Safety and Etiquette in Swing Dancing
At The Swing Era we believe everyone should have an enjoyable and safe experience while attending our classes and events. We strongly advise all our new and existing dancers to carefully read our Code of Conduct and Dance Etiquette below and we encourage everybody to implement these rules to create a safe dancing community.
CODE OF CONDUCT
This Code of Conduct is based on The Swing Era’s vision and the STEPS Code ( Safety, Trust, Engagement, Prevention, Support).
The following Code of Conduct applies to EVERYONE attending any of The Swing Era events, including members of staff, students, volunteers and visiting teachers:
- We will be NICE to everyone and treat all people with respect. We will not harass anyone. We will be kind to everyone and respect other people’s views and opinions and not engage in gossip. No one knows what is going on in each other’s lives so be kind and people will return the favour.
- We will NOT DISCRIMINATE according to sex, gender expression or sexual orientation, nor race, religion, or nationality. We will treat everyone equally, regardless of age, ability, physical appearance, lifestyle, dance experience or dance role.
- We will be INCLUSIVE and invite others to dance and we will be gracious if turned down. We may say no without giving a reason, but we will be polite when doing so. If we do promise to dance later on, we will honour that promise.
- We acknowledge that everyone has a different dance paths and we will respect that journey by being PATIENT with each other, understanding that we all learn at different speeds. We will NEVER give unsolicited feedback about the dance in any class or social event to other students or teachers, unless specifically asked to do so.
- We will attend classes and events with a positive, friendly, approachable and open attitude, ready to learn and have fun. We will be OPEN to feedback from our teachers about our development to ensure we will get the most out of our dance journey.
- We will be RESPONSIBLE for our own physical safety and that of others nearby. We will practice safe floor-craft and say sorry if we accidentally bump into another person. We will not give instruction or teach, nor perform aerials on the social dance floor. If we consume alcohol we will do so responsibly, and if we are drunk enough to pose a risk to ourselves or others, we will leave the dance floor and retire to the bar.
- We will take CARE of our own personal hygiene, and bring towels, spare clothing, extra deodorant and take a shower before class or event if necessary. We will make sure that we will wear fresh clothes to class (e.g. after coming straight from work). We will be considerate when choosing our clothing, footwear, and accessories and we will not wear anything that is potentially hazardous to ourselves or to others. We will not wear our clothes in an indecent way, which may be offensive to others.
- We will be RESPECTFUL and acknowledge that the personal boundaries of others may not be the same as our own. We will be mindful of the appropriateness of language that some may find offensive. We will not touch anyone without consent and we will apologise immediately if we unintentionally touch a person’s private areas.
- We UNDERSTAND that following the above guidelines ensures a better experience for everyone and that participating in any kind of verbal, physical or sexual harassment or abuse will have CONSEQUENCES. This may include, but is not limited to, being asked to leave without refund and exclusion from future classes and events.
- We, the organisers, PROMISE to treat any reports made, from dancers in our home scenes or elsewhere, with sensitivity and to keep all details as confidential as is possible (however, in the event of a police investigation, all information will become disclosable).
*We encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed intimidating or inappropriate behaviour to tell an organiser.
At The Swing Era your suggested points of contact are Martyn Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org ), Suzanne Grubham (email@example.com) or Kimberley Biddle (firstname.lastname@example.org) . If you prefer to talk in person, or would prefer to speak to another member of staff, you are welcome to do so at any event throughout the year.
If you’d rather speak to someone outside of our immediate group, all of the people listed here are ready to listen.
Safety People are available for discussion and reassurance, not just formal reports – please do tell us about your concerns, even small ones – we’re here for you!
Safety in Swing Dance organisers and teachers will happily provide support to anyone experiencing problematic behaviours in the Swing dance scene, not just our own dancers and students, see the entire Safety in Swing Dance website for more details.
Further reading and support
What is Harassment? Read the Equality Act 2010
Contact the West Midlands Police for advise and support through their Advice Centre
Contact the local team of West Midlands Victim Support to get advise and support
Please also watch this brilliant video by SwingAUT
Try to dance with a wide range of people at different ability levels, even if you don’t know them
As Swing is a very social dance, with lots of people asking each other to dance on and off the floor, you don’t have to walk someone off of the dance floor (unless you want to). But exchange a cordial “thanks” before departing.
Sometimes, those who are not welcoming to you are shy; sometimes they are arrogant. Sometimes the shy ones will come out of their shell with time or poking. Sometimes the arrogant ones will realize they are being arrogant. Sometimes their behavior will change; sometimes it won’t.
