What about solo jazz classes in Sydney?

It’s still very high risk, because:

  • we’re still very close to each other (we need a lot more space than other activities)
  • the puffing and huffing spreads more respiratory droplets than normal breathing
  • we spend more time indoors together (two risk factors)
  • you have to clean up the space before and after the class, which is a lot of work
  • you need to have staff to manage crowding and lines

…and so on. This is why the actual _class_ is high risk. All this, and then the business has to handle contact tracing and other covidsafe regulations. The teaching model that was happening before covid barely (if ever) managed to handle insurance and other safety stuff. This added layer of work is too much for most dance businesses.

But in addition, the businesses that ran classes before have all been devastated by the shutdowns. No support from the government means businesses have failed or had to close down. Teachers have had to look for other work. So the _businesses_ have had to pause.

There’s no money to fund class expenses: advertising, insurance, rent/room hire, etc etc. All dance classes take a financial risk on this stuff, and then if numbers aren’t solid, they make a loss. Solo jazz has always been a higher financial risk because it doesn’t attract as many students as lindy hop.
I’ve run a dance business, and taught for my own business and others. Including the first weekly solo jazz class in Australia (brag! brag!). At this stage the safety issues of covid are a big deterrent, but it’s all the other administrative issues that are the real killer. We don’t make much money from single classes; to make money you have to run a bunch of classes and/or big classes. That’s not going to happen during this moment.

But hold on. We need a vaccine, and we need 100% take up, before we start teaching classes safely.

Things you can do to get lindy hop happening again:

  • Hassle your local MP to get arts bailout packages for small businesses like dance schools;
  • Make sure you and your family and all your friends are ready to get vaccinated, and then get vaccinated. If you’ve got anti-vaxer friends, or an anti-vaxer yourself, you’re a big health risk for all of us;
  • Don’t spread misinformation about covid (because that leads to outbreaks which slows things down again);
  • Support teachers, DJs, and other dance professionals who are working online: always pay for classes (even if they don’t ask for money), share and recommend good classes and organisations, drop supportive notes to people who are doing this work;
  • Encourage support for local venues where people run classes: independent venues (like our beloved Ruby’s), bars where live jazz lived (because it’s another important part of the lindy hop ecosystem).

Drawing a line from pathologising Black bodies to lindy hop

What if Doctors Stopped Prescribing Weight Loss?

Women, and particularly women of colour, are less likely to have their health concerns addressed by medical professionals. Doctors and health care workers are more likely to emphasise weight loss as a ‘cure’ for various ailments than any other therapy.

This interesting article discusses how medical discourse pathologises fat or unskinny bodies, and works to control the appearance of women. If we go a step further and think about how this ‘ideal’ female body is marked by race and presented as ‘healthy’, we can also see how Black women’s bodies are therefore positioned as unhealthy. And of course, a woman who doesn’t fit this skinny white ideal is also branded lazy, weak-willed, even amoral.

If we think about Grey’s brilliant piece about vintage wear in the jazz dance world, we can see how an emphasis on ‘vintage aesthetics’ (which aren’t vintage at all, but contemporary bodily values mapped onto an imaginary past) not only penalises Black women’s bodies, but punishes Black women’s pride and joy in their embodies Blackness. In other words, a Black woman who feels happy and good when she’s dancing is punished for this joy by modern lindy hop culture. Her ‘weight’ is seen as a moral failing, and her body shape literally doesn’t fit into the ‘acceptable’ costumes (and choreography) of ‘popular’ white lindy hop.

Most importantly, she’s taught to mistrust her own joy and pride. She is told that her body is proof of a moral failing. That pleasure she finds in her body is misplaced. She is encouraged to doubt herself and her body, and to punish herself with starvation.

You can see, of course, how a person in this state of mind, doubting her thoughts, mistrusting her body’s feedback, is perfectly positioned for sexual and physical abuse.

This article is good for the way it discusses Dr Metz’ respect for and centering of her patients’ thoughts and feelings, rather than arbitrary medical rules.

They talk a little more about Towne’s diet as Metz thoughtfully frames the conversation, asking, “Does your body give you feedback after you eat that?” instead of offering prescriptive advice about what to eat or avoid, as a different doctor might have. (source)

I’m going to go a step further, and ask you to think about how the way lindy hop is taught repeats these patterns. Are we given arbitrary rules about how to hold our partner’s hand, or are we asked to experiment with what feels good, and trust our own bodies and feelings?

