The woman who ran our dancing class when I was 12 had hair of an unbelievable red, skirts that whirled and a voice to cow the most reluctant boy into some semblance of a waltz.

We went, not because we yearned to tango, but because, for the first time in our young lives, a social distinction was being drawn between boys and girls. Sex, be it ever so humble, led us to the dance.

After the '60s and '70s with their acid rock and Disco Dans and sex not humble at all, it would be nice to have a party recalling that gentler age, when a misstep in the dance was a faux pas and not another creative expression of self.

To hold a proper dancing party, you should beg, borrow or steal at least one potted palm for couples to sneak behind. (It is, however unlikely that many people still own white gloves, and we are all supposed to be past the age of sweaty palms anyway).

Food that can be grabbed between dances is more convenient than plates that need to be balanced on the knee. Although the growing-boys and growing-girls excuse can no longer be called into play, we can still claim that dancing works up such an appetite to explain the disappearance of trays of sandwiches, plates of cookies and the steadily decreasing level in the punch bowl.

And if the sandwiches are now pate and country-smoked ham, and the punch bowl benefits from a stronger bite than ginger ale, age must have its privileges.

The only thing that is essential to this party is the dancing instructor. None of the places below guarantee a red-haired termagant to march the dawdlers into place, but they provide instructors for your party -- either teaching ballroom steps or disco, although two places mentioned that disco is on the way out and the future belongs to ballroom and the Big Bands. d

The Du Shor Dance Club, 7235 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda (656-7434):

Rates vary according to the distance traveled, the number of people who will be there, etc. You'll have to explain what you have in mind to find out what they'll charge, although they did quote a range of $25 for right around the corner, to as much as $100 if you're out Baltimore way.

Miriam's School of Dance, 8020 New Hampshire Ave., Langley Park (434-4448): Ruth Davidson quotes a rate that varies from $3 to $4 per person, depending on how large the group.

The Vic Daumit Dance Studios, 3333 Connecticut Ave. NW. (362-6600): Charges $5 per person, with a six-couple ($60) minimum. If you have 10 or more couples, they send two instructors, one male, one female.

The Dance Factory, 954 N. Monroe St., Arlington, Va., (527-4400):

$3 an hour per person, plus travel time and costs for the instructor.They prefer to work with groups of 15 to 20 people. Ask for Dennis Schroeder to find out what it would cost to have a teacher come to your house.