This post surrounds a recent post made by the fabulous dancer Madeline Scott Ford on the Lindy Focus page. If you like, please look at the passionate and lively discussion there for reference.
Dancers. We’re all types of people–all sorts of colors, creeds, nationalities, sexual orientation, quirks, hopes and perfect imperfections. Blemishes and elaborate embellishments. That’s what makes us all so very interesting and fun to dance with. We get out onto that dance floor, whether it’s concrete sidewalk in the middle of downtown Tulsa or on the wooden floors of Seattle’s Century Ballroom, and we swing. If you close your eyes, you can hear the heartbeat of the dance vibrate through the floorboards.Regardless of how you’re dancing, upbeat Charleston, intimate Bal, that ol’ Lindy or otherwise, it’s quite the possibility to have a raucously good time with absolutely anyone. All you have to do is listen.
What happens when we stop doing that though? What happens when we get tired of all that jazz (pun intended)? When we want to stop dancing because the Spirit stops moving? Sure, I do empathize with all the introverts. Sometimes, you just want to solo jazz or sit one out. You don’t want to be dragged onto the floor by a lead who couldn’t care less where he’s swinging you out. The noise can get to you. So can the wingtips always gnawing at your heels. It’s completely understandable to say, “No thank you.” and leave it at that. A firm but polite response, to be sure. If they press you, I feel like it’s alright to let them know why. Speaking the truth in love, of course. Know that that other dancer, if they really care about the dance, should care about you too.
Alas, most of us have been on the receiving, raw end of that deal as well. We put ourselves out there to be accepted and find rejection instead. No matter which way we spin the question, “Shall we dance?,” the answer might be simply no, not now or even not in this lifetime. When did lindy hop stop being a shared joy and start being so darn competitive? When did we stop dancing with each other because we can and started dancing to win? First of all, what exactly do you want to “win?” The next JnJ? Judges have their own styles and biases. You could have a finnicky partner or a strange connection. The best you can do is just enjoy and do your best. Why do it if it’s no fun anymore? What, did you want to win a Snowball? (How exactly do you win a Snowball anyway?) It just doesn’t really make sense. The points don’t matter in this “game.”
As I’ve said before, I’ve been the jerk and the asker, the bringer and receiver of disdain. Of general mean-spirited dancer “in-crowd” behavior. However, I think I and many others are capable of much more. Are you a dance elitist, a “levelist” I presume? That might be alright for you. You might feel as if your dancing has advanced far beyond the reaches of human development thus far. We should obviously just crown you Lindy Queen or King, right? Yeah…you see, the trouble with levels is that it matters only how much you get out of it. Are the teachers helping you get better control and enjoyment out of the dance? Perhaps everything else is just bonus. I get to do what I love and compete in front of a crowd? Awesome.
Maybe you feel like you’re in the reject pile, the lone dancer pool. I want to tell you, I’ve been there. Maybe not exactly the same situation, but probably quite similar. Hey, you. Awesome dancer (’cause if you’re a swing dancer, you’re kinda awesome already). It’s not okay. It’s not right that people treat you like an unwanted object pushed onto the sidelines. It’s not right for dancers, people you trust in class or in a scene or even as a friend, to not even say a simple “Hello!” or even smile. It’s not nice in lindy and it’s definitely not good social etiquette in life. Some people may say it’s too “touchy feely” and that these dancers just need to “suck it up.” So said the bully to their victims. So said the abuser to the abused. Perhaps for the privileged few, this type of rejection is “completely” fine. It’s not for those of us who know what it feels like.
I believe it’s now time for me to shut up and dance. Personally, this type of thing stresses me out. I want the best for the lindy community. I hope for big and small events full of dancer love and brotherly compassion. Is it realistic? Probably not. Has it happened before? Yes, absolutely. Can we make it happen more? One “Can I dance with you please?” and one “f*ck yes!” at a time (Thanks, Dorry). No one should be pressuring anyone into being here or leaving. However, I think with a little common courtesy and a lot of love, we’ll get the swing of things. Don’t you think?
Much love and more lindy,