man, dipping is a lot of work, huh?), then here’s what to do next…

Guidelines To Follow Once You Know Dipping Is Okay

1) Consider your partner’s skill level and physical condition

Every follow comes with a different body type, set of abilities, strength, and coordination. Sticking to basic dips is best, especially with beginners. Leave advanced dips to when you’re dancing with a pro.

You might also like Dear Leads, Please Dance To My Level

2) Be aware of your surroundings

If it’s a crowded dance floor and there’s other couples around that’s danger zone red. It’s one thing if you can control yourself, but there’s no way to control what everyone else around you is doing. Make sure you have enough space and there’s no chance of a collision.

Check out How To Avoid Collisions On The Dance Floor

3) If you must dip, do it gently

There’s no need to be aggressive or a show-off. A dip can be simple, small, gentle and enjoyable all at the same time. Save your tricks for a performance.

There you have it, some simple guidelines to avoid hurting or scaring your friends on the dance floor. They’ll surely come in handy if you plan on showing up to the same party twice. Word of mouth travels fast amongst followers, especially when weirdos and rough or unpleasant partners are involved.

Have a dipping nightmare or fairy tale that just needs to be shared? Do tell! We all love stories, so indulge us in the comments section below.

Enjoyed this article and want more dance etiquette tips? Read Are You Sure You’ve Never Made Your Dance Partner Uncomfortable?

Enjoy this post and want to learn more? Try a sample lesson from our progressive On1 and On2 salsa curriculum taught by Canadian Salsa Champs Patrick and Scarlet at

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  1. says: Marius

    Dear Tanya,

    my opinion is clear on this: The dip isn’t done by the leader. Period. It can be suggested by the lead, but the decision and the execution is solely up to the follower. That’s why it’s safe – it will happen only if the follower wants and only in the amount desired by the follower. Anything else violates communication basics.

    Love your articles! (But you know that already 😉 )

  2. says: Kevin

    Ugh, what a clickbait headline! This kind of headline is what turns people off your posts.

    Dips are safe when done properly and with prior consent. I have seen far more injuries from being stepped on with heeled shoes. And some salsa clubs are so crowded that salsa becomes a contact sport.

  3. says: Gerardo

    Great advice. I would also like to add that some ladies dip themselves and this can be incredibly dangerous as well. It’s happened to me at least three or four times. Women have been into the dance, and then they just dip without notice -during a spin or at the end- and hope for us to catch them. Though it is fun for them, if we aren’t prepared for that, at that moment, this can lead to injury or a cause a scene.

    1. It’s crazy isn’t it Gerardo? I’ve had plenty of ladies do that to me and I almost drop them every time – most of them don’t even bother to hold their own weight either. It’s like the equivalent of throwing yourself off a cliff haha. I suppose the music and the moment put them into a drug-induced state where they can’t help themselves. Maybe one day they’ll hit the floor and learn the hard way, but I hope someone talks some sense into them first!

  4. Thanks Regan! I’m not usually a fan of playing it safe, but in some cases when the stakes aren’t yours to gamble it’s a good call. I hope your class enjoys this rare occasion!

    I was speaking with Rémy from Salsa Windhoek before. I hope I can swing by and meet all of you over there sometime. I’ve heard great things about Cape Town and SA! Good to know salsa is alive and well 🙂

  5. Great article!
    When I first joined my local Salsa scene, dipping was a regular thing, as were the injuries!
    When I opened my school I resolved to only teach dips to my performance dancers. I may teach a safe and basic dip in the advanced class, once a year. Come to think about it, it has been about 3 years since I taught a dip in Salsa class, so perhaps this Thursday night 🙂

    Please come and enjoy a dip free dance with us the next time you are in Cape Town, South Africa!

  6. Wow Michelle that’s a total bummer that happened. It’s really unfortunate that a lead can inflict an injury like that in just a moment without thinking.