And then I’m wondering: how can we truly decolonise lindy hop, and other popularised Black dance, when we are pathologising the Black bodies and Black ways of being in the world that created them?

References:
I’ve written more about the issue of ‘vintage wear’ and dance in Vintage fashion and lindy hop: let’s add race, 14 February 2018.

Virginia Sole-Smith, What if Doctors Stopped Prescribing Weight Loss?, Scientific American, July 2020.

Grey Armstrong, Dance Communities and Time Travel, February 2018.

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 do you get women leads?

    Sydney now has a very strong culture of ‘anyone can lead or follow if they like, and it’s ok if you just want to do one and it happens to align with your gender ID’.

    There are a number of reasons for this – a queer swing dance school who also run a big event; women leads on the floor; women teachers who teach as leads; people being publicly intolerant of anti-social behaviour; a growing ‘be good to each other’ discourse in event promotion, etc.
    And where I write ‘women’, please include transwomen. I’ve noticed it’s easier for normcore folk to include transmen in their ideas of ‘men’, than it is to include transwomen in their category ‘women’.
    It’s also been super important to see how welcoming and supportive our scene has been of people who’ve transitioned while being in the scene. ie they first presented as one gender, then transitioned to another. On the whole, teachers and dancers have been openly supportive, and more importantly, no-big-deal about changing pronouns, etc. It may have been harder for them one-on-one (all new things are tricky), but on the whole, it’s been ok. Not perfect, but ok. More work to do there.

    Note: if a scene is ok with women leads and men follows, it is more welcoming to transpeople and queerpeople. Because a scene that has flexible ideas about gender and dance is a more welcoming, safer place.
    If my leading has ever helped pave the way for a shy dyke lead or transwoman follow, then I feel very proud. It was worth it.

    etc etc

    One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed, is that this general trend has been working in concert with peer-motivated anti-sexual-harassment actions. ie women are more likely to say no when a creeper asks them to dance, and they will also step in and check in on other women if they see creepers maccing on them.
    There’s also been a scene-wide ‘fuck that; we do not tolerate harassment or assault’ public discussion from teachers (even if the organisational policies haven’t been in place).

    And _this_ trend has seen us get a more ethnically diverse cohort of dancers. In part because one of the main creepers was targeting asian women. Boy, did he get his arse handed to him. And because women of colour just get fucked off by carrying the double burden of racism and sexism.

    I noticed that once he and his gross mates were absent from events, we saw an increase in men following. It seems that this racist creeper was also intimidating other men _implicitly_. And that the men who liked to follow also liked women who lead (or the women who’d had a gutful of that creeper).

    So when we addressed all these issues – sexuality, ethnicity, gender, etc – at the same time, we saw a general improvement in the vibe of parties and classes. People felt more comfortable being themselves.

    And then it snowballed, and we saw exponential improvements.

    So if your goal is ‘more women leads’, you need to address a range of issues. You’ll get a bunch of lovely good results as a consequence.

    But speaking as a woman lead, things that were important for me:
    – Teachers who openly said ‘women are leads as well as men’. The importance of this cannot be overstated. I remember the handful of times I’ve heard teachers say it in the last 20 years. But don’t be afraid to be pro-active on this. Not just saying ‘anyone can lead’, but “Women can lead.”

    – Teachers saying to me “Don’t ever stop leading.” A woman teacher said this to me quietly one night after class, and it was the most important thing anyone has ever said to me about dancing.

    – Seeing women teachers lead socially.

    – Seeing other women ask women teachers to lead them socially.

    – Having women teachers ask me to dance (and lead)

    Things I wish people had done:

    – Stepping on students in class who say ‘you’re being the man/boy?!’ with surprise.
    I’ve never heard a teacher say this, but it would be solid gold if they said “hey, follows, don’t say this to your partners. It makes them sad.”
    I’ve only ever been at two weekend events where no one has said this to me. In 22 years of lindy hop classes and workshops. Each time someone expresses surprise and expects me to justify leading, it wears me down just a little bit. So a) fuck you women follows, and b) teachers, get your students’ backs.

    – Never used gendered pronouns in class, or used gendered language and concepts to describe leading.

