Any veteran swing dancer can spot the “newbies” right away by some tell-tale signs.  Avoid these bad habits and your dancing will look better immediately and more people will want to dance with you.  Here are the top mistakes that beginner swing dancers make.

  1. Dancing too “big”
    This is probably the most obvious sign of a beginner- someone who is taking huge steps from side to side and/or on the rock-step.  Experienced dancers take small steps!  It looks better and is much more graceful and smooth.  Plus, you’ll bump into fewer people on the dance floor and expend less energy.  Oh, and you’ll be less likely to injure your partner too.
  2. Being off-tempo
    When you’re starting out, there are so many things to think about, but staying on the beat has got to be one of the most important things.  Guys, not dancing to the tempo of the music is a pretty good way to guarantee that no women (follows) will want to dance with you again.  If you get off the beat, you are probably going too fast.  Most beginners have a tendency to rush.  You have more time than you think.  Many beginners are fine doing the basic but lose the beat during turns.  Count to yourself during complicated moves when you are practicing them.
  3. Spaghetti arms (lack of frame)
    In order to lead or follow, you need to have a good upper body frame.  No, you don’t need to look all stiff like a ballroom dancer, but you need some resistance in your arms.  Guys (leaders), it’s super hard to follow you if your arms aren’t firm and clearly leading.  Ladies (follows), it is super hard to lead you if your arms are limp and don’t have a good connection to your body.
  4. Trying to do aerials
    Probably the biggest misconception about swing dancing is that it is all about doing aerials.  In reality, good dancers almost never do aerials on the dance floor unless it’s in a jam circle or in a contest. Other than those cases, trying to do aerials on the social dance floor is a dead giveaway for a beginner.  So, yes, be inspired by aerials – they are awesome!  But, get the basics down and take a class with a set partner and practice away from the social dance floor.  You’re less likely to get hurt or hurt other people.

Of course, there are tons of other things that beginners have to to think about, but I think these are the most important ones – the ones that can get you branded as a pariah on the dance floor.  Avoid these mistakes and you’ll be off to a great start in swing dancing!  Did I miss another big one?  Let me know below.  – Brian