Category Archives: music

Remind yourself that you are a jazz dancer

There’s recently been a fairly loud and emotional discussion about sexual violence in lindy hop. I don’t want to rehash it here, because I find it very upsetting. Rehashing this stuff in detail disempowers me. I don’t want to discuss the male teacher named in this discussion, because I don’t want this to be all about him. Again. I want to take that power away from him. I want to find power in this, for me, and for other women.

Here is something I wrote on facebook today, in response to Gwen Moran’s piece How We Can Help Young Girls Stay Assertive. This piece described Deborah Ann Cihonski’s article ‘The experience of loss of voice in adolescent girls: An existential-phenomenological study’. I don’t know what that original research is like (haven’t read it yet), but it’s an interesting place to start.

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This article is particularly relevant to the current discussion about assault and safety for women in the lindy hop scene.

I am deeply disturbed by comments emphasising how we might ‘protect’ women and girls in our communities. I think it is problematic (to say the least) to perpetuate this idea of femininity as vulnerable (and passive), and masculinity as dangerous (and active).

It’s important to remember that most sexual assaults happen in privates spaces (dance halls, practice rooms, bedrooms, lounge rooms and so on), and most women are assaulted by people they know. ‘Rapists’ aren’t wild bears or volcanoes: they aren’t forces of nature that we have to protect women from. They are people who need to fix their behaviour.
We need to remind women that they are powerful and capable of caring for and protecting themselves, and for making decisions about their bodies and lives.

So I think that one of the most effective tools for making safe spaces in lindy hop is is empowering women. Some practical tips:

  • Do use gender neutral language in class (ie follow does not = female by default). I have heard many male teachers resist this, saying that it’s ‘too hard’, or ‘not important’. Believe me: it is important. If you are a woman leading in that class (or thinking about leading), it makes you feel part of the group. It makes you feel like a lead.
  • Follows are not passive; following is an active process (ie leads don’t ‘tell follows what to do’, and follows don’t ‘carry out’ leaders’ creative ideas)
  • All partners should take care of each other (ie it’s not that ‘leads look after follows’, it’s that we all should look after each other). eg follows are responsible for floor craft too.
  • List the female dance partner in a teaching team first. This is ridiculously rare in lindy hop, and we need to make up for lost time by over-representing women as the ‘first’ member of the teaching team.
  • Teach female students how to say “No thank you” if they are invited to dance, but don’t want to. Teach yourself how to say this.
  • Don’t use sexualised humour in class. This makes it clear that classes are learning spaces. If all the sexy jokes in the world were gender-win, it’d be ok. But most of the sexualised jokes teachers make in class use gender stereotypes that disempower women.
  • Have female role models in your scene: women MCs at big events, women musicians (!!), women organisers, women teaching on their own, women DJs, women publicly making decisions and solving problems (ie female managers), women doing physical labour (beyond cleaning, aye?), women eating well-balanced meals with enthusiasm at shared tables (and not talking about ‘being bad’ when they eat delicious food).
  • Value other types of work, particularly the types of work dominated by women. Working the door is as important as DJing. Make that clear. Name all your volunteers in your PR copy.
  • Talk about old timer dancers who are women. Al, Leon, Frankie: they’re all wonderful. But so are Norma, Sugar, Josephine, Dawn, Big Bea.
  • Research women dancers and teach their material, in their names. And that means more than just another class on swivels. Talk about women choreographers, troupe leaders, and managers.
  • Teach solo dance. Women dancing alone is an act of agency and power in a partner dancing world. And teach a variety of styles: sexy, sweet, powerful, aggressive, humorous, gentle, sad, athletic, witty, cerebral….
  • Congruently, men in lindy hop need to be taught some things too:

