The Golden Rule of swing dancing

Ever since I’ve been involved with Swing Des Moines, there have been a few guidelines that instructors and other members have continually stressed:

  • As a leader, your role is to make your partner look good and ensure that she leaves the dance floor in the same condition as she entered it.
  • Dancing with many different partners, although initially scary, is crucial for improving your lead-follow and general dancing skills.
  • If you make a mistake, don’t stop! You’ve probably just made up a dance move that you just don’t want to do again. 🙂
  • Have fun. Smile. Swing dancing is supposed to be fun, not a chore.

The above list isn’t comprehensive, but I’d like to focus on another very simple rule of thumb: your job is not only to have fun, but to ensure that you don’t prevent others from having fun too.

The example I’m going to share didn’t come from our monthly swing dance, Jive Junction (3rd Friday of every month), fortunately. The case in point was at an event during the last month or so. The music was good, but the number of dancers probably exceeded the available dance space. Most of the dancers took a cue from this and danced small. A very talented couple were able to show some fancy lindy hop moves when the dance floor was less crowded, but otherwise kept their partners near and safe.

Another couple just didn’t get it. They were all a-smiles and having a great time showing off wild and crazy steps… into every pair around them. I was jabbed with an elbow to the side and a nasty kick to my achilles tendon as I tried to shield my partner from them. It was very obvious they were having fun, but totally oblivious to the couples actually cowering from them. Nor did they ever apologize to anyone they struck. My wife actually asked me to send her in their direction because she was prepared to trip them…. (which, shamefully, I considered).

Instead, we walked off the dance floor in the middle of the song (literally), put on our street shoes, and left. Anyone who knows me knows that I rarely (never) leave a dance early, but I was through.

Luckily Swing Des Moines members, and those that attend our functions, are very conscious of people around them. Sure, there’s an occasional bump or kick when two leaders send their partner into a space which was empty a few seconds earlier. But there’s always a quick “sorry” or “oops”.

I know I haven’t said anything particularly profound here, but the incident really stuck with me for days afterward. If only they had learned the golden rule of life: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”


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