Annie Trudeau on Competing and Judging

Annie Trudeau’s passion for dance was first well demonstrated when she chose her career as a dance teacher and performer over her engineering physics degree’s possibilities. She also trained as a competing artistic gymnast when she was a teenager. She is a co-founder and co-owner of Studio 88-SWING in Montreal (Canada) where she teaches swing since 2001. As the artistic director, she also manages and dances in the Montreal Swinging Air Force dance performance troupe, which has been International Lindy Hop Champions in 2010-11 and 2014 and Canadian Champion 2013-14-15. She is passionate and enthusiastic as a swing dancer, teacher and competitor.  She has numerous titles in competition including 6 first place at International Lindy Hop Championships (2008 to 2013 included) in Washington in the Showcase Category and also first place at the European Championships in London in October 2013. She also danced at the Montreal Jazz Fest with the electro-swing band Caravan Palace, was hired as a choreographer for the Cirque du Soleil and lately coached artists for the TV Show ”Les Dieux de la Danse” in Canada. Annie has dedicated the last 10 years of her life full time to her dance business and to her art, and she loves to share her experience and knowledge to students of all levels and ambitions.
 

INTERVIEW

 
Name: Annie Trudeau
Home base:  Montréal, Québec, Canada
Year you started competing: 2001
approximately how many competitions have you competed in: 60 in swing, much more if you take into account gymnastic and figure skating.


Competing

* Why do you compete? 
To push the boundaries of my artistry and to contribute to the evolution of swing dancing.
 
* Why do you think competition is valuable?
I think competition gives a goal to any individual, couple or team who want to create a piece and perform it. Having a goal that has a specific time restriction helps gather the ressources in order to accomplish a certain amount of smaller goals, or to achieve a new skill, or to get to a certain level that one (or a group) can decide prior to the project. If it’s improv category, it provides a platform and a goal to work up to as well because improv skills can be worked on in the studio or on the social dance floor before going to a comp. I think the more competition is something you do as a way to improve, the most healthy and positive it is. The more one consider competition as a way to compare to other people, the more it *can* have more of a negative or depressing impact on the participants.
 
* What’s your personal philosophy on Jack and Jills? 
I try to create the best dancing moment possible. How I go about this is first of all on a personal level. With my partner, I try to create a connection that makes it so we feel we can trust each other in being ourselves, and it’s ok to make ”mistakes”. When that atmosphere is established, then both partners can be at their best precision wise, musicality wise and risk-taking wise. I think JnJ should be about finding a way to make your partner give the best performance of its life, and pretend like the music is your favorite one even if you don’t especially appreciate it.
 
* Do you still get nervous before a competition?
The more I spend time preparing a piece, the more I am. It’s not about the importance of the competition, of the amount of people in the crowd, it’s about how much work I’ve put to get to that point and how a mistake can have an impact on my potential disappointment.
I always have to remind myself that being zen and simply happy to be healthy and able to inspire people is a gift not everyone can say they have been given, and any amount of unnecessary stress will hinder my performance so I push away the clouds of doubt before I go on stage as much as I can.
 
* How do you deal with nerves before a competition?
See above answer. Plus making mental runs of what would be for me a perfect show. 
 
* What competition have you done that meant the most to you? Why? 
Disclaimer: I will mention Max Pitruzzella in those lines, because I have been his partner for many years and it is part of my past. I will repeat again how it is saddening for me to know now that he selfishly chose a path in life that hurt deeply so many people. I will not share videos of us for a while ; it is a bit sad for me to erase such an important part of my past, but it is not as important than to be part of a movement where there is zero-tolerance for people who are so careless about the other people’s well-being that they will take advantage of their position of power to exploit, manipulate, assault sexually etc. Zero-tolerance. With hope of a brighter future, I will now go on in sharing a bit of my past.
 