    • Work on your own strategies for speaking up when you hear a sexist joke. You know you should call that guy on it, but what exactly will you say or do? Will you walk away? Will you laugh along?
    • What are your limits, when it comes to ‘blokey’ or ‘boys own’ behaviour? Sexy jokes? Talking about women you see in the room in a sexual way? Competing with other men to ‘get’ a woman? Know your limits, then act on them.
    • Defer to female opinion and example: if you’re in a discussion, listen to women before you speak. In all matters, not just sexual safety. Once you’re good at it, then start working on ways of expressing your opinion in a collegial way.
    • Don’t call women girls unless they are actually girls (ie under 13). It’s patronising. Don’t call women or girls ‘females’, unless their gender is what you want to discuss: eg “Female dancers are as capable of leading as following” is as good as “Women dancers are as capable of leading as following” but “Females are good leads too” is not ok. Women are not meerkats.
    • Encourage women to take up leading. Encourage women who lead. Encourage women to comment on leading. A compliment on their technique is good, but asking a woman for her opinion on leading is even better. If a woman chooses to lead in class, don’t make a big deal about it, and make it easy for them to stay in that role (deal with uneven follow/lead ratios in other ways – eg talk about how if you’re standing out, this is a chance to work on your dancing)
    • Seek out women DJs. They may be harder to find, but don’t default to the usual male DJs at your events. Men are more likely to speak up, so you need to keep your eyes and ears open for women DJs.
    • Proactively encourage women DJs, women leads, and women organisers.
    • Use your online time to support women, and to support other men. Men are less likely to chime in with a supportive comment on a general thread about dance than women are. Men generally speak up more often, but they aren’t as likely to just say something like “Hey, great idea!” and then leave it at that.
    • Support men who are doing good gender work: compliment or say ‘yeah!’ when you see guys doing good stuff.
    • Support male follows: don’t make that sexy “wooo!” noise when you see two men dancing together. When you make that noise it announces to everyone that you are uncomfortable with two men dancing together. Probably because you think that two men dancing together is a sexual thing. Which means you probably think partner dancing is a sexual thing. Which means you need to check yourself.
    • When you thank the teachers for a class, say thank you to the female teacher first.

    There are a bajillion ways we can be better humans in lindy hop. They don’t have to be formal policies or official responses. Be the change you want to see: men should assume that if they’re not pro-actively changing things, they are part of the problem.

    The nice thing about all this, is that being a better human is really quite nice: you get to be nice to people, and that makes you feel good. Doing genderwin stuff can be an empowering thing for you. If it feels a bit hard (eg some guys say using gender neutral language is too hard), then remind yourself that you are a jazz dancer: we love hard things! We love challenges! We dance the most complex, wonderful dance in the world, because we love complex, we love challenge, we love creative solutions!

    The point of this, of course, is that feminism is good for all of us. Change can be confronting. But that’s why we love break steps, right? Because change is exciting and stimulating too!

    A final note: it’s ok to have heroes. It’s totally ok to fansquee for a big name dancer. Having a crush on your dancing hero (no matter what your sex or theirs) is also ok. It means that you are inspired by what they do.
    But don’t stop there. Use the inspiration they bring to become a better dancer yourself. Tell them you love what they do, but stop there. Then move on and tell someone else you love what they do, even if they aren’t a big name dancer.

    And remember that if we are all to be held accountable for our actions, we need to be sure that we all have the power, the agency, to make our own decisions, and to control our own bodies and actions.

    NB:
    I have written about these issues many, many times here on this blog. I am an old school feminist, and I believe in the idea of patriarchy, and in discourse and ideology. The bottom line is that I believe that if you want to prevent sexual assault, locking up rapists is not the solution. The solution is in dismantling ‘rape culture‘, or a culture of sexism and patriarchy. I know! It seems like so much work! Good thing we have jazz to sustain us, aye?

    Here are some of these posts:

    banjo vs Basie

    The perennial argument about big band/classic swing vs small NOLA-inspired bands for lindy hop is in fruit again*. Moldy figs for all.

    I have opinions of course, but for now, I’ll just post this:

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    banjo in a small band with shouter vocalists playing Sent For You Yesterday. It’s NT Basie big band meets the moldiest banjo pluckin small band. How even? Is it wrong? Is it right? Who can say!

    *This argument will never die, because people are basically arguing: “We should dance to this type of music because it’s the best!” and both types of music are actually the best.

    Another teaching/DJing rant

    There’s a discussion about DJing for dancers happening on the facey, and I’ve been doing some pretty hardcore ranting. I need to spend less time in Jive Junction – it’s making me too stroppy.

