Holding wrists in social dances


Well-Known Member
I'm wondering if this is normal and I need to just get over it or if it is as weird as it feels:

At a social I often attend there is one particular leader who in all styles (standard included) will often end up taking my wrist and holding onto it instead of my hand. I understand when you are doing smooth/latin/rhythm there are often times when you'll have to take connection at the wrist because it's easier to go for than the hand, but this isn't just a grab, it's holding onto my wrists for a significant part of the dance. It bugs me, I feel like I have no control and I'm being forced to do the steps rather than led through them. Is this a usual hold that I just haven't encountered that much?

Steve Pastor

Staff member
I've looked at many books about partner dancing that date back to the 30s. I've never seen a wrist hold mentioned, that I can remember.

I can also tell you that Skippy Blair, who is most known for her involvement with West Coast Swing, but also teaches teachers of many other social dances, and has been doing it since the 50s, has said very explicitly that she HATES that wrist hold for precisely the reason that you state.

I have a similar situation since I dance country two step with a "cowboy hold" of hand over shoulder. If a woman tells me she doesn't like it, I don't ask them to two step again. And usually, since I can't keep track of who doesn't like what, I end up not asking them, period.
That way of dancing two step is clearly documented, however. Whatever that's worth!


Well-Known Member
I have only run into this a few times, and even in a latin/rhythm/club social dance, it bothers me for the same reasons that it bugs you. Seems particularly odd for a leader to do that in standard.


Well-Known Member
Maybe he dances with a lot of women who don't follow very well and feels he has better control this way? Or maybe he has a bad wrist and holding your hand the proper way causes him pain. Or maybe he thinks it's cool (he's wrong). I've seen it form time to time, but only for a step or two here and there, not every dance all the way through.


Well-Known Member
This is more or less reasonable for rhythm/latin. Smooth, it's a little odd, but I wouldn't necessarily question it.

Standard? Very weird. For most (pretty much every) dancer I've ever met, frame - follower's left hand in leader's right, etc. - is quite definitive of Standard. And there's no point to holding the wrist like that, not like in rhythm/latin.

That said, I doubt he even realizes. I know several people have suggested asking him about it - great advice, but personally I would feel weird doing it. Instead, I'd probably just pull my hand away and reposition it the correct way. Then at least if he questions you, or tries to reposition, you have a more natural opportunity to ask.

Larinda McRaven

Site Moderator
Staff member
I teach it in smooth all the time. When a guy doesn't trust the lady he can gently hold her wrist thereby securing not only her body but her attention.

I also hold wrists of my men when I am backleading something and they are being squirrely.


Well-Known Member
I teach it in smooth all the time. When a guy doesn't trust the lady he can gently hold her wrist thereby securing not only her body but her attention.
It's kind of a drag-the-follow-through-the-step method of leading, though, is it not? I understand that it may be helpful in instruction. But in social dancing, if a follow is so difficult to lead that I'd have to resort to that method, then I'm either going to keep my steps very simple, or I'd prefer to just not dance with that follow.

Larinda McRaven

Site Moderator
Staff member
It's kind of a drag-the-follow-through-the-step method of leading, though, is it not?
No, not at all.

When you hold a womand hands or fingers (yuck) she has lots of little joints that allow her to move completely independant of the mans lead. The energy is simply deflected right out of her body. I find THAT to be less lead and follow and more just a couple moving through some steps on their own but touching.

If you hold her wrist, and SMALL inclination up or down, rotation up or down or to either side, push into her forearm or pull away is IMMEDIATLEY transmitted into her shoulder and the lead is VERY unmistakable. And FAR more preferable than a man that plops out his hand for me to grab with no connection from him... I can't stand doing NYers and sliding right off the mans hand unless I grip onto him!!!

Of course a man can over do it and ruin the whole effect by coming off as an ogre, but if used properly it is a VERY effective and immediate method of communication. I find it a very comfortable and stable position.


Active Member
Holding wrists (arms, shoulders, even heads) is frequently in use in brazilian zouk, that is also a kind of social dance, because it's a kind of dance where leader wants to have almost complete control over partner's body

I'm also sometimes taking partner's wrist when dancing salsa socially, mostly with followers that dance cuban salsa, because they are used to it. And sometimes even in latin. Nobody complains

However, it has to be gentle
I'm pretty sure (if I'm understanding what this hold is), it's a perfectly legitimate (and more stable supposedly) hold to use in latin/rhythm to (as Larinda mentioned) avoid holding on to fingers and having a stronger "control", allowing for more clear lead/follow. Perhaps those who find it weird are not used to it, or the leads in question are gripping tightly or incorrectly or something, leading it to be uncomfortable/strange. But it doesn't sound as awful/strange as others are making it sound to me.


Well-Known Member
Interestingly and coincidentally, I was asked yesterday by a lady to hold her by the wrist while doing smooth. But that was a special case, as she'd just cut one of her fingers and it was tender. I was afraid my muscle memory would override and I would give a conventional hold, but my forebrain managed to override.

May want to keep the technique in mind to deal with the absolute beginning follows who think proper dance technique involves grabbing the lead's hand and squeezing. I already use an over-the-back-of-the-hand defense for the grabby follows while doing swing.

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