Do some teacher training!

Ok, dancers, another thing you can do, while you’re not allowed to lindy hop because you might kill someone.

Do some teacher training, on your own or with your teaching team:

  • Learn about the history(s) of dances, and how you will integrate that into your classes so it’s fun and useful, and not just a bunch of lecturing at students;

Do an online lecture/tutorial with a dance historian, to get all your ducks in a row and learn about a particular moment in history, or a particular dance.

  • eg I once did a private with Loggins to learn the difference between two-step and other dances.
  • You could do a session with Teena Morales-Armstrong about black dances from the 50s onward (Hand dancing? Fast Dancing?) so you can stop saying shit like ‘black dance stopped after lindy hop in the 50s.’
  • How about a session with Marie N’diaye about chorus lines and what they actually _did_ in their working days?
  • Do a session with a teacher like Anders Sihlberg about how to structure a class, how to move from a particular move or technical thing to a whole class that’s actually fun;
  • Do a session with someone like Sylwia Bielec about how to train your staff and structure a syllabus
  • It’s usually really hard to get these people to stay in one city for an hour so you can drain their brains. Take advantage!

    There are other fun topics you could work on:

    • Developing a solid OH&S policy that actually addresses sexual harassment in a sensible way (oh, and germ safety :D );
    • Putting some affirmative action policies in place, so that you can actually get some diversity on your teaching team: people of different ethnicities, different body shapes, genders, etc;
    • Sketching out a funding plan for the next few years to take advantage of any funding that’s coming up (think arts, sport, health, economic development, small business, etc)

    And so on.

    How to be ‘public’ dancers in a covid19 world

    I think you all know that I took a break from teaching and running classes last year in about June, before I went away for a long trip. I found it gave me a real break, and I liked it. Though I truly missed the actual teaching part, I didn’t and don’t miss the everyday pressure of management and promotion.

    I pivoted a bit, and put more energy into DJing, running live band gigs and weekend events, and I got a bit more into pattern drafting (completely non-dancing related creative fun). And then I started doing 3 days a week of dance practice with a partner, and I was much happier. It’s been many years since I just did dance stuff for my own pleasure and satisfaction. More, please.

    This week I’m actually beginning to feel like being creative in a dance-related way. I was really inspired by the little bit of the WHO fundraiser I saw. It was so nice to see people in my timezone and region (Asia) doing normal dance stuff (Vietnam were social dancing), and to hear and see Sing talking about dance <3 And it was lovely to be an audience and listen to friends DJ. I liked it because it was a new thing for me. When I stopped running the classes, I feel a disconnect a few other dance friends have expressed lately. What should I write in email newsletters? Who was I talking to? What did I have to say? I felt like my personal voice was subsumed by the 'voice of the business', and I was uncomfortable with that. So now I'm working on 'stuff I love' and 'stuff I want to do‘.

    I’ve been thinking that small events and projects are going to come first in the post-COVID and living-with-COVID world, for safety’s sake. And that a smaller, local focus will perhaps be much more fulfilling and personally stimulating than huge-market stuff. Whether it’s a small class, or a small party where people just socialise in a normal human way, with talking and food and drink and music and dancing, rather than the strange modern lindy hop way, which is nothing but dance.

    This hard reset could be a good thing for all of us. As Jon Tigert says in a fb discussion, “Im much more fulfilled by local interactions,” and perhaps this could be a much better, healthier and sustainable direction for lindy hop. Small scale, fulfilling participation in local culture, that can focus on equity and justice and joy and satisfaction on a smaller, more sustainable scale. Rather than thinking ‘I have to spread and preserve lindy hop’, we can think ‘I want and need to have meaningful social interactions because we could go back into iso any time, and I know I miss this real human contact. It’s what feeds my heart.’

    And our ‘marketing’ could take that angle: real social interactions that help us get through hard times.

