Inclusive terms of address

Inclusive terms of address you can use when calling

One more …

We’ve all been there.  A person wanders on to the dance floor without a partner, and we need to get another person into the dance to complete the set.  So we say something like:  “one more lady, to dance with this fine gentleman here…” only to discover that the “fine gentleman” is really a woman that you couldn’t see clearly in the low lighting.  Here’s a magical phrase you can use instead:

  • “One more person, to dance with these lovely people here…”

Embarrassment averted.  Bonus:  this re-enforces the idea that anyone can dance with anyone.

Addressing the whole room

As a caller, sometimes you need to address everyone in the room to get their attention, for example at the beginning to get things rolling, after a break, and so on.  You probably have different phrases for different levels of formality, but the function is basically the same:  to get people’s attention.

Sometimes you might find that you are less than comfortable with your go-to phrases, because you are concerned that they are not as inclusive as they might be.  For example, you might be concerned that saying “guys” is really only addressing the men, or that saying “ladies and gentlemen” excludes non-binary people.

(The real pedants among you will want to point out that technically a gentleman is a man who does not have to work for a living (ie has income from tenants) and a lady is a daughter of a gentleman.  Therefore the terms actually exclude almost everyone in the modern world.)

If you feel that the terms “gentlemen” and “ladies” only made sense in Regency England and are best left there, here are some alternatives you could consider:

  • Everyone (“Good evening everyone and welcome to our Saturday night dance at Stadhampton Folk Dance Club…”)
  • Folks (“OK, folks, it’s time for parish notices…”)
  • People (“All right, people, let’s do it with some music…”)
  • Lovely dancers (“Hello, lovely dancers!  Let’s form longways sets…”)
  • Honoured guests (“Honoured guests, good evening and welcome to …”)

You could not use a term of address.  Instead you could simply say, politely, what you need to say.  For example:

  • “Good evening and welcome to $event.  May I introduce your band…”
  • “Your attention please.  $person would like to say a few words…”

In the end, we all want to pick a term of address which fosters the right atmosphere and respects both the dancers and the occasion.  As always, there is no substitute for knowing your audience.

Addressing individuals

What if you need to address an individual dancer and you don’t know their name?  Perhaps you don’t want to say “sir” or “madam” because you don’t want to take a guess at their gender and risk getting it wrong.

Here are some possible alternatives you could consider:


There is an argument to be made that addressing an individual dancer singles them out, no matter why you do it, and always makes people feel uncomfortable.  Certainly, “you, sir, try the other left” is to be avoided, with other phrases that involve picking on individuals.  Ultimately, adding “sir” or “madam” to a phrase doesn’t automatically make it polite.

However, there may be other occasions where you’re not addressing a dancer to single them out.  Maybe you’re demonstrating a figure and you want to take a dancer’s place in the set for the demonstration, so you want to say something like “may I take your place, sir?”  So let’s look at some other options.

Alternative phrases
  • “May I take your place a moment to demonstrate this?”
  • “May I borrow you to help demonstrate a box the gnat?”
  • “Right this way, follow me under the arch…”
Alternative ways of adding politeness
  • Taking the microphone away from your face when speaking to an individual.  This removes the power imbalance of having your voice much louder than their voice.
  • Checking with dancers first before using them for demos:  “Are you ok to help demo a right and left through?”  (Bonus:  you won’t accidentally pick the minor set that only got it right by a fluke last time.)
  • Thanking the demo set when they’re done.  A quick round of applause is good.
  • Never miss an opportunity to compliment the dancers.  “We’ll have a quick demo from these lovely people here.”  “Round to the left like they’re doing so beautifully in that set over by the bar.”  “Round of applause for our wonderful demo set.”

If all else fails…

…try this?

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.