Saturday, November 26, 2011

Don't Be "That Guy"

Dear Swing Dancers,

Please, don't be "that guy." I have been That Guy on many occasions, and I had to learn the hard way about most of these - the hard way being, I've been kicked in the face by two people doing aerials, and I've had a shoulder popped out of socket by a lady backleading. So, sincerely, I beg of you, do NOT be "That Guy" (or "That Girl") described by any of the following:

GUYS, don't be:
That Guy that does Aerials in the Middle of a Slow Song
You probably didn't laugh in the theater when Dobby took one for the team, even if for some sick reason you found it comical. There's this thing called common courtesy - a respect for the mood and atmosphere of the people around you. And waltz or rumba is typically not characterized by "Hey dudes, check out this thing I saw on Youtube!" Save it for the swing songs.

That Guy that does Nothing But Aerials
It's dance, not cheerleading. No, seriously. Keep your feet (and your partners') on the floor for a bit and show that you actually know how to dance. Aerials, tricks, and dips are dessert - you need some substance in your dance-diet first.

That Guy that Does Nothing but Spin the Girl
DID YOU KNOW that the most impressive part of an art gallery is what's NOT on the walls? It's not about cramming in as much art as possible - only the good stuff, with plenty of wall space in-between to allow each high-end piece of art the respect it deserves. Similarly, each move in dance deserves some respect - dancing is more about when NOT to move, as opposed to constant movement.

That Guy that Dances Off-Time
There's a reason music is playing. Because otherwise you're just performing a long kata.

That Guy that Waltzes in 4/4 Time (ie, Chasing Cars)
Doing a box step in 4/4? That's called American Rumba. Waltz is, by definition, written in 3/4 time. Find some basic steps HERE if you're confused. Also, Waltz is not about how quickly you can get to 3. See above.

That Guy that Does Aerials in a Crowd
I had a headache for a week from two dudes doing a boxcar, resulting in a size 12 and 180 pounds landing between my eyes. Yeah, my friend Molly and I will do a Boxcar with people around. But that's because -
a. We've been doing it for years
b. We have insane control (we can stop on the vertical part and spin in place. In fact we can stop the move at any point.)
c. We can recognize the difference between a lot of people on the floor, a lot of people nearby, and a lot of people at risk for getting a foot in the face.

That Guy that Never Bathes/Shaves/Brushes his Teeth/Wears Deodorant/etc
Sweat happens. For everything else, there's the toiletries aisle at Walgreen's.

That Guy that Never gets Any Better
Ok, this one's kind of mean. But seriously, learn a new move or go to a workshop or ask someone better occasionally. You want to dance with the better girls? Fine. But they want to dance with the better guys.

That Guy that Bumps Into People Without Saying Sorry
Always assume it's your fault. Try to keep bumps to a minimum (I know I can tend to get a little crazy, too), but ultimately, they'll happen. Even if it wasn't your fault, play nice with the other kids. Ladies, you too. But mostly the dude, since he's steering.

GIRLS, don't be:
That Girl that Claims, "I Can Follow"
 - Me: "Do you Chacha?"
 - Girl: *pause* "Um...I can follow...?"
DON'T DO THAT. Especially if you and I don't dance often. Be upfront and honest. Even if you don't dance at all, let me know. If you're worried that if a guys asks you to West Coast/Chacha/Waltz/Etc, and you admit you don't know how, you've blown your chance, you're wrong. If you tell him you know how, and he dances with you and it prevents him from having fun, NOW you've blown your chance. I don't mind dancing with new girls. I mind dancing with girls that claim they're good when they're not.
 - Me: Do you chacha?
 - Girl: No, I'm afraid I only know swing.
(My options are now: "Would you like to learn?" "Oh, can I find you for the next swing?" "Do you at least know the basics?" MUCH better).

That Girl that Backleads
Ow. My shoulder. I asked her politely, with my distinct lead, to go right, and she took my arm (ligaments and all) to the left. *POP* - Ice and ibuprofen for a week. Ladies, the tradeoff is as such: he's in control, you look good. If he's not steering well, don't give him suggestions - just finish the dance and go find a better partner. Yeah. Unless his lead is hurting you, in which case, tell him (save the next girl!). And get this - the better guys like dancing with the better FOLLOWS, not the better LEADS.

That Girl that Doesn't Wear Shorts
Surprise, surprise. Or, if you are this girl, don't also be that girl that does aerials.

That Girl with the Flip Flops
Yeah, there's a song called "Flip, Flop, Fly" - but notice the next line is, "Don't Care If I Die." Because your ankles will. Or the skin on the bottom of your feet. Believe it or not, tennis shoes are cool at swing dances. And if you barefoot it, don't whine to me about the burns.

EVERYBODY, don't be:
That Person that Doesn't Say Thank You
Thank your partner, jerk.

That Person that Only Dances with One Person
Social dance requires sociability. No hogging, now!

That Person that Complains About the Music
There are other places to go. You can hate a song or two, but of the music really bugs you, write the DJ an email or go somewhere else!

That Person that Looks Down
Your feet will be there. And they will go where you tell them. BELIEVE!!! Plus the top of your head hides your smile - let your partner know that you enjoy dancing with them.

That Person that Grabs a Bunch of Friends and Starts Jumping Up and Down in a Circle
Don't. Please. Just don't. If you're really THAT insecure about trying to partake in the cultural experience of partner dancing, then show up to the lesson on time. If you don't want to learn in front of other people, ask someone who knows what they are doing - particularly a friend. If you just don't want to learn to actually dance, then GO TO A FRICKIN' RAVE WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!?!?

Do unto others....A little common courtesy goes a long way. If you need more clear "rules," check out this guide, "Elements of Dance Etiquette" by Aria Nosratinia.


  1. I would beg to differ on point 2 of the Girls' section. Not that the girls shouldn't back lead (I treasure a light follow) but the last sentence does not always hold true... ;-)

  2. Fine, how about - "Girls, if you're gonna backlead, at least do the move right. As in, on beat and without ripping his arm out."

  3. No I was disagreeing with the point that the better guys don't want to dance with the better leads. From one better guy to another better lead I figured you would've picked up on that, particularly after this weekend

  4. Maybe phrase it like this: At any point of the dance it should be clear who's leading and who's following. I've seen a 5ft girl leading a 6ft guy, but that only works if he really follows.

    On the shoes thing: I've been dancing some lindy barefoot, and I tend to gather every singe heel in the room on my ankle. But that also happens with shoes.