    Things that shat me to tears:
    – Male teachers who try to make me try a move as a follow in class, when I’m leading. Sure, it might help my learning, but would you ask a male lead to do this, even if you knew they followed? And also, whatever your norm is, do this thing: treat women leads like they are leaders, not follows who sometimes lead.

    – Teachers who kept ‘forgetting’ to use gender neutral language.

    – Teachers who use sexy jokes in class, because most of those jokes were heterocentric and/or relied on the idea of a lead being a straight man.

    Ways climate change is affecting lindy hop in Australia

    – We don’t run events in January and February as it’s too physically hot, and December is on the way out.
    This means that we’ll lose a quarter of the calendar year for big weekend events;

    – Musicians can’t make gigs because they’ve lost their homes in bushfires.
    This means that our world standard jazz scene is losing talent and experience, and dancers are losing potential bands and musicians;

    – Bushfire smoke reduces air quality to the point where it’s dangerous to dance in unfiltered air.
    This means that regular classes are cancelled, and dancers must reduce practice schedules and venues;

    – Classes are cancelled during heat waves.
    This means that interruptions to the class program loses students, and reduces the number (and diversity) of people in the scene;

    – Public transport (ferries) is cancelled due to smoke haze.
    This means that people need to drive to class, or find other modes of transport;

    – We can no longer use spaces that don’t have air conditioning.
    This means that we have to move into more expensive venues, often ones working within Clubs Australia with gambling and precarious hire arrangements, and we lose our smaller local venue relationships.

    – Flights are cancelled because of extreme storms or reduced visibility.
    This means that dancers and musicians have their flights rescheduled so they miss events. This in turn reduces numbers at events, band cancellations, and costs attendees in lost registration fees and missed competitions.

    – Bushfires and dust storms decrease the lifespan of sound equipment.
    This means that gear needs to be stored in safer (more expensive) storage, and needs to be replaced more often, draining the coffers of organisers and societies.

    What is gliding?

    Basically, it’s just moving around the dance floor in closed, doing whatever rhythms you like.

    “Just grab your partner and move over the floor”

    I’ve been in classes with all sorts of teachers, who’ve taught it in different ways. Because it’s so simple, you can adapt it to teach all sorts of skills and concepts.
    eg when we teach our week 1 beginners, they do solo jazz warm up, then solo rhythm work, then we change gear completely, and get them to partner up and try gliding. We usually start with music on, but with no specific rhythm. We literally just demo what we want them to do, then say ‘try this’.
    After a few minutes or a song, and they’ve rotated a bit, we do the “here are some things we saw that were really cool,” and we focus on the things we want to see more of – eg stopping to apologise when you kick someone.

    That last one is REALLY important, not just for good social skills, but also because it encourage them to think about where their body is in space, in relation to other moving objects. This is the great thing about gliding: you move all over the floor. So students have to learn about moving through space without bashing into people. And if they _do_ hit someone, they have to recognise that, stop and see it as significant, then make contact with the other people in the room to apologise. And then they reset with their partner to start again.

    Then we may point out that someone has started adding in the rhythm from earlier (someone always has), and we ask everyone to try it.
    We add in the rock step around about here, after a bit of practice on this, because someone always asks “How do you change direction?” And we introduce the rock step as a good direction changing tool.

    Having them all over the floor is also great, because when you say “Please ask someone else to dance,” they learn to move around and ask new people to dance. If you’re using a small floor (joy), it really feels like a laughing, happy party. And that gives them a good taste of how much fun dancing is. It’s also a relatively simple task, so they get confident and have good feels. Teaching win.
    And so on.

    The specific limitations or tasks you ask them to consider really depend on what you’re teaching. eg I’ve done this in higher level classes where we’ve been asked to _not_ rock step, or to use only a specific rhythm. Heck, peabody is just gliding, but at SPEED.
    In terms of dance nerdery, I really like gliding both partners are moving in the same direction at the same time. There’s not the obvious compression and extension that you get when you introduce rock steps. This is a kind of ‘pre-lindy hop’ historical moment (in my brain).

    When you add in rock steps (and hence compression/extension in closed, if you like nerd concepts), they level up their physical abilities, and also move through dance history, away from that ‘always flowing in one direction’ type of dance. They start experimenting with staying in one spot on the floor. Once you have that physical limitation, you can see how swing outs happened: if you can’t have fun moving across the floor, you need to have fun on the spot. And rotating on the spot (a good circle) is a way to have energetic fun in a small space.

