Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dance v.

1. [16C+] to have sexual intercourse, used in a variety of phrs., see below; thus dancing, sexual intercourse.

2. [17C+] to be hanged, used in a variety of phrs., see below.

3. [mid-19C+] (also dance the stairs) to steal from first or higher floors, usu. in the daytime when residents are downstairs and not in bed.

Pertaining to sexual intercourse

In phrases

dance Adam’s jig (v.) [18C]
dance Barnaby (v.) [17C phr. dance barnaby, to enjoy oneself; ult. presumably a lost country dance] [17C]
dance on the mattress (v.) [late 19C–1920s]
dance Sallinger’s round (v.) (also dance Sallenger’s round, ...Sellenger’s round, ...Sellinger’s round, ...St. Lager’s round) [Sallenger, St Leger. ‘St Leger’s Round’ was a popular ballad c.1600, according to Nares, Glossary (1822), ‘of an indelicate character’]

[mid-17C–mid-18C] to have sexual intercourse; also as a n.

dance the buttock jig (v.) [19C]
dance the cushion dance (v.) [late 19C]
dance the Irish jig (v.) [18C]
dance the kipples (v.) [Scot. kipple, couple] [19C]
dance the married man’s cotillion (v.) [19C]
dance the matrimonial polka (v.) [19C]
dance the miller’s reel (v.) [18C]
dance the reel(s) of bogie (v.) [? ref. to river Bogie, Aberdeenshire] [18C]
dance the reels of stumpie (v.) [dial. stumpy, something stump-like, i.e. the penis] [late 18C–19C]
dance the shaking of the sheets (without music) (v.) (also dance to the tune of the shaking of the sheets) [SE shaking of the sheets, ‘an old country dance, often alluded to, but seldom without an indecent intimation’ (Nares, Glossary, 1822)]

[19C] to have sexual intercourse; also as a n.

dance with one’s arse to the ceiling (v.) [19C]
do a bit of (bum) dancing (v.) [mid–late 19C]

Pertaining to judicial hanging

In phrases

dance at the sheriff’s ball (v.) (also dance at the sheriff’s ball and loll out one’s tongue at the company) [late 18C–early 19C]
dance in/on a rope (v.) (also )

[mid-17C–1940s] to have sexual intercourse; thus dancing of the ropes, an act of sexual intercourse; rope-dancer n., a person who engages in such an act.

dance old boss’s jig (v.)

[mid-19C] (UK und.) to be hanged.

dance off (v.) [1930s] (US)
dance on/in (the) air (v.) (also dance on)

[late 18C–1940s] to hang; also as n. dance in the air.

dance on nothing (v.) (also dance on nothing in a hempen cravat, ...to the tune of a tolling bell) [the sheriff has jurisdiction over the hanging, thus the sheriff’s door is that of a prison, outside which the hanging took place; hempen cravat under hempen adj.]

[18C–1930s] to hang; also as n., a judicial hanging.

dance the Newgate hornpipe (v.) [Newgate, the site of London’s major prison and public executions] [late 18C–mid-19C]
dance the Tyburn hornpipe on nothing (v.) [the role of Tyburn as an execution ground] [late 18C–mid-19C]
dance the Tyburn jig (v.) (also do the Tyburn jig) [Tyburn, the site of London’s main 18C gallows, was in the then village of Paddington, near the modern Marble Arch] [late 17C]
dance upon nothing (v.) (also dance on nothing in a hempen cravat, ...to the tune of a tolling bell, stand on nothing) [the sheriff has jurisdiction over the hanging, thus the sheriff’s door is that of a prison, outside which the hanging took place; hempen cravat under hempen adj.]

[18C–1930s] to hang; also as n., a judicial hanging.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

dance a haka (v.) [Maori haka, a posture dance, accompanied by chants; a war-dance]

[1940s–50s] (N.Z.) to express one’s pleasure.

dance a lunching-drum (v.)

[mid-19C] (Aus. und.) for a sneak-thief to rob hotel rooms.

dance in the hog trough (v.) (also dance in the pig trough) [? to have no suitors and have, therefore, to dance with the swine] [mid-19C] (US)

of an older sister, to be left unmarried when a younger sister has already found a husband.

dance in the sandbox (v.) [var. on SE throw sand in one’s eyes]

[1960s] (US black) to scheme, to deceive.

dance on someone’s lips (v.) (also dance on someone, ...someone’s face) [1980s+] (US black)

1. to hit in the face.

2. to kick in the face.

dance someone around (v.) (US)

1. [1970s] to deceive, to ‘mess around’.

2. [1980s] to harass, to pressurize.

dance the stairs (v.)

see sense 3 above.