    Will we be running dance events in May 2021

    We’re still in iso here in Sydney. And while Morrison is talking about and early opening, even if the states do go ahead, we will see a second wave before the end of 2020.

    Even if we do get out of iso, we will be adhering to safety measures (washing our hands, covering our mouths, not touching people, keeping 1.5m apart) for a much longer time.
    Dancing is a high risk activity: all that touching, but also the respiratory droplets blown everywhere by all the panting and puffing and open mouths. Not to mention musicians and their germ-blower instruments.
    We won’t be lindy hopping (or solo jazzing) until we get a vaccine, and we’ve seen that vaccine work reliably.

    Beyond that, we don’t have the infrastructure to support weekend events. Private venues (eg dance halls, etc) are just devastated by the iso restrictions. Public venues (town halls etc) will either be closed and repurposed, or under extremely strict rules (eg no more than 10 people at a time, hardcore hygiene and cleaning, etc). The people who run events will still be recovering financially (eg we still have outstanding debts from Jazz Bang), and will need to develop new seed money sums, or new sponsorship options.

    Music and the arts generally are fucked in NSW and Australia. No sound engineers, lighting specialists, etc etc – all those people who support the artists on stage. They’ll have all started looking for other work and have other commitments to support families and pay rent.

    Insurance will become a serious issue. I’ve already had emails from my insurer about new conditions. I personally don’t want to risk legal action for endangering people. And if we start doing things like taking temperatures at dances, we take responsibility for health, and open ourselves to legal action. And I know I don’t want to have to face the Worksafe issues of putting volunteers and staff in unsafe conditions.
    Beyond that, the market for big dance events will change. The bulk of the market for these events are those ‘intermediate’ dancers – people who aren’t new, and aren’t super long time dancers (though JB is an exception on this – this older/newer group is our market). We’ll need to find new ways of targeting those markets.

    But those avenues of advertising and market development will have changed. Dance schools will have gone out of business, and/or teachers will have had to redirect their energies to things like working from home, new jobs, etc. If we do start up classes again, it’ll take a few years to get up to speed and redevelop the labour force (unpaid volunteers, primarily) to run regular and big events. It’ll be like starting new scenes.

    Five years is a long time in dance world. That’s a generation of dancers. I’ll be 51. All our dancers generally will be older – the difference between 22 and 27 is huge when it comes to family and day job commitments.
    And of course, my greatest fear is our OGs. Older black Americans. Black americans are four times more likely to die of COVID19 than white americans. And older people are even more vulnerable. I personally cannot countenance the thought of dancers starting dancing again and deliberately endangering the communities that gave us these dances and music.

    I’m wondering whether we’ll see people super-keen to do dancing after covid19, or if we’ll see people too afraid to touch other people after covid19. To be honest, I suspect (considering things my epi friends say), we won’t have ‘after covid19′ for many many years. It will be how we live. A seasonal disease that we manage with degrees of isolation and quarantine until a vaccine is found, and then administered to the entire population.
    We may be able to start doing smaller events in privates spaces (eg our homes) in 2021, but only mid-way through.

    But it’s not all tears.
    I’ve been thinking about alternative models for delivering jazz dance and jazz music. Unlike the 1980s, before we saw this new generation of dancers, we have the internet. It’s the perfect tool for delivering audio and audio-visual content. And if we get to the point of small groups gathering in private spaces, we’ll have bands again. And if we can get a few dancers in there, then the bands will be able to learn and relearn playing for and with dancers. So I think the pre-pandemic move towards smaller events will stand us in good stead in the coming years. We’ll get really really good at doing small, quality events that value safety like Jazz BANG.

    The saddest thing of all, is that jazz is social. It invites us into each other’s company. To hold each other close. And breathe wet air in each others’ faces :D

    Here are some rough thoughts about

    “when we will be able to hold weekly swing dances again”

    , responding to Dabney Hopkins’ question on facebook. There are clear cultural differences between countries and their responses to covid19, and I think this will shape the modern lindy hop world. If there is one.

