Here is a short introduction to our event and lots of food for thought we wanted to address in the context of this event. See it as a possibility to gain some perspective.
The Sassy Jazz Weekend is all about celebrating and empowering women through dance, conversation and community.
The Sassy Jazz Weekend Workshop brings you many classes mostly about (swing) dance taught by women from the Viennese and international swing dance scene. You can choose how many of those classes you want to take in your registration. Everyone is welcome to participate in this weekend however some classes or talks might be open for women only.
When we talk about women, we mean everyone who identifies as such.
Why a weekend about women?
Because when we look back at swing dance history most of the names we hear and dancers we talk about are men. When we travel to international dance events and attend history talks - they are mostly held by men. And at many events lots of women (mostly signing up as followers) end up on waiting lists or stand in lines on the side of the social dance floors as there are often unbalanced leader/follower - ratios.
So at this weekend we want to focus on the amazing women in Jazz and Swing. Learn from some, look back at some, celebrate each other.
We want to give people tools for their solo dancing and their follower skills. We want to give you the opportunity to work on your leading (if you mostly dance as a follower) to give you more things to play with on the social dance floor. And we especially want you to have a great time!
So join us and get yourself some Sassy Jazz!!
Roles in Dancing
Many traditional couples dances have two roles: Leader and Follower. One person initiating most of the movement and one person following those invitations. In many dance scenes we see mostly men taking the role of the leaders and women taking the role of the followers. However this is not how we have to dance, especially in Lindy Hop! You can choose whichever role you want to learn or even learn both roles. Still many people choose to learn the stereotypical role for their gender and as you see many women taking the dance role as followers many of the classes offered at this event are about working on your following skills. However even though a minority, some women do choose to learn the leading role in the dance from the beginning and we want to welcome those to this workshop just as much. In general any person (no matter what gender) who has spent some time working on their follower skills, even if it is not their main role in the dance, is welcome to participate in the follower-focussed classes. And many other classes like Jumps & Turns, Solo Jazz, Tap Dance, Voguing and Burlesque will give you material to improve not only as a follower but as a dancer.
More on gender roles in dancing especially looking back at old clips and the history of the dance:
Check out all the women dancing both roles in 1939 at the World Fair in New York City!
And of course, how many of us have watched this awesome video of Al Minns and Leon James dancing together?
Interested in starting to learn Lindy hop and you want to learn both roles? Some schools offer you exactly that!
Listen to international dancers discuss the issue of gender roles in dance in the short IG Hop - Podcast ‘From the Top’
Learn more about why we need to reflect on the language we use in our dance community (and while you’re at it in every other aspect of life as well!) to be more inclusive!
Why it is important to rename the former “Jack & Jill” contest to something new like “Mix & Match”.
From the Article: ‘By using the phrase “Jack & Jill” we spread the message that the “right” way to dance Lindy Hop is for a male to lead and a female to follow. This doesn’t reflect how the dance is currently done.
The scene today has a large and growing number of women who lead, men who follow, and people dancing both roles. Increasingly dance classes and workshops are using gender-neutral language to encourage men and women to take on any role they wish.’
‘If you are LGBTQ in particular, you may finding it off-putting to watch a dance contest called a “Jack & Jill” and see mostly men leading and women following. What kind of message would this communicate to a gay or lesbian couple taking their first dance lesson? I think it would be that this dance isn’t for you.’
Who are we talking about when we say we want to empower women?
Everyone who identifies as such. Everyone who maybe only partly or sometimes identifies as much but would love to get some sassiness going in their life! At this workshop when we talk about ‘being women’ or ‘being feminine’ we want to encourage and empower all the different aspects, shapes and ways femininities come in. To quote Sam Caroll an international instructor and DJ from Australia: http://dogpossum.org/2014/03/busy-ham-finds-time-to-rant-about-gender/#respond
“There are multiple ways of performing femininity and masculinity. Or, there are multiple femininities and masculinities, and these aren’t fixed or permanent. They are specific to particular moments in time, to particular cultures, ethnicities and demographics. Patriarchy tends to insist that there’s only one type of femininity and masculinity, and that these are the only desirable models. So femininity equates to delicate, sensual, passive, gentle, nurturing, caring, soft, hairless (except on your head), emotional, untechnological, natural, etc; masculine equates to aggressive, potentially violent, mechanical, intellectual/rational, etc etc. Both are necessarily heterosexual and interdependent.
In that setting, if you aren’t gentle/sensual/caring/etc, you’re not feminine.”
At Sassy Jazz we want to encourage and empower all the different ways one might feel or want to be feminine.
While talking about creating this event for ALL women and all different kinds of femininities it is also important to remind ourselves that not all women are coming from the same background and same previous experiences and therefore potentially want different kinds of empowerment. Especially looking at the swing dance scene women might have very different experiences due to the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, the gender they were assigned at birth and many other factors. As this event is created and this year predominantly taught by white cis-women we want to remind ourselves especially that we need to be constantly aware of our own privileges when we are bringing our feminism into class and on the stage and we ask all of the attendees to do the same.
This way to reflect on and act in your feminism is called intersectional feminism.
Read up on it here:
Appropriation & Appreciation
When we learn a dance (or choose an outfit or choose to learn an instrument, etc.) that has originated from a culture that is not ours (and where it is possibly still of high significance today), it is very important to reflect on that fact. Why could it be harmful to adopt things from a different culture? Isn’t it great to exchange between cultures? - It is as long as both cultures are similar in status and power. But as soon as people from a culture that is, or has been actively oppressing another go ahead and adopt things from the disadvantaged culture it becomes problematic.
Read more about why cultural appropriation can be harmful. http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/
What does that mean for us and our dancing? Lindy Hop is a dance that originated in Harlem in the 1930s to 1940s and was first danced mostly by black people. Today Lindy Hop is mostly danced by white people and particular by white people with the financial resources to travel to events and take regular classes/attend regular dances. Lindy Hop is a dance that originated and developed different styles in the US but today is very popular in Europe and all over the world. That means for us (Austrians/Europeans) that this dance is something we have adopted from another era and another culture. Is that a bad thing? We don’t think so. The dance was always something that was special because it changed and developed over time. However it is important to respect and appreciate it’s history. We need to inform ourselves and each other where this dance came from and respect its roots.
More about this: A reflection on Lindy Hop http://www.boulderswingdance.com/news/2017/2/28/reflections-on-lindy-hop-the-savoy-and-black-history-month
Appropriation in Blues dancing: http://damonstone.dance/articles/appreciation-versus-appropriation/
Follow this blog for more insights into the dance scene by a black dancer: https://www.obsidiantea.com/beyond
At the Sassy Jazz weekend we want to try to bring some of the theory and history of the dances we teach into the classes and other activities