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A disparagement humour utopia in the dance community

We all social dancers come across a lot of inequalities and unfair treatments,  almost on a daily basis when we go out social dancing. Over the years we have come to realize that instead of standing up, people usually prefer to maintain the Status QUO, but they do have names: racism, homophonia, sexism, discrimmination, etc. We need to start thinking that if we let errors pass without solving them, they might never disappear or, sadly, even get bigger and trigger social reactions.

Not long ago, a friend told us that we should speak up against the situations we have encountered this year, and we thought it was time for us to present them to you as the year is finishing, with the hope that they stay back in this difficult 2021 we have all lived.

We will try objectively to describe some to you, the reader, so you can make up your own mind about them.

Most of them come from messages we have received on social media and some from people we know:

A male student, after 5 years of leading bachata and salsa, came before the first class this academic year, to ask if it was now finally possible for him to follow since he hated leading but it was “what he had to do”.

A female dance teacher was paid less than her male partner for the simple fact that she was a woman. Now she teaches solo and finds it hard to find classes and a stable job, because it should be a man leading and teaching and the bosses would not hire a woman in some places.

-A female student of ours who has a limp and has to use one crutch to dance was repeatedly told in dance socials “you´re a cripple…no, no” and “how can I dance with you” with a look of disgust.

-A student who is around 1meter 30cm in height is repeatedly told, “I like dancing with you because you’re tiny, I can use you however I want” by people she does not know.

-A female student who is over 1 meter 80cm in height decided that it was time for her to learn how to lead because she kept being rejected at socials with people saying “it’s too hard to dance with you”, “you don´t have the right height”, “I prefer to dance someone smaller with better boobs”.

-A female student who is genetically thin keeps getting comments while dancing like “eww, I touched a bone”.

-News from February, Spain. A famous TV artist from Master Chef, Samantha Vallejo, during an Instagram Live was talking to her young son while cooking and he said he had danced with other boys at school and she corrected him that “boys dance with girls”. It went all over the Spanish social media, influencers jumped in, artists, singers, other celebrities to correct and protect the child. One day later she retracted and publicly said sorry and agreed that her son should dance with whomever he chose.

-24th August 2019. Tv presenter of Good Morning America, Lara Spencer decided to bully publicly Prince George of England of 7 years of age. Her and her co-workers laughed out loud that the young prince was doing ballet and after a minute of laughs at this fact stated “let´s see how long that lasts”. Hundreds of dancers from the American dance community gathered in Time Square for an open public ballet class under the motto #boysdancetoo and #balletisforeveryone. They managed to get the TV presenter to apologise after a few days and say sorry for her actions.

– A good female friend of ours, who is overweight, was rejected from dancing and was laughed at disdainfully at a dance party. Spent the night crying and eventually left the social to not dance during some months.

-Far too many non-binary and transgender teachers, students and dancers find it hard to feel welcome in classes that start with “boys to one side”, “girls to the other”, since it is already creating a barrier and an unnecessary issue for them.

-Another male student stopped dancing for over a year because it wasn’t fulfilling for him. Now he travels 1 hour every week to another city to attend classes where he can dance as a “follow” since it is not acceptable in his city.

-A same-sex couple who are performers and teachers recently came to us explaining that every time they perform they have to fight through some people laughing at them versus the people who liked it and applauded. Even told us that during rehearsals before the shows, other professionals laugh at them.

-A female dance instructor was warned by her boss that if she continued to allow men to dance with men she would be fired.

-A gay student was kicked from three dance schools “for being gay”.

-A female teacher went to another teacher’s class and put herself as a leader because there were too many followers and she was told “we don´t do that here”.

-A man bit the breast of a female friend of ours in the middle of a dance.

-Male dance teachers from Russia and Turkey have texted us asking for help because they wanted to dance with other men but were afraid of losing their jobs.

We are aware that many of you have either spoken to us or have experienced similar situations in the dance scene. These situations have nothing to do with dance, they have to do with lack of information, miscommunication, education, awareness, consent and respect and should be spoken of and taken out in the open so we can process them and avoid repetition.

I think what you’re saying is: Just because you can do a dance move with a friend or a partner does not mean you can do it to other people, or demonstrate it in public as something that’s normalized. Awareness is necessary. Let me tell you an example, dance artists touch each other’s faces or other body parts a lot in dance videos but it does not mean someone can do it to someone they do not know randomly during a dance. Would someone do that in the train station, at the supermarket, in the street to someone they don’t know…? It is a matter of education. If it is someone you know, the dance is dramatic and you both feel like performing that way, great, mutual consent. But we do not believe it should be common to teach this. Caressing another person’s face should not be as common as the basic. There are certain moves that need to be taught with caution.

Let me give you another analogy, imagine you go to a language class, take English or Spanish for example, and the teacher says “girls to one side and boys to the other. Boys are the ones who are going to ask the questions and the girls need to know how to reply to them creatively. Boys are not allowed to talk to other boys and girls can’t ask questions to the boys”. That teacher would be revoking opinion, options and accessibility to the world to people depending on how they look. Taking independence from them and limiting them to what that teacher thinks they are capable of. Then someone laughs at the girls who want to ask questions and laugh at the boys who want to reply.

There is a difference between humour and mockery. Humour comes from good-natured jokes, is a mutual consent between two people who decide to laugh about an unimportant matter that creates something funny, and mockery is to mimic for sport, discriminate, scorn, and imitate reality in a hurtful way to put people under someone.

You cannot make fun of someone who does not correspond to your opinion of what is “normal” or of a collective you do not belong to, and I am going to use strong words for this one, because that is discrimination, mockery, ridicule, phobia, racism and bullying.

You cannot approach sexually or intimately someone you do not know, because that is called harassment and abuse.

You cannot hurt or use someone you do not know because of a dance step you want to perform, because that is called violence, objectification and degradation.

It is necessary for everyone in all aspects of life to know who, when, where, what and how we are dealing with in order to act and be aware of the possible consequences. You may be playing and joking around with someone you know and feel funny in the safety of privacy and mutual history. But it, under no circumstances, can apply to all aspects and situations of life. Because what can be funny to you and your friends, can hurt other people who do not share the same life background and baggage. Never judge a book by its cover.

If we start accepting these things as they are we would have a much safer, educated and enjoyable atmosphere in the dance scene everywhere we go, where everyone could be equally accepted and respected no matter what.

Felipe y Tiago RoleRotation
Felipe y Tiago RoleRotation

Founders of RoleRotation
Felipe: Linguist in International Communication and dancer.
Tiago: Psychologist and Dancer.
Madrid, Spain.


International Bachata Artists and Instructors Creators/Authors/Owners/Founders of RoleRotation