Category Archives: wimminz

Opinions. I have them.

I was just thinking about that last post Remind yourself that you are a jazz dancer, and the bit where I said

A compliment on their technique is good, but asking a woman for her opinion on leading is even better

First I lol for using gender neutral language, when I’m deliberately talking about a woman leading.
Second, I’m reminded of a comment I get occasionally from male teachers and ‘higher profile’ dancers around the place. It’s happened a few times now, and it really twiddles my knobs*.

Basically:
Take Male dancer X, who is generally a pretty nice guy, but also pretty comfortable with being an ‘alpha’ male dancer. He likes being top dog. He’s nice and ostensibly a feminist ally, but in practice, I’m not sure he’d be willing to give up that position as top dog for the sake of feminism. So he’s all for feminism, so long as he stays pretty comfortable. He’ll have your back in a fight, and he’ll never make a sexist joke, but you always leave conversations with the feeling that you’ve been (gently, paternally) reminded that you are not the top dog.

I don’t mind these guys. But I can’t really be bothered with them.

Anyways, it’s happened a few times now, that one of these guys will mosey up for a chat at a dance (because we are casual acquaintances), and we’ll shoot the shit. We’ll talk about general stuff, a bit of gossip, mostly just safe dance scene talk. Nothing too personal. But after about 5 minutes of this safe talk, he’ll say something like “Hey, I think your dancing’s really improved lately”.
It’s one of those insulting complements that makes you crinkle your brow. In the moment, you’re kind of appreciative – he means it in good will, and he’s genuinely trying to be positive. But he’s still making it clear that he’s top dog. He’s the one handing out complements. He’s the one telling you that he’s assessed your dancing.
There’s no scope for me to respond. I’m supposed to say, “Thanks, mate”, and to leave him with a warm rosy glow for soothing the feminist strop. But I can’t quite choke it out these days.
I have really wanted to respond with, “Well, I’ve always been pretty fucking good, and you were too, once, but fuck you’ve let yourself go. You should probably do some practice, mate.” Because that’s usually the case – these guys are always the sorts of guys who were once pretty ok dancers, but haven’t really done any proper work since. And their approach to dancing is still fixed pretty firmly in the time of their hayday – 2003 is a popular year for these guys. I’m not pretty fucking good, but I know these guys really can’t handle women who are confident. These little microaggression complements are about reminding me of the pecking order. And they really don’t like it when you just plain refuse to acknowledge that hierarchy.

At the end of the day, it’s massively patronising. Why don’t they say something like, “Hey, I love that blah blah you’ve got happening at the moment in your swing out. Have you been working on something new?” If they said something like that – starting positive, then asking for my opinion – they’d be making it clear that we were peers, and that my opinion was important as theirs.

So this is why I include that point about asking a woman for her opinion, rather than just complimenting her. If you just compliment, you are maintaining the status quo. But if you ask for her opinion, you’re letting her know that you value her ideas, and you see her as a peer. Yes, you may hear some opinions you don’t like, and you might – conceivably – be put in the position where your own dancing is discussed (and critiqued!), but yolo, right?

This point relates to the way I do feedback to my partners when I’m in class: I ask things like: “What did you think about that?” “Was it ok?” “Did it work?” “I’m not sure about that second part.” I want to discuss this stuff, and I want that feedback. By asking for other people’s opinions, I’m signalling that I’m ok with myself. I’m confident enough to invite critique. It can be scary-arse, but it’s important for me trying to be a good learner.

And this issue also reminds me of that whole thing about how to speak to little girls. Find something other than compliments!

And part of me wonders if this is why solo dance is so popular with some of the strongest women dancers in Australia at the moment: in a solo class, you work to your own standard. No one compliments you or tells you you’re doing ok, nor do you have to be responsible for making someone else feel good about their dancing. You just work your tits off. And when you have a Swede teaching you, or Ramona, or another teacher who’s into the ‘rhythm method‘** and the tap-centred approach to learning, where teachers are a bit strict, you really thrive.

