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A lot of great music is heard at bars and restaurants (see Swing Dancing in Vancouver) and a lot of dancers congregate at these events to dance to live music. In addition to the general etiquette for swing dances, there is a special set of rules for these type of events.

Support the establishment putting on the event

Lots of these events don’t have a cover charge, and even if they do, you still need to support the bar or restaurant putting on this event. Buy a few drinks over the course of the night (at least $10 worth). If you don’t drink, buy some food or buy a couple drinks for the band.

Support the band

Especially if there is no cover charge, when the band passes the hat around, put some money in. Even if it’s just a few bucks, let them know that you appreciate what they’re doing.

Tip your server well

Imagine carrying trays of drinks around a crowded bar, dodging swing outs and tripping over dancers’ discarded shoes. As well as trying to minimize those obstacles (see 4 & 6 below), tip your server/bartender very well – 20% is about right.

Dance small

A lot of these venues have no dance floor or a very tiny one. Be mindful of the space you have and keep your dancing contained – no big kicks, no wild arms, and certainly no aerials or lifts. Leads need to practice very careful floorcraft and follows need to be aware too, aborting moves when necessary. In particular, watch out for servers and make sure you give them a wide berth.

Don’t expect to dance every song

Let other dancers have a chance to dance and don’t monopolize the dance floor. Many of these venues have room for only 4 or fewer couples on the floor at a time. If there are twice as many dancers at the venue, that means sitting out every other song. Don’t crowd your fellow dancers.

Keep your stuff together

Dancers often have bulging bags full of shoes and extra shirts (which we wholeheartedly approve of). Don’t let your stuff get in the way. Make use of the coat check, if they have one, put your change of shoes in your bag & stow it off to the side, make a designated dancer pile where all your stuff goes. Don’t let it clutter up the aisles.

Change your shoes outside or discreetly

Some restaurants have an official policy about this, some don’t. Changing your shoes where people are eating can be a bit icky, so avoid it when you can. Change your shoes before you arrive, in the bathroom, or in the back. At the very least, do it discreetly.

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