ALHC 2001 
The first time my team Swinging Air Force dared going to the USA to do a competition. We were the first Canadians to do that! Got 3rd place with a routine where we were nurses and soldiers. 🙂 We were super nervous because we admired so much American dancers. Watching the tape cassettes at home and all that. 😉 We even had to go to NESDC a month before to ‘simply perform’ our routine to get feedback by the judges to let us know if we were going to be ridicule or not participating in a ‘real’ competition. Haha. So I get it when beginners are afraid. It is a scary world of star dancers out there. But in the end – 16 years later – I can assure you that we are all human and nothing replaces a good work ethic and countless hours on the dance floor to get better and perfect your art!
 
ULHS 2007
The first time I got a 1st place at an international event. Fast division. Woah!
 
Frankie 95 in 2009
We worked so much to prepare for that event! Every day, many hours a day, preparing to perform Hellzapoppin as well in the show. I learned that Frankie passed away while being in Montpellier at an event. We were so extremely sad, I remember a jam we did right away on Hellzapoppin music giving our everything in honour of Frankie. I mourned, I went to his funeral in NYC, drove early in the morning from Montreal… A lot of emotions around that event! So when Max and I participated in the really big Strictly and got the old timers recognition by winning, we were extremely proud. 
 
ILHC 2012 (video above)
The first time after many years that I showcased a routine with a different partner other than Max. I did it with Thomas Blacharz. We spent every evening for a week in Herrang (after my full teaching day) to create the piece and I met him in Denver for 3 days later that summer. It was exciting and I was very proud of what we did together. We won the Showcase category. It proved to me that I was not a good dancer only because of Max, although I knew he contributed a lot in my development, just like I contributed to his.  I was working on my individuality as a dancer, and this made a big difference in my journey.
 
* What is/was your favorite competition to watch?
Juniors at ILHC! Those kids are the biggest inspiration when it comes to giving your everything. <3
 
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
     1) Figure out why you want to compete so you are aware of your ambitions and select carefully where you assign your (probably) limited time in terms of dancing.
     2) Give your absolute best because that’s how the experience is worth it
     3) Find courage to express yourself while being inspired by others instead of trying to move like someone else (bonus: discover who you are it in the process).  Be patient if you are looking for results. Persevere as it will eventually be rewarded internally and externally. Spread your joy, always!
 

Judging

* What do you enjoy about judging?
Getting to witness talent and ideas on a privileged seat.
 
* What do you dislike about judging?
Having to rank people when the values I hold dear don’t guide me to a clear ranking.
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Routine?

I won’t be looking for the same things in a showcase, a classic or a team routine so here are the differences in my opinion:

    In all routines, I will favour a lot new ideas and risk-taking and personality over pure technique. I am a fervent of the evolution of the dance, while keeping solid roots.  If I see a couple that feel like a breath of fresh air, that dare go out there with there new ideas giving their heart out, I will take this into strong consideration over a renowned more experienced couple doing a more conservative routine even though overall technique might be better. Obviously, precision, rich movement, intricate rhythms and musicality all matter a lot, just as organic, elastic and efficient connection, even in a choreography context.
 
    That being said, in a showcase division, a piece has to be especially extrovert and entertaining in its style and in the choice of content and execution. There is value to a routine which would entertain a general public crowd (public of non-Lindy Hoppers, neophytes). Often times, showcases will involve air steps. Although in order to add value to a routine, those air steps have to feel like any other movement ; the couple should execute them with the same precision, the same ease as other on-the-ground movement of their routine. I make small exceptions when I see a very daring and unusual air step being performed, because I want to encourage new ideas and risk-taking although if I feel like any of the partners are unsafe performing it, I will try to mention it to them and I will penalize them for trying something they were not ready for and putting their physical integrity at risk.
 
    In a classic, I think we can trade pure entertainment to a more refined, deeply-felt, more intricate interpretation of a swing piece.  Usually, a more experienced eye will appreciate more the value of a good classic routine.  The social dancing feeling should be top priority, quality of movement and connection are also super important. Movement interpretation of music as to aim to be as good as the music itself.
 
