A famous international teacher wrote this in a public post on facebook today.
Hey y’all, real talk. I have encountered multiple people this week who have never taken classes from me, are not signed up to take classes from me, yet have told me they have seen my class recap videos and been practicing from them. The purpose of my recap videos is to help the people who actually have bothered to become my students and who have shown up to learn from me. Believe it or not, this is my livelihood, I make a living from teaching dance. I sell instructional videos from my website. Undermining that is an incredibly shitty thing to do. The same way I would hope you wouldn’t buy a friend’s band’s CD and then just turn around and burn copies for everyone you know (and would hopefully encourage them to actually support the artist and go buy their own copy), I would hope you would encourage folks to actually come take a class from someone who has built a career doing a thing. The easy option is I just don’t do recap videos anymore (shocking concept, but for much of my dance career, video recaps just weren’t a thing). But I actually care about students’ improvement and would love to provide that as a resource because I think it is helpful (as many folks also seem to), so the option I’d rather pursue is just be respectful of artists. Thanks.
This post was shared by a mutual friend. This was my comment:
I don’t buy this argument at all.
Recap videos are a brilliant way to market a teacher’s skills. They get people gigs, it gets people into workshops at events.
Recap videos often circulate between people who don’t have the money or opportunity to go to big workshops, and they’re an ongoing resource for a local scene. It’s also super common for someone to take a recap video back from a weekend to their home town, and then work on the material with their friends and dance partners (who may not have attended the workshop!) This is how dance knowledge permeates and spreads. It’s also a good strategy for people with low incomes to access knowledge.
To be honest, I have zero problems with people of colour, women, other marginalised folk doing this sort of ‘textual poaching’ from a white man 😃 😃 😃
This is not the same as people filming you while you’re teaching a class. That’s fucked up and not ok.
If you’re not ok with the way video footage circulates in the community, don’t let people film your recaps. Boom.
If you want to capitalise on the fact that your fanbase is sharing videos of you, learning from you, emulating you, get onto it! That is some powerful audience-engagement!
Things you can do:
- Follow up on that conversation with that fan
(which, tbh, is a hugely flattering thing for them to do), by saying something like “Oh, that’s so good to hear! We should organise a zoom session so you can ask questions as you work through things! I have pretty reasonable rates, and we can make it work for small groups.” This is effective because this fan is clearly ok with working from a screen (usually a tiny phone screen!), and a zoom session would be a step up! It’s not often that an audience makes their preferred mode of engagement so clear!
- Regard that conversation as a fan being brave enough to approach their hero
and respond with positive enthusiasm. Ask them questions about their dancing, ask them what they liked about the video, and what they’d like to do next. That fan will remember that conversation, take it home, and tell it to zillions of people. That sort of interaction gives teachers a rep as ‘a nice person’ and that rep convinces local organisers to hire teachers. You don’t have to put on a fake cheery persona; just respond like a decent human being to someone who’s telling you (in so many ways) that they think you are amazing.
- Rethink the way you structure your recaps
to take advantage of this free circulation and marketing. Add a little intro with details of how to reach you. Limit the content in the recap. Have students dance the recap material instead.
- Don’t do in-class recaps at all
but release them yourself from your own website (or a third party site), where you say to the group: “Give me your email addresses, and you can have access to the recap videos on my website” and then you can garner their email addresses for your marketing!
- Be very clear in your T&C with organisers about recaps and filming them.
I personally say to teachers that they are not obliged to do recaps, filmed or otherwise, and I make it very clear to all registrants that teachers may not offer a chance for them to film recaps (ie their registration fee does not cover the chance to film a recap).
The more I thought about this, the angrier I got.
In the replies to his post, where people offer suggestions for monetising or controlling the circulation of this footage, he says “I’m old school. I teach dance classes. Not trying to be a youtube/insta/whatever power user” and then another big name teacher chimes in with “this is great but it’s a lot of – more – work” and this made me furious.
Most of the people who put on events that host these sorts of teachers do it for free. They work very hard to give these teachers work and provide workshops for their local scene. There’s very little money to be made (most people hope to break even, or subsidise with other stuff). It _is_ a lot of work. And they do this _in addition_ to their day jobs, caring for families… and often, teaching weekly dance classes.
To hear a high profile teacher denigrate this type of work makes me VERY ANGRY. And yes, it is lots of work to do this sort of management and promotion. HAVE THEY ONLY JUST REALISED THIS?!
I hear this bullshit from white man musicians all the time. As though being ‘a musician’ means that you just ‘do art’ and the audiences magically come to hear you ‘do art’. NO BITCH, THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. Being a working artist means you WORK. You work on your craft, but sorry, white man, that means doing promotion, profile management, networking, all that distasteful plebean stuff. You also put work into being good at working with others (sound crew, venue managers, promoters, bar staff), you develop a sense of brand or how you want to be promoted, you develop actual promotional material (a bio, some photos, and – god forbid! – a website).
Argh this makes me so, so angry.
