Ask the Dance Diva: Poor hygiene on the dance floor

Dear Diva,

There’s a guy in my club who is a nice person, polite and a decent leader but I run when I see him coming because I can’t stand touching his soaking wet back or smelling the garlic and onions he had for dinner.

What should I do? Sprinkle mints in his path? Wear gloves? Put a clothespin on my nose?


Willing but aroma-wary


Dear Willing,

Ah yes, the delicate question of how to tell someone he stinks. Even for the Diva, the master of tact and politeness, this is a tough one. Certainly we all know that dancing can be a strenuous activity and that it rarely occurs without some expenditure of effort and the resultant release of bodily fluids. This is alas, virtually unavoidable. It is unreasonable to expect that your partner, after two hours on the floor, will look like he just stepped out of the pages of GQ or smell like a loaf of fresh-baked bread. However, it is certainly not too much to expect that he (or she) will take the necessary proactive steps to minimize offenses of the olfactory. I one had a student who, while diligent, well-mannered and sweet, suffered from some serious hygiene issues. I deliberated long and hard about how to address the situation and ultimately gave him a bountiful Christmas basket of pleasant smelling soaps, gels, breath mints and antiperspirants – with a gift certificate for more. He got the point. Obviously, a similar approach is not practical on the dance floor. Unless you plan to go into training to increase your capacity for holding your breath, the best option is probably decline the dance. After enough refusals, someone may start looking for a reason within. But in fact, all of this can be avoided if only each and every dancer takes responsibility for presenting his or her most hygienic, sanitary and un-odorous self. Needless to say, this means showering thoroughly before attending a dance (and I don’t mean the morning of it). It also means brushing your teeth diligently and using mouthwash after eating anything and save the garlic and onions for couch potato night. Ladies, don’t think that you are exempt; plus your nails should not be of a length and shape to cause bodily injury and your luxurious mane should be restrained so as not to unnecessarily lash your partner. For most people, this should be sufficient. For those who recognize that they have a tendency toward sweating excessively or dry-mouth halitosis, additional steps should be taken. If your problem is the former, wear a t-shirt beneath your over-shirt for absorption. It is perfectly fine to bring a clean shirt or two and perform an exchange in the restroom when you start to getting hot and slathered. A few strong mints tucked into your pocket and popped strategically every half hour can take care of the worse of the rotten breath. Hand sanitizer tucked into a purse or pocket (thoughtful clubs provide this as well as a jar of peppermints) can not only give some relief after a damp dance but helps to prevent a lot of germ spreading that is inevitable with partner dancing. One word of caution about erring in the opposite direction. Many gentlemen and ladies feel the solution to avoiding body odor is to douse themselves so heavily with cologne and/or heavily scented deodorant and body sprays that their arrival is announced miles in advance. To my mind, this is just as offensive as the smell of honest sweat. In addition, many people are as sensitive to these chemical cover-ups as they are to the perspiration. So, if you use them at all, do so sparingly. There is nothing that irritates the Diva more than going to bed reeking of Amor Pour L’Homme without an actual homme around.

©Dance Diva (aka Carrie Seidman). Previously appeared in newsletters of the Albuquerque Dance Club ( Reprints by express permission of the author only.

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