The savory smoke from a barbecue grill, the fresh perfume of newly cut grass, the salty whiff of the morning beach—and the pungent stink of body odor. Like it or not, these are all familiar smells of summer. You take the good with the bad, I suppose, and I’ve always loved this time of year.

As we have all realized, body odor and slick, slippery skin soaked in the sweat of summer is best shared only with someone you love. But when it’s summertime on the dance floor, things can get a little intimate—and not in always the best way.

So, the debate rages on: Sleeveless dance wear in summer, yes or no?

Pick your side

This time of year – especially during heat waves like we’ve already had in Kansas City this year – you can break a sweat just by brushing your teeth in the morning. On those days, a vigorous dance like swing or a cha cha can really get you dripping.

Sweaty arm pit

Photo courtesy of

So, then, is it appropriate to wear sleeveless shirts on the dance floor? I say, absolutely not. I realize I may be in the minority, but no one wants to wrap their arm around their partner and be rubbing up to bare skin slick with sweat. In fact, I’ve witnessed many male dance teachers washing off their forearms because they smelled of a pungent combination of body odor and competing deodorants.

For many dance instructors like me, it’s a matter of manners. The Toronto Swing Dance Society has a list of items they’ve dubbed “Social Dance Etiquette,” and they address this particular topic:

“Leaders (and at times ladies) should not wear sleeveless shirts and other tops that would force a dance partner to rest their forearm on a sweaty, slippery arm. If you become excessively sweaty while dancing, bring changes of shirts (ladies included). Maybe consider an undershirt to absorb perspiration or bring a small hand towel to dry off in between dances.”

There are two sides to every story, of course, and you’ll no doubt encounter plenty of dancers and instructors who see no problem with sleeveless dance attire. Whether it’s a matter of personal comfort or personal expression, you’ll see a lot of support for sleeveless on some of the dance forums:

  • “Do guys really have a problem with that? I think you get a lot sweatier when you wear something more covered up. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to dance with me.”
  • “I think you should wear whatever makes you comfortable for social dancing. As long as you take care of the daily hygiene…”
  • “You feel cooler, more comfortable when you’re not wearing much because it’s easier to move … Sleeveless is the way to go!”

Hmm, maybe I’m getting outnumbered here, but I still think it comes down to basic courtesy!

Tips to manage your sweat

Because we have to agree to disagree on this one – or at least concede that everyone has a different opinion on the topic – the more helpful idea may be to share some tips about how to cut down on the sweating and stinking on the dance floor. After all, no one wants to smell you or see giant pit stains, so here are just a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:

  • Just like good dance shoes are a wise investment, spend a few extra bucks on dancewear that wicks sweat away from your body.
  • Drink water! It’s so important to stay hydrated both before and during class.
  • Always keep a small towel with you at class to wipe sweat from your arms and hands.
  • Stay away from spicy and pungent foods like jalapenos, onions and garlic on the day of class and the night before, which can make your sweat smell even worse.
  • If you’re wearing sleeves, look for darker colors or patterned tops, which hide sweat stains more effectively.

We all have our own opinion on the sleeves vs. sleeveless debate, but the important thing to remember is the same thing that applies to all aspects of dance: Be mindful of your partner, respect their boundaries and communicate with each other. That way you’re sure to always start out on the right foot.

As a professional dance instructor and owner of Overland Park Ballroom, Amy Castro has been teaching ballroom dance for more than 25 years. You won’t find her in sleeveless dancewear this summer, but she’s happy to help find the right outfit for you. Let her know your thoughts by tweeting @OP_Ballroom or by commenting on the Facebook page.