    You can signal this historical stuff if you want, which makes them think about dance in social context. Or you can signal the technical stuff, which makes them think about dance as biomechanics. Or you can signal the music changes, and have them think about the dance as music.
    And so on and so forth.

    [We do find that after a chunk of this they want some clear structure or a solid ‘move’. Promenades are a good option here, or flip flops.
    eg at 0.53 Asa and Daniel bring the flip flopping shit. Actually, this video is great for lots of closed position ideas.]

    BLACK lindy hop matters

    My problem with discussions about the ‘lindy hop revival’ is that it is centred on whether or not the lindy hop died out.
    This way of talking and thinking about lindy hop and black dance and music is all about non-black people trying to force a particular paradigm (way of thinking) onto black history and culture. Wanting these cultural practices to fit into a linear understanding of dance, where one thing gave birth to another in a nice straight line.

    When it wasn’t that way at all.

    There’s stacks of literature and oral history and discussion of black culture (esp music and dance), _by black people, from black communities_ that point out that music and dance don’t work that way in these communities. Did everyone read Odysseus’ piece that he posted in this group? Did we read Katrina Hazzard-Gordon? Tommy deFrantz? Jacqui Malone? Joann Kealiinohomoku?
    No?
    It’s time to set your Marshall and Jean Stearns aside, and read some work by actual black authors.

    The prevalence of multi-generational spaces (where young people and older people got together) in black communities is unlike white American, and other colonialist spaces. BBQs, cookouts, street parties, church dances, dances, parties, weddings, baptisms, engagements, birthday parties, anniversaries, etc etc etc. All these cross-generational social spaces where people danced and talked and listened to music and did all sorts of cultural stuff. There’d be different dances happening all at once in one space. And steps and rhythms moved between generations as well.

    The term ‘revival’ is highly problematic, because it implies, necessarily, that something was ‘dead’, and then ‘revived’ – brought back to life. To declare something ‘dead’ or irrelevant, or gone, is an act of cultural power. To do it retroactively, from a position of cultural and social power (white colonial power) is full-on, epic-dodgy, do-not-do-this.
    1. Because white people did not and do not have access to black spaces*,
    2. Because white eyes aren’t so good at seeing black culture in this colonial context,
    3. Because fuck off mate, that’s an arse-act.

    As I said earlier, to declare a culture ‘dead’ is an act of imperialism. It’s what British colonists did when they invaded Australia: they declared Aboriginal culture dying, and on its way to dead. They literally declared the continent terra nullius: uninhabited. Both these positions were justification for British imperialism, invasion, colonisation. It’s fully hardcore oldschool racism.
    -> I am referencing this chunk of postcolonial theory because it is directly relevant to a discussion of American history, and of slavery within American history. Bodily autonomy – the freedom to move one’s body at will – and cultural autonomy – the freedom to share or not share culture – are determined by race and class throughout the colonial history of America and Australia.

    Anyway, this is why I don’t like to use the word ‘revivalism’ in the context of 1980s lindy hop.

    *A note here about desegregation in the jazz era: desegregation gave _white_ people access to black spaces. I do not in anyway condone segregation, but the movement of white bodies and persons into black community spaces was pretty good for white cultural thieves, but not always so great for the black communities they were colonising.

    Who is responsible for fighting racism in dance?

    White people, particularly white people of influence (like dance teachers) need to get their learn on. Rather than placing the burden of policing racism on the backs of people of colour, white people need to listen to people of colour, and start policing their own behaviours.
    Just as men need to be responsible for policing their own sexist behaviour, rather than waiting for women to do all the labour of speaking up.

    We can be certain that the preponderance of white faces in lindy hop today is a result of the white mainstream’s appropriation of black culture. Being able to steal-and-sell a cultural practice is a mark of power and privilege. The repackaging and ‘toning down’ of the black racial markers of lindy hop (and other dances) is part of this process of appropriation. Insisting on using counts, focussing on biomechanics rather than music, enforcing white middle class gender roles, and so on are all markers of white appropriation of black dances. These dances are made palatable (and marketable) for white middle class audiences through this ‘whitening’ of black dance.

