Frequently Asked Questions
  • What music should I get to dance to?
    Check out for copyright-free jazz to download. It’s free or near-free. Also, check out great compilations on You can start with their itunes essentials "discover jazz: big bands" and "jump blues". Easiest way to build your music collection is online. Start with songs/artists you like and check out related/suggested artists. Lastly, ask your dj for artist/titles of songs you enjoy dancing to – then hunt them down.
  • What should I wear? Do I need special shoes? Should I wear high heels? Are jeans okay?
    Dress at swing dance events is generally casual or vintage. Jeans are fine and you don’t need any special shoes. Shoes with low tread or leather soles that spin are best. Closed shoes are a must and heels make lindy difficult but can help with west coast and balboa.
  • How do I become a good dancer? What steps should I learn?
    Becoming a good dancer is more a matter of quality than quantity. There are no magic steps that will propel you to being a “good dancer.” Learn good solid basics, get good at dancing on beat, take care of your partner when you dance and you’ll soon find you’ve dropped right into being a “good” dancer. Be patient with yourself and learn as much as you can!
  • What’s the difference between west coast, east coast, lindy, charleston, swing & jitterbug? What about collegiate shag and Carolina shag? What is blues dancing? tandem/back and side by side charleston?
    Swing dance has a long history. It’s an American invention that starts way back in the early 20th century. To best understand the differences and relations, research the dance histories and learn where/when each variation developed. This is not intended as an authoritative history but more as a primer and dance spotters guide.
  • Are there unwritten rules or dance etiquette I should know about?
    Yes. First, hygiene is the first and most important social grace. This holds true for everyone… yes, even you. Ask yourself if you’re creating the kind of personal space that others will want to share. Second, be polite to everyone. Use tact. Lastly, here’s a short list of biggest the dos and dont's: don’t turn down a dance and then dance it with someone else. Don’t try aerials or big tricks with a partner socially. Do be aware of couples around you and do your best to not injure them. Do apologize if you kick/hit/bump someone accidentally. Do always thank your partner and smile. Don’t leave your partner mid-dance. (this is a good starting point)
  • How do I turn down a dance? Do I have to dance with everyone? Do I need a partner?
    The best way to turn down a dance is to offer up a reason and request a later dance. Think simple: “I’m tired, I’d like to rest. Can I dance a slower one with you later?” or “I’d really like to sit this one out. How about a raincheck?” (then find them later). It’s best to dance with everyone as it helps build each other up as we’re trying to learn and improve. That said, you don’t have any obligation to dance with someone who hurts you, is too rough, offends you or acts inappropriately. The best thing to do is simply turn them down gently and, if they ask, let them know your reasons in as nice a way as possible. By refusing a dance 2 to 3 times you should get the idea across if someone is rude or offensive. If it’s a real problem, consider informing the party host. No, you don’t need a partner. This is the greatest thing about partner dancing – it’s a dance floor full of people who want to dance with you. Come with or without a partner and start asking people to dance. And bam! You’re on the dance floor.
  • Do I have to flip around (do aerials)?
    Absolutely not. Aerials or air-steps are an exciting element of the lindy (& other swing dances) and are wonderful for performance, competition and spectacle. However, these acrobatic moves have no place on the “social/party dance floor.”  You can become a highly skilled, popular swing dancer and never do aerials.
  • What is the average age of swing dancers?
    In a real sense, swing dancing is ageless. It’s unique in that it attracts all ages of dancers to share a hobby and music. Each dance community is a little different in median age. Many of the dancers who dance regularly are between the ages of 25 and 50. Some cities or particular parties will draw crowds with younger or older crowds than that. Bottom line: if you think you’re too young, you’re not – if you think you’re too old, you’re not!
  • Can I still swing dance if I’m out of shape?
    Yes, you can! Swing dancing is great exercise and will help you get in shape. Most swing moves can be done in a smaller range of motion and with lower impact as you’re learning and getting more fit. Many swing dancers have lost substantial weight through dance addiction. That said, you don’t have to be any special body type to dance. All shapes and sizes of people can boogie down and express themselves to music. Don’t let anything get in the way of your god-given right to shake that thing!
