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Self-Deception & CoC

As safe space leaders in the community, we have to unfortunately deal with some individuals that don’t accept the consequences of their actions or refuse to believe they did anything wrong. From doing some research, I think some people practice self-deception. This article can explain it much better than I can.

We just wiped our hands clean (for now) of one individual we believe is practicing self-deception. It’s the only way we can make sense of their avoidance of facts that paint them in a negative light or shake up their core beliefs. One belief was that they were always a welcoming person. When I shared with them an example when they intimidated a party planner into dis-inviting me and blocking from me from attending, they blamed me and insisted they did nothing wrong.

Be wary of these people. Some self-deception can be good, but it may eventually cause harm.

Thoughts on Exposure

Let’s preface this post with a pertinent Oatmeal link (mild language).

This post is sparked by a recent conversation I had with an event organizer. They offered their event as a cross-promotion/marketing “opportunity.” I informed them that my dancers wouldn’t be motivated without pay on one of the biggest party nights of the year.  I also knew their tickets start at $49 plus $7.05 for internet booking and they expected 1000+ people to attend their event.

This person then backtracked saying it probably wouldn’t work since their event is all about “the production.” It’s difficult to believe this when they’re not willing to pay dance entertainment to increase their production value nor have a band booked 3.5 weeks prior to their event.

For some of us, this is our livelihood. For others, it’s a hobby we’ve invested hundreds, if not thousands of dollars into. Value us and we’ll value you.



The Essence of the Basics

Oftentimes, students get caught up in matching the teachers perfectly in basic patterns. As an instructor, I want to teach and demonstrate the “ideal basics” and also allow students and flexibility to A. stress less and B. succeed on the social floor. Where does that lead us? Well, here’s some distillation of basic patterns:

Swingout – you briefly connect in a close embrace, and send/are sent a new direction.
Circle – you connect in a close embrace and remain connected for the duration.
Tuck Turn – wind away, wind toward, turn.
Underarm Passby – the leader provides a directional path for the follower to go underneath an arm.

That’s really it. Those 4 basics will carry any level far on the social dance floor.

Question on Possible Perpetrator Restrictions

In a world where 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, is it enough for dance venues to restrict known perpetrators of sexual violence to just dancing with people they know? It’s a valid question especially when some venues don’t want to ban someone without incontrovertible proof such as a firsthand account from the survivor, a legal conviction or restraining order.

I get that. I can understand that. What I don’t quite understand is desiring an accused perpetrator’s attendance over a survivor’s attendance?

The Follower

In the car ride back from Dry Dock Brewing’s Ugly Sweater Swing Dance, Jesse suggested I change my teaching language in a specific area. I have a (recent?) habit of saying “your follower” rather than “the follower” or something similar.

One problem was that “your follower” implied some sort of possessiveness. Another problem was that we wanted followers to understand they were responsible for their response. The possessive adjective could imply someone else is responsible which we don’t want.

Hope you appreciate the insights from our teaching experiences.

On Sexual Harassment

From Kenny

Points from this article remind me of issues within the swing scene.

– “A lack of clear and transparent procedures for reporting sexual harassment.”

We revised Swingin’ Denver’s Code of Conduct about two months ago which includes an anonymous reporting form. I finally uploaded it two days ago  and made it much more present on our website. I think it includes better methods for reporting.

– “…coupled with the belief that harassers will not be punished.”

I like to think we have demonstrated in the past that we will take care of such harassers and our advocates for the survivors. Our new Code of Conduct lists the various ways which we might take action against the harasser.

– “Then there’s the fear of retaliation. The competition for positions on Capitol Hill makes employees especially afraid to lose their jobs.”

I have personally witnessed swing dancers defending harassers and, in turn, harassing the survivor. This leads to people being afraid to report because they might lose their friends, their beloved venues, and their social capital within their local scene. Such isolation isn’t good. Furthermore, this behavior might discourage the survivor from taking any legal action because if the people they respect don’t believe them, who will?

People are looking for someone to fault for their friend’s banishment or punishment. If anything, fault the accused for their misbehavior. If you’re not willing to do that, fault the venue or organization for the banishment or punishment levied against this person. I’d rather you wouldn’t, but if you’re not willing to face the harsh truth, I’d rather you take your anger out on me.

Code of Conduct

Need Help?

Swingin’ Denver is here to support you if you are injured, feel threatened or unsafe, or wish to make us aware of inappropriate behavior at our event. Please don’t hesitate to contact us via any of the following channels:

  • The individual running the front desk, or the Swingin’ Denver event host
  • Kenny Nelson – (720) 336-3440
  • Kenny Nelson –

If you wish to remain anonymous, you may use this form.

Your safety at our events is of utmost important to us; we want to hear from you!

If someone approaches you with concerns about something they’ve experienced or observed at our events, please encourage them to contact us so that we can address the problem.

Swingin’ Denver will stand by and support you to the best of our abilities.

Mission Statement

Swingin’ Denver is passionate about sharing the amazing experience of Swing dancing with as many people as possible! We hold dear the tradition of authentic jazz, the connection between the music and social dance, and the unique creative expression these art forms make possible. Our events are hosted with the goal of every attendee having a blast! Our Code of Conduct exists to support that goal, and to inform our attendees of the procedures we have in place to help ensure a safe environment for them.