In a team division, group execution (including individual dancing) and synchronisation, precision of group effects and formations and overall choreography are my main guidelines.
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Strictly?
A strictly competition in my opinion should highlight the exceptional abilities of a specific leader dancing with a specific follower.  A perfect balance should be aimed between improvising and using already rehearsed material such as combos and sequences.  I think different events might have different traditions or preferences in what they are trying to promote and participants should try to get what that feel is in order to best prepare.
 
* How about in a Jack & Jill?
As I mentioned before, a JnJ should be a blissful moment where two dancers make the best of a given dancing situation. Take the best qualities of a follower, and the best qualities of a leader and try to make them operate at the same time! I want to be invited in sharing this moment with the competing couples, and I want to see respect and support in each others attempt at risk-taking, crazy musicality or variations. In all this magic, do not forget to showcase your best technique though, because I might be charmed by your instant connection, but it won’t make me close my technique eye! 😉
 
* What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about Routines/Strictly’s/Jack & Jills?

”I am not ready to compete.”

Well, if you read my 2001 first competition story up here, you know that I feel you sister/brother!
That being said, 16 years and a career later, my opinion has changed so I will share it in hope to encourage you to come out of your shell if you are ready for it (but you don’t know it yet).
If you are not ready to compete because you don’t enjoy competing or the concept of competing, then do not compete. You don’t have to.
 
If you don’t compete because you think you are not good enough… but you think you would enjoy competing…then that’s where trying to find courage is only what you need to make it happen! So here is what I think. Choose an event where you have seen newcomers and beginners being warmly welcomed (insert here almost all Lindy Hop events on the planet, this community is very warm to newcomers on average). Try to go with friends and find a mentor who will encourage you to do so as well. That’s what I did with my peers, remember, we went to ‘perform’ our routine just to get an approval first… hey we were insecure, so we went to our own pace! Try to do the same. Be gentle with yourself, but don’t stop trying until you get your goal! Baby steps 🙂
Use your passion as main drive and never compromise your well-being and your happiness for dancing. Dancing should be at the service of your well-being. Not the opposite. Write me if you need a little pep talk, I’ll answer as best of my capabilities : Annietrudeau@gmail.com. 😉
 
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
     1) Dance for dance sake
     2) Study hard but create as hard. Be part of history as an innovator.
     3) Be an artist growing through the practice of dance. Try to find and create beauty as much as you can!
 
———
 
If you want to see more of Annie, check her out at the Canadian Swing Championships this year and ILHC (yup, she’s coming back)!!!
 
 

Nick Williams on Competing and Judging

Nick Williams has embodied the passion and spirit of swing dancing ever since his first lesson in 1998. The depth of his understanding of Lindy Hop, Balboa, and Collegiate Shag stems from studying with the original dancers. Nick’s desire for authenticity, combined with his passion for dance evolution, leads to a style known for precision, lightness, musicality and dynamic energy. His successes include World Lindy Hop Champion, US Open Swing Dance Champion, American Lindy Hop Champion, National Jitterbug Champion, International Lindy Hop Champion, Ultimate Lindy Hop Champion, American Classic Balboa Champion and California Balboa/Swing Champion. Nick was honored to be recognized by the California Swing Dance Hall of Fame. He is also an accomplished choreographer and has choreographed for the hit television show So You Think You Can Dance. As an instructor, he is known for his ability to break down movements and technique to create a fun and light-hearted learning environment. His true love of music and dancing will forever inspire him to learn, teach, and grow.

INTERVIEW

Name: Nick Williams
Home base: Orange County, CA
Year you started judging: around 2000
Year you started competing: 1998
Approximately how many competitions have you judged: several hundred
Approximately how many competitions have you competed in: several hundred

Competing

* Why do you compete? What does it do for you?
Personally, it gives me the opportunity to push myself and improve my dancing. Always forcing me to create and evolve. Professionally, competing an easy way to let the dance community know that I am still relevant, provides a platform for me to share my voice, and allows me to focus on the goals I set for myself.

* Why do you think competition is valuable?
i think competing allows you to take your dancing to the next level. It’s also a really great way to raise the level of dancing in a scene by providing inspiration and excitement which hopefully will inspire other dancers to do the same thing. Finally, it’s an easy way to share the energy and the spirit of Lindy Hop.

