A Beginner’s Guide to our Lindy Hop Classes!

So you’d like to start swing dancing but not sure what to expect from class? Check out this lil’ guide to our beginner classes with helpful tips for how to make the most of your new journey into Swing dancing!

Full details about our classes can be found on our webpage and on the Reading University Swing Dance Society facebook group.

What is Lindy Hop?

Lindy hop is a lively partner dance developed by the African American community during the swing jazz era of the late 1920s. Since it’s beginnings in the ballrooms and dance halls during the Harlem Renaissance, in New York, it quickly spread across the continent and crossed the seas. Today you can find swing dance scenes on every continent and all over the world!

What we teach is based on that original dance but of course as a living art form, it has developed and evolved a little since then, so mightn’t look exactly like the clips from the black and white films. Lindy hop is our primary dance focus in class but from time to time we also like to teach a taster class or two of one of the related swing dances like solo jazz, balboa, blues or collegiate shag for example, variety being the spice of life and all that.

All Welcome – Students & Non-Students

Our lindy hop classes are run in conjunction with Reading University Swing Dance Society, but you don’t have to be a student to join in, non-students are also welcome. Please see the RUSDS website for details about class prices and join the RUSDS facebook group for class updates and announcements.

No Partner Necessary!

Lindy hop is a partnered dance but you do not have to come with a partner to join our classes. During class we change partners often so you not only get to meet new people but you improve your dancing by learning to adapt to different partners.

That said, in our current covid times, if you’d prefer to stick with one partner or within a bubble of your choice, this is ok too. We’ll allocate those not wishing to change partners space to one side of the room so you can partake in class without mingling if you don’t wish to.

Lead or Follow?

In partner dancing there’s usually a leader and a follower. In broad terms, a leader initiates a movement and a follower completes it. Anyone can be a leader, anyone can be a follower! These roles are in no way gender specific, in fact many people do both, and dancing both roles is often referred to as called switching or being ambidancetrous. You will usually be asked to chose to either lead or follow for the duration of a class to keep things simple and avoid confusion, particularly when you’re first starting out, but we encourage everyone to try both roles at some point, as it’ll greatly improve your dancing and broaden your empathy.

What to Wear…?

Swing dancing is energetic, so the best thing to wear is going to be anything that lets you move freely and won’t make you too hot. Jeans or casual trousers are fine so long as you can move easily in them e.g. not too tight. Similarly skirts and dresses are fine too provided that they’re not restrictive, e.g. pencil skirts that may limit movement or long skirts could trip you up.
Pro tip: If wearing a skirt that flares out when you turn, having some shorts underneath means you can dance without care or worry over rising hemlines.

Shoes

What you wear on your feet is important too! We generally recommend flat shoes that will stay on your feet e.g. shoes with laces or ankle straps. Canvas pumps or similar are generally a good place to start. Sandals, flip-flops and high heels are discouraged for your health and safety, and that of your partners too. You may find some rubber soles too grippy for comfort, so perhaps bring a second pair with a different kind of sole to try out.

What to Bring…?

Spares

Having spare shirts/tops with you is recommended for your comfort and the comfort of your partners – dancers often change their shirts multiple times in an evening.
Pro-tip: wearing a t-shirt or vest underneath a shirt helps absorb sweat before it comes in contact with your partner.

Extras

  • Good personal hygiene is a must, so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before class and use hand sanitiser regularly between partners. We also recommend brushing your teeth before class, bring deodorant with you and perhaps having mints to hand.
  • Water! Make sure you bring a drink with you. Due to covid, we are not able to supply any water, cups or snacks, so please bear this in mind when preparing for class.
  • You might also find a fan, handkerchief and small towel useful. Again because of covid we recommending supplying your own and avoid sharing.
  • Notebooks are encouraged – keeping a diary of steps, feedback and notes in general is super helpful for improving your dancing, especially when practicing outside of class.

Practice Makes Perfect

The fun doesn’t end after class, in fact we’re only just getting started! Once class wraps up, the music will continue so you can practice what you’ve just learnt. It’s also a chance to get to know the other dancers in the class and your teachers too so staying on after class is strongly encouraged.