    Anyways, I was ranting about how new DJs often don’t actually play any decent music, and then I was thinking about how that’s usually because they don’t understand what makes a good song, and then I was ranting about teaching lindy hop and how classes need to teach people about the music and how that then helps us get decent DJs.

    I wrote this today, and I want to keep it here, because, for once, I actually wrote something with some degree of brevity. Well, brief by my standards.

    I’m always a bit sad that people don’t make it easy to love swing music in classes. This music is super fun and super funny, and it makes you feel really good.
    Things I wish teachers did more in class (besides just playing more and better music) with beginner students:

    • Play the song the whole way through, and let people dance to it the whole way through.
      How’re you gonna learn to recognise 32 bar chorus or 12 bar blues structures if you don’t hear the whole songs all the way through a lot? How’re you going to learn that swing is _so_ formulaic (and so quite ‘safe’ and unscary to dance to) unless you get to hear the whole song’s whole structure in a safe place like a class?
    • Stop teaching strict patterns or sequences in class.
      If you teach a range of developing steps or feels, then let students dance their way through them in their own time, for a whole song, they get really good at social dancing straight away. They learn to work with a partner, to relax and enjoy the music, to lead and follow, to see how steps work together. They get on top of the ‘moves’ and then start to add their own flavah flave because they’re relaxed. They start listening to the music to find something new and interesting. Then they win lindy hop.
    • Use just one or two songs in class, and play them over and over again, from the beginning to the end.
      It can be a different song each class, but if you work with one song over a whole class, you start to know it really well, and get comfortable with it. You make friends with it. And it has to be a good song, or you’ll go nuts. Classic swing is robust enough to be listened to so many times – hence its overplayedness.
      I think the ‘teach a set sequence of steps’ thing means you then have to do things like push the tempos up to make it interesting. So you then work through a heap of songs in the class, and you don’t get to the song the whole way through.
    • Talk about the song while you’re teaching.
      eg make a joke about a tinkly vibraphone solo, or use Fats Waller’s nicely complicated 4th 8 in a phrase to demonstrate how the break steps in the shim sham hit the breaks in a song. Use different types of music to demonstrate different types of bounce/pulse.
    • Let students count themselves in.
      Do it the first couple of times, but then let them do it. Humans can do this, even in their first class. And it is SO EXCITING to see it!
    • Start students dancing at the beginning of phrases in class.
      So they can hear where phrases start and end. Again, humans figure out how to do this in one class.

    If you teach this way, you realise that musicians like Buble or Big Bad Voodoo Daddy don’t do what you need them to do. You realise that My Baby Just Cares For Me (Nina Simone’s) is a great teaching song because it has that nice steady bass line and those weirdo tempo changes. And you realise that Splanky isn’t so great for the very first moments of a very beginner class because its dynamics are so intense, but it is great for dancing it out later in a class.

    Naomi Uyama is kind of the business

    A little while ago I wrote a review of this album by Naomi Uyama and her Handsome Devils. I was all set to love this album – a fabulous band, a band leader who really knows dance music. But I didn’t. I didn’t like Naomi’s voice, and couldn’t get past it.

    So I left it, and didn’t listen to it very many more times. Just enough times to actually be sure I didn’t love it.

    But every time I’ve DJed since then, I’ve played this song: Take it easy greasy.

    Every. Single. Set. And each time I’ve played it, I’ve found something new and good in it. There’s a moment somewhere in the first third that I noticed when I first DJed it at the MLX late night. I suddenly realised: Naomi has a rhythmic sensibility that only a very good jazz dancer could bring to a song, and it’s quite fantastic. The rest of the band really do pay attention to her, so her voice is really treated as a part of the band. I still don’t really like her voice, but I do like the way she sings. If I think of her as a part of the rhythm section, it’s all good.

    I need to repeat the points I made in that first review of the album: Naomi is a really, really good band leader. And being a good band leader is what makes a band great for dancing. Someone has to give this whole collective improvisation enterprise some direction, some structure. And Naomi is one seriously hardcore arse kicker.
    It’s also worth noting that she arranged some of the songs on the album. So she’s not just singing songs. She’s managing a band off-stage, she’s arranging the music, she’s leading them on stage (ie keeping that shit together in the moment), she’s selecting the right songs for the audience, AND she’s singing.