*That’s a DJ term, that means that someone is butting in and doing something that irritates you – ie adjusting the volume or treble when you’re DJing.
**I’m so, so sorry for this joke.

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:

    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.

    Just fuck that shit off

    Hey yo. You can be fat and happy. Once you turn 40, you can do whatever you like because you are pretty much invisible. So you can be such a heinous bitch, you can eat ALL the best food, you can tell the worst jokes, you can laugh your arse off at serious young men (because goddess knows you’ve finally figured their shit out), you can exercise like a crazy person and revel in the sweat and the muscle and the endorphines, you can stay up ALL NIGHT LONG, you can go to bed at 9pm with a book and a box of chocolates, you can wear whatever sort of swimming costume you like, because no one is looking at you any more, you can swear such dirty swears, you can sit at a table in a restaurant with your friends ALL DAY and drink only cups of tea and no one will give a shit.
    And also you can do this when you are less than 40. I mean, fuck, who gives a shit, right? Just fucking do this shit. And if anyone tries to tell you shouldn’t ‘let yourself go’ or even talks about carbs as anything other than energy for all the arse kicking you have to do that day, say, “Fuck that shit! Let’s talk about something fun!” And if your girl friends try to have a conversation near you about how fat they are and how they are really ‘bad’ for eating that one thing, interrupt rudely and say “Hey, bitches! Come on! Let’s go to the art gallery and strike poses like those chicks in the old paintings!”

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    You know you can just go and get what you want. You can just get it.

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    Fuck that shit.

    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.

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    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!

    Labour and equity in lindy hop (notes)

    I’ve been thinking about this stuff for years and years. Partly because it came up in my PhD when I did a lot of research into volunteer labour in Australia, research which actually came from an abortive first Phd project on the CWA. There, it was made very clear that volunteer workers are mostly women. This is true in the lindy hop world: most of the unpaid volunteer labour in Australian lindy hop is provide by women.

    Anyway, I don’t have time to think and write about this now – I’m just letting in percolate for a while. But here are some interesting things that have contributed to my thinking:

    • Codes of conduct
      Carl Nelson linked up Christina Wodke’s piece ‘Tweaking the Moral UI’ on the facey. It links to Geek Feminism’s conference policy. Michael Seguin linked up the Mobtown Ballroom Code of Conduct in the comments on the facey. Nirav noted that the Fogtown Stomp Code of Conduct was inspired by the Mobtown Ballroom one.

      The part I liked about this, was the way Carl introduced the link with:

      I would love to see more Codes of Conduct and instructors and organizers willing to put themselves out there by requiring them at events where they work in the dance scene.

      I have a personal policy that’s related to this stuff: I won’t DJ at an event that doesn’t pay all its DJs, and I tell organisers this when they approach me about DJing. I have to say, this has reduced the list of events in Australia that I’ll DJ at. SHAME, lindy hoppers, SHAME. I’ve also started refusing to work at (or attend) gigs that hire the dodgiest teachers. That quenelle thing? Well, it’s lost you teaching gigs in Australia, mate.

      We have the beginnings of a Code of Conduct for Swing Dance Sydney here in our Classes FAQ:

      8. What’s your policy on inclusivity in class?
      We’re also a queer-friendly group who welcome same-sex couples.
      We don’t tolerate any kind of harassment, and will act quickly to put a stop to it.
      We try to make our classes as accessible as possible. We have students from the age of 12 to 82, with a range of needs and interests, and we really like it that way.

      We really enjoy teaching, so we’re happy to repeat instructions, to talk more slowly, to try new ways of explaining and teaching things – just ask.

      If you have particular needs, don’t hesitate to book a private class (email info@swingdancesydney.com).
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      It is totally inadequate, but it’s a work in progress. I’m also working on OH&S policies, and on teachers’ agreements. It takes a while to write all this stuff up, particularly around christmas. But I am ON IT.