Social Dancing

Anyone can ask anyone to dance no matter your level, role or gender. All you need to do use your words, be polite and ask!  At the end of a dance it’s polite to thank your partner.

“Hi, would you like to dance?”

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

“Yes, please!”

If you feel like dancing, accept the offer with enthusiasm. If you’re not already acquainted, introduce yourself.

“No, thank you.”

If you don’t feel like dancing – for any reason – you can decline with a polite “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 for now”. If you’d like to take up the offer later that’s ok too but please say so and mean it: “I’d like to but not just now, can I come find you in a while?”

Feedback

Feedback is important to improving but it can be impolite to give feedback unsolicited, particularly on the social dance floor, so it’s best to ask first unless the feedback refers to something that is a health or safety risk e.g. indicating a required adjustment to avoid injury. Giving and receiving constructive feedback can be something of an art but if you’re unsure stick to the following guidelines:

  • Stick to first person observations e.g. “I’m feeling x…” or “I’ve notice that I’m doing y when we do z...”
  • Make suggestions one at a time e.g. “Could we try this move with more/less x…” or “I’d like to see if y happens if we z, could we try it?” It’s easy to overwhelm someone with a list of things to improve.
  • Always be polite: be aware that everyone is learning and dancing doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

Floorcraft & Common Sense

During both the class and during the social time after, it’s everyone’s individual responsibility to look after themselves. That means things like taking a break when you need to take a break, stopping if anything hurts and having a drink when you need to have a drink.

When dancing it is the responsibility of both partners to look out for each other. ‘Floorcraft’ is the term given to navigating the dancefloor and avoiding collisions when dancing. That means:

  • Leaders looking where they’re sending their followers.
  • Followers looking where they’re being sent.
  • Both followers and leaders watching each other’s backs especially when one or both dancers are moving backward and;
  • Both partners keeping an eye on other dancers, non-dancers and furniture etc nearby that could cause injury.

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.

Safe Spaces

It’s completely ok to stop dancing if something hurts or you feel that someone is doing something that puts you at risk, is dangerous or makes you uncomfortable – even if that person is more experienced or older than you. If you’re able, explain to your partner what the issue is and if you’re not able to it’s ok to just stop dancing – you can just say “I’m sorry, I need to stop dancing right now.” Please let a teacher or RUSDS committee member know about the issue so they can address it wherever possible.

Reading Swing Jam is committed to providing safe spaces to learn, dance and socialise and we’ll do our best to insure that all spaces are inclusive and accessible to ensure the happiness, health and safety of everyone involved. As part of that commitment, we ask everyone attending any RSJ class, workshop, social or event to be aware of and please abide by our Terms & Conditions, particularly the Code of Conduct. If you have any questions about our Terms & Conditions, or any suggestions of how we can improve our inclusivity and accessibility in class please feel free to chat to us after class or drop us a message at readingswingjam@gmail.com

Coping with Covid: A Guide for Reading Swing Dancers

Never fear, we will dance again! But in the meantime, I’ve compiled a few creative ideas and ways for our community to come together and look after ourselves and each other during these uncertain times.

These should only be considered in light of current medical and governmental guidelines with regards to containment, social distancing and social isolation and in all cases use common sense.

Volunteers: If anyone wants to take on any of these ideas as a project please feel free and let us know that you’re doing this so we can support you by spreading the word!

In all things please be safe and please be kind – we’re in this together!
Much Lindy Luv,
Jenn

Staying Active

Dancing Solo

Dancing with a partner might not be possible so it might be the perfect time to work on your own solo dancing. Learning Solo Jazz can help your partnered dancing but so can picking up some Solo Blues, Tap (you don’t need tap shoes to start with the basics), maybe try some Hip Hop choreography or Belly dance for something different? In the internet age the world is your mollusc. 

