The Swungover quick guide to coping with COVID – 19

ballroom empty

As this article was written at the beginning of the pandemic, many things have changed over the last year. Please see this as a historical post rather than advice for this current point in time. 

If you are reading this, you are probably an avid swing dancer. Perhaps you consider yourself healthy, maybe you don’t have immunity problems, and maybe you have a pretty good healthcare situation. If that’s the case,  it might not have hit home yet what lies in wait for those communities that get hit with COVID-19. Which is most likely coming to your community soon, if it hasn’t already.  

And, as you are a swing dancer, your favorite hobby involves going out and touching a bunch of people while being around a bunch of other people.

So, sadly, our favorite hobby would help spread the disease more quickly than most other human social activities, and would play a role in what we are trying most to avoid at the moment: the overcrowding of our health care facilities. We really, really want to avoid this as much as possible. (More on that below.)

So, here’s some quick advice provided by some experts (not me).

1. Basic disease-fighting hygiene

Washing hands. Pretty much after everything.   Use hand sanitizer as an emergency backup if you don’t have a hand-washing place, not as your primary hand cleaning method. Some tests show the virus can lie up to three days on a surface.

Washing hands correctly. Here’s a visual guide. Here’s the CDC’s official take.

Touching your face ONLY after thoroughly washing your hands. 

Sneezing into a disposable tissue if possible, or the inside of your elbow if not. And really burying your face in there, deep, so that nothing escapes. According to the CDC, anyone within 6 feet of a sneeze that escapes can inhale the droplets and contract the virus.

Avoiding handshakes and touched greetings seems like a good idea. Though it technically has only been recommended for people at higher risk.  Elbow bumping is probably also not recommended (see previous rule.)

Avoiding face masks, unless you are sick. Face masks will be important and in short supply during a pandemic. You should only have a face mask if you are sick.

Prioritize sleep. For a healthier immune system.

2. Social distancing

Social distancing means not going to dances, avoiding large groups of people, and, generally, for most, watching a lot of Netflix. Socially distancing ourselves is very important, because it is how we “flatten the curve” —- it’s how we keep the virus spreading slowly so that the healthcare facilities can handle it. If we DON’T do this, that’s when things get really, really bad.

If people don’t socially distance themselves, the virus spreads very quickly. Healthcare facilities, which have limited equipment and workers, will be swamped way beyond capacity. Some people will get the life-saving equipment, some people will not. Health workers will work extra shifts, be surrounded by the virus, get sick themselves, and be replaced with quickly-trained non-experts. Ultimately, this will lead to many, many more deaths than if we socially distance ourselves.

(When you as a dancer should start socially distancing yourself from dances and classes and travel, or when you as a promoter should start canceling your events, is based on your personal health, community, and government regulations, and should probably involve some research and maybe even soul searching. We are not experts on this. However, there seems to be a lot of advocacy for “sooner is better than later,” such as in the articles linked above.)

Sadly, this means the swing scene is going to be a BIG victim of this necessary sacrifice. Events all over the world are having to cancel. Instructors and musicians are losing a large percentage of their yearly income (and in the USA, right at tax season.) Promoters are losing lots of money, some events might not recover.  Here’s some ideas on what you can do:

3. Support the swing scene in this time of need

Consider donating your admission to cancelled events. If you were planning on going to an event that cancelled, please please please consider donating your admission to the event. Since there’s no insurance for a swing event that has to cancel, we are the insurance that the scene can keep going.

Start buying modern swing bands’ music online, support them with donations, or start taking Skype music lessons. The music is great, and you’re going to need it to practice (see below.) Also, email or Facebook message your favorite musicians and see if they are available to give online lessons. Now’s a good time to learn a jazz instrument. Or, become a patron of the arts — ask them for their Venmo, PayPal, or Patreon, and donate.

Consider donating your monthly group classes admissions, and start doing private lessons with your local swing dance studio. It’s hard to juggle social distancing with the fact that your local dance studio might go out of business cause they have to cancel classes for a few months. Consider donating your monthly class admissions to them, and another great compromise is private lessons. Start booking today.