    • Pay rates for DJs, teachers, bands, sound engineers, etc
      My position on this stuff isn’t secret.
    • Sharing economy requires inequality
      Jonathon, Glen and Liam had a very interesting late night talk about Leo Mirani’s piece The secret to the Uber economy is wealth inequality on twitter last night, and it really caught my interest. Uber’s attracted major criticism lately, for all sorts of very good reasons. I’d read Arun Sundararajan’s piece What Airbnb Gets About Culture that Uber Doesn’t a little while ago, and I’d shared the disgust that Uber’s surge pricing policy attracted this week during the siege in my city, Sydney.
      This latest article by Mirani is even more useful for the way it outlines the ‘sharing economy”s dependence on inequity. There was a useful illustrated article about the ‘sharing economy’ by Susie Cagle on the Nib that takes up some of these issues too. I think there’s some thinking to be done on the role of individualism in American culture here as well.

      This discussion reminds me of criticism of Google’s diversity policy (May 2014), but more specifically of a follow up piece about the non-IT workers in Google. I’ve looked and looked, but I can’t find the original article! ARGH! That piece caught my eye for the way it pointed out that Google didn’t count cleaners and other work in its overview of diversity in its workplaces. These workers simply don’t exist for google, because they are contractors, and because they don’t consider that sort of work part of their business model. There are all sorts of things to say about class, knowledge, power, economies of knowledge, contracting, labour relations and so on.

      This last bit is important, because it shows how some sorts of labour are devalued because they are ‘unskilled’ (though cleaning – as with working the door – actually requires a particular skill set), and how devalued work tends to be associated with people of colour, and with women. In the IT world as in the lindy hop world. And this of course demonstrates how the lindy hop world echoes and restates the power dynamics of the wider community in which it is positioned.

    • Volunteering, the value of ‘work’, and unpaid labour Why do door staff not get paid, when DJs do?
      This issue just won’t leave my brain. There’s definitely a hierarchy of labour ‘value’ in the lindy hop world. Teaching is at the top. Cleaning up after a dance is at the bottom. Different types of labour are gendered, though there are interesting regional differences. In Australia the largest dance events are run by women, most DJs are women, and most unpaid volunteers are women. Women are obviously doing most of the work in the lindy hop world, but not all of that work is lower status or unpaid. But this is not the picture in other countries, or even consistent within local Australian scenes. There’s definitely more work to be done here, and more research.
    • The economics of live music
      I’m interested in this one. There’s a push (which is quite established now), to feature live music at lindy hop events. It’s interesting, because the smallest scenes often have the closest relationships with live bands – the only social dancing available is at local live music gigs. Which may or may not be ‘swing’ or even ‘jazz’, but they are LIVE. The biggest international events showcase live music, to the point of only using a couple of DJs for very few songs, let alone sets. DJing used to be quite important to large events, but not so much any more. But at the local level, DJing is still the backbone of dancer-run social dancing in most Australian lindy hop scenes. Because bands are expensive.
      The economics of live music in Australia are shaped by all sorts of factors. Clubs Australia and liquor licensing affects which licensed venues hire bands, when, and for how much. Licensing is important because it shapes the social space: having a bar is good for jazz. Sydney and Melbourne have the largest jazz scenes, but because New South Wales and Victoria (the states) have different liquor and live music licensing laws, the scenes are quite different, and pay rates differ. Basically, if you want to hire a decent band for a dance gig in Sydney, you’re looking at $1200 minimum. Add a rider of about $100. Then add $1000 to hire a decent sound guy, so the band actually sounds good. That’s fucking expensive. If you add $1000 for the venue and incidentals, that’s $3300 right there. So you’ll need 100 people paying $35 to cover your costs. Good luck – $35 is pretty much the most that dancers will pay in Sydney, and 100 is a lot for a regular gig at that price. You can’t do that more than about 3 or 4 times a year, max.