Code of Conduct

We are committed to hosting safe events for our attendees, staff, and performers. “Safe spaces” has become something of a buzzword in both the Swing dance community as well as the general population of late, so we want to be clear about what we mean by a safe space. It’s simple: Everyone at our events deserves to feel not only safe, but protected. Behavior contrary to this outcome will be treated as a matter of priority and addressed according to procedures outlined below.

Just as everyone deserves to feel safe and respected, so must everyone take responsibility for making others feel safe and respected. To that end, here are some suggestions from us to help you do your part to create a safe space:

Use respectful language: This means not using racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist or transphobic language, sexualised, rude or violent language, or language designed to make another person feel uncomfortable or inferior

Be respectful of personal space: Do not touch someone else without first asking. Do not touch anyone inappropriately.

Stop touching someone if they ask or tell you to.

Only closely embrace someone with their consent.

Attempt aerials responsibly. On the social floor, stick to tricks that can be socially lead and followed, with familiar partners. In a performance, competition, or jam circle, ensure you have consent to perform an aerial with every partner, every time.

Attempt tricks responsibly. On the social floor, be sure to ask permission before leading or following any tricks, including lifts, drops and dips. Just as you’re able to change a pattern to avoid hitting someone nearby, we would expect you to do adapt your trick for the ever-changing dynamics of the social dance floor. If you cannot, don’t lead or follow it.

Be proactive about keeping your dance partner comfortable. Watch for body language cues or check in verbally with your partner.

It is your right to refuse any dance, for any reason at any time.

It is your right to stop dancing with someone at any point for any reason.

There are many additional ways to help create a safe space, and we encourage you to consider the above to be the bare minimum! Swingin’ Denver strongly supports anyone who feels violated or victimized at one of our events. We are looking out for our attendees. Especially in cases of sexual harassment or assault, our policy is to believe and support the person who felt targeted. Keep your own behavior above reproach, and always be explicit about asking for or giving consent.

Procedures for Violation of Code of Conduct

When an individual is accused of violating this code, Swingin’ Denver may take any or all of the following steps:

  • Privately discuss the report with the individual concerned, and request that the behavior be stopped immediately.
  • Ask the individual to leave an event. (No reimbursement will be paid to those asked to leave for a conduct violation.)
  • Refuse an individual the opportunity to attend future events
  • Legal action

When an individual reports a violation, Swingin’ Denver may take any or all of the following steps:

  • Request a private conversation with the reporting individual
  • Inquire about specific details of the incident(s)
  • Share details about the reported event with necessary Swingin’ Denver staff, and, if necessary, law enforcement
  • Inquire about what outcome the reporting individual desires
  • Follow up with the reporting individual periodically

Our top priority following a report will be to restore the safety of our event attendees.

DJs – Cultivators of Taste

Over at Fog City Stomp 2017, Nirav hosted a Musician’s Panel which opened by asking Michael Gamble his thoughts on the role of the DJ. Check out the answer starting at 4:50.

The first thing that struck me was his view that the DJ’s role is to cultivate the musical taste of the scene. Even if your local scene doesn’t have good to great swing bands, you can still access the greatest swing music ever played. In fact, he implored DJs to widen their catalogs and search for unfamiliar (to you) swing dance tunes.

That’s an important charge and one I’d like to make sure we’re meshing with our DJ philosophy of playing, I’ll say, visceral music. We want our music to relate to deep inward feelings rather than to your intellect. Then we have cultivate our DJs’ taste along with our audience’s taste.

This is invaluable advice to move our scene forward and another important aspect to the role of the Swing DJ. You’re not just letting a playlist run, you’re the curator of taste.

Learning and Self-Reflection

Last night, Jesse and I taught a role switch class. It’s where all our dancers danced their less dominant role. You can see what we taught below.

What was fascinating, and I only realized this when Jesse pointed it out at Birdcall, is that the new leaders were self-reflective and the new followers were rarely self-reflective. This meant that the new leaders were more likely to take responsibility and internalize things while the new followers were more likely to lay responsibility on their new leaders. Hmmmm…

One example is when the student pointed out there were 3 good leaders in the class and he would probably learn faster as a follower with them. We conceded that observation, but turned it around to emphasize their responsibility in their new role. Not to mention, there were 4 good followers in the class so everyone was on a level learning field. We know this person didn’t state this in a hurtful way, but we teachers could have handled it better.

Going forward, we’ll need to encourage greater self-reflection and perhaps coach our students how to do this. We covered it slightly through connection, spotting, and generating/following momentum, but we could do more. Overall, I’d say that the dominant-role followers made the largest adjustments during class.

Post Auditions – Standing Out

It’s after auditions and you already think you were erroneously placed. What can you do? It really depends on the event, but the first step should be taking your classes and standing out.

Each level has stratification between low, middle, and high skillsets. Some students think that merely doing the moves the instructors are teaching is enough, but it isn’t. If you truly want to stand out, you should strive to emulate the teachers as much as possible. This means their:

  • quality of movement
  • connection
  • ease of leading and following
  • smooth transitions
  • ability to create rhythms and other variances on top this pattern or theme
  • enjoyment of the dance

I hope you appreciate some of these ideas and try to incorporate them next time you’re trying to be noticed during auditions, post-auditions, or appeals.



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