Why I Stopped Blues Dancing

So you probably haven’t seen me dancing for a while. If you have, I’ve probably grumped on you about how fucking racist this bloody scene is. *sigh* Anyhoo, here’s an explanation of why I’m done with blues dancing, and there’s an extremely high chance that I’m not coming back. This post has been sat on my desktop for months, gathering digital dust, because I’ve been too scared to publish it, so er be nice I have feelings and also please don’t hate me.

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Dear White People Who Blues Dance,

Let me warn you, this won’t be an easy read. You aren’t bad people. It’s just your existence that makes you responsible for these feelings, not your choices. That being said, I feel responsible to let you know that I felt sick to my stomach every minute I am in a dance hall.

I recently came to the sad conclusion that it is impossible in this America to be white, and dance blues, and not appropriate black culture.

Here is a story about the last blues weekend I went to. It’s the Saturday night dance. There’s a ballroom full of 150-200 white people, each paying $50-200 a ticket. There are four black people, including myself. Two are working for the event. One is me. The one black person who was not me, who was not paid to be there, stood by the wall the entire night and was asked to dance twice. By me. Both times. When my friends looked him up and down, I saw fear in their eyes.

How can you justify dancing the dance of my people and not welcome them?

The weekend this event took place, yet another black man was murdered by police. His name was Patrick Harmon, and he was fifty years old. He was killed because he was biking at night without lights.

You cannot – you simply cannot – dance in a pretty ballroom and call it blues. The theme of the Saturday night dance was glitter. Glitter?? Are you kidding me? This dance, a dance about murder, prostitution, poverty, alcoholism, hunger, oppression – glitter? How can anyone think that is okay? As far as I’m concerned, they might as well have worn white robes and hoods.

Jay-Z writes in his song “The Story Of OJ” (please watch this film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM7lw0Ovzq0)

“House nigger, don’t fuck with me

I’m a field nigger, go shine cutlery

Gold-plated quarters where the butlers be

I’mma play the corners where the hustlers be”

That evening, I saw the hustlers on the corner and it broke me; the black men who were not safe, dancing in your pretty, softly lit space; they were outside sleeping rough and shooting up. Did any of you meet their eyes? When was the last time you passed a homeless black man in the street and looked into his eyes? Let’s face it – you’re terrified of them. And you’re terrified of dancing this dance in its truest form, to black blues and in dark grubby bars, because it’s equivalent to that gaze.

Google defines appropriation as “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission”. You did not ask our permission. Black blues in America is not about being sad; it is a way of fighting the racist bullshit we put up with every day to exist in this country. You don’t get to participate in that – it’s not something you can put on and shrug off as you please. You don’t get to dance that pain. It’s not yours. You aren’t allowed to be blue – not when you do nothing when your policemen shoot our brothers in the back.

Please don’t tell me my feelings are “real”, please don’t tell me this is “valid” – I know that already. Don’t initiate a new policy, don’t make empty promises. I want you to stop blues dancing. It’s. Not. Yours.

I’m truly so sorry that we can’t enjoy this dance together. I wish I didn’t have to write this. I wish I could go out have fun with my friends without thinking about it, and I wish that it wasn’t the case that every fucking conversation I have in America circles back to race, again and again and again. But I also wish that man didn’t have to die. He was someone’s brother, he was someone’s son. I wish I didn’t spend the hour after I left the dance that Saturday sobbing in my boyfriend’s car. I wish I could get on with my life instead of sitting down and writing this, because frankly, I have an education to achieve, work to do, and fun to have. I wish I could sit down and shut up – but I can’t.

Until we achieve complete racial equality in America, white people blues dancing is inherently appropriation. You aren’t bad people for participating in this – it’s just the way it is. Again, if you want to change it, here’s a tip – stop blues dancing. Spend the time you would have spent working for the NAACP. Organize a BLM protest instead. Memorialize that dead man. Or, at very very least, petition to let black folks in for free. Don’t charge us upwards of $200 to dance our own fucking dance. Not the dance we created to express the pain your people put us through.

Ellie

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76 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Blues Dancing

  1. There are so many ways of giving and taking. Taking without asking is wrong, quite simply wrong, particularly from people who are struggling with survival. This is Neo-Colonialism. Blind sided ignorance and denial to those giving, is wrong too. This is Slavery and every non-cognisant white dancer’s dance is an invidious perpetuation of Slavery’s horror.

    For you Ellie, I recommend baking bread, breaking it and sharing it with Friends. But then you knew I’d say that!

    Love

    Zem

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      1. Thank you for this great article! So eye opening, I love dancing blues, and would hate to take anything without asking. Who could I address my request for permission to dance blues to? Is there a society for African American culture that could issue a certificate so I avoid appropriation. Fingers crossed they’ll let me.