    Oh, and did you know she can dance? She’s kind of ok at that.

    You can smell the drive and focus on her.

    Women Dancers from Jazz to Bebop

    I’m working on a new project at the moment. Or rather, I started working on this project years ago. It’s still not finished, as you’ll see. But I figure: get it up now, or it’ll never see the light of day.

    It began with my Women’s History Month posts in 2011 and has been sloooowly, sloooowly proceeding from there. Eek. Now I look at it, this is three years’ worth of work. Not consistent work, by any means, though. But work, none the less.

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    In March 2011 I started posting a different woman jazz dancer every day on facebook, and then cross-posted them to my blog each day as well. People dug them, and I found I was learning a LOT about jazz dancers.
    The next year, I decided to do the same for the 2012 Women’s History Month. Except this time I posted a different woman jazz musician every day of the month.
    In 2013 I went back to women jazz dancers, posting a different woman every day for Women’s History Month in March 2013, some repeats from 2011, some new.

    All these women jazz dancers posts took quite a bit of research. I started with the obvious ones, but as the month progressed, I needed more. So I hassled my jazz researcher friends (people like Peter Loggins), and I started hunting down women in film clips.

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    Well, I built a website to showcase all my Women’s History Month posts, but it was a bit rubbish. For a start, it wasn’t using responsive design, so you couldn’t look at it on a mobile. But that wasn’t really my fault – it predated my experimentation with responsive design.

    jazzbanglogo

    This past month (December 2014), I decided to update the website, make it properly responsive. This overhaul was inspired by workshops and conversations with Marie N’Diaye over the Jazz BANG weekend. Marie’s chorus line project in Stockholm is really exciting. She really opened my mind about women chorus line dancers, and I decided I needed to share the research I’d put into this project.
    And I had put a lot of research into this. It seemed a shame to let it go to waste.

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    Women Dancers From Jazz to Bebop is a reference tool. It’s not an exhaustive biographical tool. It really just provides the names, birth dates, and any film and stage show appearances I could confirm. If I could find a photo, I’d include that too. I cross-checked all the details as thoroughly as I could, and if I couldn’t confirm something by double-checking it, I made that clear.
    I found quite a few errors in references like the internet Movie Database, and found new uses for my music discographies. Fully nerd. But I wasn’t alone – I really did irritate all my dance historian friends, chasing down names and asking them who such and such is blah blah film was. I couldn’t have pulled this off without their help. You can read all my thank yous on the ‘About’ page of the website, but once again, I have to give Peter Loggins mad props: he has endless patience, and just gives and gives and gives.

    The updated Women Dancers website has a better colour scheme, and you can actually read it on a mobile. Or a desktop. Or an ipad.

    Why doesn’t this site host film footage itself?
    One basic reason: too resource hungry. It takes too much room and time to host footage. And it’s a copyright nightmare. I’ve crossed some lines using photos, but it’s hard to make this site useful without pictures of the dancers – you have to know who you’re looking for when you start looking at archival footage.

    How could you use this site?
    Take a name from the index page, see what films she appeared in, then do a search for it on youtube. Then watch her dance, and teach yourself the steps she’s doing. You will probably suck a bit, but everybody sucks at first. Don’t stop there – practice, practice, practice. Get your learn on.

    How will I use this site?
    If you have a look through the index page, you’ll see that quite a small proportion of the dancers actually have live pages in their name.
    This is because it takes aaaages to
    a) research each woman, and then
    b) code up a page for each woman.
    I know, I know, I should have used a blogging tool for this bit, but I didn’t. I fail.

    I’d like to use the sources in this site to do more research on good solo dancing. I’d like to get a bit more involved in some sort of chorus line project, and I’d like to put the research to practical use in our weekly solo jazz classes.

    I had planned to build the database myself, as I was learning how to make databases in the postgraduate diploma of information management that I was enrolled in at the time (yes, another postgraduate degree – a grad dip in info mgmt, completed December 2011 or 2010 – I can’t remember which.) But I didn’t. The site itself really reflects the sort of site and reference tool design that dominated that course. A bit too much under-funded, ugly public service website design.
    I’ll probably continue to tinker with the site, adding names and pages as I get time and inspiration. Do feel free – please do! – to send me new names and details. But I’ll need some sort of references or sources to cite before I add them to the site, I’m afraid.