    If we _don’t_ address this matter in our classes, and in our own thinking, we are perpetuating it. We are doing racist stuff. We are shoring up racism.

    Breai Mason-Campbell has asked people “What are you doing to decolonise lindy hop?” Because that’s how we address racism in this dance. We, white people, do something about it.

    A lot of white people will be uncomfortable.

    Nathan Sentance’s piece Diversity means Disruption (November 28, 2018) is important. It addresses the experiences of people of colour (specifically first nations people) within arts and information institutions – libraries, museums, galleries. My own background is in universities and libraries, with my information management postgrad work focussing on the management of first nations’ collections and access to collections.

    In this piece Sentance makes it clear that diversity in itself is not useful. Just having people of colour on the team does not provoke institutional change. Representation is not enough; we need structural, institutional change to disrupt the flow of power and privilege.

    In this post I’ve taken some lines from Sentance’s article (in green italics), and I’ve responded to them with specific reference to the lindy hop and swing dance world.

    Why a diverse teaching line up will change the culture of lindy hop. And a lot of white people will find that uncomfortable.

    Or

    Having black women teach at your event is radical.

    Why hire First Nations people into your mostly white structure and expect/want/demand everything to remain basically the same?

    Why hire people of colour to teach at your dance event within your mostly white structure and expect/want/demand everything to remain basically the same?

    Why don’t libraries, archives and museums challenge whiteness more?

    Why don’t dance events and dance classes challenge white, middle class modes of learning and learning spaces more?

    As result of the invisibility of whiteness, diversity initiatives are often about including diverse bodies into the mainstream without critically examining what that mainstream is

    As a result of the invisibility of whiteness within lindy hop, diversity initiatives are often about just hiring black teachers at big events, without critically examining the way the classes and performances at these events construct a white ‘norm’ that reinforces the mainstream.

    Kyra describes this “When we talk about diversity and inclusion, we necessarily position marginalized groups as naturally needing to assimilate into dominant ones, rather than to undermine said structures of domination”

    White lindy hoppers ask ‘why aren’t there any black dancers in my local lindy hop scene?

    I have seen a high turnover of staff from marginalized communities, especially First Nations people, as well as general feelings of disenfranchisement.

    Black dancers get tired of being the only person of colour, asked to ‘give [themselves, their time, their energy] a talk about black dance and black culture’ to white audiences, to give, to work, to be visible, to represent blackness. Tokenism is tiring. Tiring.

    1.Don’t let white fragility get in the way of change.

    ….[white people] need to understand that [their] discomfort is temporary, oppression is not and as organisations we need to create more accountability.

    It is difficult to be told you are racist, when you are pretty sure you aren’t. It’s difficult to be criticised, as a dancer, as a person, by someone you feel you are including as a charitable act of ‘diversity’.

    Ruby Hamad wrote about this and how the legitimate grievances of brown and black women were instead flipped into narratives of white women getting attacked which helped white people avoid accountability and also makes people of color seem unreasonable and aggressive.

    If you feel attacked, perhaps it is only that you are being disagreed with?

    3. Support us.
    …Being First Nations person in a majority white organisation means a lot is asked of you that is not in your role description. This needs to be acknowledged.

    Being a black teacher at a majority white events means a lot is asked of you that is not in your role description. This needs to be acknowledged.

    Your extensive planning and carefully structured workshop weekend might seem very good and progressive to you. But it might be alienating, discomforting, and marginalising for people of colour. You might feel your black guests are ‘helping white people learn’, but they may feel set up as a ‘great black hope’ on an inaccessible stage. When what they might prefer is to spend time with other dancers as a new friend, as a peer, and to teach using other models.

    If all you’ve changed in your program is the colour of the skin of the people presenting, then you haven’t changed anywhere near enough.

    Additionally, support should include providing First Nations only spaces when necessary as well as supporting staff with time and resources to connect with other First Nations staff in other organisations and to connect with different community members as part of our professional development.

    Support should include providing black teachers and performers with black only spaces. …and the time and resources to connect with other black teachers and performers.
    Hire more than one black person at a time.
    Give black women time with other black women; ‘black girl talk’ is important.
    Hire black dancers from different styles, black singers and musicians, black artists and writers, and give them time to talk and make friends.

