On a social dance floor, Lindy Hop involves more than just knowing the moves. Over and above the lead and follow of the dance, the dance partners will get more out of the dance the more they interact with each other. As the dance floor becomes more crowded, they will also interact with the other dancers around them.
Everything should and does affect the way that dancers move, from the available space to their shoes to the slipperiness of the floor. The music has a big effect, directly in its tempo and more indirectly through the dancers' musical interpretation. The other big factor that alters the way a dancer performs is their partner.
Each dance partner is different, and even the same person doesn't always dance in the same way—as they take more classes, learn other dances, change shoes or just get tired. This endless variation is part of the challenge and the fun of social dancing.
To cope with different partners a leader needs to be able to vary the strength of their lead: stronger when dancing with a beginner, a more light touch for dancing with an experienced partner. The leader should also be sensitive to the skill level of his partner—there's no point in trying to lead a complicated move with a beginner and then getting annoyed that they don't follow it correctly.
It's also poor manners to try to correct your partner on the dance floor, or worse still to stop dancing to explain a particular move. If your partner doesn't know a move, do something else (and if they are keen to learn the move, show it to them later).
More adventurous moves like drops and lifts should only be performed if the leader knows that the follower is willing to do the move. These also moves need a greater awareness of the available space than normal dancing, including a check on the height of the ceiling (for lifts).
Airsteps are moves that are move adventurous still, and these should not normally be done on a social dance floor. Even on an empty floor, airsteps can be dangerous and should only be done with a partner who is aware of and accepting of the risks. If both partners do accept the risks involved in airsteps, the people dancing nearby on a social dance floor have not accepted those risks, and so should not be exposed to them. A patch of the dance floor that is intended as the landing area for an airstep may be filled by another couple while the airstep is in progress, giving an unacceptably high risk of injury.
The leader should also pay attention to their partner to tap into the fun of jointly improvising movements with the music. The leader can join in with any footwork variations that the follower is doing, or allow the follower space to insert more variations, rather than always doing exactly the same moves.
Followers naturally pay more attention to their partners because they're following, but they also have an opportunity to pick up on styling aspects that are not led—by mimicking their partner's style, or by mirroring their footwork variations.
In either case, the dancers will have more fun and look better if they look at each other.
Interacting With Other Dancers
On more crowded dance floors the primary guideline for social dancing is to look where you're going. The dancers (particularly the leader) should guide moves into the available space on the dance floor, adjusting directions and reducing the sizes of movements appropriately. Moves can be reduced in size so that even in open position the dancers stay close together, and the follower is jointly responsible for doing this.
This is most necessary when the dancers are travelling backwards; a quick check over the shoulder to confirm that there is still space available helps to prevent collisions. Similarly, kicks that are directed backwards should be restrained unless the dancers are sure that no-one is directly behind them (this is particularly relevant for the Back Charleston).
As a general point of etiquette, if you collide with another dancer, apologize to them—even if you're 100% sure that the collision was their fault. If you accidentally kick someone particularly hard, make a point of finding them after the song finishes and apologize again.