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  2. An eloquently written post. I see what you’re saying, and it’s very sad that you feel you have to give up the dancing that you love. It’s difficult for me to comment as I don’t live in the US, but so much of our media and popular culture comes from there that I do recognise something in this.
    It seems to me that although the racial divide was much clearer in the 1960s and early 70s, there were more genuine efforts to try and overcome it, but that since the late 70s many of those efforts have become submerged under a surface gloss. I remember watching footage of the 30th anniversary of Woodstock and seeing just a sea of young, privileged white people – SO different from the optimism of the 60s version – not that they weren’t mostly young, privileged and white too, but at least they were hoping for a better world! Certainly it’s easier to spot black people in the crowd photos from 1969 than from 1999.
    I got the DVD of Juno for Christmas, which I’d heard lots of good things about. But when I watched it I was shocked that it could be so self-consciously “hip” and “edgy” while blithely failing to include a single black character – apart from a brief scene involving a black nurse at the end. African Americans make up over 13 percent of the population of the US, and the fact that a film that sets out to boldly address contemporary issues simply ignores this one shows how deep the racial divide goes.
    It made me feel that the characters in the story were about as “hip” as Hyacinth Bouquet. And I could apply that analogy to many situations. We think we’re so ideologically advanced these days, but to my mind much of it is just a veneer of pretentious posturing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok Im not from the US… im a slavic girl living in scotland – I have depression and anxiety but dance and music are the one thing that help me get through it… i am just a bit confused to be honest… isn’t the point to share cultures to enjoy one anothers company and teachings, respect and admire? Reading this remind me how horrible the world is and that sucks.. but so does being told not to dance a dance i have been doing for 5 years that has helped me to survive and acknowledge life same as someone who decides to learn korean or chinese but might not be asian? isn’t saying dont do this -causing more of a divide – if someone from any culture wanted to dance scottish ceilidh or russian folk music from the 1800’s then why not? Im sorry i just please explain it to me…. I understand the point about acknowledging each other and agree… and isn’t the money thing a given? same as we have to pay in clubs, festivals and concerts everywhere? it sucks, im broke but i dont mind it to much….
    sorry and i get it.. please dont hate but i can’t get this article out of my mind..

    P.S it sucks that you stopped dancing 😦 come to the UK 😀

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hello Gabby, I am also a dancer from Scotland! I am happy to address some of the questions you raised, as I can understand that the author might face a lot of similar questions and get tired of responding.

      I (a very white Scottish person) felt a lot of difficult emotions reading this piece too, and I’m also struggling with what it potentially means for my relationship with dance. I also have based a large chunk of my life around dancing. I don’t know what I’m going to do going forward.

      1. Sharing cultures in a positive way as you described is different from appropriation. It’s worthwhile doing reading on this yourself, but the crux is that appropriation is different as there is an imbalance of power between the borrower and the creator, and the culture borrowed is not always treated respectfully. The classic example is white people wearing Native American head dresses as costume/fashion items; they are doing this without realising that only Native American people of a certain status can do this, all the while systemic oppression means Native people are punished for taking part in their culture. Ellie is arguing (as I understand) that blues is being taken out of the context of black communities without recognition or respect for the roots of it, whilst white dancers are not actively fighting to combat their own and society’s racism. I think this is a fair assessment.

      2. People who are not Scottish learning Scottish country dancing is not comparable to white people in blues dancing. This is because I do not suffer from systemic oppression because I am Scottish (however much I bitch about the tories), and generally whenever I have done Scottish Country the roots of the dance are usually respected. I don’t feel angry even if people promote wrong things about ceilidhs, because they are not taking what they like from my culture whilst also punishing me for my heritage.

      3. Being reminded that the world sucks is uncomfortable because it’s a reminder that you have it easier than others and might be doing something that hurts another person. As I said dance is a big part of my life, and I don’t want to be told I can’t do something I like. But there is a real possibility that I am actively hurting people and contributing to wider problems by doing so, and I want to be a good person and not ignore that.

      4. The money that we pay for lessons, dance events, teachers, whatever – even without considering how difficult it is to make any profit in dance – almost never goes to black people or black communities. The people I see leading our dance scenes – Scotland and abroad – are easily majority white, and the places we pay money to dance in are not usually black owned/run spaces. I also can’t recall ever seeing an event or scene that contributed money or community organised work to specific anti-racist causes.

      I hope this addresses some of your confusion and feelings and issues.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. (Urgh god. I just saw how massive that comment was. Why have I never mastered the art of explaining things succintly?)

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      2. Really interesting points, and just to pick up on one of them – there was a time, a couple of centuries ago, at the time of the Highland Clearances, when Scottish culture was repressed by law (wearing the kilt etc was banned). Luckily that’s not the case now, but I think that period of history also illustrates the difference between cultural appropriation and sharing in each other’s cultures.

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      3. (I don’t know if this comment will show up where I want it to but I can’t reply to other replies, so I’m going to try anyway)

        Whilst I’m aware of The Dress Act (and the law it was part of that also banned bagpipes as tools of war lololol), I’m not entirely sure how exactly period is illustrative of cultural appropriation vs. sharing? As I understand the ban was to smother Scottish culture which was neither appropriated nor shared, both during and after the act (also I think the act was pre-clearances).