Do online private lessons with a travelling instructor. FB message or contact instructors you are interested in working with and ask if they are available for Skype lessons, or visit their online lessons.  Check to see if they have Patreon pages.

In short, consider the next few months an important time to work on your dancing in private, collect new swing music, and help support the organizers who keep the scene going every year.

15 responses to “The Swungover quick guide to coping with COVID – 19”

  1. Seems like appropriate advice for Seattle, NYC, LA, etc. and I am giving some consideration to my first Bal Week! Assuming the CDC gets their act together in the next few days and can confirm that there are a limited number of ‘hot spots’ in the United States, advocating cancelling events everywhere seems extreme to me (an over 60 dancer)

    • Well, the trick there is lots of people traveling to one place, where they can then all get it and then take it to other places. For instance, google ZUmba and Covid -19 and you’ll see stories about a Zumba class that was the ground zero for a lot of people getting the disease.

      I agree it’s a decision that isn’t obvious and can easily seem over reactive, but the general idea is that it’s better to be safe than sorry in this case. Another thing to take into account is that if an event scheduled for April or June cancels now, then they might only lose half or less of the money they will if they try to keep the event going, pay all the flights, bands, rentals, etc, and then have to cancel in April or June. That’s a really tough gamble to take.

      • Yep, definitely a tough call and agree that to error on the safe side is by far the better. However there is always some risk in life. Especially in my frantic driving in search of toilet paper

    • I love this article and plan on supporting swing and other businesses I love that I know will be hit.

      I hate to break it to you but anywhere in the US, we are past containment and now in the mitigation stage. I would recommend not attending a swing event for at least the next month. There is a compounding interest to this thing and starting a “lockdown” one day earlier can reduce the cases by the tens of thousands. If we compare US policies to when China enforced theirs, we are already behind and more comparable to Italy’s rate.

  2. UPDATED: Felt it was a good idea to add the following paragraph to the section on Social Distancing.

    (When you as a dancer should start socially distancing yourself, or when you as a promoter should start canceling your events, is based on your personal situation and community and will most likely take some research and maybe even some soul searching. We here are not experts on this. However, there seems to be a lot of advocacy for “sooner is better than later,” such as in the articles linked above.)  

    Also, changed and added a link to the hand-shaking section to more accurately portray that it was my own extrapolation of advice, not specifically expert advice, except in cases of high-risks. Thanks to Matthew Mulbrandon and Sarah Hutson for their input.

  3. Hi, I’m from China, the origin place of this pandemic. I understand it might be due to the shortage of supply of medical anti-droplet masks the Europeans and Americans are discouraged to wear masks. But here in China, things are getting under control with mandatory conducts such as wearing masks in public and at work. Without wearing a musk, we are forbidden to any public faculties. This along with self-quarantine, contribute to the fading of the virus spread up until now.

    Also, I understand it’s a cultural issue that wearing a mask is considered as only necessary for preventing the sick one to infect others vs. effective for preventing self from contagion.

    It is very uncomfortable wearing it at least half of the day for months, in office where air-con is off upon instruction. It is also still challenging to shop masks for individual buyers. But as long as you don’t compete against caregivers and vulnerable ones for masks, for the sake of protect yourself and your loved ones, I suggest you wear a mask when you expose yourself in a crowd.

  4. In light of the revelation today (3/13) it’s going to be a number of weeks before adequate testing (good data available) in place, an abundance of caution might be the best policy

  5. Cunning plan to support live bands…

    This email to the band supposed to be playing at my May event:

    “Adrian, I can’t see this event going ahead so have an alternative plan for you to still make some money from a performance….

    I will arrange a live webcast of your performance with me and a partner and maybe one other couple dancing. I will change the existing Facebook event to still sell tickets at, say £8 each. The event will also have a link to the live broadcast and people will get a reminder to get their rug rolled back at home ready.

    How does that sound? You still come and perform as agreed and are willing to get paid all of the ticket income minus my venue hire but to a mostly virtual audience.


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