We believe that all people are products of a long history and heritage and have evolved being part of a certain culture.
We feel like we have uprooted from our “old grounds” and looked away from our past for the thrill of novelty or in the attempt to blend in with the accepted norms of our present, in what felt like a need for self-preservation.
In the search of something novel to go towards, many find thrill in experiences from cultures different from their own. For us it was the Lindy Hop, a dance style born in the African American culture. We felt so excited about the good feeling that practicing the dance brought to us, that we wanted to make it big in our lives. Knowing too little of its original culture and evolution, we embraced it without understanding much of it and we took benefit from it to improve the quality of our lives.
In time, we became a bit more aware. Recently, we started to participate to some panel talks from other international Swing dance events, with speakers from the African American culture or from the African diaspora. We are grateful for the opportunity to learn from them more about Lindy Hop and Jazz, how it started, how it evolved over time in its original set-up, and to have their perspective on the evolution of the international swing dance scene. At the same time, we are grateful for their call for reflection upon how we, people outside of the culture, can behave as respectful guests in it, given that it’s not ours to represent.
We have started to check-in with ourselves, trying to find answers to some of the questions that came up from listening to the talks, like: How can we stop appropriating this culture? Do we understand it enough? How biased is our perspective on it? Are we being respectful to it? Are we taking advantage of it? Why do we care about it? What does it mean to us? Who are we really and why do we even want to be in this? The more we dig deep into some of them, more questions pop up and some of them are not comfortable.
There is a lot to reflect upon, discuss and challenge in our current mindset.
The answers are not coming easy and sometimes they seem contradictory to the joy we initially stumbled upon while coming to practice Lindy Hop, but we think that triggering reflection and coming into awareness is the starting point for making improvement and respect possible.
Currently we believe that:
- The more we understand our own roots, our culture, what is part of our own identity, what are our biases and blind spots, the more we might be able to understand how to open up to the roots and culture of others and learn to respect them.
- As guests in the Jazz and Lindy Hop culture, we cannot be authentically representing the aesthetics of any art form that emerged from the original Swing current, or of any other form that is not from our original culture.
- We can only try to be authentic in expressing our body to the music, provided that we do understand the music but also provided that we know who we are as individuals and find our authentic selves.
- We want to honor and celebrate Jazz and Swing dancing and we should remain open to any possibility of what respectfully honoring and celebrating them might mean, even if it will not come only with happy feelings to us.
For now, we express our intentions as follows:
- We try to become aware of our biases and rebel against them. We try to look into our identity, understand our culture, how it evolved, what stayed with us over time and what does not fit us anymore.
- We try to understand how to behave in respect to the culture we are guests in and towards which we seem to want to uproot.
- We try to find the answers to the tough questions we need to ask ourselves, be open to update our beliefs in the process of discovering new perspectives and be ready to rebuild our approach in a better form over and over again.