Why Dance Lighting Matters

Having DJ’d thousands of events, I’ve been able to observe and identify the common denominators that will determine whether you have a hugely successful dance party or an event that is less than amazing.

When I dug deeper into the social and physiological cues I saw affecting guests at every event, I realized there are several crucial factors to ensuring a great party environment that (when on point) works in the room’s best interest and sadly (when not on point) sometimes against them.

Lighting affects the environment in many ways regarding room décor: enhancing the venue, drawing attention to the flowers, etc., which is often where most clients allocate their budget.

But for now…just imagine this:  It’s now about an hour into your reception or party. Dinner service was fantastic; everyone is almost finished eating.  Now is the official time to open the dance floor and get the party started.

You look around the beautifully detailed and decorated room. Someone spent a lot of money on this!   Finally, your eyes come to rest at the center of the room on the dance floor. You know, the place where you want the most amount of energy to be created for the longest duration of the entire event.

And it looks like this:

Or worse like this:


You’ll notice nothing about this image says, “come here, because this is where all the fun and energy will be tonight so get excited!”  In fact, do you think people have even notice this area yet? If they have, I’ll bet they are in no rush to get out there.

Often, what might compound the problem is whether the bar or photo booth are awfully far away from the dance floor and have lured many of the guests away. On average, you can expect only about 40% of your guests to dance at any one time assuming the bar is close and photo booth doesn’t interfere. So with those other factors, perhaps now there are only about 20% of your guests available to dance and on top of that, if the floor is way too big, it’s not ever going to appear like the party is “jamming” so consequently we eventually lose that 20% also and now have an empty floor.

Room layout and logistics are part of this equation but lighting is the main factor I want you to consider right now. From a psychological perspective, people need to have already built some type of comfort or connection with a space before they let their guard down and open up emotionally.

It’s the same reason why if you are sat at a table at a restaurant right next to the kitchen, or perhaps in the center of the room where you are surrounded by activity, you are never able to fully relax to be in the moment and enjoy your meal. You’ll stay long enough to eat, but you won’t linger and most likely will leave faster than if you were nestled into a corner booth.

People are highly aware of their surroundings and their brains are constantly making assessments to determine threat level vs. comfort level. The more inviting and soothing an environment, the faster the subconscious defenses go down and a person is more open to having fun and letting loose.

There have been dozens of scientific studies in the fields of architecture, interior design, psychology, sociology, anthropology and geography on how environment affects the occupants. Most research has reached a basic consensus that the physical & social environment has an impact on human comfort and behavior.

3 Key impacts of PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

  1. Studies show that physical distance represents a major determinant of social influence.  The psychosocial buffer between individuals and their physical environment plays a big role in determining how that interaction unfolds.  In other words, how far or close the tables are in relation to each other and to the dance floor along with bar placement will influence the flow of people and where they determine they are most comfortable.
  2. The physical environment can affect or interfere with the quality and frequency of social interaction.  
  3. The layout of a space and social interaction reciprocally influence each other.

SOURCES:  Physical space and social interactions-    Jay L. Brand, PH.D.

So back to lighting: Color elicits emotions and subconscious physiological responses.

Having a killer DJ/MC who is able to motivate guests through music selection and announcements is key, but what else can you do to help to change the energy/vibe in the room to get your guests in the mood to dance? 

The easiest ways to add an element of excitement to your party: Dance Floor Lighting.

Colorful, moving lights poured over the dance floor area create a visual effect that helps get people in the mood and dramatically enhances the energy that is perceived VISUALLY.

Many studies show that LIGHTING has a major impact in how an environment feels and thus the emotions that are created within the people observing it.

This is one of the reasons why Night Clubs have advanced dance floor lighting systems and special effects installed.  They are hoping to create high levels of energy and excitement using the lights while crowds dance in large, dimly lit spaces.

Lighting not only makes the room & dance floor more appealing, but it can work like a blanket to calm shy guests and draw people in like a tractor beam simultaneously.

By dimming the room lights after dinner and having lighting, color or patterns illuminating the dance floor, it focuses people’s attention and pulls them in that direction.

It’s like a big stamp on that area that says, “It’s GO time, so get over here and party!”

Dance lighting works especially well to add extra feeling to the first dance and parent dances.  

Would you prefer your first dance looked like this?

Moving heads allow us to spotlight you and give a more cinematic look for your photos:

Do prefer the bouquet toss to look like this?

OR THIS?

Cake Cutting like this?


Or THIS?

Not all clients find colored lighting attractive and worry it will look to “clubby” or “flashy”

In this case then we can switch to some warm color washes or breakout patterns that still achieve most of the goals we’ve discussed without being too over the top.

Hopefully as these photos have demonstrated, another huge benefit to adding dance (and décor) lighting is that it will greatly enhance the results of your photos and video.

Make no mistake, when done correctly lighting is an art form.

Every venue is different thus no one package fits all.

It’s important for your DJ or lighting company to be familiar with (or visit) the venue and understand how lighting should be applied to create the desired effects and optimize the room.

I realize as a client every item feels like an upsell, but trust me when I tell you that lighting will make a huge difference in helping the DJ to create and maintain a packed dance floor all night long and should not be overlooked. Make sure you’ve adjusted your budget so you can afford to invest in the real estate that you want to be visited most during the event.

P.S. Another way to really make the dance area feel special is by using custom dance floors in various colors such as white, checkered, black or even an LED floor.

And lastly, using a low lying fog machine can create a truly magical moment.