How many times should you dance with the same person?
On Appearance & Odours
We do not live in a time where people are likely to tell you to your face that you smell bad or that you have reached a level of sweat that is abhorrent to the general touch. Therefore, people must learn to police themselves:
Between dances, touch your own shirt sleeve if you are a leader, or the back of your shirt if you are a follower. If you find you gross, others probably will too.
Avoid wearing clothing that shows a lot of bare skin — leaders, especially make sure the shoulders are covered, and followers, especially make sure the back is covered. Those places are, after all, where our partners put their hands. And even though sweaty fabric can be gross, it is generally much more pleasing to put a hand on than sweaty skin.
Your hair-cut may be likely to fling sweat on your partner. Sometimes even into their mouths. Or, if it’s very long, it may whip them as you turn. If your hair cut is susceptible to these, use sweat towels or hair bands accordingly.
If you sweat through shirts or other tops, bring a fresh change of clothes. You may want to bring extra for the car ride home.
Pay special attention to the effect your state will have on others. If you are sweaty and your partner is not, perhaps ask them to dance once you have changed.
Control your energy and adapt to the size of the space and the number of people around you.
Choose moves and variations wisely on crowded floors. Favour moves and variations you do well — it’s probably not the time to try the new “widow-maker” move you’ve thought about possibly working on at some point.
A further explanation: “Sorry!” upon the occasion of a dance floor collision does not necessarily mean “I’m at fault.” Often it means “Somehow we collided, but everyone seems fine and, well of course it happens, and I apologize if I was the one at fault.” But “Sorry!” is easier to say in the middle of a swingout.
However, if a collision you were involved in has caused another person to stop dancing, then stop your own dancing and check in to make sure everything is alright. If the collision was your fault, (1) figure out what you did wrong, (2) apologise and try to make amends, and (3) concentrate on changing your behavior so that it doesn’t happen again.
If another couple collided with you and one of them obviously hurt you or your partner and did not acknowledge it, diplomatically mention it to them (possibly waiting until the end of the song depending on the situation). They need to be aware that they did something that caused harm and didn’t know it.
A birthday jam is when a person with a birthday gets in a circle and gets new partners throughout a song. The goal of birthday jams is to give the person having a birthday a chance to shine and have partner after partner have a brief moment dancing with them. It is not the point of a birthday dance for people to fight over the birthday person or to try to “snatch” them away from other partners so much that it starts to look like a game where the goal is to try to steal as many times as you can.
It is also not the point for the birthday person to only dance with a couple of people. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join birthday jams. And yes, that means you, beginner dancer.
In birthday and other “steal” jams, give the previous partner a couple phrases before you cut in, and take a couple phrases yourself before passing the partner onto the next. If people try to butt in before you have a chance to finish your turn, don’t try to fight them, which often involves dragging the birthday partner around the floor — let them break in. It’s not worth the trouble. You can have your very own birthday dance with that person after the jam.
A few tips on jam circles:
Simple: Clap after every song. (Since we dance so much to recorded music, it can be easy to forget to clap when live musicians are tiring themselves out for our enjoyment on the stage.)
Consuming alcohol at a dance can mean you relax and enjoy yourself just that little bit more. However, make sure you are in control of yourself and move to the bar if you want to make drinking your main activity of the night.
Giving feedback, or teaching on the social floor
Generally speaking, this is a massive no-no. Giving unsolicited feedback to your partner is not a good idea, unless they are doing something that hurts you, or makes you uncomfortable. Even then, give this feedback politely and diplomatically.
If someone asks for feedback on their dancing, then go ahead! However, it might be a good idea to find a quiet corner to talk things through.
Teaching someone on a social dance floor is disruptive to the flow of a night of dancing, and can be construed as rude and arrogant. The same goes for classes; leave the teaching to the teachers. They have all the relevant knowledge and insurance to impart good dance practice. If you would like to teach someone a new move, schedule some practice time with them away from the social dance floor.
These are just some of the most common ways we approach etiquette in the modern swing dance world. And, again, remember our overall important swing rule: There are many different ways to do it. You may have a very good reason for not following some of the above advice.
As long as you conduct yourself in ways that respect yourself, your dance partner, and others on the floor, you’ve got the idea.
It is also a good idea to read through, and acknowledge, the Safety In Swing guidelines as found here: https://safetyinswingdance.com