  • Who should I learn from? Are private lessons worth the money? Are group classes worth the money? Should I join any dance clubs? Where are the best places to go dance?”
    Seek out good teachers who you enjoy taking lessons from. Learning swing should be fun, inspiring and way helpful. Group lessons are totally worth the money because they give you a foundation of dance vocabulary and the mechanics of lead & follow. Without those, you’ll have a lot of trouble on the dance floor and take much longer to improve. Private lessons are better yet & definitely worth the cost. In a one-on-one setting with a professional teacher, you get the chance to feel, see, hear and ask exactly what is working and what needs fixing. It will fast-track your improvement and boost your confidence right away.
  • What does it mean to have a 6, 8, 10 count rhythm? What is a rock step? What is a back step? What is a triple step? What is a break? What is a kick step?
    A 6, 8, or 10 count rhythm tells you how many beats of music will pass during a given rhythm (read “series of footwork”). When you dance, you use your feet to essentially drum out rhythms on the floor. Swing has a lot of variety in the pattern and duration of these drummed out rhythms. For example in a 2 beat period of music the following 4 terms can be defined. Rock step: 2 steps. One on each beat. First away from partner. Second stays in place. Back step: same as rock step. Triple step: 3 steps done in 2 beats of music. Eg: right-&-right or left-&-left. Kick step: 2 beats. First is kick. Second is step. Eg: kick right foot, step down on right foot. That gives you an idea of how we use names to describe the drumming patterns of our feet in relation to the music. A break is a noticeable stop or pause in a piece of music. Good dancers highlight the music by pausing when the music pauses.
  • How is swing music different than other music – what makes it swing? “why is it so hard to dance to some swing music? What is big band? Jump blues? What is 50’s rock? Blues? Retro Swing? What is a phrase? What is musicality? What is a music cue?
    What makes music swing? – this question is the kind you build a music doctoral thesis on – and I’m not a musician or pursuing a higher musical degree. So here a dancer’s synopsis: Swing music has a lilting rhythm that is unique from the marching rhythms that came before it. If you listen to a marching band play a jazz song, the rhythm is very 'straight' – meaning equal time put between each tap of the drum. A swing band plays the same song and will stretch and contract the time between the beats to create the 'lilt' or swing feeling. Musicality to a dancer is the ability to hear nuances in the music (melody vs rhythm, syncopation, individual instrument solos, breaks) and reflect that in one’s dancing. A musical cue is a marker in the music that can be used to identify that exact point in the song. You can get better at dancing TO the music by actively listening to swing music, practicing those footwork rhythms drummed out to the music, listen for those breaks and musical cues, then practice, practice, practice trying to get your moves to fit what you hear. If you can’t hear the beat, ask your dance teacher for a good song with a strong backbeat and have them help you hear it. Then play it over and over and tap that boy out on your steering wheel and kitchen floor until it’s all you hear/feel. Rhythm can be learned, don’t give up! Once you find the downbeat (1, 2, 1, 2 in the music) you can learn to identify larger pieces of music called phrases. These will allow you to identify the end of a phrase as the 5,6,7,8.
  • How do I ask someone to dance? Is it okay to dance with people half or twice my age? Should I make sure he/she is 18 first? Should old people stick to themselves?
    Wait for a song you feel comfortable dancing to, walk up to the person with all the confidence you can muster, smile and ask “would you like to dance.” Girls feel free to ask the guys. Be polite and accept a declined invitation with grace. It is okay to dance with people of all ages. You don’t have to see if that person is 18 and don’t feel weird if they are much older than you. Swing is not overtly sexual so just play nice, have fun and learn what you can from everyone. No, older people shouldn’t have to stick to themselves. I plan on getting old someday and I bet you do too. Don’t you want respect from the kids and a chance to dance with them when we get there? Respect your dance elders and you will be rich in the dance.