        I also feel more generally that Scotland, whilst it still feels the repercussions of history, is really not comparable either now or then to the impact of the slave trade or colonialism, particularly considering we actively profited from and took part in both. But it is a good discussion point for contrasting!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. The way I read it, it’s not about saying that only certain cultures or races or nationalities are allowed to do certain dances or listen to certain music – it’s about the hypocrisy of a celebration of a black cultural medium that rose out of racial subjugation, and yet that celebration fails to recognise or acknowledge that blacks are still effectively being excluded from it. I suppose it harks back to the days when black singers would be invited to perform at swanky nightclubs but had to enter through the back and were not allowed to mingle with the guests. These days the divide isn’t enforced by regulations, but somehow people are still allowing it to continue, which is very sad.

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      1. You’re probably right Fee, that the English probably didn’t “take” or appropriate Scottish culture, unless you think about the wealthy landlords who took up residence in Scotland and the way they behaved. I wasn’t trying to make a direct comparison between Scottish diaspora and African diaspora history or to say which group suffered the most – I was just trying to point out that when one group of people dominates another, the culture of the dominated people is often used and even treasured while those people are banned from practising it.
        This happened in the Pacific islands – there were colonial regulations banning the islanders’ traditional dancing in the early 20th century, yet that dancing almost certainly influenced the dancing styles of western countries. Also there were instances of European visitors in Victorian times joining Pacific islanders on head-hunting expeditions and then taking the severed heads home to display in European museums.
        I deliberately avoided mentioning the English in my earlier comment because I don’t want to imply that one race or nationality is morally better or worse than another – and there were of course Scottish people who were happy to enforce British enactments such as the Dress Act. I’m half English, half Afro Caribbean and born and bred in Scotland, so I like to see things from all perspectives!

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    3. Hey Gabby, the difference is in the history and the power dynamics. Cultural appropriation is not just using or “sharing” something from another culture. It is when people with power (white people in this case, and most often) adopt it as their own without any respect for the history of it, or the ways marginalized people have historically had to fight to have it, and often have been shamed for using it. For example, this is why it is cultural appropriation for white people to get dreadlocks, but NOT cultural appropriation for people of colour to straighten or bleach their hair. White supremacy—historically and presently—is dominant. When people of colour straighten their hair, it may often be as a means of surviving Eurocentric beauty standards that deem non-Western or black features as less-than. With the dreadlocks thing, while people of colour have been shamed for having “dirty” and “crazy” hair, all of a sudden, when white people wear their hair in the same way it’s trendy, fashionable and cool. Blues dance is a specific kind of dance that has a specific history in the USA. It is inappropriate for white people to be capitalizing off a dance that was created as a means of survival for black folks living within slavery.

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  4. At the very least this is why I ask to do teach in workshops at dances. Just so it is understood why this artistic expression exist. Unfortunatly many in the Afro American community have left this music for dead because of cultural approation. Muddy Waters said of Elvis…”I better watch it. I believe whitey is pickin up on things I’m doing.” Pat Boone pretty much wreaked acouple of Little Richard tunes all because of good old fashioned racism. We knew once Euro American owned labels got hold to our art there was nothing left but to move on and change the music. And its still happening today. Maybe if dances had more of an educational element to it. Bring in more Afro American artist. (Gee what a fu**ing novel Idea). It’s just about paying proper respect to something you didnt create but you enjoy participating in. Anyway I believe Ive said enough……….for now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t disagree with your points on Elvis Presley or Pat Boone.
      However ” got hold to our art there was nothing left but to move on and change the music” is not an accurate statement. It happens (and not just with music) because artist want to try something new. Miles Davis was famous for going in a new direction just as everybody else was starting to respond to his previous artistic expression.
      You make the argument as if the Afro American community is the only culture to suffer these “cultural appropriations”. People have been copying or even stealing music, dance and other art forms since before slaves were brought to America. Have you forgotten about the blatant theft of David Bowies song “Under Pressure” by Vanilla Ice?
      http://thelistenersclub.com/2016/04/27/good-composers-copy-great-composers-steal/
      African American slaves danced as a form of expression when no other form was allowed. As such the dance styles brought over from their homeland evolved to become their own. It differed depending on the region they were living in and the circumstances they had to deal with. As transportation became faster and more wide spread so to did the styles of artistic expression.
      I have been in dance classes and workshops that specifically talked about the history and evolution of Lindy Hop and Blues dancing ( I am thinking of you Damon Stone). Lindy Hop is considered the ‘original’ form of swing dancing (you can argue that point some other time) and it branched out into other styles such as West coast, hollywood, balboa ect. Did the original Lindy hoppers feel their dance was stolen. I seriously doubt it. More likely they got bored with it and moved onto something else.

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    2. But surly there is a difference between “we need to be more aware of the history, culture and bring in more Afro American Artist” and “I’m Jewish so it’s wrong for me to go out blues dancing”.
      Yes Elvis made tons of money off of Big Momma Thorton in an exploitive way, I’m not sure how telling white people not to go blues dancing in ’18 makes that any better, or fixes it, or does anything positive for any community.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Damn right Ellie! I love blues🎶 … & love to dance of course! But the blues dance culture it seems has got a bit like that in some parts, ie a bit white elitist seemingly 🤔….. but def determined won’t let it stop me from dancin’ to blues 🎶xx

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  6. Race politics is a British, Geopolitical Game to divide and conquer Americans. Please stand unified as Americans against such entrapment.

