Negotiating consent

Jesse has linked up this interesting piece from the Lindy Affair blog: Unapologetic consent: your obligation to offer it and your right to revoke it. I wish it hadn’t happened this way, but one thing I do like about the dramas of this year is the way dancers are moving into more complex engagements with ideas like ‘consent’.

My favourite part of this piece:
“Some teachers require students to ask each other to dance as they go around the classroom; I really love this practice.”
I love it too! I think we need to do it in our classes.

In our very first class of the 6 week block, we generally have all the stoods social dancing all over the floor by about 20 minutes in. Because they’re not in a circle, we call ‘find a new partner’ instead of ‘rotate’. The noise level gets INCREDIBLY HIGH and it’s HEAPS of fun. One of my chief delights is watching brand new dancers take about 3 minutes of chitchat and introductions before they actually start dancing. It’s a little negotiation of consent before they touch a stranger. It takes a while, and slows the class, but I love it, because it’s about good social dancing skills. We often describe what we’re doing as ‘being at a really good party’, and then point out stuff that makes it a good party – conversation, fun music, dancing, laughing. And most beginner students already know how to be at a party, so we just utilise those skills in our classes.

I think that when we do fast rotations in class, and just yell ‘rotate’, expecting students to dance immediately without introductions, we are training basic social skills out of them. And that’s bad.

I think our approach with the new dancers needs a bit of work. While we do say repeatedly ‘introduce yourself before you touch someone’, and we talk about how to talk about touching your partner, I think we should articulate the ‘how to ask for a dance’ stuff. I’d also like to change the pacing so they don’t feel a need to rush to ‘find a partner’.

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