    Some places in Seoul have started already, because their government and population jumped onto the virus early, with thorough testing, transparent and accurate reporting, and exceptional healthcare.

    For the rest of us? Not until the end of 2021, in Australia. And that’s ambitious. More like 2022. We got onto iso quite quickly, and our numbers are under control.
    This delay will trash dance businesses, and see dancers move to other hobbies and work. So we’ll need to rebuild local scenes. Big events will be very slow to come back. We’ll lose our older dancers (and all their organisational and dancing skills) to illness or other activities. We will lose most of the privately owned dance venues, and council/govt and church owned venues will be in high demand.
    Dancers will have to learn new cultures of hygiene, and they’ll make disastrous mistakes at first.
    Travel will be strictly curtailed, interstate/inter-regional in places like Australia and Europe, and internationally.

    I’m not going dancing until there’s a vaccine, because it’s a high risk activity. The longer we wait, the older i get, and the more at risk i’ll become.

    I suspect various US states will allow it earlier, and lots of people will get sick and/or die, and take it home to their families, friends, and colleagues. The virus is out of control in the US, with citizens not practicing iso, tiers of government in conflict, and healthcare overwhelmed. The virus is hitting the poor and marginalised hardest. I suspect the US dance scene will lose the black dancers it does have to illness, grief and work, as they have to move to caring for families and community.
    I worry about the OG musicians and dancers in the US the most. People who want ‘underground parties’, and don’t iso put these most vulnerable people at risk.
    Stay home, for Sugar and Chazz and their family and friends.

    I just had a walk and think. Things that are important now:

    • Stay home, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, don’t go dancing
      • This will save lives.
    • document and archive. If you have footage and photos of your local scene, social dancing, and bands, make two copies and keep it safe. If you have schedules, training manuals, transcriptions of routines, make two copies and keep them safe.
      • this will preserve the stuff we’ve always had trouble finding: everyday dance life.
    • Strengthen your networks. Email or phone your local elders – musicians, dancers, promoters, writers. People who have knowledge, and are most at risk.
    • Start making videos that are entertaining, not just practice videos or jams. Make something people want to _watch_ and rewatch. This will keep you relevant to an increasingly nondancing audience.
    • Look after your kids.
      • We know they’re less likely to get covid. They’re our future.
    • Look after the black kids and first nations kids who are most at risk.
      • Care more about black people than you do about black dance.

    Condoman

    I was living in Brisbane, and about 15 when I first saw Condoman. This was mid-AIDS crisis, and the Brisbane AIDS team was based in the Valley, where my mum worked, and where we went out to see bands and get hassled by junkies.

    Condoman was invented by Aunty Gracelyn Smallwood and a bunch of other good peeps from Townsville, who wanted a figure who would empower black kids and get them to use condoms. This poster was designed by and printed by Michael Callaghan and Redback Graphix in 1987.

    Redback Graphix (1979-1994) was an independent printing cooperative based in Wollongong, and focussing on politically minded, community-centred posters. Their posters are most excellent.

    I for one would welcome an anti-Rona poster that was a bit more empowering, and a bit more block colour than the pissweak govt publications we’re seeing.

    But Redback were funded by state and federal arts grants, and the coalition governments (both state and federal) today have decided the arts can go and get fucked. So there’s no covid bailout for them (us) and funding for the arts generally has been gutted.

    I’m nuts for posters, playbills, and printed ephemera. Particularly hand-printed, or short-run printed material. There’s a great book about Redback Graphix, which I strongly recommend.

    Films and tv programs where people go to parties or play sport just seem implausible now.

    Hoarding during a pandemic

    Normal shopping isn’t hoarding.
    Hoarding is an obsessive compulsive behaviour and a response to anxiety. The best way to decide whether what you’re doing is hoarding or just routine, is to sit and imagine not buying those 10 loaves of bread you have in your trolley. If it causes you real distress (ie panic attack, crying, etc) it’s hoarding.