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  7. This post came across my feed just as I learned about the untimely death of someone in my non dance community. So, I apologize in advance if I’m not as careful or skillful as I might otherwise be.
    There’s a lot in here that I will process once the aforementioned shock and grief wear off. And I don’t dispute a word of your post.
    For me, stepping away from blues is an impossible ask. This dance is more than just a fun time on a Thursday night. It has become a non optional component of my mental health/ability to function as a human.
    When I was working in the trenches of community mental health, especially when I was working with kids in child protective services, Blues gave me an outlet to let that grief out of my body. It helped keep the monsters of burnout and vicarious trauma at bay in a way that no other social dance I did. Even now, When I don’t dance for long stretches of time, it takes a toll on my mind and body.
    I am all in for supporting BLM, and I will do what I can to fight for equity and liberation. At the same time, For me, “stop dancing blues,” is not an ask I can meet, no matter how much I might want to.
    I am sitting, in part, with the cognitive dissonance around the fact that engaging in a community that has been a source of growth and healing for me is also a source of oppression. If I stopped dancing blues, my other alternatives would be equally appropriative.
    It feels to me like a false dichotomy, and one that sets everyone up for failure.
    It is mis-appropriative and not ok to disconnect blues dance from its roots. In that we are agreed. We should not take those roots for granted, and it is hypocritical AF to mistreat/alienate/micro-agress POC if you are a blues dancer.
    I just don’t know if “stop dancing blues” should be the only option here.

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  8. I don’t dance blues but I think this indictment against a whole genre of dance is deeply unfair. There is nothing inherently wrong about enjoying elements of other cultures. The best parts of my life involve enjoying other cultures. I have never asked their ‘permission,’ as if some individual actually has ownership over that culture and can give that permission (a very Trump-esk idea). According to you, this means that I’m appropriating their culture, which is immoral.

    When I’ve spent time with some of the greatest bachata, kizomba, and zouk dancers in the world, I’ve never heard anyone express an ounce of resentment. They are proud and thrilled that their artform can be enjoyed by people around the world. The same if musicians I’ve met, from jazz to classical. I’m sorry that a couple of your white friends are scared of black people but that doesn’t make a dance inherently racist.

    The only harm being done by anyone is coming from you, trying to attack people simply for enjoying music and dance, which is one of life’s real purest pleasures.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m a black Lindy Hop dancer in California and when I go to dance events here, I sometimes feel the same way you did at that blues dance. Here I am, the only black at a dance event. A dance that was invented by US. But here’s the thing. Instead of telling white folks not to do this dance, why not encourage more blacks to get involved? I love swing music and Lindy dancing and I’d rather see a bunch of white folks doing it than NOBODY doing it. We as a people have largely abandoned those things that defined black culture in the early and mid 20th century (jazz and blues music, swing and blues dancing among others) in favour of newer things like soul, funk, disco and hip hop. And if it weren’t for some white kids in the 80s discovering old movies with swing dancing scenes and finding some of those old dancers like Frankie Manning and learning from them, Lindy would still be largely forgotten. Let’s encourage and educate our young people about the history of black culture. Dance should be for anybody and everybody who wants to participate.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I find your comment much more constructive than the article. Identifying an issue is one part of the solution, but the author does little to praise the preservation of the dance and offers few steps recommending how to move forward. Also, how does one culture ask another for permission so as not to appropriate? I’m not white or black, but come from a group also oppressed by whites. Can I dance blues? I wish to be respectful but the author’s hostile tone may alienate some people.

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      1. It is never the oppressed’s responsibility to dismantle the systems of oppression. It is the oppressors’ responsibility.

        Also, tone policing an oppressed person, like where you say she’s likely alienating folks with her “hostile tone,” is a form of racism.

        I always find it helpful to read up on how to engage in modern American race dialogues. …no matter your race. Reading is fun. Learning is fun!

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    2. Nice sentiment Gerry. And way to go looking for racism and oppression in everything Jennifer Tooley. I guess it is easier to just attack others than try to understand them. I will gladly take Gerry’s constructive suggestion than be a keyboard warrior and calling everyone names like Jennifer does.

      ” like where you say she’s likely alienating folks with her “hostile tone,” is a form of racism. ”

      Honestly, you read like you are trying to shut down any discussion you do not approve. I guess you are the arbiter of if somebody thinks a tone is hostile or not and if they are racist. I love how you avoid any discussion by simply calling something racist (or sexist or whatever works in that situation).

      Funny, how someone mentioning that the tone is hostile is racist simply because you disagree. Your argument is clearly an attempt to shut down dissenting voices. One of the reasons quite a few friends of mine stopped dancing is because unless you are ultra liberal polyamorous non-male person, you are not really welcome. And if you are a white male, there is a substantial group that hates you even though you have done nothing wrong. For the record, I am very liberal but tired of the intolerant anarchists in the dance scene.