      You can hire bands for less, but the quality may vary, and you’ll be calling in favours to pull that off. The market is kind of tight in Sydney at the moment, so you can take advantage of musicians’ desperation for gigs and talk them down in price. But that kind of makes you an arsehole. Venues with liquor licences can afford to hire bands regularly (ie offer residencies) which bands will accept less pay for, but it’s the sale of liquor that finances these gigs, and liquor licenses are managed by the state, and influenced by Clubs Australia, which prioritises gambling (pokies in particular).
      The pay rate for bands varies in different cities, for different types of gigs, and for different types of bands.
      This $1200-$1500 rate is a corporate rate, not mates rates. So you really need to get to know your local musicians well if you want cheaper rates. But $1200 for a 6 person band is only $200 per musician for about four hours work. That’s $50 an hour for highly skilled professionals, who practice, put together charts and sets, and so on. That’s kind of shit, really. Considering most events now pay DJs about $30 an hour. And top tier teachers are paid $150 an hour to teach (plus expenses). And if you keep in mind the fact that a decent dance event requires quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between organisers (who ‘brief’ the band) and band leaders (who have to develop a set and basically change the way the band works to suit this brief), there’s all sorts of extra labour involved. All those phone calls and emails that have to be factored into the costs of the gig.

      I’ve been having a discussion with a few people about the economics of live music on the facey, starting with THIS METAL BAND BROKE EVEN ON A 27 DATE TOUR AND SO CAN YOU by Big James, which was a response to the Pomplamoose piece Pomplamoose 2014 Tour Profits. There was a fairly nasty piece in response to Pomplamoose’s, Sob story from band that lost $11,000 was actually a marketing stunt by Mark Teo, and then Amanda Palmer chimed in. Palmer shits me to tears.
      The discussion on facey is quite interesting, and ongoing. I won’t reproduce it here, because I’m not totally ok with cutting and pasting other people’s Facey comments out of context. But I did write this about Palmer:

      …that bit about the jam bothered me. I’ve also seen her pulling some dodgy stuff on twitter: she’s a bit of a fail when it comes to recognising her own privilege and power in discussions about class, gender, etc. Sure, she might have done all that sleeping on couches and playing for free and busking in Ye Olden Dayes, but now she’s a high profile celebrity, in a relationship with another celebrity. Her situation has changed. And she doesn’t recognise this.

      I think most of us would take that sort of ‘jam’ opportunity – for all sorts of reasons. But that’s the point of understanding your own power and influence: people with less power (ie needing the profile, wanting the experience, etc) are going to take her up on that sort of offer. Imagine if she’d actually _paid_ them – how wonderful! Even better!

      …and I think there’s a difference between sitting in on a jam with great musicians, particularly in the jazz scene, and ‘getting on stage with a celebrity at their gig’. Jazz in particular has a long tradition of apprenticing new musicians through jams – tap dancers do it, hip hoppers do it, lindy hoppers do it. But that’s in the context of a real jam – a community space. A celebrity’s gig is a bit different.

      I quote myself here, because I think this is where I start to pull all these threads together. I’ve heard people justify not giving volunteers free entry because “It’s a privilege to work on an event.” I’ve heard people justify not paying volunteers or giving them free entry because “They are volunteers.” That heirarchy of value in labour in the lindy hop world affects who gets paid, and how. It also determines status and identity in the lindy hop world.

    …and that’s as far as I’ve gotten with this thinking. I’m going to have to let it all boil around in my brain for a while. But I think all these things are related by issues of power, privilege (those two are the same, really), ‘economics’, gender, class, and race. I just need to figure out how to articulate all that.

    Chorus lines and women dancers

    Plenty of Good Women Dancers exhibition

    plenty04

    This Philadelphia Folklore Project exhibition is fantastic.

    Note to self: chase down Lee Ellen Friedland’s latest work, as her project on tap dancers in Philadelphia was so important to my own work. And apparently she’s done work on jewish folk dances, which is important for talk about NOLA music and dance. And this exhibit’s host is based in Philadelphia.