* What’s your personal philosophy on Jack and Jills? 
Simple: it’s you, your partner, and the music. A large part of a Jack & Jill is understand the strengths of your partner and finding a common ground. I don’t like when people try to out dance their partner or disconnect in order to show themselves off.

My philosophy: Focus on creating something together.

* How long before you start prepping for a competition?
As far as a routine division, I start preparing at least 2-3 months before, and depending on which competition, I might need to start the routine even earlier.

* What is your process like for creating a Showcase?
I first pick song and edit the music (if need be). I then need to clarify the direction of what I’m going to do with the routine (vision). Next, I pick out the parts of the song where I have a clear idea (flashier moments or points I want to build toward), outline the flow of the dance, create a rough draft of the entire routine, and finally polish it. This process has taken as little as 3 days and as long as 4 months.

An important note: I think it’s a mistake to just sit down and go ahead without a clear idea of direction. Not to say that routine won’t come together, but it’s far easier to create something when the vision is clear.

* What would you recommend to someone who is training for a Strictly?
For faster tempo phrase battle it’s important to create sequences that you can execute well at the assumed tempo (yes, that should be obvious, but it’s not always the case). Depending on how much time you have, I’d recommend creating spot choreo (move-lettes or something one to two 8s long) that could be polished in one week to one months time. If, however, it’s more of a “just dance” competition where choreography is not the focus (or spirit), then I would recommend spending copious amounts of time social dancing with your partner to get on the same page. Philosophically, I personally don’t want to over-choreograph – I just want to put some good, solid dancing on the competition floor.

* Do you still get nervous before a competition?
On occasion, but less than I used to. So much of competing is the mind-game and if you know how to harness the anticipation/nerves/energy, it can work in your favor or it can totally work against you. To me it ends up being like performing in theater. Once I get out onto the floor, all the anticipation melts away.

* How do you deal with nerves before a competition?
I grew up playing sports – track & field and soccer – and my coaches encourage all the players to use visualization and focus the nervousness.

I think it’s important to put yourself in the right head space before hitting the floor. Before a “just dance” competition, I’ll go out and have some silly dances with my parter and remind myself that I’m here to have a good time, to feel our connection, and that I trust my partner.

* What competition have you done that meant the most to you and why?
THE competition that meant the most was the Jitterbug Contest at Camp Hollywood in 2000. I was very green, a new kid in the scene, it was my first major competition, and politically I was being bullied. Essentially, some people were trying to get me out of the scene because I was seen as a threat since I was coming up the ranks without the ass-kissing. Cassanda and I competed, took 3rd, and beat out some of the bullies. Going out there with all that the BS, showing well and placing, and getting such great positive feedback from people … that was totally my Karate Kid moment.

* What is/was your favorite competition to watch? Inspiration?
I like to go back to the old clips – the original dancers. My inspiration for how I want to dance and who i want to get my inspiration/technique from is the old stuff: Buck Privates, Hellzapoppin, Gene Kelly… that’s what makes me push.

The vintage clips I draw most from for my dancing, but find some from other dance forms. I like how bodies moves, and I don’t just mean swing dancer. I love to collect different types of movement even if I won’t directly use them in my dancing. I have been inspired by many forms, but I primarily draw from the 30s & 40s as well as the dancing of the song and dance people in musicals from 1930s-1950s.

* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
1) Always dance and compete for yourself, never for anyone else or by anyone else’s values. Don’t look for praise. Decide what your voice is, and that’s what you put on the floor. Competing should be less about the win and more about sharing who you are.
2) Don’t let the results get to you. There is always another competition and you can always improve by the next one.
3) “Dignity. Always dignity.” – Gene Kelly

Aaaaaand, here’s a little bonus from me (Jo) to you.
.

 

Judging

* Why do you judge?
I judge because I like my value system to have a say in who wins and where the dance goes.