Anyway. This is why over the years as an organiser, and as someone who’s also been the ‘talent’, I’ve realised that the ‘talent’ is interchangeable, but the people on the ground who run events, who work the door, set up rooms, and clean up after parties, are the really irreplaceable people.
I keep coming across white organisations telling a ‘history’ of lindy hop that gives ‘the revival’ pride of place. ie white people claiming the modern lindy hop world as their own altruistic work.
So the term ‘revival’ is problematic because it implies that lindy hop was dead (replaced by rock and roll and/or bebop) before white people came along and brought it back to life. In this narrative, white people are heroes for saving ‘this wonderful dance’ and bringing it back to life.
Black people are totally absent from this story, except as venerable elders who teach eager white people. The white people are also credited with bringing these elders ‘out of retirement’ and back to the dance floor.
It’s all very problematic.
1. Lindy hop wasn’t dead. There’s a whole family of Black social partner dances that are thriving (Tena Morales’ event the International Swing Dance Championships showcases them every year, but white people don’t go to that and aren’t involved, so it must not exist).
2. Because it wasn’t dead, it didn’t need reviving. Declaring lindy hop ‘terra nullius’ (ie no people living in this territory) was white people giving themselves permission to take lindy hop. So the white people who ‘went looking’ for Black elders were pretty much just out on a bit of a colonial expedition. Just like Captain Cook expanding the British Empire, ‘discovering’ a huge big southern continent (‘Australia’).
3. Those Black elders, like Frankie Manning and Norma Miller and so on were still dancing, but in their families and homes and community spaces. Black spaces, to which white people did not have access. The story told most often about Frankie Manning, that his working in the post office was somehow less important or lower status than his dance career is classist and racist. The US Postal Service has a long history as an important employer and union locus for Black communities. It was good, solid work. Norma, of course, was running a dance business (managing troupes), Mama Lou Parkes was still dancing professionally… and so on.
4. The Black dancers who were involved in lindy hop in the 1980s tend to disappear in these revivalist narratives. Angela Andrew and other Black women have lots to say about the number of Black dancers out there lindy hopping in the 1980s, but they somehow disappear when white people tell the stories.
5. The white ‘ownership’ (appropriation) of Black lindy hop in that 1980s period is not only about selling places in classes and workshops (and thereby ‘creating community’ via economic relationships), but also about the exploitation of Black dancers working for white troupe managers (we won’t go into some of the more troubling accounts from that period).
RE the USPS:
I came across references to the importance of the postal service in Hidden Figures and the way it provided a pathway to the space program for Black women (SUCH a good book).
There’s also Philip F. Rubio’s book ‘There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice, and Equality’ (which I haven’t read, but have read _about_.
This all makes the US govt’s cuts to the USPS a matter of institutional racism and white supremacy, rather than a push for smaller government generally (though I’d argue the two are the same thing).
The more I learn about the USPS as a site for unionising, civil rights activism and Black community empowerment, the more troubled I am by white histories of lindy hop that devalue the USPS in Manning’s life. If the civil rights elements of this workplace are ignored, then white ‘historians’ can continue with their bullshit about ‘Frankie never talked about racism in lindy hop, so it didn’t happen’. I’d say that Frankie, as with any other Black worker in America then and now, was very much aware of racism in the entertainment industry and in America generally, and was very careful about what he said to white people about it, and when.
As with the workers who continue to go back to places like Herrang, despite unsafe or inequitable working environments, when you don’t have the financial and personal safety of white privilege, you have fewer choices about the work you can do. And teaching middle class white kids to lindy hop might have suited Manning.
Today I was talking to someone completely unconnected to the dance world, and they asked what I’d been doing lately. I mentioned that I’d been been working on a covid policy, and it was really interesting because it was a way to talk about flatter power structures (and fighting The Man). I wanted to do more than just present a bunch of rules and then enforce them authoritarian style.
I mentioned that masking is a good option, but it’s rubbish for dancing in.
Then I mentioned that vaccination is really important, but that only 69% of NSW people have had more than two covid vaccinations.
My friend had been active listening along, but when we go to this point, they were clearly quite flushed and emotional. So I stopped yapping. They told me that they were really tired of the covid stuff, and had two vaccinations, but that “Other people can get more.” They went on to talk about how the lockdowns and government policies had really exhausted them, and the lack of gov support had taken a toll on their business. Their major concern was with the way the vaccines are produced by corporations of dubious ethics and morality.
I nodded and did active listening. They were upset and needed to talk about these things. And these are reasonable concerns: lack of support from a government that enforced unjust limits and penalties does not inspire compliance. And as Aboriginal communities can explain, an unjust government cannot be trusted with your medical data, let alone your body in a medical setting. Nor can we excuse the way big corporations in the medical industry have conducted itself in the past, or in the production and dissemination of vaccines (particularly in developing countries).
I didn’t once say that my friend should get a vaccination. That’s not cool; we don’t make medical decisions for other people like that.
