9 Dance Cypher Rules

No One Ever Told You


“Seems like the first rule of cypher etiquette
has always been
to not talk about cypher etiquette.”

Cypher Etiquette

Cyphers have a long and involved connection to the history of dance. A cipher is the mathematical symbol (0), denoting absence of quantity. A dance cypher is the area of the dancefloor that is open to those who wish to dance in it. A cypher is also a sacred space to those who build and partake in them, thus, every cypher has rules. For better or worse, these rules go unspoken…until now.

Who made these rules? Everyone and no one. Who will admit to their existence? The very same people. Seems like the first rule of cypher etiquette has always been to not talk about cypher etiquette so take it all with a grain, but don’t say you’ve never heard of them.


“…you’ve publicly expressed your interest in getting punched in the mouth.”
The next time you think about touching someone, do this instead.

1. No unwanted physical contact

Dance is not a contact sport. The minute you place your hands (or worse) on someone else in a dance circle, be it a cypher or battle, you’ve publicly expressed your interest in getting punched in the mouth. Keep the physical altercations in the parking lot. Or just don’t be a dick. Your call.


“Don’t be that guy.”
We’re waiting.

2. You have a time limit

How long is long enough? There is no hard and fast number. There is only the length of which you can stay entertaining. We all know that one guy who overstays his welcome in the cypher. Don’t be that guy.


“…there are a few exceptions to this rule.”
No focal point means no cypher. Just a hot mess of sweat, ass shakin and drink dodging.

3. One at a time

A cypher exists for the sole purpose of separating space so that one person can dance at a time. Otherwise it would be no different than the rest of the dancefloor.

That being said, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Two (or sometimes more with respect to the size of the cypher) dancers may enter if they willingly consent to dance with each other. This includes partner dancing and routines. It does not include two singular performances that have nothing to do with each other outside of occupying close proximity.


“Friends don’t let friends get bumped into by drunk idiots…”
With moves this good, we’re gonna need all the space we can get.

4. Space must be filled and held

A packed dancefloor does not want the cypher to exist. It will fight relentlessly to close it down. Dancers must constantly defend this assault. This is done by two primary means:

• A dancer must always be present in the middle. One leaves, another enters and so on. Downtime in the cypher makes it vulnerable to closing. Without a dancer in the middle, the cypher no longer has a purpose. It becomes a group of people staring at nothing.

• Those on the edge of the circle must consciously defend the bounds of the cypher, preventing those who are unaware of the rules from entering. Friends don’t let friends get bumped into by drunk idiots walking through the circle unannounced.


“If you’re not playing the game, you don’t belong on the edge.”
Imagine if this was a fan instead of a player.

5. The cypher’s edge may only be occupied by participants

Are you a great dancer? An OG’s wife? The proud father of a child prodigy? Congratulations. Are you a participating dancer in the cypher? If not, back off the edge of the circle and let dancers get in.

The edge is to dancers what the on-deck box is to baseball players. If you’re not playing the game, you don’t belong there. On a small side-note, while it’s not a well-established rule, it’s always appreciated when those on-deck remain in crouched positions so that non-participants can see the action. However, if you’re in a full sitting position, ask yourself — are you a participant in this cypher? Probably not. Back off the edge. You are a fire hazard.


“What do sticky and slippery floors have in common?”

6. There are no drinks allowed in the cypher

I don’t care how much your overpriced booze or water cost you. It stays on the edge of the circle, preferably with a homie, significant other or some poor schmuck you conned into holding it along with your keys, hat, sunglasses, four changes of clothes and the rest of whatever you stuffed into the entire backpack you needed to bring onto the dancefloor to feel comfortable.


“I don’t care if you refer to your prop manipulation as ‘dance.’”
Go somewhere else. Like outside.

7. No props allowed

I’m not talking about chest-bumping your brotege after they throw down a dope set. I’m talking about poi spinning, glowsticking, hula hooping, etc. I don’t care if you refer to your prop manipulation as “dance.” Go start your own cypher. Wearable props like hats, handkerchiefs and backpacks are acceptable deviations to this rule.

Don’t get me wrong. I love object manipulation (juggling, flowarts, whatever you prefer). But if you’re taken aback by this rule, check out #8 and #9 for some clarification.


“Don’t disrespect what someone else built.”

8. Respect the vibe

Every cypher is its own unique and delicate snowflake. Some cyphers are chill while others are competitive. Some are open to all-styles while others are full of b-boys who want to keep it that way. Some were built by novices and others by veterans. Don’t go jumping into a cypher the first second you see open space thinking you’re welcome to come and go as you please.

Lurk. Observe. Take notes. Is this the type of cypher for you? If not, go make your own. Don’t disrespect what someone else built.


“…by all means, break any of the previous rules!”

9. An outrageous display of skill can nullify most of the previous rules

Are you a ballerina contortionist plate spinner that juggles chainsaws for Cirque Du Soleil?

Please, by all means, break any of the previous rules to get in that spotlight and entertain the shit out of people!