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  10. Thank you for this post! It was a bit hard to read but full of things that I and my scene need to hear. I hope that you find something that fills the space that blues dancing did for you in a more healthy way.

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  11. I think you will never have equality when you create unbalanced request based on your race… That is not path of understanding. It only shows more of the differences.
    There has been so much bad things done to the black community over the world, on the other hand – had not many of black community members took part on that situation for money and power? We are all parts of our history and we can always feel sorry for our self but it wont move us anywhere closer to each other…
    What do you really want? That white people will stop enjoying the blessing of swing, blues and so on because it came from black culture? Why? It is an instrument to unite everyone. Brings joy to all of us and we can enjoy it together.
    Does your friend ask others for dance? Is he a pleasant dancer? Or does he just stand in a corner waiting to be approached and than complains no one came? (I know lots of people who do that and I cannot feel understanding for it)
    How strange to me, everyone in US speaks about wanting to be equal but they just want more power. They said they were treated wrong (and they were) but they seek vengeance even they say they want same rights.
    I feel really sad that world has been fed with hate towards each other, women x men, colors of person matter… To me there are people who are corrupted with evil and it doesn’t matter what gender or color they have. But there are people who are amazing, friendly, open minded and they bring light to others no matter who and where they are from.
    I still hope that music and dancing will one day bring piece to us and open our hearts. There will be always differences but if we search for balance this can work.
    But balance does not mean that women and black men will steal the stick out of men and white men hands. It will happen when all the sticks will be thrown away and we will all dance and sing together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do not want to assume how you identify but there are many issues about your comments. Victim blaming, color blindness, just to name a few. Let me just address a few things that I have the energy to address.

      This comment: “I think you will never have equality when you create unbalanced request based on your race… That is not path of understanding. It only shows more of the differences.” Is colorblindness, which is white supremacy covertly doing its job. It erases race by disguising itself as “being a global human community,” which ultimately invalidates the experiences of marginalize groups.

      Also this comment: “There has been so much bad things done to the black community over the world, on the other hand – had not many of black community members took part on that situation for money and power?” Thats victim blaming. Just NO.

      Also this comment: ” It is an instrument to unite everyone.” There is no one to unite if there are no black folks in the event. Or if white people are afraid to dance with black folks.

      About this comment: “How strange to me, everyone in US speaks about wanting to be equal but they just want more power.” The US Black community doesn’t need equality, it needs equity. Two different things. The US is so entrenched with racism (and all the other -ism) and historic trauma is so deep that equality doesn’t cut it, more needs to be done.

      Also this comment: “I still hope that music and dancing will one day bring piece to us and open our hearts.” Thats my hope too but this is a naive approach. Singing kumbaya around the campfire (or in this case dancing around it) isn’t enough. What are white “allies” doing to make it more equitable for Black community, the community they are appropriating?

      So with all that, here are some solutions. It doesn’t solve the problems, but its one step closer. Having organizers fundraise for a cause, or allocating funds for black identifying folks to attend the events for free, or inviting and showcasing black teachers and artist are just a few solutions. Or what Ellie is suggesting: take less space, or stop taking at all.

      Glitter, as amazing as it is, unfortunately doesn’t help.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Ellie, I’m not the demographic you’ve written this article for but responding a Black American. As a fervent dancer I share your sentiments yet would like to ask you not to relinquish your interest in Blues dancing. I’ve experienced much of what you’ve shared but find my joy in expression which after a few dances, I can’t be seated because my heart shines of the freedom Blues dancing provides for me…it’s in my DNA, I guess.
    Clearly it took consideration, courage and passion to write as eloquently as you have; I not only admire your spirit and truth but felt the impulse and inspiration to respond. In closing, please just let your article be a direction for others to follow and not a denial for you to discontinue particularly if you enjoy the dance.
    Written with sincerity~

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  13. Today’s blues-dancing scene is almost entirely disconnected from the history of the black blues music and dance. There is no connection between violent racism, police brutality toward non-whites, everyday racism, and every other form of oppression, and the dance scene.

    The reason the black person isn’t invited to dance more at a particular blues is hardly that they are black and everyone hates them for that. Chances are, it is the result of the residual racism people bring in from the rest of their lives. The reason for a glitter theme at a blues party isn’t a malicious desire to hurt those appreciating the history of the dance, but rather complete lack of awareness and connection to that history.

    None of the issues will be solved by white people no longer dancing blues in pretty ballrooms full of glitter. It would be better if dancers stopped “just dancing” and instead learned and appreciated the historical and cultural context of the blues music and dance. It would be grand if blues dancers focused more on creating a more integrated society, in and outside the dance scene. But neither goal is going be advanced by tearing down the modern blues dance community and telling white clueless folks to stop dancing blues.

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  14. At the end of the day, dancing blues does absolutely no harm to anyone. Just because you’re offended by something doesn’t mean you’re righteous or right. Sometimes it just means that you’re a pain in the ass.

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    1. Your response highlights how much your thinking is a product of modern American culture, a culture of white supremacy.

      Does that mean you are a bad person? No. It does mean that your thinking is not clear.

      That can be fixed by reading more about cultural appropriation.