Dancing Chain Letter

Get playful with your Solo Jazz. Set up a Solo Jazz chain letter: 

  1. Choose a long swing song, ideally with Jazz phrasing if possible, and pick a main move we’ll call A e.g. Fall off the log and a break step we’ll call B, e.g. Shim Sham break and make a one phrase choreo of your selected main move x3 plus your chosen break step to create an AAAB pattern. 
  2. Film yourself dancing this once.
  3. Invite a friend to the game and if they consent send the clip them. 
  4. Your friend then needs to pick a main move and a break step to make their own phrase, just like you did. 
  5. They then film themselves dancing your phrase first, then their phrase. 
  6. They then need to send you their clip so you can see how the dance has developed and they forward it on to someone new to join the chain.
  7. Rinse and repeat until the song runs out.
Advanced Variations 
  • Instead of the AAAB pattern, try matching your choreo to the pattern in the phrase of the music you’re dancing to e.g.  ABAB, ABAC etc.
  • Instead of one move in an 8-count, consider splicing two or three moves together into a new 8-count combo.

Online Learning

With classes and events unable to run, there’s a lot of financial pressure on swing dance teachers and organisers. Please consider signing up to online classes and maybe buddy up with a friend or more to keep each other accountable virtually. 

Our Jenn Maghzal is looking into taking our Monday evening Solo Jazz classes virtual so make sure you sign up to the RSJ Solo Jazz & Charleston Class facebook group for updates, but there’s plenty out there to choose from – here’s just a small UK-based selection (more international offerings can be found on our links page):

  • David Zilkha
    David is offering 2-for-1 redeemable against a range of future events and classes with Swing Dance Bristol including their famous New Years’ Eve event.
  • Jenny Thomas
    The inmitable Jenny Thomas is setting up online learning, so keep an eye out on her website and social media for more info soon.
  • Sharon Davis
    Sharon’s going online too with her gorgeous swing style.
  • Swing Patrol Online Courses
    Check out this fab lineup of London teachers teaching online over the coming weeks.
  • Vintage Arts Asylum
    London-based dance collective supporting swing dance teacher, musicians, performers and artists offer online content and classes.

Cross Training

If dancing solo doesn’t work for you consider taking up another form of exercise such as running, yoga, calisthenics and cycling. It’ll be great for your mind and body as well as help you cross train ready for when we’re back dancing again. If you need accountability, buddy up and cheer each other on!

Walking

Great news! The National Trust has announced that although they’re closing their cafes and shops etc they’re aiming to keep open spaces accessible to the public. Getting out in nature is not only great for the body but also an excellent way to take care of your mental health too.

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. Buddying up with one or two others to go walking outdoors could be an option. Head somewhere with space enough that you can keep a safe distance apart as you walk and talk and remember the usual guidelines of washing hands regularly, coughing/sneezing into your elbow and avoiding physical contact.

Stay Social

Watch Parties

There are a bunch of different ways you can watch films together, if not y’know together together. Reading University Swing Dance Society hosted a successful Netflix Watch Party of the swing documentary Alive & Kicking this week, which allowed participants to watch the film simultaneously and use the chat function to talk about the film in real time. 

Or perhaps you could take it in turns with your friends curate a 15min playlist of your favourite dance clips on youtube chat about as you watch via the Whatsapp desktop client…

Resources & Recommendations

If you’ve got time on your hands why not get stuck into the history and culture of the dances we so love and enjoy. We’ve got a long list of resources on our website to start you off on a swing and blues rabbit-hole journey of learning and discovery! From books to podcasts, films to blogs, there’s bound to be something in there to pique your interest and broaden your horizons.

Why not create a collaborative playlist on Spotify with your friends and broaden your musical horizons? We’ve got loads of past Reading Swing Jam DJ sets available on Spotify to mine for new musical inspiration.

Mobile Library

Not everyone has access or finances for Netflix, Amazon etc. Pool your resources to create a collaborative list of books, DVDs and CDs with the group and if one of you has access to a vehicle, consider setting up a mobile library that drops off and picks up books from each other’s homes.

Look After Each Other

Virtual Tea & Chat

Coinsider scheduling a weekly 30min tea time chat by phone, conference call or video chat with folks your community so you can check in with each other and check on how everyone’s doing. Perhaps try extending this to a remote card or board games session?

Community Wish List

I’ve set up a community wishlist [google sheet] where folks in our community can dip in and help each other by exchange goods and services they may require but not have access to receiving. Anything from spare loo roll to a cup of sugar, a trip to the post office or corner shop to walking a dog. If you have something you could offer or something you’re in need of take a look and see if you can help a fellow dancer out somehow.