As we continued talking, I shifted things away from vaccination to the frustrations with the government policies. They had interesting things to say about that. At one point I mentioned that the whole point of this particular covid policy was to do good social activism. And part of that was discussing equity. So if we have a ‘must test’ policy, we also need to make RATs freely available, because they’re expensive, and they’re a barrier to participation for people who can’t afford them (and who are also often in those high-risk workplaces). Then I pointed out that if I was going to do a policy that was just, I had to source free masks and RATs. And I explained how I’d done that.
It was interesting to see friend’s reaction to this information. Getting free stuff from The Man is always a pleasure, and it seemed to delight my friend.
I wonder if masks would get the same response? Perhaps not, as wearing them is a lot less fun than getting a covid test :D :D
But this conversation made some things very clear to me. If we simply make rules and then penalise people for not following them, we destroy their trust in us, and we make them pretty bloody shitty. A better alternative is to ‘call in’ (rather than ‘calling out’), and make it easy for people to make their own educated decisions about their health.
If we want people to do something (or things), then we can do better than just telling them what to do. We can provide information, and then let them decide what to do with their own bodies.
In the case of something like a pandemic, we can frame this discussion as one of mutual care, where you get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, or whatever not necessarily for your own benefit, but for the safety of others. And they do the same for you.
This is very effective for people who have a communitarian impulse. But what if they don’t?
As I discovered with my friend, there are other inducements we can offer. Or rather, we can find the side of the issue that appeals to them. We can frame the discussion as one of civil disobedience, or evading punitive rules. Accessing tests can become a mission of getting free shit and evading the capitalist structures of ‘big pharma’. Similarly, making or accessing masks that work as a billboard for a person’s politics (much like a Tshirt) can be a way of encouraging people to wear a mask.
And we were both on board with the idea that not washing your hands after you use the bathroom is fucking rotten. :D :D
So when it comes to communicating your policy, it helps to:
- Use language, imagery, and framing that appeals to their values (be they communitarian, radical feminist socialist, or anarchist), and
- Use a variety of approaches to reach a variety of people.
The dance world, of course, is made up of a whole mass of interconnected hyper-local communities that are part of an international, intercultural global community. Even a single local scene in one city might be comprised of a few smaller micro-communities, each centered on a dance school, a particular social night, or a performance troupe. Each of these has its own specific culture and social norms. And we know what each of these are like, because we are part of them. After all, it’s hard to be a lindy hopper if you don’t actually lindy hop.
If we are actually observant humans, we understand that our own experience of a group or community is not the same as someone else’s. For example, you might have loved learning to swing out using lots of technical jargon, but your friend might have loved learning-by-doing. And you might love the late night parties that start at midnight because you’re single with no kids, but your friend might prefer afternoon dances that are child-friendly, because they’re a parent.
We might be aiming for diversity in many places, but we often just don’t get there. Students tend to be people ‘like’ their teachers (same demographics, same sense of humour, same values, etc). Performance troupes tend to be a similar age, physical fitness, and schedule. Paying for classes excludes people on low-incomes, so people in classes have disposable incomes. And so on. It’s actually good that a single scene is made up of lots of different types of mini-groups. So long as they can all come together with kindness and a generosity of spirit for things like bigger parties, events, and discussions.
This is why I think it’s very, very important for each of these micro-groups to develop their own covid policies, ones that speak the right language, carry the right values, and ultimately change people’s behaviour. Or in the case of my own commitment to ‘radical care’, a policy that actively contributes to social justice and fighting the fucking man.
Some facts about masks
The one good thing about respirator masks (P2 or N95) is that they can be used more than once, provided you handle them carefully (no touchy!) and let them dry out properly before re-using.
If you’re curious, a well-fitted surgical mask will do in a pinch, but they cannot be re-used, and you need to fit it properly. Which applies to all masks, really.
And unlike some places in the US, in NSW you can deny entry to people who aren’t wearing masks.
The rules in Victoria are slightly different (check the info site here). They make exception for professional sports people (no, lindy hopper, you are not a professional sports person if you are a student in a class). They do, however, make it clear that if you can’t do social distancing, you’re indoors, and you’re with more than 2 or 3 people, you should mask.
Types of masks is an interesting one. While the science suggests that P2 or N95 masks (fitted and worn correctly) are the only options, we know that most people don’t fit or wear any masks correctly, so no mask is really going to stop the transmission of covid. But we also know that wearing masks can remind people to distance, and can signal to other people that the wearer is concerned about covid.
My personal policy is: mask! Always! indoors and in crowds outdoors, and I always use a P2 or N9, fit them properly and never touch them.
My feeling for a public covid policy, is that we strongly recommend masks (the right types – P2 or N9 and surgical), make them freely available, have influential people (teachers, DJs, performers) model wearing them, but we definitely begin or stop there. We place equal emphasis on vaccination mandates, hygiene, testing regularly, symptom checking, and staying home if you have symptoms, test positive, or are a close contact.