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    2. Careful Eric – if somebody disagrees with you, they will come back and call you racist or white supremacist, instead of trying to have an actual conversation. Next step will be calling you sexist as well.

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  15. Thanks for sharing your feeling about the dance! Personally I have come to the conclusion to continue dancing, but to make sure that those who profit from the dance (mostly monetarily, but also emotionally) should also give back to the Black community within their means. This way Blues could be a vehicle to improve racial equality without loosing it’s benefits to the white community.

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  16. “Don’t charge us upwards of $200 to dance our own fucking dance. Not the dance we created to express the pain your people put us through.” I’m sorry but it’s not your dance. You are as tribal as Trump is. Being any race does not give you ownership over anything. The only racism here is yours.

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  17. I guess I have the stupid question among the replies ro your excellent piece. What is your definition of “blues” dancing ? Where are these ballrooms charging any amount to dance ? Are these benefits for fundraising ?? What is the “cause” ?
    I suggest attending events & venues where the people are diverse & free to dance how & with who thr y please. And yes I do stop under the overpasses with food, blankets & toiletries. I try to look in their eyes if they would look at mine. All lives matter. I see brutality & am not ignorant to its existence.
    The police need to police themselves if they want to end this wasted hate & violence. They know who the racists are, they know who the bullies are in their precincts. Until they stand up for integrity in their profession, nothing changes. The same goes for everyone. There is no us or them. It is we. Until ths that becomes common, nothing changes.

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  18. We don’t know each other. I’m a white female francophone dancer from Montreal, Canada. I just want to say thank you for taking the time to write this. It has opened my eyes. A small thing, but it’s something.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. “You cannot – you simply cannot – dance in a pretty ballroom and call it blues. The theme of the Saturday night dance was glitter. Glitter?? Are you kidding me? This dance, a dance about murder, prostitution, poverty, alcoholism, hunger, oppression – glitter? How can anyone think that is okay?” – THIS is not said often enough.

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  20. Let’s follow this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion.

    White people – stop dancing blues, it’s not your dance and you’re not allowed to be blue because you don’t have pain of your own. You’ve never lost a child to cancer, you’ve never lost a parent to Alzheimer’s or a sibling to an auto accident, you’ve never endured concentration camps, and you’ve never come back from war missing limbs and sanity. White people have no cause to be blue so find another dance.

    Music of the masters – ok, this is clearly a white thing. Brahms, Beethoven, Verdi, all white. Blacks and Asians couldn’t possibly identify with white, European culture. Leontyne Price, I truly loved your voice but.. sorry… It’s. Not. Yours.

    That brings us back to classical dance. Ballet. Come on, this is as white as you get. Misty Copeland, your dancing is beautiful but this falls on the white side.

    Lindy Hop – Savoy ballroom, Harlem, Frankie Manning. This one is quite clear, definitely black origins so whites and Latinos back off. Dean and Jewel – you were good but you see how this works and, as much as I enjoy it myself, I’m going to have to give it up.

    Basketball might be surprising as it was invented by a white man, James Naismith, and its earliest practitioners in Springfield, Massachusetts were white. Lebron and Seth, you’re two of the best ever but you did not get permission from Naismith to appropriate his game now, did you? Let it go

    Now tell me.. isn’t this an absurd exercise? Nobody ‘owns’ classical music, nobody ‘owns’ ballet, and nobody ‘owns’ blues dancing. Freedom.

    I happen to love Lindy Hop and can think of no better way to celebrate Frankie’s life and Frankie’s dance than to keep it alive and to do it as best I can. What’s more, ALL y’all are more than welcome to join in. Oh.. and ask me to dance, I dance with everyone who asks, without exception.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I see that you have commented on many of the replies (pro and con) to this blog but, in my estimation, offer nothing more than a trite, judgmental, and sometimes accusatory response followed by a very condescending – Do a little more reading. Learning is fun!. The apparent implication is that the writer to whom you are replying does not read nor learn, they are likely racist, and that you are above the rest of us.

        In fact – I do read extensively and have put a lot of my own thought into a personal philosophy of life. I am somewhat surprised that your posts are approved for inclusion in this discussion given the patronizing manner in which they are written and the inflammatory accusations you make, a common strategy of someone who is unable to address the core of an argument.

        I challenge you to offer something of substance in this discussion – to address the heart of an argument rather than simply making accusations, passing judgment on others, or tossing out clichés, none of which are substantive.

        Like

    1. [this is in response to your comment below that I’m not being helpful in conversations here.]

      David, with my read/learning is fun comments, I just mean that. There’s little progress to make in a conversation if someone is claiming reverse racism. Reverse racism doesn’t exist. It has been explained 100s of times by folks much wiser than I.

      Therefore, I have nothing more to add to someone claiming reverse racism. No reason to go there.

      In addition to general unkindness to Ellie’s personal experience and ideas on her PERSONAL page, comments to her piece have included:

      White fragility
      Tone Policing
      Gaslighting
      Claims of reverse racism
      Claims of reverse appropriation

      Folks wishing to engage in a productive conversation about race issues in the US in 2018 should read up on these topics. I am not an expert on these easy pitfalls to productive conversations about race. I read every single day about race issues in hopes of having better and more productive conversations and relationships.

