I see one of my favorite dancers and grab her between tunes while the band isn't playing (I'll call her "Julia") Before the song started, Julia blurted out, "Why do some guys have long sharp nails, and then dig them into your hands?" She was rubbing her hands trying to take away the sting from the last dance and she continued, "I was so bothered with this last guy, I finally had to tell him how much it hurt!"
"Some guys just don't get it" she complained, "trim your nails before dancing, and don't dig your fingers into our hands..." I could tell she was a little upset, and it was out of character for her. (I immediately looked down at my fingers, hoping I remembered to trim this evening.)
As guys we can have great moves, but if we miss the grooming basics, we blow the whole dance. Don't make the same mistake this guy made. It's clear to me that Julia wasn't thrilled by his grip, but if his nails weren't excessively long and scratching her, I doubt she would have said anything.
Julia is a friend, long-time salsa instructor, and someone I love dancing with anytime she is available. She's a strong, experienced dancer with a wonderful attitude. I don't remember her complaining before, and I'm sure if I was a stranger she would have kept to herself. It was like she had to tell someone or she would explode, and she knew I was the right person due to our history.
As an instructor, Julia is used to dealing with leads at all levels and I've seen her be an angel with guys who were off-time, rough, or just figuring out how basic worked. Lots of guys don't realize she can lead much better than they do. She usually goes with flow and making guys feel good about their growth, even if they're total beginners.
If she's bothered, we should take notice.
I think you get the idea that it makes sense to keep your finger nails short if you social dance. (Verifying that your grip is comfortable and not digging into your partners hands wouldn't hurt either...)
At a minimum, you should put a pair of nail clippers in your car, probably a nail file, breath mints, extra deodorant, and maybe some light cologne. Checking your nails before dancing should be part of getting dressed and grabbing your car keys before going to the club. If you miss that, check them on the drive, and fix them if appropriate.
Get over the "nail files are for girls stuff." The files take off the rough edges and some clippers leave your nails sharp, even though they are shorter after clipping. File off the rough edges; it takes all of 30 seconds and your partners will indirectly appreciate it.
The fact is they won't notice if it's right, but like bad breath, when it's wrong it's a major negative and you will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Since we are on the subject, don't offend women with things we can easily fix. Being prepared is half the battle.
In my case, I have a gym bag that I throw in the car every time I go dancing. It's my shaving kit on steroids. It's evolved over a few years and sometimes you'd think I was preparing for an earthquake or camping trip. It has all my grooming essentials including breath mints, gum, electric razor, an extra shirt, socks, hair spray, brush, undies, alternate shoes (jazz sneakers), along with a couple energy bars, ear plugs, pens and anything else I think I might ever need before or after dancing. For a while it had a hammer (long story).
I don't have to think about it most of time; I just grab it as I head out the door. I restock it regularly, but as a rule it's ready to go without much thought. If I notice my nails are extra long on the way to the club, I grab the clippers or nail file and hack away as needed. If I don't have enough breath mints in my pocket, my bag is stocked with extras.
You should create your own kit. At least be sure you have nail clippers, breath mints and other grooming essentials. Grow as you see fit, and throw it in the car as you're going out the door. Then you don't have to remember the details each time, and over time it becomes your "dance bag".
Let me know what you're doing to be prepared for dancing. And ladies, please tell us guys what grooming essentials you find critical. We may not want to hear it, but we need to know your point of view on this subject.