RSJ’s Beginner’s Guide to Socials!

With so many new students moving through our classes at the moment we thought it might be helpful to compile a Guide to Socials to give first timers a rough idea of how to prepare for and what to expect from the first time they head out to a dance.

What to wear!?!

At Swing Jam anything goes; some dancers like to dress up in full vintage, some prefer to dress down in jeans and tshirts. However you like to dress we’ve got some tips and ideas that might help you and your fellow dancers enjoy the evening more comfortably:

1. SPARE SHOES – One’s Company: Two’s a Spare!

Dancers often have [at least] two pairs of shoes with them not including the ones they arrive in:

  • for a change in friction
    At Swing Jam on the Watlington Floor: leather is slippy, suede a little less so, rubber is sticky
  • for a change in heel
    e.g. having a pair of comfy flats on hand after some time in heels is a godsend
    General Rule: if you wouldn’t want to be stepped on with it, don’t wear it.
    Avoid sharp heels and stelletos are a no-no! If you prefer heels we recommend a sturdy cuban and please watch your step/kick!
  • incase of wardrobe malfunctions
    broken heels, snapped laces or straps
    Top Tip: Don’t wear shoes that will come off your feet easily e.g. blackless sandles or ballerina pumps.

2. EXTRA SHIRTS – Keepin’ it Nice ‘n’ Dry!

There’s no way around it, dancing is sweaty business and dancers are fairly accustomed to it but there are somethings that you can do to stay within the realms of social acceptability especially when partner dancing.

1.) Layers

Wearing a top or tshirt beneath your shirt, blouse or dress puts an extra absorbent layer between your sweat and your partner.
Top Tip:  If you’re wearing a white or light colour shirt grey vests underneath are less visible than white and black shirt show up sweat less than coloured or grey shirts.

2.) Spares

Take spare shirts/tops with you to a dance and change them regularly.
Top Tip: A handkerchief or small towel can also be useful, and a paper fan can feel divine after a fast track!

3. UNDER-SKIRT SHORTS – Confidently covered

With all the spinning, kicking and sometimes jumping, wearing shorts beneath swirly dresses and skirt can mean the ability to dance without concern about wardrobe malfunctions or having to constantly fiddle with rising hemlines.

Fashion Tip: So called ‘safety pants’ needn’t just be about modesty but can also be an added opportunity for accessorising, e.g. wearing brightly coloured shorts beneath a plain or dark skirt so that there’s a flash of colour when skirts are swirling around.

Smellin’ of Roses!

Dressing up or dressing down, your fellow dancers will expect a standard level of personal hygiene when partner dancing.


Whilst we know you’re going to get sweaty from dancing it’s still common courtesy to turn up to a dance freshly showered and clean. Please wash your hands before and after picking up cakes from the shared platters.
RSJ’s Got Your Back: You can find hand sanitiser gel on the refresherments table at our Swing Jams


Please ensure that you’re wearing suitable deodorant before attending a dance so what once you do start working up a sweat, it’s more moisture than smell. It can also be a good idea to bring your deodorant for top ups when necessary.
RSJ’S Got Your Back: Forgot your deoderant? We supply the ladies’ and gents’ restrooms with deoderant just incase.


Like the showering thing, it’s only polite to brush your teeth before a dance (or even a class if possible), especially if you’ve been eating smelly foods such as garlic, curry or mackerel. Eating a mint after smoking or drinking tea, coffee or strong smelling energy drinks is definitely recommended. If chewing gum, please chew with your mouth closed, dispose of the gum in an rubbish bin and avoid chewing on the dancefloor.
RSJ’S Got Your Back: We have supply our Swing Jams with mints for just this reason!

Please, Thank You & I’m Sorry

There is a little etiquette at swing dances but on the whole it’s really common sense and politeness really…


Anyone can ask anyone to dance. It’s not a leader’s thing or a follower’s thing, it’s a dancer’s thing! All you need to do use your words and ask!

“Hi, would you like to dance?”

Feeling nervous? Let your partner know. Everyone was a beginner once and if you let your partner know your level when you’re nervous it’ll give them the chance to either say “Hey me too!” or remember what it was like when they were in your shoes.


If you feel like dancing, accept the offer with a “Yes, please”. At this point, if you’re not already acquainted, introduce yourself.

If you don’t feel like dancing – for any reason – decline with a “No, thank you.” If you can – and you don’t have to – give a reason e.g. “I’m sitting this one out”, “I don’t like this song”, “This one is too fast/slow for me”, “I’m having a rest”, “I’d like to watch this one”

If you’d like to take up the offer later, say so and mean it: “I’d like to but not just now, can I come find you in a while?”


It’s everyone’s responsibility to look after themselves and each other at a social dance. That means:

  • Leads looking where they’re sending their follow.
  • Follows looking where they’re being sent.
  • Both follows and leads watching each other’s backs especially when one or both dancers are moving backward and
  • Both keeping an eye on other dancers, non-dancers and furniture nearby

Occasionally accidents happen and dancers collide. No matter who is at fault, you should acknowledge the others involved and where appropriate apologise. If it’s more than a small bump and someone’s been hurt, it’s courteous to stop dancing and make sure that the injured party is ok before continuing to dance.


At the end of the dance, it’s polite to thank you partner!