Some facts about RATs and PCR tests
(Please note: this information can change very quickly. It did in the couple of days I was researching this topic! So always double check. And some centers run out of RATs, so double check)
Free RATs were provided by the federal government up until this week. But now the state governments (in Vic and NSW at least) have stepped in to provide them. Free RATs are available to some concession card holders:
Eligible Commonwealth concession card holders can access free rapid antigen tests through the concessional access program. Up to 20 rapid antigen tests are available for free for eligible people living with a disability at state-run testing sites and through Disability Liaison Officers. Eligible people include NDIS participants, disability support pensioners and people with a disability who receive a TAC benefit. Evidence of eligibility, such as an NDIS or TAC statement, is required (source).
Anyone can collect 5 rapid antigen tests (per person) from a COVID-19 testing site in Victoria (source).
In NSW, RATs are free to some concession card holders, and available at neighbourhood centers and NDIS providers. I can’t find information about free RATs for anyone else, though word of mouth suggests you can get them if you ask.
And of course, PCR tests are still free, and available at testing clinics. Though these tests are more reliable than RATs (because they’re conducted by pros, not you with a jumbo q-tip in your bathroom), the results can take up to 48 hours (though they’re usually with you within 24 hours).
Some facts about vaccines
Vaccines are the best way to contain covid at this time, in developed countries like Australia. They prevent you getting really sick, and they stop you spreading the virus to more vulnerable people (because you’re not as sick you don’t blow droplets everywhere as much, and because you’re not sick for as long, you spend less time blowing droplets everywhere).
But they only last for about six months. Which is why we need to get boosters every six months.
If you do catch covid, your immunity only lasts for about three months after your symptoms end (source). Which is why you can get it over and over again in one season.
You can get vaccinated when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and it’s recommended. And a note about the magic of breastfeeding: your milk contains antibodies that are given to your babby, giving them immunity! Hoorah for boobs.
Vaccination is free in Australia, and you can get a quick vax from your local chemist, a GP, or a covid center (do check your state’s local vaccination centers, but you can search nationally here.) I got mine at my local chemist. I just walked in and said “Can I get a covid vaccine, please?” and they did it then, and there, then a bit later it was in my digital vaccination certificate on the Services NSW app on my phone. No mess, no fuss.
I’m currently working on a covid management plan for a dance school. I’m quite enjoying the process.
Here’s the process:
Restating the org’s values
- Which helped me understand how and why the org would develop a covid policy, what issues to focus on, and how to implement it,
- Which ensured we were all on the same page.
Stating the covid plan philosophy
- In this context, a philosophy is theoretical or ideological model for addressing concrete issues,
- Which is basically applying the org’s abstract values to a concrete issue (covid),
- Phrasing the philosophy as a list of clear applications of values to a specific issue (covid)
- This could be a list of a hundred items, or a list of two.
Developing two goals for the plan
- These are deliberately limited in scope (ie this isn’t a govt department managing the health of a whole city or state, it’s a small dance school),
- They are very focussed and practical.
Putting all this into practical actions
- There are four ‘actions’ which cover four general areas of covid management,
- These actions can be phrased as ‘guidelines’ (ie covid rules) for the org, but they can also guide procedures.
- They deliberately limit the scope of the plan to keep it very local and very practical.
So that’s the whole Covid management plan.
From here, I use the plan to develop:
- Guidelines (or rules)
- Procedures (eg if a rule is ‘you must provide proof of vaccination’, who does this checking, where do they check, what do they do if someone doesn’t have proof, what constitutes proof, etc etc)
- Social media strategy to communicate all this, and also to provide information about covid that will encourage people to participate
- Website materials (eg a public statement of the guidelines)
- A handbook that contains all the procedures, contact info, covid facts, etc.
–Developing the plan–
At this point I have a first draft, and it’s been to the org’s boss for comment and approval to go ahead and develop it.
After some tweaking, I’ll send it off to the rest of the org (teachers and staff) to get their feedback, impressions, comments, suggestions, etc.
I’ll also do a model for public comment.
This Plan development process, and the plan itself, are guided by:
- Research I’ve been doing into how covid is transmitted, etc,
- Research into different models that have similar values, and have been effective (incl. Camp Jitterbug, but also a model from AMSANT (The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory), Abrome (a school in Texas), etc etc),
- Social Justice/activist models of care like Tian Zhang’s Manifesto for Radical Care, or How to Be a Human in the Arts.
A key part of this process is an ethos of community strength, and collectivism. My experiences working on sexual harassment in dance has made it clear that top-down solutions are a) not effective, b) burn out the people doing the work, c) maintain existing power structures that _enable_ injustices like sexual harassment. As I learnt working on Melbourne Lindy Exchange (MLX) for years, you need to develop work practices that allow any one person to drop out or take a break at any time. Which is, of course, what flexible, healthy workplaces are all about.
–A final form?–
A key part of this plan is to be agile. It must be able to change and respond to social changes. Covid will change. The community changes.
An Important thing I learnt from working on sexual harassment stuff, is that we can’t just develop a code and leave it at that. That doesn’t work. We need to update it, to change and develop our approach, as we learn more, and as our communities change.