I spent a long time developing that system of values. It’s a combination of what the original dancers handed to me – in regards to what the dance was about (not just how it’s done) – and what is good dancing. This was a several year journey – lots of research done via compare and contrast – and I was really interested in what generally makes dancing good. Specifically, I’m talking about: quality of movement, dancing with music, musicality, and connecting to partner. Coming at the dance from this perspective also helped me while I was starting my teaching career; I was constantly searching for a better way to teach/dance Lindy Hop.

* What do you enjoy about judging?
I enjoy being apart of where this dance goes and I appreciate being able to put my stamp of approval on what I think is best performance/competitor in the moment.

* What do you dislike about judging?
The main thing is when you have to think like a judge, you don’t get to enjoy it like an audience member. You don’t get to immerse yourself in the experience because you have to be analytical.

* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Routine?
A combination of routine construction and execution. Something danced well and well-choreographed. I look for partner relationship and interaction, the degree of difficulty of what they’ve created – not just flash or WOW factor, but the little nuances – and for a representation of the dance they are supposed to be representing. For example, if it’s a Lindy Hop Routine Division and most of the routine is solo jazz, to me that warrants less of a reward than primarily doing partnered movement.

* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Strictly?
I’m looking for a dynamic partnership instead of individual dancers expressing themselves while holding someone’s hand. I want to see a partnership create something together and have something to say – something that stands out from the pack.

* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Jack & Jill?
Partner connect and interaction. The point of a J&J is to dance with someone who isn’t your partner and to create a great dance together.

* What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about routines/Strictlys/Jack & Jills?
Competitors make too many choices based on what the audience cheers for. They try to go for the audience appeal and approval instead of focusing on good dancing.

* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
1) Judges don’t exist when you dance. Don’t worry about the judges. Just dance for yourself and your partner.
2) It doesn’t matter what the judge value system is – yours matters more.
3) Don’t forget to have fun

** Anything else?
Competitions are a way to help drive, inspire, and improve the scene. In no way does this say who is the best, should dictate how you social dance, or change you because you don’t think you’re enough. Don’t forget that social dancing is about the little things and competitions is about the big things, so remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.

____

 Yup, one more video for you. This is hilarious. 

 

Sylvia Sykes on Judging and Competing

Sylvia Sykes began dancing in 1966, competing in 1970, and teaching in 1979. She has studied with many of the dance greats, including Frankie Manning, Dean Collins, Maxie Dorf, and Willie Desatoff. Her extensive studies and travels have made her an expert on regional dance styles and she is known for her expertise in, and the preservation of the older forms of Swing dance. In addition, she is credited with helping to preserve the Balboa by introducing the dance World Wide. 

In 1985 Sylvia and Jonathan Bixby co-founded the Santa Barbara Swing Dance Club, a twice-monthly live-music dance club that they continue to run. She is still teaching her weekly classes that she started teaching in 1979, plus she teaches out of town over forty weekends per year. She is the most sought-after head judge in the modern Lindy Hop & Balboa dance scenes and is now part owner and head judge of the International Lindy Hop Championships.  
 
Her dance troupe ran for fifteen years, performed with some of the great Swing bands, and nurtured other International teachers. She has been a member of the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance since its inception, has taught at the University of California, and has appeared in many TV shows and in several documentaries on Swing dancing over the years.
Sylvia is actively judging and teaching various forms of Shag, Balboa, and Lindy Hop throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Asia.
 

 
 
 
INTERVIEW
 
Name: Sylvia Sykes
Homebase: Santa Barbara, CA, USA
Year you started judging: not sure, but approx. 1984
Approximately how many competitions have you judged: way too many
What other dance forms do you work in? Just pantheon of swing

What is your background or connection to the Lindy Hop Community?
Been doing it since 1965, though very poorly.

 
* Why do you judge?
Now because I sort of have to..originally to have a voice for where the dance was going – whoever wins will drive the dance – so I wanted to put my two cents worth in to keep the dance connected to the roots.
 
* What do you enjoy about judging?
Not much these days other than a bit of influence to keep the dance current and connected to roots.
 