    In the mean time, I hope you find this site useful – get dancing, you women!

    Flow Like Wine (more music from the New Sheiks)

    I’m very late on this one. So very late. But this has been a very busy year for me, and sadly, recorded music has had to take a bit of a back seat while I get on with things like live music.

    Earlier this year Leigh Barker and his New Sheiks released a new album.

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    Flow Like Wine is pretty damn good. You can buy it here on CDbaby. Here is my disclaimer: I was approached by Leigh to write the liner notes, and sent a copy of the album to listen to before I wrote about it. Luckily (for me :D ) it’s a great album, and I had lots of nice things to say about it.

    The New Sheiks have actually released three albums, now. The first one was Sales Tax, which I wrote about when I first heard it in 2012. That’s the sort of album that has things dancers would like to dance to on it. The second one was Australiana, which isn’t so much a dancing album, but is perhaps more a listening album. Both are great.

    It’s important to point out that the New Sheiks are part of the Melbourne Rhythm Project, a collaboration with tap dancers, lindy hoppers, and solo jazz dancers. This group does the sort of cooperative work that’s relevant to lindy hoppers, but also to jazz musicians and fans.
    I think it’s unique because it at once celebrates the history of jazz music and dance collaboration, but also looks forward to new types of creative work. That means, in simpler terms, that some of what they do looks and sounds like lindy hop, but some of it looks and sounds like ‘new stuff’. Which I think is what makes it so interesting. A lot of the dancer/musician projects in the modern lindy hop world tend to be intractably recreationist, which is nice and all (and important), but not so great if you’re looking for funding. Or for the new. Jazz wasn’t meant to stand still. It is improvisation, and it’s meant to change.
    If you get a chance, you should see the MRP in action – it’s great dancing, and great musicianship. Truly great, not just talented amateurs; this is professional dance and music. This group are focussed on this idea of ‘rhythm first’ dancing, which I’ve discussed in this post ‘Sea of Rhythm Rambling’, and which is super chic in the international lindy hop scene at the moment. Incidentally, Sea of Rhythm is run by tap dancers who’ve worked with the Melbourne Rhythm Project in the past.
    I think this is very important: collaborations between dancers and musicians has led not only to some good shows by the MRP, but to a whole series of other projects which have influenced the wider Australian lindy hop scene. Many of these projects have been entirely unrelated to the MRP (eg the session we did at Jazz BANG), but I think it’s fair to say that there’s something of general trend in the lindy hop world to approach dance events with closer relationships with musicians.

    Back to Flow Like Wine.

    The New Sheiks are made up of some very good musicians, people who, while relatively young in jazz terms, have some pretty serious chops. IF you chase down their bios, you’ll see they’ve won all sorts of awards and prizes, played in all sorts of bands, run all sorts of projects of their own.
    The dancers reading this will be asking “So what do they know about dance music?” and I’d answer, “Heaps.” I’ve been dancing to bands including Eamon McNelis and Don Stewart since 2001. Leigh Barker’s been playing some very excellent bands for dancers (including a hot combo that blew my brain at MSF in 2013, and included people like Mike McQuaid, Jason Downes, Andy Swann and other Melbourne guns).
    The MRP have featured some Sydney musicians too. Ben Panucci and Justin Fermino are part of the Basement Big Band, the Finer Cuts, the Cope Street Parade, and the Corridors. And all of these bands are custom built for dancing. As I write this now, I’m struck by just how motivated and energetic these people are: such exciting projects! …heck, I could go on and on.

    Can you just trust me when I say that these musicians are a) good, and b), have been playing for dancers and paying attention? And they’ve been talking to dancers about music, which is something quite a lot of jazz musicians don’t do. I think the New Sheiks understand that jazz – olden days jazz – was dance music first. That means it has to make people want to get up and move their bodies. And if it’s really good, those people up on their feet will stop, and turn to stare at the band, because it’s just that good.