So putting this plan together, I’m assuming that it will need to be changed and updated regularly; I can’t just post it on the website and forget about it. There’ll be feedback from staff about the processes, there’ll be changes in covid, we’ll see things like the development of new vaccines and healthcare strategies.
This means that the Plan itself, and where it lives needs to mutable.
This is a very exciting idea. It’s a lot like lindy hop itself: you have basic structural elements, but it is, fundamentally, about innovation, improvisation, and responding to the needs of its users.
–Why am I doing all this work?–
I have a long history of writing and researching and lecturing, but I am rubbish at presenting my plans and projects in ways that make it easy for the audience to take my work and do their own projects with it.
So I’m deliberately learning how to:
- Develop a plan
- Present a plan to stakeholders who have different types of engagement
- do good community/group consultation and engagement.
I’m also really interested in how social media management can be employed in social justice work, so I’m quite keen on using things like instagram, facebook, etc etc in new and interesting ways. Which, bizarrely (unsurprisingly?) circles back to my doctoral research and academic research, which was all about how small communities use media in unique ways.
–What have I learnt so far?–
One of the most exciting things I’ve learnt so far, is that if a project like this is equitable in design, it actually fights racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc. I think one of the most exciting things about the Camp Jitterbug covid plan, is that it came from the experiences of people of colour, people of a range of genders, people with lived experience doing activist community labour. It’s proof that anti-racist work is good for all of us.
Here are some things I’ve learnt about promoting dance or music related businesses online. I’m not a marketing specialist, but I am a media studies specialist who’s been promoting dance events online for about 15 years now.
You need a website.
You need an email newsletter.
- With both of these media, you are the producer broadcasting a message to your readers.
- Audiences tend to regard these as authoritative sources, unfiltered by social opinion.
- If a social media platform collapses or moves out of vogue, your data won’t disappear with it.
They don’t need to be fancy. In fact, the simpler the better. A single page website with clear headers and a simple structure is best. A newsletter can be sent out maybe once a month. So long as it’s sent out _consistently_, at the same time each week or month, it’s all good.
What about social media?
Important, but in a different way. Think of your behaviour on social media as your brand (which is the public version of you and your business) interacting with lots of real people and other brands out in public. It’s a way for you to develop personal and professional networks in your community or industry. And social media get used a lot, by a lot of different types of people, of all ages and demographics. Perhaps the best thing about social media, for marketing and advertising, is that it allows you to know who’s seeing your ad, when, and where. Something that was harder to judge before social media. Before social media, a brand used social media to ‘broadcast’ a message. With social media, a brand can interact with audiences in a much more complex way.
Websites are important.
Of the two, the website is most important. If you do a tiny bit of audience research (eg we used a very simple survey to routinely ask all our dance class attendees how they found us), you can see which media are most important. For our dance classes, a ‘google search’ accounted for 90% of our attendance. Even if they saw a post on facebook first, they still used a search engine to actually get them to class (and make the sale).
This is where we talk about SEO. Search Engine Optimisation. It’s not magic, it just means ‘make it easy for search engines like google to find your website’. We know a lot of things about google. We know that when it indexes your website, it pays attention to the words you use. ie it ‘reads’ your code. And google tells you how to make it easier for their search engine to find your site.
What should your website include?
- Your name. The name you want people to use when they announce you over a microphone or list you on a program.
- Your contact details. A phone number, and an email address. Right at the top. And in the footer too. Make it really easy for busy bookers, festival programmers, and prospective clients to find you. If someone’s prepared to pick up the phone to talk to you, they want information quickly, and they’re close to making a decision.
- Some useful key words. What do you do? Dance teacher? Then you need ‘dance teacher’ right at the top of your page. Are you a lindy hopper? A jazz musician? Do you run weekly balboa classes? Then say so, right there in text on the page. Make it easy for google to find you when your audience does a google search.
Most importantly, don’t hide information away in images. Search engines like google can’t ‘find’ your information if it’s hidden in an image. All google knows about your lovely instagram graphic is that it’s a .jpg file, 1080px x 1080px, created on 2 January 2022. Even more importantly, people who use screen readers can’t find your information if it’s locked inside an image.
Do use photos on your website or newsletter, because they look nice, and it’s easier to sell a product if people know what it looks like.
Don’t hide information in an image.
Each image should have a ‘title’ tag, and ‘alternative’ text (‘alt’ text) to that tag. If you’re writing your own website code, that’s easy to do. You just add alt=”the information from your image” to the image element. Most website building tools (like squarespace) and newsletter tools (like mailchimp) offer you the option to add alt text as well. Yay!
As an example, this little graphic is very effective for instagram. It has all the information we need – there’s a party, when and where it’s on, and bring cake!
But without alt text, all your web browser knows is that this is an image, 812px x 812px, called ‘Screen-Shot-2022-04-06-at-2.30.41-pm.png’. No one will come to your party.