    4. Remember it ain’t 9-5 for us

    Dance teachers at events are ‘on’ all the time they are in front of other people. Black dancers are black all the time. Their experiences of race shape their whole lives.
    Black dancers often consider themselves part of a bigger black community, to whom they owe loyalty and responsibilities. They don’t owe you a complete and full history of everything black about lindy hop. Some things are private, and some things should remain secret. They don’t owe you all their time and energy to ‘help white people learn’. They have and need time in their own communities and families.

    A useful analogy:
    The Savoy ballroom was an integrated space. That means that white people had access to black spaces*.
    Some spaces need to remain black spaces, where white people cannot go.
    Some dance history and dance knowledge needs to remain black culture; white people aren’t owed all of black dance.

    This is what it means to decolonise black dance: to take back physical and cultural space. To say “No” to white bodies and voices. And for white people to accept that.

    Nevertheless we cannot have change or meaningful diversity without disruption.

    Having a black teacher at your event will not change the status quo.
    You will need to change the way you structure your event. The way you speak. The pictures you show. The language you use.

    Having a nursing mother teach at your event will not change the status quo.
    You will need to change the way you structure your event. The clothes they wear. The way you speak. The start and finish times of your classes. Their bed times.

    Representation is not just about black bodies or female bodies being present. It is about disrupting the status quo – making structural change – to accommodate change.

    To have more women teach at big events, to have black women teach at events mean something, you will need to change the way you run events. You cannot simply slot a black or female body into a space a built for a white man and expect to change your culture. You will need to change that space completely.

    A lot of your usual (white) students and attendees will feel uncomfortable with a space that privileges black culture and black people. This won’t make these students and attendees happy. They may not have a ‘nice’ time. They may find classes challenging or upsetting. They may not like the way black teachers talk to them, or that they don’t have 24/7 access to black teachers’ time and energy. They may be angry that their previous knowledge and skills weren’t valued as highly as other (black cultural) skills and knowledge are at this event.
    This will be difficult for many white organisers to deal with, both in the moment, and in feedback after the event.

    Are you prepared to deal with that?
    No?
    Then it is time you started taking classes with teachers who ask you to learn in new ways. It is time for you to humble yourself. To do things that are difficult and confronting. To be ok with feeling uncomfortable. Practice. Because you need to be ok with this. You are going to have to give up ownership of some of your most valued possessions.

    Lindy hop wasn’t dead, white people. It wasn’t dead and waiting for you to revive it. It was alive, it was in the bodies and music and dance of a nation of black people. Modern lindy hop culture is marked by white culture and race, by class and power.
    This is why black lindy hop matters.




    *Marie N’diaye, LaTasha Barnes, and I were in conversation one night at a bar. Marie made this point. It made a profound impact on me, to have a black woman say this to me, at a white-dominated event that purported to be all about African American vernacular dance. “The Savoy ballroom was an integrated space. That means that white people had access to black spaces.”

    It made me realise: I do not deserve or am owed access to all black dance spaces and culture. I do not have a right to learn all the black dances, to acquire all the black cultural knowledge. It is not mine. And it is important for me to remember that a desegregated Savoy in the 1930s gave white people an even greater degree of access to and ownership of black culture and black bodies in motion. A key part of decolonising lindy hop, is for me – a white woman – sit down, and accept that I don’t get everything I want. And in that particular moment, I needed to know when to get up and leave the conversation.
    Because black girl talk is important. Black vernacular is important. And I shouldn’t assume I have an automatic right to participate in it, even if it’s happening in desegregated places.

    This is made explicit in Kyra’s post, How to Uphold White Supremacy by Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion:

    Closed spaces for marginalized identities are essential, especially ones for multiply marginalized identities, as we know from intersectionality (not to be confused with the idea that all oppression is interconnected, as many white women who have appropriated the term as self-proclaimed “intersectional feminists” seem to understand it). Any group, whether organized around a shared marginalized identity or not, will by-default be centered around the most powerful within that group. For example, cisgender white women will dominate women’s groups that aren’t run by or consciously centering trans women and women of color. A requirement for all groups to be fully open and inclusive invites the derailment and silencing of marginalized voices already pervasive in public spaces, preventing alternative spaces of relative safety from that to form. Hegemony trickles down through layers of identity, but liberation surges upwards from those who experience the most compounded layers of oppression.