    Thing is, in these times we’re all dealing with real anxiety, and most people don’t know how to manage it. The idea of buying and having lots of things is soothing for people trained to find pleasure in shopping. So it’s only to be expected. I imagine a lot people buying ‘extra’ plan to share it with family or legit keep it for an unpredictable emergency. They feel safer with a stockpile.

    A lot of white m/c australians have never had to deal with real shortages, so they’re stocking up on the wrong things. Here in Ashfield where we’re from Nepal, China, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Poland, etc, a lot of people know how to deal with scarcity, so they’re always stocked up, and with the right things. Rice, preserved food, spices to give flavour to plain food. And they don’t waste food.

    Hoarding is not good, but i see it as a bellweather for community feeling.
    Here our supermarkets (preserve of m/c people) are a mess, but our Asian grocers are not.

    So, because you can’t do anything about other people, check yourself. Be mindful of your purchasing. One extra loaf is bread is fine (esp if you freeze any extra). But be aware: if you get to three or four, check your general anxiety and wellbeing. Buying excessive amounts will tell you how your anxiety levels are.
    But don’t judge yourself harshly for being a sensible housekeeper.

    I’d like to see the Australian Ballet do THIS

    Dance people! Argh! You’re home, you can’t dance or see your mates, you are going nuts. What can you do?

    If only we had a pool of highly motivated, experienced volunteers and managerial types with time on their hands. If only we had an extensive network of local, national, and international people who liked doing community stuff. If only we had fb groups and email lists and instagram accounts! IF ONLY.

    Wait. We DO.
    The international lindy hop community is fully sick on the whole organisation thing.

    Need a group of tired and confused people sorted into groups quickly and efficiently? Have I got the class-levels-audition judge or competitor marshall for YOU.

    Need someone who can organise food and beds for hundreds of people? Have I got the housing coordinator or catering team for YOU.

    Need someone who can balance a tight budget, weedle cash out of reluctant individuals, or write a shit-hot grant application? I have the event organisers for YOU.

    I haven’t had a chance to think about this properly, yet, but I do know there are a lot of worried, disheartened people in my immediate community looking for something to _do_ to help. Why not put your big brains to work?

    Here are a couple of things I’ve come up with:

    Hassle our MPs:
    – If the dole (newstart, pension, etc) is increased to a liveable wage, we’ll all be better off when we lose a lot more jobs. People with an income spend money, and that means they feed money into the economy. Which is good for all of us, not just those of us who sell bread or run restaurants.

    -> So we want to hassle our members of parliament about this. Write letters. Send emails. Get tapping, folk.

    Support our local charities:
    – Local charities like The Exodus Foundation and Addison Road Community Centre have had a huge increase of people coming in for help in the past month. They need food, basic health stuff (TP, pads, etc), and they need volunteers.
    – Lots of us are going to be needing these services soon.

    -> So we need to take our extra groceries down there in person. This will give us a chance to scope out the place, and get familiar. Which will make it easier to…
    -> Volunteer at places like Exodus or Addison Road. They always need people to do jobs like making food, cleaning up, driving cars, washing things, and so on.

    It kind of sucks at the moment, but things will probably get worse. BUT there are things we can do. And the international dance community is kind of crazily competent. I mean, we operate huge cultural events with virtually no government funding. I’d like to see the Australian Ballet pull off the shit _we’re_ capable of!

    Give!

    Hello!
    Now you have all that free time on your hands ( :D ), have you considered mobilising to help local charities? It’ll help you feel less worried, and be a nice social connection to replace dancing <3 Places like the Addison Road Community Centre food bank and the Exodus foundation need food for people who are in dire straits.
    So while you’re out for a bit of panic-buying, why not grab some ring pull cans, porridge sachets, all those foods you can eat if you’re homeless and only have access to boiling water?

    I’m going to see if they need things like basic clothes, as I’m going hard on the lockdown-sewing.