If you add alt text like “party time! Monday 3pm, 11 Streetname St, Bring cake!”, then a google search will be able to find the information and serve it up as a result in a google search.
What about a newsletter?
Don’t underestimate the value of a newsletter. People actively choose to sign up for your newsletter, which is a way of signalling to you ‘I am interested enough in you and your product to give you access to my inbox’.
Newsletters give you lots of useful information about your subscribers as well. How many people click on links? Or open the email at all? How many unsubscribe? How many ‘bounce’? All these analytics can help you improve your newsletter: which subject lines convinced people to open the email? Which calls to action in your newsletter got a response?
If you use a newsletter service like mailchimp (and you really should. For privacy, security, efficacy, and ease), you often have the option of displaying an archive of your past emails. Each of these past emails is another tool for improving your SEO: another hundred or thousand times a search engine will read your name on the internet and add that page to its index.
Most of all, a newsletter lets you speak directly to a group of people who are even just a little bit interested in you and what you do. Gold!
Take this seriously
If you’re going to stand up on stage and play, or run a class for people to learn to dance, you have to let people know. Even if your business runs mostly via word of mouth, having a solid website can work just like a nice business card. Something that means a lot more in a world where most people have a smartphone in their pocket (or hand!)
If you need a hand with this stuff, drop me a line I can give you some tips. For a very reasonable rate :D
ok, I have a bit more time to write.
==First off. This work will fuck you up.==
I and every other woman I know who’s worked extensively on this topic since 2015 (and before) is massively burnt out, and dealt/dealing with vicarious trauma from this work. Many of us (all of us?) have been subjected to threats of violence, legal action, smear campaigns, and worse. For me, the individual offenders were kind of small potatoes. The most distressing part of this has been the way men in the lindy hop scene actively worked to protect and enable offenders. ENABLE offenders. I have generally found that any man who actively objects to safe space policies is a sexual offender, and any woman who actively objects to safe space policies is a survivor. I wish I was generalising.
==Second. If you want to get into this stuff, plan ahead for trauma.==
You need to find a good therapist to talk to, particularly if you are not a man. Because at some point you’ll really realise, at a visceral level, that all these people who object to kicking out sexual offenders are ok with you (and every other woman and girl) being the victim of violence. And that fucks you up. But the work itself (reading endless accounts of assaults, dealing with the obstructionist arseholes, threats of violence, legal actions, and personal defamation) is just so. hard. You can’t do this alone, friend. Get help.
==Third. We have to be bottom-up, not top-down in our actions.==
I eventually realised that we cannot stop men offending. We can’t change the bigger social forces that train men to believe that it’s ok to sexually assault someone, that their pleasure comes before anyone else’s well being.
So the real solution for stamping out sexual assault in a relatively self contained scene like a dance community, is to power up the sisters and potential victims.
We do need codes of conduct and all the institutional changes (and mad props to Sarah, Michael, Charlie etc in Baltimore for their leadership on this). But these processes don’t change the power structures that enable sexual violence by men against women. It’s still powerful people at the top of a hierarchy managing the bodies of people at the bottom. We need to change this shit.
In Sydney we saw incredible results when a group of Asian women started looking out for each other and getting up in the face of an unrelenting white man who targeted Asian women. They would step in when he approached new women dancers. They’d tell young women and girls not to tolerate his shit. They’d actively him skip in class rotation (even when he tried to physically grab them). They pushed and pushed and pushed to get him banned from things. And so on. A clear result of this was a marked increase in the number of poc at our events, not only women, but _all_ poc, because those offenders aren’t just committing acts of sexual violence. They’re also bullies, racist, etc etc.
Not only do we need to get intersectional on this, but we need to reconstruct the bullshit that convinces women dancers to tolerate sexual harassment and violence. And that is often as simple as having them practice saying ‘no thank you’ to dance invites in class.
==Fourth. Know your local laws, use your local resources==
Laws RE sexual assault and harassment differ between countries. Look up your local laws. There are general human rights type laws, but there are also work place safety laws that apply. Be wary of issues like defamation law. Know your shit before you bring the shit. And that means finding a lawyer who specialises in the relevant laws (not just some rando who ‘is a lawyer’). Be ready to fundraise to cover these expenses.
There are services that can help, so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Legal Aid can offer free legal advice here in Australia, and there is the equivalent in many other countries. Find the websites and help lines. Look up the excellent posters and campaigns that have already been going on in your country.
Get intersectional. This is a big one. The model a lot of us in the lindy hop world (in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, NZ, parts of Europe) use white, middle class, heterosexual gender roles and relationship models for ‘fixing’ this issue. Look further afield.
– How do Black women manage unwelcome sexual attention? What role do older Black women play in moderating men’s behaviour?
– How does the queer scene address sexual violence against trans kids (here’s an answer: https://www.transhub.org.au/unhealthy-relationships)?
-> You can learn from these examples. Do not, ever, generalise from your own experiences, especially if you are straight, white, living in a city, middle class, and English speaking.
