Hello. It’s been a while. I’ve moved yet again for a new job and in the name of love. Still dancing, still semi-critical, nothing new. Anyway, just some recent insight on a dance escapade.
So, I recently had this terrible experience at a brilliant event which shall-not-be-named (in order to protect its yearly patronage). In order to cool off from the main ballroom, I found a circle of friends outside in the courtyard, enjoying the night air. Someone left, so I took his spot and began chatting with my friends. This local “star” if you will, however, pushed past me without so much as a second look and exiled me from my friends. He quite literally pushed me out of the circle. I felt immediately invisible and ousted. After speaking with local friends, it seems this is some sort of bad habit with this individual.
Ouch. Sad to say, this event has not been my first time feeling alone or ignored at a social dance event where I know several dozen people. In fact, it has become more the rule than the exception. Somewhere along the road to this niche subculture, and perhaps due to the narrowness of our interests, people have become enrobed in elitism. Like…I can’t even look at people for very long without them whispering.
It used to be, and probably to some extent still is true, that after events you have these mass friend-a-thons on social media of dancers trading information in post-event excitement, thrilled to connect with other dancers. A few months ago, I started finding my profile sinking into the pit of souls and purgatory of waiting friends. Suffice to say, I resolved to just keep the quality friends I know. Honestly, a waste of breath otherwise.
This is not a national phenomenon — it just so happens to be an international one. I’ve seen it with my significant other being ostracized by followers who thought he was beneath them in Asia. In Canada, I asked someone to dance with a wide open floor and great music, was given a dirty look before denied. Let me add, this person also added a “talk to the hand.” Honestly. These situations actually happened. Not to mention the shaming instructors do. Consider the list of abhorrent teaching and responses I’ve received over the years…from people I’ve paid, from “swing friends,” and acquaintances.
- You’re just not a natural dancer. You will always be awkward.
- *Laughter after trying an aerial.*
- *Laughter when admitting fear at attempting an aerial.*
- No one likes a follow that…um…heavy.
- You only got into finals because it’s a small pool.
- *Insults about directionality*
- *Insults about turns*
- Yeah, that Chinese girl. Pick her.
- *Stomps on toe, turns around to mouth “sorry”, and laughs with partner* (Mind you, I was bleeding, the nail cracked, and the toe turned an ugly shade of purple)
- I danced with a follow yesterday who did this *mocks dancing, class laughs*
- Hey, girl in the blue skirt, ARE YOU SURE you did it correctly?
- *Asks if he wants to join the jam circle.* “I don’t think so.” *Goes in 5 min later with a different dancer.*
I’m tired of this. Granted, many of these comments helped me improve and occurred years ago, but they also sucked away my self esteem as a dancer. Many were from people I trusted and who genuinely cared for. I want to be clear, I’m not on a dance break, I will not give anyone that sort of power over me again. However, it does make me all the more weary to join a super event again. I often wonder if people just go to those events to get a bit more “stardust” on their shoulders from “dancing with the lindy stars.”
I admit to being one of those individuals as a beginner. Now, I’m left full of questions. If this is occurring with social rules and safety in place, how do we circumvent social ousting? Will lindy hop be doomed to an elitism historically associated with ballroom? Do we welcome newcomers? I think we all know the answers, somewhere in the back of our brains. Often with all the rules, I have heard the rudest comments, often about the most shallow topics. The dress I chose to wear, the way I swivel, my RBF… In terms of elitism…honey, we’re already there. I mean, swing dance can be a beautiful, equitable practice. However, it is also a way to cherry pick your friends from a drastically smaller pool. I’ve seen dancers leave after a few weeks of enduring week after week of being ignored at socials.
I don’t have an answer for you. I know I hate level testing because I always feel like I’m never going to be considered “uppercrust” despite making advanced level before. It always feels like a fluke. I guess I’m calling for the kindness of strangers in a space that is feeling altogether too lonely at times. Now, I haven’t felt this way at all in my current local scene. The people here have been lovely, welcoming, and always friendly. Something’s gotta give at the national and international event level though. We’ve become calloused and rude. Of course, I’ve met amazingly kind and nurturing people through international events. I’m just calling for more of us to exemplify that attitude, to show the kindness of strangers.