At Swingtown Rebels in Christchurch we feel very lucky to be part of a scene of friendly, fun, caring people! But it’s important once in a while to touch base and make sure everyone feels happy and safe, and what exactly you and we should do if there’s something you’re concerned about. Mostly the normal unspoken rules of society apply within the dance bubble, but things may feel a little bit different because (obviously) partner dancing actually requires a bit of physical contact with your partner – and the social nature of lindy hop means you end up dancing with a whole range of different people, which may put you into situations you’re just not sure how to deal with. Most people find that all this stuff comes completely naturally, but just so we’re all on the same wavelength, we’ve come up with some guidelines:
- Someone may be super experienced, an amazing dancer, flashy, outgoing, fun, a teacher or performer, or they may be brand new, nervous, or awkward or lacking confidence. Every person is equally worthy of your respect in our scene – we are all peers. Respect the teachers for the information they are sharing, the amazing dancers for the hard work and skill it’s taken them to get there, the new dancers for the guts it takes to get out and give this crazy thing a go, or for the smile they share while out on the floor concentrating their brains out, and the organisers for the time and energy they put into the scene.
- Keep an eye out for each other. Smile at your partner and be engaged when you dance with them. Look for people who are maybe not having the best night, and go and have a dance with them. Keep an eye out for newbies who might not be sure of themselves and introduce yourself. Chat to people for a mo – even if it’s just a “hi, nice to see you!” Call out someone if they accidentally say something mean or unthoughtful about someone. Don’t tolerate antisocial behaviour from your peers. When dancing with someone the number one priority is to have a dance that’s fun and safe for you, your partner and everyone else on the floor – leads especially need to be conscious of how they are asking their follows to move.
- Look after yourself. Keep yourself hydrated, stretched, comfortable. Believe in yourself and that if you ask someone to dance they will enjoy it! Don’t dance on an injury if you might do more damage. Talk to your partner if something hurts you so they know not to do that – dancing shouldn’t hurt (but they may not be aware that it hurts)! Talk to your teachers if you are finding anything at all painful while dancing – dancing shouldn’t hurt! They can help you understand how to control your body so you aren’t overextended or forced into uncomfortable moves. Don’t let anyone tell you that they are more important than you are, or make you do things you don’t want to do. You absolutely have the right to turn down any dance you want with any person. You don’t have to give a reason. All that we ask is that you be nice about it. If you are turned down for a dance don’t worry about it. Go ask someone else, or go have a chat with someone, or just groove to the music! If you are turned down regularly for a lot of dances, maybe go ask someone you trust if they can help you figure out if it’s just bad timing, or if maybe you can change something about your approach.
- Talk to us. Your teachers, the people on the door at classes, the more senior dancers you see on the floor – come to us if you have any concerns, worries, or thoughts you want to toss around. People you could start with if you’re unsure about who to come to are Alicia, Angela, Nathan, Shona or Carla (if you’re not sure who these people are, ask someone to point them out). We promise to treat anything you bring us seriously, and confidentially. If you are uncomfortable to talk to someone in person, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to provide a supportive, welcoming environment for everyone, and we will not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia or any other type of nasty, judgemental behaviour. We have in the past talked to people to explain if they are unintentionally doing things that makes others uncomfortable, and on extremely rare occasions asked somebody to leave.
- Don’t be an egg*. This is the most important rule. The onus is on every single one of us to help keep our scene the friendly, fun, welcoming place that we are all proud to be a part of.
*Egg (noun, NZ informal): Someone who is acting like a jerk or an idiot. Don’t be that person.