    You shouldn’t feel bad letting the lead know that you’re not interested in dips. If he doesn’t like it he needs to learn how to deal with his ego. You could always add a “I have an injured back” or something if you feel that helps. After all, your health is the most important thing and if you don’t trust him to take care of that for you then it’s not worth the obvious risk you’ve already experienced.

    I hope your back’s all healed up and doing well!

  7. says: Michelle

    ‘To dip or not to dip?’ This is a really important discussion. A few years ago I was ‘whip dipped’ by a dance partner while social dancing. The ‘whip dip’ (my term) is when the lead is only supporting your lower lumbar spine, hips or sacrum, and uses muscular force and momentum to throw you into a dip (relying heavily on the followers ligamentous system). I knew my partner, and had danced with him before. He’s strong and uses muscular force to lead, rather than the finesse of clear lead indicators, but he was fun to dance with and musical. I knew from previous dances with him that as a follower I really needed to relax my body, thereby allowing his strong physical lead to control my movements. In this particular instance the ‘whip dip’ was executed – during the move and remainder of the dance I felt a strain in my low back but it wasn’t until days and weeks after that the true impact that this 2 seconds on the dance floor had on my body. This strain continued for months, forcing me to seek treatment for a sheared L3 vertebra that was effecting the disc, renal function and global biomechanics. It was serious. It was two years before I danced with this particular lead again, I requested right at the outset that I not be dipped, he didn’t like being told what to do.It’s tricky as a social dance follower, I don’t want to put limits on how new partners can lead me, but I also can’t take the risk of another back injury. There are some social leads who have executed luxurious beautiful dips that thrilled me – but technique is EVERYTHING!

  8. To me, social dancing should be free of tricks and acrobatic moves – that’s means no flips, dips, neck drop, lifts, etc. I guess people knew I was a performer and instructor and felt that I need perform tricks in social dancing. And when I was dipped 10 times within ONE song by a guy, I ran out of the door when he asked me to dance again. Then of course, I have been dipped by seasoned dancers who drank and was drunk who dipped me so low to the floor that my head hit the floor HARD! There’re just too many horrifying stories to tell!

    1. Ouch Cynthia! I’m so glad I’m not a follow most of the time. There’s some pretty rough guys out there – or some who just aren’t thinking, like you said – and it’s a shame that so many ladies get put through negative experiences. That said, I’m sure there’s just as many if not more wonderful experiences that you have as a follow. Hold on tight to those ones 😉

  9. says: Mick

    The article’s title would be more even-handed as “Consider this before dipping”.

    Both partners need to be ‘dip-trained’. Correct technique needs to be taught by dance schools.

    The lead needs to check with the partner prior to the dance and, once given permission, be aware of the other environmental and potential medical hazards as listed.

    But dipping well is a wonderful part of advanced salsa, and to deny it out-of-hand will make social salsa a poorer and duller experience.

    Next you will suggest that we all take up bachata and kizomba instead. Dull but so safe 🙂

    1. Hey Mick. You’re absolutely right that dipping can be a rich part of salsa and that it shouldn’t be removed entirely. The title is written for the majority of people and the majority of cases. “Consider this before dipping” isn’t a very powerful title. Having a stance on a topic is important and so that’s what I was trying to convey.

  10. Love the passion Abbey! I can tell you’ve seen it happen a ton. You’re right in that it usually tends to be the new comers that get excited about dipping, so hopefully we can get them thinking twice with this one 😉

  11. says: Abbey Plotkin

    GREAT article and advice! RARELY does anyone try to dip me ‘cuz I’m old and fat and I think they KNOW better. If they do, I would be that screamer because I wouldn’t trust anyone to not drop me. However, I HATE seeing these guys dipping the girls on the social dance floor. it’s almost ALWAYS the guys who can’t even dance well. WORK on your TIMING and SKILLS instead of being the JACKASS of DIPPERS!!! I have friends who have been hurt by these jerks and I will certainly pass on that great tip about walking the leg back to avoid these frivolous moves.