Although the swing dance world is mostly very friendly and happy, it, like the rest of the world, is not immune to incidences of inappropriate behaviour.

Placing this code or another, similar code of conduct on a website alone isn’t the answer. Such codes are simply tools to use alongside other community actions. On this page are suggestions on positive actions, ways to use a written code in the real world (and why no code should be set in stone), and talk about why the discussion on safer dance spaces is necessary. Further discussion happens also in an online Slack forum, and in semi-regular meetings.

Teachers and organisers can learn to spot potential issues before they arise and thus, minimise the number of incidents within the community. By acting on feedback and reports from dancers, team members, and teachers, we can even prevent further occurrences.

We can also work towards changing the aspects of swing dance culture. that have contributed to an environment where inappropriate behaviours can thrive, and by making such work sufficiently visible, we can ensure that everyone, regardless of gender or dance role knows how to access support when required.

If you or your dance organisation has in the past, behaved in some of the ways discussed below, you shouldn't feel under attack. Most, if not all of us have unintentionally contributed to the current culture in some way, and this is not an exercise in apportioning blame, but a chance for self-reflection, and an opportunity for positive change.


This is a real problem. Even the more serious incidents (sexual assaults and rape) in the Lindy Hop scene have already happened several times. Several cases involving notable international figures have resulted in criminal convictions. Abusers don’t wear a sign, but are likely someone known to you. Most incidents are not reported, nor talked about. This is why prevention is so important.


Prevention, Part 1 – Dance lessons and classes should include:

1. Proper, respectful connection, and where is appropriate to touch (i.e. hands, arms, shoulders & backs).

2.  The importance of adjusting the way we dance to suit each dance partner.

3. The concept of active following (as opposed to passive obedience), and that the aim is for both dancers to influence the dance. Keep in mind that lead/follow roles aren’t gender specific, and don’t allow the personal choice of the individual dancer to be overruled by the number of people choosing each role. If the lead/follow ratio at a drop-in class is unbalanced, just rotate as often as possible (this will be dependent on the material being taught) and encourage those that are standing out to practice while they wait. Don’t place unnecessary pressure on either dance role, example: ‘It’s always the Leads fault’ or devalue either role, example: ‘Follows must do as they are told’. 

4. Equal voice time for Lead and Follow teachers, and lesson material aimed at lead AND follow students.

Don’t use inappropriate language or turns of phrase – the odd accidental expletive arising from a mistake, when teaching adults, isn’t necessarily a problem, but it might be for some of your students. Do acknowledge that not everyone wants to hear vulgarities and follow up, for example ‘S**t! Woops! Sorry, I meant ‘Shoot!’ etc. It’s far less acceptable, however, to make purposeful sex-related jokes or comments, for instance, using the terms ‘boy on boy’ or ‘girl on girl’ (pop culture terms for specific adult entertainment genres) to describe same sex dancing is distasteful at best and adding to the Swing dance scene’s current issues, at worst.

5. Proper responses (apologies) for accidental touching as well as collisions.

6. Why it’s important to ask others to dance (regardless of gender or skill level) and not wait to be asked.

7. Our right to speak up – promoting an inclusive scene IS important, but it does not override the wellbeing of individuals. Therefore, a polite ‘no thank you’  is an acceptable response to anyone asking to dance, and no reason needs to be provided. Additionally during a dance it is our right to politely ask for a different connection, more space, less spins etc, or to stop the dance completely.

Prevention, Part 2 – Elsewhere and in general:

1. Organisers should pay attention and be aware of what’s going on in the room. For example, while you are DJing, chatting or dancing, have a look around to see if people look happy. Is someone alone? Does someone look uncomfortable dancing or talking with another person? Is someone trying to approach you? Take the initiative, go over and just say, “Hi, how are you getting on?”

2. Team members should be recognisable (consider name badges, posters with photos, or similar) and approachable.

3. Do not advertise or promote partner dance using questionable tactics such as, ‘Men that dance are more attractive to women’ or that dancers ‘always say yes’. Consider how your bookings policies contribute to an unhealthy environment, for instance offering tickets to Single Leads and Couples only seems like a sensible way to control the Lead/Follow ratio with minimum organiser involvement and effort. However, in practice, it results in Follows having to chase around to find Leads willing to book with them. Solo Leads are able to leave their own booking decisions to the very last minute; a luxury that is only available to Followers by participating in the unreliable peer-to-peer secondary market. This adds to the perception that Followers are not as valued as Leaders are within the dance community, and it denies Followers their independence.

4. Encourage dancers of the same role to get to know each other and to make friends within the scene. Consider ways of spending time in non-dance environment, so that people can talk. Friendships contribute to a stronger, friendlier scene.

5. Discourage hero worship and encourage equality across levels and roles.

6. Ensure all dancers, team members, organisers, teachers and visiting teachers adhere to a code of conduct, and that it is equally enforced, regardless of status.

7. Make your code of conduct part of the contractual process when employing outside teachers.

NEXT: Using the code