    NB I don’t have to explain why this exhibit is important, do I? Ok, I will anyway.

    1) Women dancers. BOOM.

    2) Chorus line projects are tres chic in the lindy hop world. The most interesting one I’ve seen so far is Marie N’Diaye’s project in Stockholm, where they’re based in the Chicago studio, and perform at Herrang, week in and week out. I had no idea just how intense and hardcore this project is until I saw Marie’s footage and spoke to her about their training and choreographing work load. This shit is intense.

    3) A lot of the biggest name women dancers began in chorus lines. Josephine Baker. Marie Bryant. etc etc etc.

    4) These women dancers were insanely fit and strong. They would be performing multiple times during the day, learning new routine every week, singing, dancing, tapping, jazzing, etc etc etc. These were dancing machines. And yet they were often dismissed as bits of fluff.

    5) Managing chorus lines was a way for women dancers to participate in the entertainment industry as professionals with serious industry power.

    6) Running chorus lines today is just as important for women dancers now as it was then: women working together, running serious projects, training bloody hard, learning to choreograph, run a troupe and dance business, generally be awesome.

    7) Being in a chorus line is hard work, and a way for modern women dancers to get mad skills: fitness, strength, memory, quick learning skills, choreography, etc etc etc.

    8) Chorus lines are a way for modern women dancers to sidestep the bullshit power politics of dancing and competing with male partners in the lindy hop world. And yet still get mad dance skills that improve their lindy hop.

    Here are the rules.

    Ma-Rainey-and-the-Georgia-007

    Hello!

    I’ve recently had a bunch of traffic redirected here, and that means lots of first time visitors dropping in. Nice to see you!

    I want to let you know about my comments policy. It’s strict. Here are the rules:

    1. If you get all up in my business with aggressive, threatening, or nasty comments, your comment will be deleted. If you need to rant, get your own blog.

    2. I have zero tolerance for sexism, racism or other unpleasantness. Your comment will be deleted. Your opinions simply aren’t important.

    3. This is a feminist space. That means we’re assuming you’re on board with feminist principles. I am not interested in debating your ideas about feminism. If you use the terms ‘misandry’ or ‘reverse sexism’ or try to argue that a woman is being sexist, your comment will be deleted. If you can’t dig that, you need to leave. If you don’t understand why, you need to read feminism 101.

    NinaSimoneJackRobinsonOct30-1969

    Why so strict?
    Even though my positions on most issues of gender, sex, power and lindy hop are relatively moderate (I’m not a radical feminist, sadly), I regularly receive hateful emails, messages on facebook, and comments on this blog. It’s frightening and unpleasant and it makes me angry. Rather than dwell on the insecurities of men who want to bully women who use their brains, I delete them. I don’t even bother reading them. I will not be bullied out of thinking or speaking or doing. Nor will I hesitate to call the police or report your arse for harassing me.

    Sound_Sweethearts

    Nor do I feel any responsibility to let people who disagree with me ‘have their say’. The world is full of forums for anti-feminist and anti-woman talk. This is not one of them. This is an actively feminist space. This is a feminist echo chamber. In this world, the rules are that gender is important, that women have things to say, that their opinions will be given greater value than men’s, and that solo dance is an essential part of lindy hop. I am the boss of this blog, and my word rules.

    I’ve talked more about my policies in this post. I will not be entering into any arguments or discussions with you about these policies. If you want a forum to air your ideas, get a blog.

    While I’m at it: please note that I will not engage with you on these issues in person, either. If I’m out at a dance, I am there to dance or to DJ. I rarely want to talk politics when I’m lindy hopping. I rarely want to talk about my blog or online talk in general.

    ella-fitzgerald-and-marilyn-monroe

    If, however, you are a woman who wants to talk about activism in your scene, bring it! I am very interested.
    If you are a woman interested in getting into DJing or leading or solo dance, bring that too – I am interested.

    Yes, I am privileging women here. That is the deal.