==Fifth. Get local, get specific.==
There have been phenomenal projects undertaken all over the lindy hopping world to deal with this issue.
Dance Safe – 댄스세이프 in Seoul is incredible – they’ve done surveys, worked across a massive local scene to join often-unfriendly groups and individuals on board. They distributed literally boxes and boxes and boxes of info pamphlets. They used posters, they got away from gender binaries. It is just incredible. And locally appropriate, from language to age and culture.
Check out the codes of conduct that Tena Morales’ International Swing Dance Championships have. The language is very specific to the Black community of the US, where people speak English, carry guns, and are dealing with racism.
…and so on. Steal ideas from everyone, but make your work locally relevant, and locally appropriate.
==Sixth. Iterative design is the go==
Iterative design basically means that you’re never ‘finished’ with your code of conduct, your reporting process, your activism. Update your code of conduct annually. Learn from other organisations. You will get better and better at this.
==Seventh what are your limits? What is your code?==
Before you do anything else, write down (or record to camera or voice memo) your limits. What will you tolerate? What will you not tolerate?
My personal limits:
– I will not walk past someone who’s being harassed. I will intervene.
– I will risk physical violence for someone else’s safety.
– I will ask annoying questions in public about an event or person who aren’t fulfilling their duty of care.
– I won’t let men touch me if I don’t want it.
– I will not smile and make nice.
– I will walk away from an unpleasant dance.
– I will say ‘no thank you’ to an unwanted dance invite.
– I work to stay aware of my own privilege and power, and I will leverage them to help out people who need it.
Know what your limits are. Be sure of what you will tolerate.
==Eighth and final: this is about gender.==
We know, beyond doubt, and with mountains of substantiating data, that sexual violence in lindy hop is a problem with men. Men are the vast, vast majority of offenders. Women and girls are the victims/targets. We don’t have data for it (yet), but if we extrapolate from the wider community, men are also the targets of men’s sexual violence.
So men need to fix their shit. They need to step in and take ownership of this issue. Because women like me are far too fucking busy fending off groping hands and lewd comments at the mic, in the DJ booth, or on the dance floor to help your sorry arses. Step the fuck up.
A friend posted this the other day, and it pinged my radar.
The ban on nunchucks within the New York city limits was instituted in 1974, the year this song was released:
In this USAToday article discussing the changing of legislation, they write
“The ruling went over the history of the ban, and said it “arose out of a concern that, as a result of the rising popularity ‘of ‘Kung Fu’ movies and shows,′ ‘various circles of the state’s youth’ — including ‘muggers and street gangs’ — were ‘widely’ using nunchaku to cause ‘many serious injuries.’”
And in this New York Times article they write that
“New York lawmakers worried that some young people might be using the device nefariously. “
In 1974 ‘muggers and street gangs’ in New York was code for ‘Black kids’. ‘Kung fu’ films, tv, etc was hugely popular with Black kids (you can read more about that here).
The ‘nunchuck’ ban is interesting because it was clearly targeting this segment of the community in a period of economic freefall and city corruption.
I’m fascinated by this period in American history. There’s a really good documentary called Blank City, which looks at the rise of indy cinema in NY at that moment as well (including Lizzie Borden’s radical feminist film Born In Flames).
…just some random thoughts from a discussion on fb that i’m posting here to keep track of.
If big dance events that were held over new year could collect accurate covid infection stats, it’d be super interesting to compare these with other sample groups. 1 in 5 is lower than omicron in Sydney at the moment, so I suspect it was higher at Focus. But if it was lower, that’d be pretty interesting… maybe because it was mostly local people, we’d see a lower rate of infection?
The issue, though, is that an event like Focus brings together people from separate networks of people. ie we live and interact with a limited number of people in our day to day life (friends, family, workmates, shop keepers, etc). The big issue comes not when we interact with them, but when networks interact. So if you and I went to Focus, I’d be exposing you (and your network) to the germs of my network (and vice versa).
I’m interested in how the statistical side of things (numbers) works in cooperation with the social side of things (the ways people interact, and how relationships determine who we’ll interact with). Here in Australia, the govt health advice has been based on:
1) states (ie mid-level government borders of responsibility),
2) local government areas (ie groups of suburbs),
3) households (nuclear families in particular) in free-standing houses, and
ie we are divided up by government powers, labour practice, and patriarchal ideas of the ‘family’. So restrictions are put in place to open or close state borders (and our states are geographically massive, but very low population density), to enforce lockdowns or restrict gatherings in local communities. Contact ‘bubbles’ are defined by households (ie an actual house) rather than apartment block. Allowable activities are also defined by houses rather than apartments (eg ‘kids play in your yard’ rather than ‘kids play in your local park’).
We’ve seen these divisions collapse when it comes to people who don’t fit into the white, heterosexual, monogamous middle class parents model. ie most people don’t fit into these categories. Most people actually are: engaged in extended family networks, are in precarious employment, aren’t in a monogamous heterosexual nuclear family, etc etc. The higher rates of transmission happen in places like apartment blocks, and in extended families, whereas the govt advice has focussed on how to behave in free standing houses, nuclear families, and fixed workplaces.