    The thing I like about Flow Like Wine, is that it gives us some very good blues music. Or music you might dance slowly to. There are some more moderate tempo songs on here, and yes, they are great, but I want to talk about the slower songs.
    There are some really shitty bands being hired for blues dancing gigs in Australia (and around the world, I suspect). I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because there are a lot more ‘blues’ bands than there are ‘swinging jazz’ bands out in the world, and these blues bands can be cheaper. Maybe the people hiring them don’t know much about music. Maybe the scene is more tolerant of less excellent bands, or perhaps they’re more open-minded about musical styles. I don’t know.

    But the music on this New Sheiks’ album makes me want to run a blues dance weekend. And I’ve never had this urge. I don’t think I’d even dance at this weekend – I’d just sit and watch the bands. So long as I could include this band in the line up. I think that you can’t really play good jazz, swinging jazz, if you don’t understand how blues music works. Not an original idea, I know, but I think that the lindy hop scene tends to schism a little bit when it comes to blues and lindy hop. Though the two dance scenes may be slipping apart, the music can’t.

    The musicianship on Flow Like Wine is really top shelf. I’m kind of a nut for Matt Boden‘s piano. And I tend to gush about Eamon’s trumpet. But it’s more that the musicians in this group have a rapport that really makes for wonderful dancing. I think that this album is so good because the band have been working together for much longer than they had when they recorded the first one. They are a band, and this coherency makes for just lovely listening.

    I’m sorry this post is so rambly. It’s new year’s eve, and I’m a little distracted :D

    I do recommend this album. You should probably buy it.

    [EDIT] That song ‘come on in my kitchen’ is a massive ear worm. I can never get rid of it.[/]

    Being legit: music, intellectual property rights, and licences

    APRA. The Australasian Performing Right Association Limited.
    This is just one Australian body regulating the intellectual property rights of musicians and people involved in the music industry.
    It’s not the only body that could apply to the swing dance world’s intellectual property rights issues. But it’s the obvious one.

    The next important step in running a dance business or putting on a dance is dealing with music intellectual property rights. In other words, if you use someone else’s music at your dance, you have to have a licence.

    Luckily, APRA have a list of licence types.
    NOTE: APRA is an Australian organisation, and this stuff varies between countries, so you’re going to need to look it up yourself if you’re not in Australia.
    ALSO NOTE: Do NOT take this post as a legit, final word on how to do this stuff. I’m just randomly speculating as I skim through the APRA site. You need to do some proper research yourself, and contact APRA for more help.

    Let’s have a bit of a look at the licences you’ll need for running a dance business in Australia.

    It’s quite complicated. Basically, APRA have a heap of different licences for using music, depending on how you use it, how many people in the room can hear it, whether they’re dancing or not, how it’s reproduced and copied, where it’s played, whether it’s featured music or background music, and so on. Their site offers advice for specific users, describing which of these licences you’ll need. So, for example, there’s not so much a ‘nightclub licence’, but there is a set of licences that apply to people who play music in their nightclub.

    • Classes
      If you are a dance school (or otherwise teaching classes – however you choose to think of yourself), you’ll need to pay an annual fee for a licence. There are three types of licences APRA sees as relevant to the work that dance schools do.

      1. Public performance. If you use music in class.
      2. Reproduction of music. If you copy music and give it to your students (eg for a performance).
      3. End of Year concerts.

      If you teach one day a week, you’ll need to pay $68.54 a year.
      If you teach more than one day a week, you’ll need to pay $68.54 a year plus $34.28 a year each extra day. So if you’re teaching two days a year, you need to pay $102.82 per year. And it increases for every day after that.

      Note: I know some people say they don’t need an APRA licence because they are an educational body, but if you are taking money for classes, then you need a licence.

      • Sam’s critical engagement with this
        I suspect this is definition of ‘dance class’ dependent on a ‘ballet class’ idea of dance schools, where dance is necessarily performance. A particular ideology of dance pedagogy informed by western, middle class concepts of learning and teaching which are teacher-centred, chalk-and-talk approaches where students are ‘injected’ with knowledge, rather than developing knowledge themselves. I wonder how vernacular dances and classes like African dance with drummers are licensed?