      It is serious work. I so clearly see how much of my thinking has been cultural-think…specifically white-supremacy-think. Undoing these requires listening more than talking, patience with yourself and others, and a ton of compassion…to name just a few things. Compassion, especially for yourself…because peeling back the ugliness of my complicity in sustaining a white supremacy culture has been one of the most painful experiences of my life.

      warm regards,

      Jennifer

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      1. Tone policing? White supremacy think? Cultural think? Has Social justice degenerated into some sort of scientology cult? What kind of orwellian nightmare are we heading into?

        Like

      2. And once again, you offered nothing else except calling people names. Frankly, your tone is no different than Trump supporters. You are just as intolerant as people who do not think exactly like you as they are, and choose to shut down ideas by your powerful buzz words, just like his supporters do the same for Muslims, minorities and immigrants. Shameful.

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    2. And the guitars the great blues players used? Spanish in origin, so throw those away. Harmonica? European, sorry. The blues scale and chords? Based on white European harmony and diatonic scales from Pythagoras on. Please stick to drums and mbira.

      Also, please note that English is a northern language evolved through centuries of conquest of Northern European white Celts, Scandinavians, Danes, and Normans. So how about black people stop appropriating the English language by speaking and writing it?

      You see, this appropriation game gets a little complicated.

      Like

  21. This might not be 100% related, but I had a conversation with some friends with African origins and I asked them to join the our Lindy Hop or Blues dancing nights in my town. They laughed at me and said that if black people don’t do swing anymore, is because they have moved on already. This dance and this music are their past, not their present and therefore they have no interest in doing it again today. I didn’t know what to say.

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  22. Leave USA, that should help you manage all the rage and envy you have. Or express it trough your blues dance.
    You are also having problems in giving and sharing “your” culture. Dealing with too many mental concepts blocks happiness and flow. Dancing is one of the most rewarding activities a human being can do, and I would instead fight for the right of people to dance whatever they want and the way they want, despite race, age and sex. It is not cultural appropriation, it is cultural appreciation.
    And we, “white people”, did nothing to you – our ancestors did to yours. You are being a despot as some of our ancestors, and you don’t even know it.
    You and your country are really in need of a deep change. More peace and love for you and your community.

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    1. Maria, your comments make me think you are not from the USA. As such, maybe you are unaware of what is unfolding here.

      Comments such as yours are considered highly racist. Does making racist comments make you a bad person, no. It means you are unaware.

      I suggest you read up on modern US race dialogues should you wish to productively engage in such.

      Your unwise comments and lack of understanding do not add to the discussion here in any way.

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      1. I live in Europe, in my blues dance community afro-europeans are the most popular dancers and I am aware of the racist discussion there in USA, which I consider ineffective. As all the debates you have in USA, which are flooded by lack of logic, critic, perspective and reason.
        I suggest you read up on philosophy (not only european, but worldwide thinking), logic, and engage in some wise debates.
        Because my comment is only “considered highly racist” in your immature and quarrelsome society, not in the rest of the world. In my country I am, precisely, an anti-racist activist.

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      2. Maria,

        I do not believe people in the USA can move forward from what they fail to understand. We can’t skip the step of addressing our, continuing to this day, enslavement of Black people.

        History and acknowledgment of current failures of our justice system will take us far.

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  23. Hi fam – just noting here that I’m not saying stop dancing, I’m saying stop BLUES dancing. Dancing is great, everyone should do it more. But the modern blues dance scene is a lie, and it needs to change.

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  24. Most of the contemporary blues dance scenes lacks blues history and knowledge, have too many “glitter” and fusion, and very few afro-descendent people. Let’s change it, instead of blowing it all.

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  25. And which dances do you think that we, “white people”, are allowed to dance? Is a german allowed to dance spanish flamenco? Is a portuguese allowed to dance austrichian waltz? Is a french allowed to dance polish mazurka? Or this is all inaceptable and racist apropriation?
    Or maybe you think it is all ok, because they are all “white” and so they all have the same culture, so there’s no appropriation. Maybe you are one of this persons who think asians all look the same and are all “chinese”. Maybe you think afro-descendents are all equal and so you are being racist, even with “your own culture”.
    Is an egipcian allowed to dance angolan Kizomba? Is an angolan allowed to dance kenian Isikuti? They are all africans, but have very different cultures.

    Blues appropriated the spanish guitar, rock appropriated blues, semba appropriated samba and merengue, fado appropriated arab guitar, and happily we are all mixing cultures and knowledge for centuries.

    Are polish allowed to live in USA? Are turcs allowed to live in Germany? Are Indians allowed to live in England? Or do you also want to say them “this is not yours”?

    There’s not only black and white, there are a lot of greys in the middle and you are missing them all.

    Blues is from all the humanity who love it. Blues is one of the most effective ways of spreading the knowledge of the afro-americans oppression and anger, and therefore a way to eliminate racist thinking and behaviour in societies.

    You don’t have the right to tell people what to do nor take blues as yours. That’s despot and egoist.

