Social Dance Blog – The Premise
Since making the decision to explore alternatives to the defined lead/follow roles in social dancing, it’s brought up lots of questions and comments both within myself and from people who have learned of my project, not only for dance but in life. I have decided to share those findings and ideas because I believe they are timely and important at this time. I have a deep respect for social dancing, it has brought so much into my life, so much so, that I have dedicated myself to teach and promote it. But through the years I have started wondering if we could push social dance past it’s historic etiquette and while keeping its essence, bring it to reflect more current ideals. I believe in being the change you want to see in the world, so I decided to go for it!
It all started with an idea that stemmed from uncomfortable experiences that I have has in the social dance scenes. So that you better understand where my desire to pursue such a project comes from, I will talk about what brought me here. I started social dancing about 13 years ago, first time dancing, I was shy, awkward, for me it was a way to unwind after a long day. Being a follow at that time in my life was good, I didn’t have the confidence to lead and following got me more in touch with my feminine side, which as a tomboy, helped me a lot to explore a different side of myself. But after starting to teach, I realized I should really learn how to lead, both to understand the dance better but also to be able to help both leads and follows out. After having some frustrating experiences teaching with male partners, I decided that teaching by myself was a better idea, at least until I found a partner that shared more of my ideas about teaching dance.
So now I am teaching by myself, having this freedom and having experienced basically all sides of social dance, from leading, following, teaching both roles, performing… coupled with a more advanced understanding of these dances have brought me to where I am today, questioning why we can’t let social dance evolve.
Being a strong independent woman, the fact that I am not suppose to ask men to dance at social events doesn’t always sit well with me, mostly because of the way I see women go through that, wearing sexy clothes, makeup… trying to get men’s attention so that they can get a dance. We don’t see that as much in our local scene as it has become more acceptable for everyone to ask everyone to dance… partially because, of people like me who refused to follow the rules. I find it makes for a much healthier environment. I feel like it brings women down instead of empowering them. I really appreciate that the scene in Halifax has grown to accept me and my lead/follow/asking everyone to dance self. It wasn’t like that at the beginning, I use to get rejected by follows who thought it was weird to dance with a woman… but over time people in the community have on the most part embraced it. When I started teaching by myself at the beginning I had guys not come back after the first class, not wanting to learn how to lead from a woman. This didn’t stop me from continuing to teach the ones who would accept me as a teacher, but these days, I find things have really changed, I haven’t had this type of experience in a few years and I am grateful for that too. It’s been really interesting to see the changes in the community and I am super grateful to be part of these changes and this community.
Other aspects of the social dance scenes that bother me, and many of the women that I talk to is that hyper-sexualization of women and of the dances. Too often do we see only skinny, well proportioned young women in reveling costumes in performances, workshops, videos, posters… there are exceptions, but they are rare. Also, we often see and experience female teachers not given a voice in workshops, with the men taking over the teaching, but often not teaching to the follows. To me social dance is for everyone, it’s not about being sexy. It is sensual in some ways, but mostly it’s fun, freeing, it’s about good connection, musicality… and I wished that we would see more of that promoted.
So, this has brought me here today to feel a bit uncomfortable, which for me usually means it’s time for me to grow in a different direction. So, a few months ago to spend a few days in deep thought about social dance, my thoughts about it, and where I wanted to go from here. I came to the conclusion that even if things have changed quite a bit and that I am quite grateful for the way things are today, I want to push things past the limitation of lead/follow in social dance.