All Things Swing: Etiquette for Swing Dances

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By the early 20th Century Swing dance took a hold of the nation and made its mark on music, fashion and pop culture as a whole. Since times have changed so drastically over the past century, some rules of the dance and social sphere have changed along with it. The rules of etiquette are designed to enhance comfort, overall enjoyment as well as safety.

1. No aerials
With the exception of jam circles and performances, it is a general rule to avoid performing aerials on the social dance floor for safety reasons. There are cases where dancers have been seriously injured and in a rare case, killed while attempting complex lifts. Where the outer rim of the floor is dedicated to faster moving dancers in ballroom, in swing dance this isn’t the case. Since everyone is mixed together on a crowded floor, it is especially important to watch out for other dancers in this style of dance.

2. Stay home
Although the swing bug is wonderful to spread around, any other type of bug should be kept to yourself… at home. However if you are out and need to sneeze, cough, or are just getting over a cold, be sure to cough into your arm and not your hand. Also use hand sanitizer and wash hands throughout the night so that you don’t literally spread your bug to everyone else!

3. ‘S’ is for swing and for sharing
I recently discovered that it is customary to dance just one or two songs in a row with someone before moving on to the next partner at many swing dances. If you wish to continue with the same partner, it is suggested to seek him or her again later in the evening rather than monopolizing them for multiple songs in a row. The up side is that you will get to meet and dance with many other dancers.

4. Join the inner circle
Birthday jam circles are a lot of fun and also a great way to meet other dancers while practicing your best moves. Regardless of your level, feel free to join in, just be aware of the people dancing just before and after you.

5. Save the teaching for the classroom
Not teaching others on the dance floor applies in the Lindy world just as much as in any other social dance scene. It seems that no one enjoys being corrected or nagged if they didn’t ask for it. With the exception of a few special cases, teaching should be saved for class.

6. Accidents happen
It’s always good idea to apologize after stepping on or bumping into someone on the dance floor. An apology is also in order if someone is accidentally touched inappropriately. If it is intentional or repeated, be sure to let a staff member know.

6. Staying fresh
Personal hygiene recommendations apply most everywhere, but in high energy swing dance, it is a good idea to bring an extra shirt. With swing dance being so fast paced, participants can work up such a sweat that a change of clothes along with a towel and deodorant are great to have on hand.

7. Friendly demeanor
Don’t forget to smile and make eye contact with your partner. Whether or not you know them well, it helps to establish a good connection and makes the over all experience more enjoyable for everyone.

8. Be inclusive
Doesn’t mean that you have to dance with everyone all the time, but at least acknowledge your fellow swing enthusiasts and dance with as many different people as you can, including newbies. It’s great to meet new people and be a part of another dancers journey.

9. Dance to the level of your partner
More advanced dancers should always dance to the experience level of their partner, and not blame them or make a big deal when mistakes are made. We all have to start somewhere!

10. Being sensitive to partner’s preferences 

Some dancers don’t like a lot of spins, while others don’t like to be dipped and so on. It never hurts to find out what your partners preferences are to avoid what’s uncomfortable and maximize your dance experience.


To get your own swinging dance party started, check out these songs below!

Jumpin’ At the Woodside – Count Basie

Sugar Foot Stomp – Benny Goodman Orquestra

Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho – Sidney Bechet

For Dancers Only – Jimmie Lunceford

Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Elvis Presley

Lavender Coffin – Lionel Hampton

Jump Session – Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart

One O’clock Jump – Count Basie

Take The “a” Train – Duke Ellington

Gangbusters – The Cats and The Fiddle



By |2014-06-02T05:04:54+00:00May 20th, 2014|Swing Dancing, Dance Guide|0 Comments

About the Author:

Having fearlessly explored every continent, Nneka is multi-lingual and passionate about travel, culture and life. A SDSU alumni, she has worked in KTVU Fox's newsroom, interviewed notable figures and hosted programs for various media outlets. She has also written features for The San Leandro Times and Also a seasoned performer and fitness professional, Nneka holds several fitness certifications, has shared the stage with entertainment icons, and has appeared on various TV Shows. Follow her global adventures in the arts and beyond on IG @nnekaworldtrekker.