        In the former, the people drumming (providing music) are often also students participating in the class as drumming students, rather than as ‘featured musicians’. They don’t play set ‘songs’ so much as series of rhythms and rhythmic patterns (I guess that’s the definition of a rhythm – it’s an audible pattern, rather than random noise).
        In the latter, particularly if you use the ‘Lennart approach’ with lots of self-guided learning (I’ve talked about it ad nauseum in posts like Student Centred Teaching – some rough ideas), classes can become what is essentially social dancing (rather than strict choreography).

        And how would you classify a class like this one we did with musicians at Jazz BANG, where the ‘teaching’ was more a discussion, and where the ‘students’ were at once the people playing the instruments, the people listening (who also stood up and danced), and even the ‘teachers’ playing the music, talking, and demonstrating.

        I wouldn’t like to try to argue your way out of a fine using this logic, though.

    • Parties with live or DJed music
      This is an interesting one.

      Let’s assume you’re using an established venue (not just a ‘space’ that you fit out for a party).
      If you’re using a venue that regularly uses live music (eg the PBC where we run our live music parties), then the venue is responsible for providing the licence (Hotels/pubs/taverns/bars licence).
      But if the music is a DJ or other featured recorded music (not just background music), there’s another licence they need to look at (Featured or Recorded Music licence.)

      Wait. It gets more complicated. If the venue is using music specifically for dancing (ie they have a dance floor), then they also need a Recorded music for dance use licence.

      There are additional licences required for copying music onto your ipad or phone from CDs, and how many devices you play music from affects the cost of that licence.

      If you are running a private event at a licensed venue like a pub, then you will need an event licence on top of all this.

      • Sam’s critical commentary
        You can see how it makes sense to use an existing venue for your dance classes and events. And how important it is to develop a very good working relationship with event managers. If their management is handling most of the APRA licensing (not to mention the liquor licensing and noise zoning issues), then you don’t have to. That’s why you pay rent to them – not just for the use of the space, but for all this administration. This is also why you have an obligation to run sustainable events that bring money into the venue.
        We’re lucky enough to be working with a venue that has a strong commitment to local community arts practice. The PBC is a community-run venue with a board and membership that anyone can be a part of (I’m a PBC member), and the members vote on everything from what colour carpet to buy to whether to get solar panels or not. They’re also really nice people with lefty politics.
        I see it as our responsibility to run classes that are in keeping with the PBC’s broader ethos of being a good citizen (ie treating people with respect), of being engaged with decent arts practice, and with being accessible for all peeps.

        But it is in the APRA laws about music for dancing where we see Australia echoing the totally rubbish laws in New York about dancing. If you are playing music specifically for dancing, you have to pay a particular licence.

        What if you are playing jazz? This is an interesting one, because if you’re a lindy hopper, this is dancing music, straight up, no question. But if you’re a jazznick, a jazz fan, it’s listening music. It’s even art music. Despite the history of the music, its original function and intention, jazz has largely shifted in cultural meaning and function to ‘music for listening’, art music. Not functional music.

        But I guess the key issue would be whether you had a dance floor set up and cleared. Whether you briefed the musician on what they should play and how they should play it. How you promoted the event, and to whom.
        This issue is one I want to think more about, because I’m getting more involved in promoting the live music events I’m part of to ‘non-dancing’ crowds – eg the Sydney Jazz Club, a particular musician’s fans.

        The last is particularly relevant with musicians like Adrian Cunningham, Tuba Skinny, and Andy Baylor, who have substantial fan bases who aren’t dancers. They’re music fans who want to come and sit and watch the musicians. It’s interesting to note here that if your band is paid more than $2500, and they’re performing in a hall or function space, the event holder will need another licence in addition to the venue’s licence. This becomes relevant when you’re hiring a big band, which typically costs more than $2500 (about $3000 if you’re looking for quality).

        In reference to the final point above, having bands in residency becomes a good idea for the venue, because they are no longer featured performers, but part of the regular night. So you can avoid some licensing issues. Perhaps. Do not quote me.

    • Events
      This section should really be part of the section above, but I think we usually draw the distinction ourselves, even within the dance scene, between ‘regular social dancing parties’ and ‘special events’. So a weekly DJed party or social dancing event is quite different to a special christmas ball.

