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March 7, 2004

i piked on the jack and jill

Posted by dogpossum on March 7, 2004 8:18 PM in the category

i thought it was like scrabble...

Well, I piked on the comp.
I just couldnÂ’t stand the bullshit. It was skank.
In fact, I really canÂ’t stand swingers' obsession with selling themselves things. Promote, promote, promote. Buy this. Buy that. If you donÂ’t, youÂ’ll remain a shitty dancer. YouÂ’ll never reach your full potential. No one will ever want to dance with you.

God, itÂ’s enough to make you anorexic.

It reminds me of all that media that targets women through their bodily self image - eat this, donÂ’t eat that, cut that bit off, buy this dress, wear these shoes, cut your hair, grow your breasts. Stupid. Making us paranoid.

I think it is all about encouraging self doubt. There is this perpetual pressure to improve. ItÂ’s all about what you look like - how good do you look dancing? So much time is spent watching each other, watching each otherÂ’s bodies. Eating disorders have nothing on this. Swing is just as addictive, even more conducive to obsessive behaviour. Far worse on the body.

My knees, my knees...
And now, my shins, my shins, my calves! Pft.

But I like the dancing. I like dancing with people. I like the feeling of two bodies working together to music. ItÂ’s nice. It can be wonderful. But lately, itÂ’s just not interesting me enough. A sad, sad day when quilting supersedes dance in the excitement stakes.

So I piked on the comp. I had liked the thought - jack and jills are fun, silly, casual. But this sounded serious. All that reassuring talk in the emails and on the website that the important part is to have tried, rather than to have won was making me nervous. I hadnÂ’t thought about winning, or losing, til I was reminded of it. I though the win was in the random matching-up with a dance partner. I thought the win was well, i thought it was like scrabble. ItÂ’s not about the score, but about the words you play, for me. And about pleasure from other peopleÂ’s words. ThatÂ’s how I felt about jack and jills - the joy was in teaming up with a stranger to make clever words/dance moves. And then moving on to another partner, to see what moves you two could make together. And that the audience enjoyed seeing us making words and got the joke when we punned. Like those competitions in discourse and wit in the courts of kings hundreds of years ago. A celebration of wit, of talent, o f creativity and strategy.
But no.
ItÂ’s not about whether you win or lose. ItÂ’s about tryi...
...rying? So itÂ’s not at all about recognising the beauty and thrill in every individualÂ’s dance? ItÂ’s about aspiring to uniformity and conformity - about trying to win - rather than about celebrating what each dancer is now, at this moment, with this partner, to this music, for this audience?
I should have suspected as much from a business based on teaching. Not learning - teaching.

And at the end of the day, the organising schoolÂ’s teachers always win. Not so much a matter of rigged or scammed, but a matter of assessing competitorsÂ’ abilities according to a set of criteria that also (curiously) aligns with the qualities they look for in their teachers. And a matter of choosing judges whose own values align with theirs
So really, youÂ’re being judged on how well you align yourself with the values of this organisation. How well you play the game their way.
When I was last in a jack and jill, and forgot myself, pulled out some serious active-follow stuff (refused the millionth spin, pulled out some sassy time-marking instead). My lead panicked. And later, I wondered if the judges might have seen that and read it as my failure to ‘follow’. Following, of course, is doing as you’re told. Is playing nice. No room for sass, here. Unless it’s play sass. Not actual sass. And then I got to thinking about how the judges are looking for a particular type of dancing - a particular type of following and leading. And in rewarding those dancers who represent that type of dancing, you are not only reinforcing their own sense of well-done, but also reinforcing to every other dancer in the audience and competition, that this is The Way It Should Be Done.
So competitions become a matter of social and cultural control. Performance as hierarchy?
Oh, we found an antidote for jams, but is there an active, tactical response for competitions?

It makes me uncomfortable.

But I like the thought of a bunch dancers getting on the floor and giving their all for the crowdÂ’s pleasure, for their own pleasure, for their partnerÂ’s pleasure. I like to see dancers dancing so well it makes me all jiggly inside. And I like that sort of competition - where every other dancer acknowledges that theyÂ’re really KickinÂ’ It, rather than that theyÂ’re really Following the Rules.

I think IÂ’ll write more on this. When IÂ’m not so tired

Posted by dogpossum on March 7, 2004 8:18 PM in the category