    Or maybe you just like to shock and get attention on your blog, which is narcisist.

    (By the way, you look quite sexy, warm and glitter in your dancing photo. I can’t see any of the hunger and opression you described blues. Of course! – blues is also that sensuality and feminine (among other things). There are a lot of examples, mostly on women singing the blues.)

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    1. Hi Maria, regardless of the nuggets of truth in some of your history, the glaring obvious error is your understanding of the word appropriation. Incorporating spanish guitar isn’t appropriative because the Spanish have not been systematically oppressed in the same way that African Americans have. Neither is it relevant to compare African Americans to Africans in broader definition, nor any other culture. Do some reading about appropriation and then come back to us with what you have learnt – the discussion will be richer for it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, just another paternalist, condescendent and arrogant comment here. Qualities we find frequently in the personality of white-rich-white-men. You should meet jennifermtooley who is also commenting here, if you don’t know each other already. She also likes to “read and learn”.
        The rest of us… well, we are a bunch of idiots, we don’t read so we don’t learn.
        Learning from books, articles and so on is a white supremacist concept. You can learn with animals, in Nature, talking to people or listening to yourself.

        Like

      2. Peter
        You may have a very specific definition of the word appropriation that you like to use but ‘oppression’ is not inherent in the definition of that word. Including ‘oppression’ in the definition of ‘appropriation’ is a construct of your choosing, perhaps something you’ve read on the internet written by someone whose opinion you favor, and it certainly does not merit your condescending tone nor your attempt to patronize Maria.

        If you want to write a cogent rebuttal to Maria’s comment, it would be much more effective to comment on the substance of her post rather than just skewing the word ‘appropriation’ to your liking.

        Like

      3. Jennifer –

        Thank you for posting the video which clarifies your stance. You have written two statements repeatedly even though neither statement is true. This video, to which you referred as “a good piece on cultural appropriation” demonstrates that one of those two statements is a sham, namely – “there’s no such thing as reverse appropriation”.

        That specific question was addressed in the 7th point of the video. She states that smaller groups sometimes need to adopt some cultural norms of the larger group in order to assimilate and survive. I won’t argue that point but there is absolutely no logical inference that, because the smaller group NEEDS to adopt SOME cultural norms in order to assimilate (speaking English for example), the small group can’t also VOLUNTARILY choose to adopt OTHER elements of the larger culture. She doesn’t even finish making her point because there is no point to be made.

        The fact is, people of other cultures within this country and around the world, marginalized or not, do VOLUNTARILY adopt elements of American cultural identity AND put their own twist on them.. every single day. Don’t tell me that it doesn’t happen – it is right in front of my eyes and your eyes and any attempt to deny its existence is absurd.

        The other statement you used several times to patronize others – there is no such thing as reverse racism – is equally absurd. Based on what this video demonstrated in terms of lack of logic, I feel safe in assuming that your justification for this statement comes from an equally unreliable source and has no merit.

        Now you might reach the conclusion that I am some knee-jerk reactionary but that is far from the case, I am very open minded and have been all my life. The reason I object to this particular discussion is that it trivializes the very issues that you and I are trying to advance. There are serious ethnic and political divides in this country; by disseminating false statements and bringing minor issues to the fore we only widen the split and make it more difficult to achieve significant change.

        I also challenge, at every opportunity, the self-righteous attitude of those who attempt to make a point by writing in a condescending manner, standing in judgment of others, and presenting false assumptions as though they were true.

        One final thing – please note my restraint (up to this point anyway) in that I addressed this video in a serious manner and have not mentioned the embarrassing choice of an MTV video as a good source of intellectual stimulation. You can reply to this comment if you feel so obliged but I will let you know, as a courtesy, that my browser link is now deleted and I have no intention of returning to this site.

        Like

      4. I know David might not come back here, still I offer this essay on cultural appropriation.

        There are links for a deeper dive should anyone be interested. I feel I can be a better dance community member by understanding what is offered here:

        https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/06/28/533818685/cultural-appropriation-is-in-fact-indefensible?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social

        “For those who are willing to do that hard work, there are resources out there. When I lecture about this, I ask writers to consider whether they are acting as Invaders, Tourists, or Guests, according to the excellent framework Nisi Shawl lays out in her essay on appropriation. And then I point them towards all the articles and blog posts I’ve collected over time on the subject of cultural appropriation, to give them as full a background in understanding, identifying, and avoiding it as I possibly can.

        Because I believe that, instead of giving people excuses for why appropriation can’t be avoided (it can), or allowing them to think it’s no big deal (it is), it’s more important to help them become better artists whose creations contribute to cultural understanding and growth that benefits us all.”

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      5. @David We are discussing ‘cultural appropriation’, a concept intrinsically connected to oppression, so your point that the word appropriation on its own is not related to oppression seems like a red herring.

        @Maria if my response seems either paternalistic, condescending or patronizing, that’s not my intention – but I am absolutely calling out what is clearly a European who demonstrably benefits from an Afro American dance, and who is effectively dismissing the lived experience of a person of colour.

        Liked by 1 person

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