I'm not here to always find the negative in our community, but I feel that it's important to open our eyes to what's really going on. This community, along with others, has the tendency to sweep its problems under the rug and always wants to present the best face possible to the general public. Can't really blame that approach because it wants to keep growing. But there's something to be said about facing your issues head on and sincerely seek ways to improve. This community has many positives, and I'll get to them as well :).
So, a few days ago, a certain workshop event came up in my Facebook feed that ruffled all my feathers. Without directly quoting it, this event will teach leaders how to dance like men and turn your basics into manly patterns...to give the appearance of strength in your dance. Yes, read it again and take another deep breath. Now, I understand that there are still places in this country that believe in the leader = men and follower = women. And if that's your belief, that's ok too. I'm not here to force my view on anyone. But let's go on a little journey.
In this day and age, gender equality is something you hear about all the time- be it in the job market, marriage, or in our dance community. What really offended me about the title of that workshop was the fact that it alienates both the men that now feel that they're not manly enough when they dance, and the women that may feel more comfortable leading - or just want to learn to lead. Do the women have to dance manly "like a man" in order to be a good lead? Even if I wanted to attend that class as a man that leads, my mindset is already one of inferiority because I must not know how to dance like a MAN. What does that look like anyways? I'm a man and a dancer, so that should make it that I dance like one...but now I'm confused. If I'm a woman wanting to lead, why would I need/want to look like a man doing it? After all, I'm a WOMAN. Why can't I just be a woman that leads? I think that's the bigger question here. What's "manly enough" or "feminine enough" in order to be a good leader or follower? The stereotype is that men don't dance and women are delicate. Men are blocky and tough and women are flowy and light. The Hulk and the Fairy. Rasing awareness to make our dance community more gender equal is already in progress. Kelly, Samantha, and Phoenix are at the forefront of the Degendering WCS movement and have already made great strides. I, for one, am a big supporter of that cause.
I believe that everyone should be "allowed" to just be themselves, especially in a dance that advertizes INDIVIDUALITY as its essence. As long as you're adhering to the dance technique required to lead/follow properly, shouldn't you be expected to just be YOU? Isn't the real journey to learn about yourself? To be authentic in life....and in dance, since it's a part of your life? A better title for that workshop would be: "How to dance like yourself"! And speaking of bringing who you are to your dance and honoring who your partner is in his or her dance, another outdated mode of thinking that permeates our dance culture is ageism. It's a fact that if you look "old", you just don't get asked to dance as often...unless you have a "name".
And it's not just about the age as it is the level of the dancer as well. There are older dancers out there that just dance beautifully yet get passed up by the younger "cooler" dancers because they don't fit the mold. If Marianne Nunez didn't have such a name behind her, do you think she would be asked to dance? Maybe after she danced a few but I believe that first dance would be hard to get. What about John Festa? To me, he's still one of the best wcs dancers out there. I watch his videos regularly still. But do you think he'd get asked as much if no one knew him? I know of certain AllStar older dancers that can't get a dance during late night, yet they're great dancers. And yes, they can and do ask for dances but get turned down quite often. I have witnessed this. I was dancing with one of them one night and a young kid asked me after the dance who the "old lady" was..."she was really good" he said. He then asked her to dance and had a great dance. I also have felt that first hand. I was at an east coast event(first time) and many didn't know me (not that I expect people to know me at all). So I asked a young woman to dance ("cool kid") and she looked me up and down and said no...and went on to dance with another kid. I did get onto the dance floor eventually and she got a chance to watch me....then she came and asked. It was then my turn to look her up and down and say no ;). Moral of the story is "Don't judge a book by its cover". I'm not saying that I haven't said no to dances. I have...plenty of times. But it was either because I was tired and needed a break (I know, shocker!!) or I felt unsafe dancing with that person. And I always made it a point to find that dancer and ask them to dance, if I said no due to taking a break.
If you're at a dance event/venue to DANCE and not just show off, then every dance is a good dance...isn't it? Regardeless of levels, age, gender, or who's leading or following. If dancing to you means sharing that time with your partner and enjoying that 3ish minute journey, then nothing else should matter.