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Last week I had a very irritating interview with a reporter from the National Post and the article came out today.
Presumably, we set up the interview to speak about “Jive” dancing but as soon as the questions began I could see that the aim was to create a controversial issue out of gender roles within dancing. It wasn’t hard to tell what direction the article was heading and I cringed my way through the rest of the questions.
We spoke for quite a long time and I did my best to recount all of the extremely non-sexist opportunities that there are for people to explore either the leader or follower role in dance. I really tried to explain about the open and welcoming nature of the swing dance community though ultimately the aim of the article had been set and there was no steering the conversation. The story was intent on creating an issue.
Despite my urging, the article also declines to mention the very awesome and diplomatic Swingin’ Out group, Canada’s first queer (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) swing dance club. In fact, I provided numerous examples, situations and stories about gender equality in dancing. It figures that the only example used in the article – our role reversal class – points out that it’s not a beginner class while ignoring the reasoning behind it and the rest of examples we discussed.
I don’t doubt that there are gender restrictions within the ballroom community, and that’s extremely unfortunate, but I also find the article unfair. This sort of journalism so irritating. It’s so sad that if there isn’t some sort of negativity and controversy, the media just isn’t interested in the story.
I had the same reaction in one of the documentaries about Frankie Manning which was otherwise really excellent but insisted on including a racial slant to the story that Frankie himself never focused on. Heaven forbid that they might write a story just for the sake of the joy and positive aspects of the dance! In fact, I urged her to take some interest in 92 year old living dance legend, Norma Miller, coming to Toronto at the end of this month for the Frankie Manning Tribute Weekend. Now that’s a story worth talking about.
To Andrea Seto, the woman in the article who was kicked out of her Jive class in Toronto, forget Jive! The Lindy Hop community welcomes you!
UPDATE: I’ve received a nice letter from Andrea Seto from the article and has already taken steps to join the swing community which is very heartening. I’m very happy that we can offer a much more inclusive environment, and I love that an old fashioned dance like Lindy Hop is so progressive about gender roles.
Mandi Gould is Director & Head Dance Instructor for Bees’ Knees Dance in Toronto and St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.