Support Local Music Makers

Those who make their living from their music could do with a little extra love during this time. Consider contacting the following and purchasing a song, a CD or signing up to their Patreons perhaps…

Local Vintage Style Makers & Sellers

Small businesses are going to suffer during this time. If you’re able to spare a penny and do a lil’ online shopping, here’s a list of some local makers to consider… 

  • Hedgerow Home
    Local dancer Chantal Steer finds vintage treasures for house and home.

Cook & Share

If baking is your thing perhaps you could bake some sweet treats and operate a small delivery service to cheer up dancers nearby. If you know someone in the community is unwell, perhaps putting together a care package for them with supplies to assist them while they’re isolated (remember to always check in with them for any allergies or dietary restrictions). 

10 Reasons You Should Swing Dance!

1. Get Out & Meet New People

With Winter approaching, now is the best time to start a new hobby that’ll get you out of the house at least once a week and mingling with a new crowd!

Swing dancing attracts people from all walks of life. At our Swing dance classes we change partners regularly so you get to meet a lot of new people in a fun and friendly environment. During the social/practice time after class and indeed at all our social events, all dancers are encouraged to ask each other to dance, no matter what your level (beginners through to advanced dancers) and no matter your primary/preferred dance role (lead, follow or switch).

If money’s tight, our classes with Reading University Swing Dance Society are the best bang for your buck in Reading and every third Sunday of the month at the Oakford Social Club we host a FREE social dance. Our Sunday Swing event is a particularly great event to get to know people within our scene as we enjoy a relaxed afternoon of dancing, dining and discourse!

2. Good For The Body

Dancing in general is excellent for improving fitness, coordination, rhythm, balance, body and spatial awareness and each Swing dance style has it’s particular benefits:

  • Lindy Hop and Collegiate Shag are typically fast and physical, guaranteed to raise your heart-rate, increase your blood-flow and make full use of those lungs.
  • Solo Jazz and Charleston will vastly improve your body awareness and coordination as you build up your repertoire of moves and focus on how you move yourself as a solo dancer, with the double-fold benefit of subconsciously developing your partner dance skills too. They’re also great for fitness when you crank up the tempo!
  • Blues, particularly at it’s slower tempos, is excellent for balance and core stability.
  • Balboa will help hone your more subtle rhythmic skills and finer motor skills with it’s fancy footwork.

So much variety and so many benefits to be had! At Reading Swing Jam we run weekly classes in Solo Jazz & Charleston, Lindy Hop and Blues and can recommend classes in other styles too.

3. Good For The Brain

Swing dancing of all kinds has many fold benefits on the brain. The exercise alone releases endorphins and happy hormones, providing those delightful warm and fuzzies that can light up your mood. The partnered holds of Lindy Hop, Collegiate Shag, Charleston, Balboa and, arguably most of all, Blues give us a chance for happy and healing platonic human touch and connection, which it could be said is somewhat absent from much of contemporary culture.

Then of course there are the benefits learning to dance, partnered or solo, on the brain itself. Learning new physical skills, new ways of communicating, adding layers and levels of bodily coordination as you progress through classes, building up mental as well as muscle memory for moves, patterns,  routines and sequences as well as listening to and developing an understanding and memory of songs, melodies and rhythms, all help build new neurological connections in the brain that help to keep your mind as fit and active as your body. There have even been research studies that suggest dancing can reverse signs of aging in the brain.

4. Challenge Yourself

Convinced you’ve got two left feet? A little intimidated at how new everything will seem? Attending that first class is often a big enough hurdle but every challenge is an opportunity to learn, grow and develop. Remember, you don’t have to be Fred Astaire after your first class! Going to a class is the perfect place to make mistakes, ask questions and practice.

If asking a more experienced dancer to dance seems too much just remember that everyone was a beginner once, and everyone had a first lesson, a first social dance, a first workshop and a first dance weekender… Being a beginner is a good thing! Even experienced dancers often re-energise their dancing by going back to beginner level classes in dance styles they’re not familiar with, or changing roles and learning to switch, or experiencing classes with different teachers who have different material and ways of communicating.