We know it’s more useful to think of people as part of the relatively stable networks of family+friends+work I described above, than the ‘household’ or ‘individual’ . The networks are bigger than a nuclear family unit, but they’re also more stable; we tend to max out at a specific number of contacts. And if we think in terms of networks, we can account for extended families, networks of care (eg neighbours caring for neighbours, friendships, sexual partners, etc) and get a more accurate picture of how real people interact (the nuclear family model just doesn’t account for the majority of relationships).
We can apply this idea to dance communities. We all operate within local dance communities (eg I’m in the inner west of Sydney, in NSW, in Australia), and that community network includes musicians, DJs, dancers, venue operators, _and_ my family and friends. But when we go to exchanges, my local network interacts with other people’s local networks.
As dancers, we already think about this interaction of networks: we are all pretty good at identifying someone’s home town by the moves they dance, the shape or aesthetics of their dancing, the music they like or dance to (eg fast or slow) _and_ markers like ethnicity, etc. Even at our most athletic, we can only partner dance with about 40 people in 2 hours of dancing, max (so long as there are no birthday jams!), but are more likely to dance with between 10 and 20.
But when we go to weekend events, we dance for far more hours, with far more people. Each of us, individually, represents a different local network as well as a local dance scene. So when we interact at an exchange, we are exposing ourselves to far more germs. Or increasing the chance of catching covid.
Our state govt has just added a restriction on dancing, where our public health officers Kerry Chant explained that dancing (ie solo dancing) brings us into contact with more people, in closer contact. ie the stuff that makes dancing feel wonderful is also what spreads covid 😃
Bizarrely, years ago I did a conference paper on the way f2f and global networks interact at exchanges. The thing about lindy hop is that we _must_ interact physically – dance – as part of the community. When we travel to dance, we expand that network of physical contact.
In the lindy hop world, that network of contact spreads dance skills, aesthetics, moves, rhythms, ideas, friendships, sexual relationships, etc. But in the covid world it also spreads…covid. Because the lindy hop world is designed _specifically_ to enable that f2f physical contact, it’s as though we built a machinery specifically designed to spread covid.
Yesterday a white guy had a troll on a productive discussion about teaching lindy hop. The original post in that discussion was
I was teaching “jig walks” today and it was pointed out to me that the word “jig” miiight not be the best of words. Anyone know anything about this?
This is a pretty good way to open a discussion about race in jazz dance, and it’s not the first time it’s come up in that forum. I won’t go into details here, because that’s not the point of my post.
This discussion had last been active about three months ago. Yesterday a white guy commented:
I am the only one with a Color Screen? or all screens are in black and white now?
I could just hear the eyes rolling from the southern hemisphere.
This is a classic tactic by antagonists in a social setting. We see this sort of behaviour in dance classes quite often, where a student (usually a white man, but not always) derails a discussion or activity with a ‘question’ that centers him and his feelings.
In a dance class setting, I would not engage with this questions, as it will eat up time and energy. As a woman teacher (who usually taught as a lead), I would be very quick to manage this sort of behaviour, as it’s a common tactic used by male students to grasp power in the class. So I’d probably ignore that comment and move us along with a practical exercise that demands attention. If the question is actually relevant to the class matter we’re working on, I would make very clear our position on the topic, and then move on. I think it’s worth looking at how we can, as teachers, respond to racist comments in class. Some of the strategies we use for dealing with sexism and homophobia will work here.
This is also a fairly classic and predictable tactic used by white men to derail discussions about racism. Again, the premise of this sort of question is that the interests of white men are more important than those of Black folk, and that antiracist action is somehow less important than ‘real’ topics.
In the context of dance, ‘historical accuracy’ is frequently used as a tactic for de-centering the interests of living Black dancers. In other words, it’s very common to hear a white male ‘dance historian’ argue that Black dancers in the past did X, Y, or Z, and did not talk about how a word was racist, and that if we are interested in historical accuracy, we must center _their_ behaviour. These sorts of ‘historians’ very rarely ask themselves why a Black dancer of a previous generation, making their wage from teaching white people, would not have spoken up about racism.
This is racist because a white person is using the name of a Black person who has passed as a sigil of authority, rather than standing aside for living Black people to speak and address their interests. They are, effectively, taking ownership of a Black elder and that elder’s knowledge. I can only imagine how maddening and infuriating this is for Black dancers.
In my own mind, when I hear this sort of talk from white, male ‘historians’, I think “Ah, here is a white man using the name of Black elders to maintain his own patriarchal power. He is not comfortable with young Black people (of all genders) changing the discussion to address their living needs and issues. So he dismisses issues like ‘language’ as ‘irrelevant’, and derails a productive discussion to recenter himself and his own interests.”
I find this co-opting of Black lives and people very disturbing. It is as though white jazz dance historians are more comfortable with a dead Black man than with living Black people.