If you aren’t an organiser or teacher within the Swing scene, you may well be wondering how you can help – we’ve put together some suggestions for all social dancers wishing to contribute to a safer dance community, as well as some further reading.
What can dancers do to make dance events safer for all?
*Find out who is in charge of the event you are attending as soon as you arrive (or before).
*Ask people to dance, and be gracious if they refuse. If you are not sure how to respond to a refusal, try saying ‘no worries!’ and then move on to ask someone else. Remember, a refusal is not usually personal.
*If you do not wish to accept an invitation to dance, refuse politely, you don’t need to explain. Something like ‘no, but thanks for asking!’ works well.
*Try both dance roles, or dance with those that do.
*Aim to be an active follower and/or a reciprocating leader. Following does not necessitate passivity. Read Bobby White’s excellent blog post on Proactive Followers here.
*When talking about professional dance pairings, always use both dancers names (not “and partner”).
*If you see someone do a cool move or think they have great style, tell them! Don’t reserve compliments for advanced dancers.
*Try to adjust the way you dance to suit each dance partner. For leaders, this may involve, for example, choosing simpler moves for beginner follows, and leaving space for improvisation for advanced follows. Some followers will prefer not to be led in dips or multiple spins, so try to be sensitive to this. For followers, for example, this may involve simplifying (or omitting) footwork variations.
*Talk to those that also dance your primary role, especially new dancers. It’s easy to feel isolated when you are standing alone waiting for a new song to start or looking for someone available to dance with, or waiting for your friend to finish dancing with someone else. Simply saying hello can break that isolation.
*Don’t give unsolicited dance feedback, or teach during the social dancing part of the evening, not even if you are a dance teacher elsewhere. Workshops and lessons do sometimes facilitate the giving of feedback, but critiquing or correcting when social dancing isn’t polite.
*Apologise if you bump another person on the dance floor, apologise if you bump your dance partner. Apologise if you accidentally touch an area of the body that is private, sexual, or just totally out of the realm of legitimate holds or moves of the dance you are participating in.
*Don’t perform aerials on the social dance floor (jam circles may be an exception, check with the organisers). Don’t attempt to lead follows into aerials without warning, and considerable prior rehearsal.
*When choosing your outfit for the evening, do consider how it will function when dancing. For instance, those 20’s style tasseled dresses can loop over shirt buttons in an alarming way, watches with metal straps can catch in a partners hair, and spike heels are dangerous for everyone. Swing dancing is a physical activity, and while we very much encourage everyone to dress in their own style, and for their own comfort, it is important to consider how your clothes will hold up to movement. For instance, short skirts usually require ‘safety shorts’ underneath!
*When drinking alcohol, do consider that as when driving (or playing pool!) your judgement may be impaired, and you could put yourself and others in a position of unnecessary danger. Many Swing dance events take place in licensed venues, and are only for the over 18s, so imbibing *is* welcome. However, being able to discern when you’ve had enough and that the time has come to stop dancing and retire to the bar for the rest of the evening is a very useful skill.
*If anyone tells you that your actions are hurting them or making them uncomfortable, stop it, and thank them for telling you. Seek advice from teachers and organisers on how to prevent repeating these actions.
*If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable mid dance, ask your partner to stop the behaviour. If they refuse, stop dancing and leave the floor.
*Report inappropriate behaviour that you’ve experienced or witnessed, either in person to an organiser, or via email, later on. Try and ascertain what you would like to happen, does the person in question just need a quiet word about ways to be less yanky and painful? Or is it more serious?
*Encourage and support your friends so they too can report inappropriate behaviour.
*If you’ve any concerns at all, please talk to a Safety Person, no topic is too small and coming to us directly can help to minimise unfair gossip and hearsay. Rumours rarely inspire positive action, so talk to us early on and we’ll figure out the next bit together!
*If your local scene or group does not have a published code of conduct, ask them if they will consider one and offer to show them examples of currently existing codes. Our resource page has relevant links. It’s worth noting though, that many scenes have been successfully handling safety concerns behind the scenes for many years, and are only just becoming aware of the importance of more visible safety policies. They may already have plans in the pipeline!
*Remember, it is the actions of individuals that set the tone for the whole group, so your input is invaluable!
Read more on Ettiquette and Floor-craft at Bobby White’s excellent “Swungover” blog.
Read a general introduction to Swing dancing and how to get the most out of it on Bobby White’s excellent “Swungover” blog.
In fact, we very much recommend reading Bobby White’s excellent “Swungover” blog!