5. Great Music

There’s nothing quiet like the upbeat happy sound of Swing. There’s just something about it that makes you want to snap your fingers and tap your feet and no wonder Lindy Hop is widely considered the happy dance!

Don’t worry if it doesn’t click with you straightaway. There are so many sub genres of Swing Jazz and Blues that there’s bound to be a style that’ll speak to you, it’s just a matter of finding it and going out social dancing is an excellent way to discover new music or even better yet, dance to live music! There are two great local bands who perform monthly in Reading, The Silver Heels on the third Thursday of the month at the Global Cafe and the Ding Dong Daddios the last Thursday of the month at the Purple Turtle, and there’s always a group of dancers in the crowd.

6. There’s A Style To Suit Everyone

Swing dance is a broad umbrella term for a family of dance styles that developed around the 1920s-50s and are mostly danced to the Swing Jazz of that era, but each dance has it’s particular flavour and we recommend trying them all to find out which best suits your personality. Of course, there’s also nothing stopping you from learning them all too, and you’ll regularly find Lindy Hoppers who Shag, Shaggers who Bal, Balboaists who Blues, Bluesers who Charleston and Charlestoners that Solo Jazz, sometimes all in a single night out!

7. Indulge In Vintage Threads

Whether you like your threads authentically vintage or newly designed, it’s easy to find a style that suits your personality and budget.  Whether you prefer the flapper style of the 20s through to the hourglass silhouette of the rockabilly 50s, there’s something about the fashion of the era that almost always looks sophisticated and classy.  And it’s not just a ladies game, the gents get in on the action too with their slick hair and dapper suits. Local and independent retail legends, Frock & Roll on Watlington Street, are a great place to start when looking a fresh new outfit.

8. Plug Into A Welcoming Community

Swing dancing is so much more than just dance classes. It’s a vast local, national and international community of diverse people who all come together for a common passion. The Swing community is rich with opportunities to engage with different community niches, like fashion, history and music, and there’s a plethora of ways to get involved and contribute in your own way! Events regularly need volunteers to help set up and set down, door people to welcome guests, as well as DJing for socials after class and at events. Or perhaps you’re a performer and want to get involved in a performance troupe or a keen event organiser who loves planning and managing events. Get in touch with us if you’d like to be a regular volunteer or have something in particular you’d like to contribute!

9. Travel The UK & The World

Reading is a growing Swing dance scene with some kind of class or event happening almost every night of the week! But there’s also a whole world of dancing to be enjoyed beyond the boundary of our little town. Reading dancers are also a travelling lot who regularly head out of town to enjoy workshops, socials and weekenders all over the country and indeed the world! Check out Reading’s Big Red Dancing Fun Bus group on facebook for notices of where local dancers are travelling to next, including discussions about group travel.

10. Dig In To The History

Swing dancing is saturated with history; the contextual socio-political history of the era in which it developed, the history of the music, the history of the dance’s development and of it’s revival and more recent global expansion. There’s the history of the original first generation dancers, their memoirs and interviews. There’s the history of the venues where it was first danced and developed. There’s history in the fashion of the time and even what we wear today. There’s history to the individual steps we do, where they came from, why they’re named what they are and who created them. There’s history in the films and footage that Swing dancing turns up in, why they’re different to what social dancing was like in the ballrooms and how they’ve shaped what the dance looks like today. There’s also the context of Swing dancing in the greater map of dance, it’s roots in African-American expression, influences from tap and it’s influence on Rock & Roll, West Coast Swing, Ballroom Jive and Modern Jive. There’s a lot to explore if you’re interested in history…

RSJ Gift Guide for Dancers

gifts-for-dancers-banner
With the start of December approaching, we thought it might be useful to compile some gift suggestions for the dancer in your life. Here’s our top gifts for dancers…

Books

There are lots of useful books on history, music and dancing, here’s just a few of our top picks.

Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop
by Frankie Manning and Cynthia R. Millman

Swingin’ at the Savoy: The Memoir of a Jazz Dancer
by Norma Miller (Author), Evette Jensen (Editor)

Practice Swing: The Swungover* Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Guide To Improving Your Dancing
by Robert White

Swing Dance
by Scott Cupit

Blues Legacies And Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday 
by Angela Y. Davis

Blues People
by LeRoi Jones

Shoes

International swing and burlesque sensation Sharon Davis shares her dance shoe recommendations in a blog post for her dance school Jazz Mad, Jazz Music & Dance Academy in London. Check it out, it’s full of helpful ideas for a range of styles and budgets, including many of our favourites too.

Shoe accessories like shoe deodorisers and shoe bags also make great gift ideas.

Clothes & Accessories

Any dancer would be thrilled to receive a gift from vintage and retro style retailers such as Collectif Clothing, Revival Retro, Lindy Bop and Bitter Root Vintage.

Shop locally in Reading at Louise Rose Couture and Adrienne Henry Millinery. Funda in the Broad Street Mall often has affordable vintage inspired dresses.

You can also look at active wear as gifts for dancers, perfect for attending classes, workshops and weekenders. Danceweaver Creations, made by Blues dancer Jeannie Lin, are beautiful hand woven leggings that are great for classes and social dances alike.

Then there’s accessories! Hair embellishments like flowers or decorative bobby pins are often popular as are silk scarves. Hats, handkerchiefs, bow ties, neck ties, arm bands and braces are also common dancer accessories. Original vintage or vintage inspired, any of the above would make great gifts for any dancer.

You can also check out our merch store on Red Bubble for RSJ tops and hoodies and much more – a great way for Reading dancers to show off their pride in their home scene.

Music

Go old skool and take a mooch through the record store for some vintage sounds. Places like the Oxfam music store in Reading often have some hidden gems and you can regularly pick up bargain lots on eBay. If you’re not sure what to get, compilations and Best-ofs are usually safe bets. If you need further inspiration, check out our various playlists on Spotify!

Want to play it safe? Alternatively, you can buy MP3 vouchers for Google Music perhaps or even shout someone their year’s subscription to Spotify and let them choose their musical journeys.

Minirigs are lightweight and sturdy, they make brilliant gifts for dancers and music lovers on go.

RSJ Gift Vouchers

Give the gift of dancing! Our gift vouchers are redeemable against Reading Swing Jam entry, Solo Jazz Classes and Workshops. We also offer tailor gift vouchers for private lessons or private courses for beginners in Lindy Hop or Blues and beginner-intermediate Solo Jazz/Charleston. Email us at readingswingjam@gmail.com if you’re interested in finding out more.

Online Learning Subscriptions

There are a number of online class subscriptions available out there from some of the best teachers in the world! There’s Michael Jagger and Evita Arce’s online school for swing dancing and you can learn the Secrets of 20s Charleston with Ksenia Parkhatskaya! Swing Patrol, Jo Hoffberg & Kevin St Laurent , Micky Fortanasce & Kelly Arsenault and Todd Yannacone also have online classes available.

You can pick up a variety of classes in all levels from iDance.net in Lindy Hop, Balboa and Blues and more taught by some of the biggest names in the business.

Fans, Notebooks, Tech & Other Accessories

One of the most useful accessories for dancers is the fan and they make awesome gifts! Made of a number of materials including paper, fabric and wood, you can get them in just about every colour and style with something to match everyone’s budget.

Swing dancers are a geeky lot and a there’s nothing quite like a good sturdy notebook for collating notes from workshops and keeping track of routines. Vintage-styled dance-related stickers are great for decorating things like laptops and notebooks and you can even find swing related art online too, including Lindy Hop legend designs from our very own Jenn Maghzal. Other ideas include eco-friendly reusable drink bottles and travel mugs, super handy for staying hydrated during workshops and events. We’ve got a wide selection of these in our RSJ Red Bubble shop with three logo colour options to choose from.

As you can see, the possibilities are just about endless. Happy shopping!

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.

1. SQUEAKY CLEAN

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

2. SWEET SMELLIN’

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.

3. MINTY FRESH

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…

1. ASKING

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.

2. RESPONDING

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?”

3. LOOKING AFTER EACH OTHER

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.

4. THANK YOU

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