      The event licences are super complicated, and there are lots of different licences applying to an event. Things like whether you use live music or DJed music, whether food is involved, whether it’s a free or ticketed event are all important.
      You’d think that a DJed lindy hop party would count as a ‘dance party’, but it doesn’t, because

      Dance parties [licences are]…
      For Dances or Dance Parties that are one-off or occasional events, charging an entry fee, and playing APRA Works for dancing as the primary form of entertainment at the event. It does not extend to:
      …. 2. private function, or an event which features ballroom or similar traditional dancing;

      That bit about ‘traditional dancing’ caught my eye. Is lindy hop a ‘traditional’ dance? If they’re including ballroom, I guess it is. But lindy hop isn’t codified the way conventional ballroom dancing is (though we all know ‘ballroom dancing’ was a vernacular dance at heart… and after all, lindy hop has a long association with ballrooms)….

      Looking at the list of licences on the APRA page, it’s impossible to figure out exactly how a lindy hop party would fit into this system. You’d have to call up APRA and find out. Good luck with that.
      This is the next thing on my list of jobs. Wish me luck with that, will you.

      • Sam’s commentary.
        This issue of ‘regular social dancing’ vs ‘special balls’ is a tricky one. In my position with my last employer, my role involved running a number of ‘special events’ (not the fortnightly social dancing party) during the year. Last year I ran seven ‘special’ events for the business (in addition to the four independent parties I ran). Some of them were things that are run annually, some were one-off things, and some were part of big workshop weekends. Interestingly, the annual things have been run for years and years, both here in Sydney and in Melbourne, so you could argue that they’re not really special events any more, but regular events. They’re certainly very formulaic (or they were before I started messing about with them).
        I don’t think the distinction between regular and special events is actually all that important for APRA licensing, but it does assume more importance when you add things like insurance to the mix. Typically, your regular dance school insurance covers you for events which you run primarily for your own students (ie they’re not ‘public’ events, but ‘private’ parties). But when you start running events which target audiences beyond your own students, the insurance policy has to change to accommodate this.

    So different dance events are regulated by different laws (I’m using the word ‘laws’ a bit inaccurately here): tax laws, insurance laws, intellectual property laws, liquor licensing laws, industrial relations laws, residential zoning laws, and so on. When you remember that these laws are different in different countries, states and local councils, you get this fascinating little nexus in lindy hop. I get very excited about this, and wish I’d done more cultural policy studies in my PhD work.

    It’s all very interesting. As someone setting up a new business, it can be overwhelming, but most of it isn’t that hard. Because you can get help, and it’s actually useful help. Just call the various organisations up.

    When you are planning a business, you need to think about:

    – tax
    – APRA licensing
    – insurance
    – industrial relations (OH&S in particular, but also agreements and contracts with contractors – teachers, bands, volunteers, sound engineers, and DJs)

    You can sum all this up with a nice, clear Code of Conduct that sets out:
    – your social policies (eg how you deal with sexual harassment)
    – your industrial policies (eg whether you pay DJs, teachers, etc, and how much you pay them; how you deal with volunteers; your terms for hiring international teachers, etc etc)
    – your creative policies (eg how you value choreography and credit choreographers)
    – your cultural policies (eg whether you’re into historical dance and music, and how you acknowledge these sources)

    I like to aim for being sustainable – culturally, economically, socially, sustainable. That means that I’m aiming for doing things in ways that let me carry on doing things for a long time. If you are screwing people over, if you can’t pay your bills, if you’re risking people’s safety, you are eventually going to implode your community, business, and scene.
    I also like to aim for longer term development. I don’t just want to go dancing now, and to put new dancers on dance floors now. I want to see lindy hop music and dancing changing and growing and becoming more creatively sophisticated. Because it’s more interesting that way. And jazz is complicated. So we need to continually level up to keep up with it.

    You can do a one-off party and not bother about this stuff. You can even run a bunch of parties and not bother about this stuff. But once you do start doing these things regularly (or even irregularly, but more often), you’re going to need to start thinking about best practices. Not just to stop you copping a massive fine or getting up on some sort of charge. Lindy hop is a social dance, and that means you’re working with people. Lots of them. Planning your projects effectively means you are less likely to fuck people over. And that’s my priority: to not fuck people over.