Etiquette Policy

New dancers and experienced dancers, check out our Set Dance Etiquette Policy!

The goal of this policy is to be transparent about the standards and expectations of our community and to ensure everyone has a enjoyable and safe time.

Our Objective:

Continue to build the Francis O’Neill set dance community by

  • Organizing regular opportunities for set and ceili dance
  • Providing quality instruction to all
  • Welcoming new dancers into the community

Safety First!

Be conscious of the safety of your fellow dancers. Individual dancers vary in their ability to swing and move on the dance floor. In set dancing, you are usually close to many other dancers, not just your partner. It is important to be aware of the space and the dancers around you.

  • Communicate respectfully with your fellow dancers about your comfort and safety; both positive and constructive feedback is helpful. This is especially true if you have bad knees or other conditions that require you to move carefully.
  • Use your words, kindly! If your partner or another dancer in the set is unsure about what is coming next - tell them. Gentle and supportive reminders about the moves in the set are welcome. Yelling or overreacting about missing moves or making mistakes is inappropriate. Similarly, forceful pushing or pulling a dancer into position is not ok.
  • Be considerate if you have elderly or inexperienced dancers in your set.
  • Remember that your partner’s comfort zone may be different from yours. Be sensitive to non-verbal cues and always err on the side of being considerate and respectful.
  • If you are uncomfortable with the way your partner dances with you, ask them to stop and explain to them what you need.
  • Never force a partner to twirl. Avoid jerking a partner’s hand, arm or shoulder, such as at the end of a swing.
  • Eye contact can help with dizziness, but if it makes you uncomfortable, you can look at your partner’s nose, ear, or shoulder. If the dizziness is too much, inform your partner you need to slow down or stop.
  • Be aware of how tightly you are holding a dancer’s hand; a tight grip can be uncomfortable, especially if dancers are wearing rings.
  • Energetic dancing is fun, but be mindful of your arms and legs and keep them out of your neighbors’ dance space.
  • Set dancing is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll find more success with a moderate, easy style as opposed to a flashy, over the top approach.
  • If you choose to double, make sure your partner is willing, and that the moves can be executed safely.
  • If you or your partner make a mistake or miss a move, don’t worry about it; instead of rushing through the missed move, skip it and go on to the next.
  • Be prepared to change directions and patterns and match the speed of others around you.


  • When the instructor is talking – give them your full attention. If you are partners with a new dancer, encourage them to listen to instructions from the teacher before adding your own tips and tricks for success.
  • If you’re an experienced dancer – reach out to a new person and ask them to dance. Remember, you were new once too.
  • When sets are forming – don’t push a lone dancer out of the set.
  • Set up sets promptly when the music starts or at the caller’s request. Join the nearest set that is forming. If all nearby sets are filled, raise your hand so the caller can either guide you to where you are needed or get other couples to join you.
  • If time permits, introduce yourself to others in the set.
  • Same-gender dance partners are commonplace. It does take experience and practice to switch roles, but dancers are encouraged to try, especially in a lesson-setting.
  • If you are more experienced than others in your set, help them know where to go with gestures or by offering the correct hand or shoulder.
  • If you’re not confident in your knowledge of a dance, join a set with people who know the set. They’ll help you get through it.

What to Wear

  • Wear dance shoes with a smooth sole. Shoes that don’t slide make it harder to move, are more dangerous and harder on your knees.
  • Never dance in your socks or bare feet
  • Avoid large jewelry
  • Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to move
  • Tie back long hair to avoid whipping into someone else’s face or eyes
  • Some dancers are sensitive or allergic to highly scented products such as perfume or aftershave. Please refrain from wearing fragrances and be sensitive to other odors that might cling to you.

Other Common Sense

Belittling or nonconstructive criticism of any dancers on the floor will not be tolerated.

For safety and policy reasons, insobriety will not be tolerated at our events, and you will be expelled from the venue. Please use good judgment if choosing to drink alcohol prior to attending the dances.

POLICY NOTE: The Irish American Heritage Center does not allow us to bring alcoholic beverages not purchased from IAHC. Similarly, illegal substances are not allowed. Non-adherence to this policy by just one person (dancers, visitors, hired talent, etc.) could impact the entire community with the loss of our dance venue


If you have feedback, either positive or constructive, or if you encounter a concern at one of the dances that you would like to discuss, or would like help resolving, please inform a Francis O’Neill board member. Suggestions and comments about your dance experience can be communicated in person at our events, or you can email the Francis O’Neill club at

Thank you to Chicago Contra Friends & others for help in creating a rules-of-the-road guide for dancers