We Are Not a Government and the Internet Isn’t a Court

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It’s been more than a month since Sarah Sullivan posted her extremely powerful account of sexual assault by a prominent figure in swing dancing. During that time I’ve been largely impressed by the response. In contrast to the quenelle debacle, it seemed that the issues of sexual assault and women’s rights were more globally acknowledged and supported. For once I got to see what I always hope to see and never do: the global swing dancing community is actually doing better than mainstream society. I love the community, but I am constantly disappointed to discover that there is just as much ignorance, selfishness, and hate represented in it as there is elsewhere in the world. Mostly the response to Sarah’s and other survivors’ accounts has given me a bit more hope. That said, there was a fair amount of inappropriate questioning, overvaluing the career of the accused with respect to the safety and sanity of his survivors, and victim blaming. There was one element I saw brought up again and again, and I’d like to address it. That element is the concept of presumption of innocence, frequently packaged as “innocent until proven guilty.”

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Tools for Participating in a Conversation about Sexual Assault

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If you keep up with the lindy hop community at all, or have Facebook friends who do, or are in any way connected to it, chances are you know about Sarah Sullivan’s brave, well-written, and honest account of her extremely damaging relationship with Steven Mitchell, an international instructor and friend to many. If you haven’t read it, as well as at least a good portion of the comments, do so now. Be warned that the main story and many of the comments discuss sexual assault in various forms. Some are more detailed than others, and some are more extreme, but they’re all terrible and deserve our attention.

https://ssullivan410.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/3/

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Steppin’ Out

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Hi guys. I know it’s been sort of a long t…holy crap, I just looked, and it’s seriously been almost a year. That’s criminal.

Golly.

Well, anyway, after almost a year of no updates, I was inspired to write by a friend’s Facebook post. She’d been feeling bored by dancing and was wondering if it was time to take a break. I’ve seen this sort of thing a lot in my six years of dancing (Sunday was my lindyversary!), and I often see a lot of the same advice. None of it is bad advice, but it tends to be pretty one-note. Basically, almost all of it seems to revolve around ways to dance differently so it stops being boring. Like I said, it’s not bad advice, but it’s like answering every relationship question with tips on how to spice things up in the bedroom. So I wanted to write something that explored some of the other aspects of l’ennui hop, as well as offer some suggestions about how to approach it. Continue reading

Plateaus Schmateaus

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So you’ve been dancing for a couple months, or a year, or two years. You’ve been having a good time. You’ve been making friends, getting compliments, learning tons in your classes, finding out about cool new music, and wowing your non-dance friends with your moves and knowledge of American cultural history. Then, one day, you’re waxing your single-speed bike or whatever, buying some new scarves—I don’t know—and it hits you: You’ve plateaued. All your hard work is meaningless. Life is over. You’re as good as you’re ever going to be. Happiness is a sham. You may as well sell your Aris Allens and use the money to help you make a down payment on a secret lair, because the life of a super-villain is all that’s left to you.

Well, good news, friends. Your old pal Alex is here to help you weather this extremely depressing storm. In today’s blog, I’m going to talk a little bit about what a plateau is, how to determine if you’ve hit one, and what you can do about it if you have. Exciting, no? Continue reading

Dances with Beginners

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Page i

A few months ago, someone on Yehoodi asked a question that I really liked, and trying to think of an answer inspired me to write a more in-depth response than what I actually posted. The question, from a user going by David D, was this: What do you do when dancing with beginners to make sure that the beginner is having a good dance? The question was asked in the context of the leader being the more experienced dancer, and all of the responses were from a leader’s perspective. I would be very interested in an experienced follower’s perspective on the opposite situation, but since I’m a leader I’m focusing on more-experienced leaders dancing with less-experienced followers. Continue reading

6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Teaching

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So you’ve been dancing for a short while, and you’re thinking about teaching. You could have a number of reasons. Maybe you want your friends/partner to dance but they are nervous about taking a class. Or maybe you live in a place where the scene is small and young, or doesn’t really exist at all, and it’s up to you to take the reins. Hell, maybe you just love lindy hop and want to marry it, but since lindy hop isn’t a physical object, a human, or capable of giving consent, you just want to become as involved with it as possible. These are all awesome reasons to teach, and there are tons that I didn’t mention and probably haven’t thought of. Honestly, I’m not convinced that there’s such a thing as a bad reason to teach lindy hop. I hereby bless your pedagogical endeavor. You can start today!

What’s that you say? You’re still nervous? You are afraid because you’re still learning so much, you don’t think you’ll ever be a Rockstar™, or you’re not even in the top level of your scene? Well, friend, maybe I can help. I’ve been dancing for five years (today’s my lindyversary!), and teaching for only three months fewer—that’s right, I started teaching three months after my first class. Was I awesome? Hell no! Was I nervous? Hell yes! It’s natural to be nervous about teaching for the first time, but I’m glad I did it. Looking back, I realize I didn’t have to be as nervous as I was. Here are a few bits of information that could have saved me a lot of stress. Continue reading

A Thousand Words About Auditions

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Give or take.

I see a lot of advice thrown around on the internet and in classes about the art of competing. A lot of it is the same few concepts repackaged and retold, which is fine with me since I agree with most of it. I’ve even given it to my students when asked. Work on your basics, invite the audience into your dance, dance with your partner like they’re a unique snowflake (which they are), swing out more than once a song. All solid advice. Even stuff like “wear clothes that flatter you” and “choose colors that pop” and “dance where the judges can see you” and “wink at the judges at the beginning of every phrase” are great pieces of advice for getting noticed—although that last one may get you a restraining order rather than a place in the finals. The great thing about most of this advice is that it’s applicable no matter what type of competition it is; it’s great for J&Js, strictly comps, and level auditions. No matter what situation encourages a student to ask for help with competitions, the advice is pretty much the same. Continue reading

Honor Thy Process

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If I had a dollar for every time a student got frustrated in the middle of a difficult class and stopped working, a quarter for every time a dancer thought the invitational level dancers were gods to be worshipped, a dime for every time a dancer thought that if they just learned that one perfect move they would be the ultimate dancer, and a nickel for every time an event attendee rushed to the highest level class they wouldn’t get kicked out of even when they’d get more out of a lower level, I would have $1.40 times infinity. Because it’s happened infinity times. Continue reading

Goals

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Lately my thinking about dance has been shaped by two main things. The first is ILHC, which is fast approaching, and which I’ve been looking forward to for two years (I missed last year). The second is Rosh Hashanah, which is also coming up, but which I didn’t really even know about until recently.

I’ll start with the second one first, because it’s so new to me. Continue reading