Entering a new social group can be daunting; and even after participating for a while you still may find yourself unsure about what some of the social rules are. Here are some guidelines that are observed in most swing dance scenes around the world. When you are unsure ask someone.
The Ten Dance Commandments for Social Dancers
i. You are Responsible for Yourself
- Speak up if something makes you uncomfortable or hurts. The people you are dancing with are not mind-readers and may not be picking up on the subtle cues you are trying to give them. Speaking up in a kind and respectful manner is a good solution to the problem.
- Manage your own weight
To avoid injuries to yourself or others do your best to control your own movements especially in dips
- Acknowledge if you hurt someone
We all make mistakes, and one way to prevent them from being repeated in the future is to honour them in the present and create solutions for avoiding them.
ii. Execute Good Floorcraft
- Always look before swinging out (Follows too!)
- Keep your kicks and steps small and toward the floor
- Don’t flail your limbs about on a crowded floor
The safety and comfort of all dancers is a high priority in our community. More awareness is good.
iii. Practice Good Hygiene
- Brush your teeth to avoid bad breath
- Wear deodorant (or alternative)
- Bring a towel for excess sweat
- Bring a change of shirt
Remember you are dancing close with a person for 2-6 minutes and you want them to enjoy it. Also note that some people are really sensitive and even allergic to perfumes and colognes so covering up body odor isn’t a preferred solution.
iv. Honour Others’ “No”
- Consent is a must at all times
- Try not to take it personally
- If possible, thank them for taking care of themselves
- The person’s response very well might have nothing to do with you
- This is an opportunity to find someone who is excited to dance with you
Receiving a no can be very difficult and upsetting and you are completely allowed to have those feelings. Please do your best to respect your fellow dancers if they give you a no. In that moment they are following Commandment number 1 and taking care of themselves. If you are concerned that you have offended or hurt them we invite you to be brave and ask them if their no has anything to do with past dances or conversations.
v. Ask People to Dance
- Anyone can ask someone to dance regardless of gender
As a dance community we don’t believe that only men can ask women, or that you have to be different genders to dance together either.
vi. Absolutely No Aerials on the Social Floor
- No jumps • No lifts • No precarious dips without prior consent
- The only exceptions are performances and Jam circles
- Aerials require trust, earn it
This commandment exists for the safety of the people you are dancing with, yourself, and everyone around you.
vii. Do Not Teach on the Social Floor
- You may share basic steps but the social floor is for dancing and having fun
- Do not help people who have not asked, this rarely ends well emotionally
Please leave the teaching to the teachers and support your local classes.
viii. Show Love to Bands and DJs
- Clap after every song for a live band
- Clap for DJs at the end of their set
ix. Be Kind
- Smile when you are dancing if you are enjoying yourself
- Say thank you after a dance to acknowledge the time you spent together
Note: Kindness is not to be confused with self-sacrificing. Please do not put someone else’s ego above your own personal comfort.
x. Be Respectful
- Of yourself and others
This very much includes personal boundaries. Always ask the person if you are not sure or need more clarification. Communication is your friend.
Here are a few more good things to keep in mind that didn’t exactly fit above.
- Designate one pair of shoes as your dance shoes. Keep them clean and don’t walk outside with them on. Some venues have nice dance floors and will stay nicer longer if you do this.
- Try to avoid death grips on your partner's hands, fingers, and arms. Not only is it uncomfortable but could lead to injury as well. If you are nervous we understand, but try to relax.
- Water bottles are encouraged at most venues. Ask the organizer if you are not sure.
- If the dance is at an establishment where food or drink is served, it is a good idea to support the venue by purchasing something while you are there. Especially if there is no cover.
- Never let your arm out to its full extension. One, because that is a really good way to hurt yourself. Two, because you are more likely to run into/step on someone else when you are doing that.
- Each scene, and teacher, has different rules for asking move/technique questions during a social dance. If you are unsure then just ask. Even if they don’t mind, keep the question short.
- Respect the venue. If you spill or break something please let an organizer know right away so it can be cleaned up or fixed. We understand that accidents happen and would like to be able to address it before any permanent damage is done (ex: stains).
Thank you very much for taking the time to read through this. Etiquette is not often addressed at such length but we believe that most people want to respect the seemingly unspoken rules of their new environment so we tried to be through. There are a lot of little things and we don’t expect everyone to be able to remember or apply them all the time, but the community benefits when we all try.