* What are some of the challenges about judging?
Weighing innovation and great ideas, but not stellar execution against perfect execution but same old same old, as well as differentiating between several couples all performing about the same and having to include and exclude them from the “money.”
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Routine?
Musicality – seeing the music more clearly, connection, still lead & follow not just close by execution, humor (or pathos), some sort of emotion, a story, and hopefully something danced well, with some soul.
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Strictly?
Great partnership, action-reaction, both listening and reacting to the music as well as their partner, modifying a movement midway in reaction to music or partner.
 
* As a judge, what are you looking for in a Jack & Jill?
Great social partnering! Dancing to the level of the partner, listening, and modifying to find a common ground.
 
* What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about routines/Strictly’s/Jack & Jills?
Hmm…not sure… but a pet peeve is choreographed jam in a Strictly.
 
* Three pieces of advice to give to the next up-and-coming competitors?
     1) You have no control over whether you win or not, just how you dance. Your legacy will be the dance, not the placement.
     2) Use the process to better your skills.
     3) Have a reason to compete beyond “I want to win and be famous.”
 
* Why do you think competition is valuable?
It forces you to work on your dance skills and it brings people into the dance.
 
* Why did you compete?
I don’t.
(Note: I think what she meant to say was that she doesn’t currently, because we know she did. Just click here to check her out in 1995 at the US Open!!)
 
* What competition have you done that meant the most to you? Why?
Probably the National Shag Dance Championships because it really was out of my comfort zone.
 
* What is/was your favorite competition to watch?
Anything with good dancing!
 
* Any recommendations on how to deal with getting nervous before a competition?
Pee and poop, beforehand.
 
* What would you like to see more of in competition?
Good dancing, not merely flashy moves
 
* What would you like to see less of in competition?
Soulless execution.
 
 If you want to hear more from Sylvia, check out interview on Ryan Swift’s podcast, The Track.
 

New York Lindy Tech 2017

I’m so excited!! This weekend Kevin and I will be hosting our first New York Lindy Tech!

Are you no longer taking classes in your local scene?

Do you feel like you’ve outgrown them?

Are you a good dancer, want to get better, but don’t quite know how?

Are you interested having your Lindy Hop mind blown?

Then save the dates to work with KEVIN & JO:

January 27-29, 2017 in New York, NY

What Isn’t Consent

THIS. This so many times over! 7 Things You Might Think Are Consent That Aren’t is the most important read of your week. Take the time to read it as many of these things often go overlooked.

The concept of affirmative consent dictates that “yes means yes,” and that only an enthusiastic “yes” constitutes sexual consent. But what is not consent? A lot of the things we’ve been taught indicate sexual consent are actually not adequate ways of determining if your partner is into it or not. In order to make sure a sexual encounter is OK with both partners, consent needs to be vocal, enthusiastic, and continuous.

Just teaching people, especially young people, what is and isn’t consent can have a huge impact on their behavior. For example, in a survey published in Violence and Gender, 32 percent of college men said that if “nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences,” they would have “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse.” (Terrifying, I know.) But fewer — 13.6 percent — said they would have “any intentions to rape a woman.” (Yes, still terrifying.) Just calling it rape deters people from doing it, so the better people can recognize assault, the fewer sexual assaults are likely to occur.

You’re not looking for a “no.” A “maybe” isn’t going to cut it. You’re looking for a resounding “yes.”

Please read the rest of the article on Bustle and start having a conversation with your close friends about what “consent” really sounds like.

____

Interested in learning more? Here’s a great video that draws a super charming parallel between consent and making someone a cup of tea.

 

Sexual Assault in the Scene – General Notes

***** traduction en français ci-dessous. N’hésitez pas à lire et à partager *****
***** 많이 읽어주시고 공유해서 퍼트려주세요 *******
***** Russian Below*****

Dear Facebook Dance Friends.

I’m stunned and distraught by the number of stories that are coming forward about women being sexually assaulted. What’s even more distressing is the fact that what we’re hearing is but the tip of the iceberg. Most women who are assaulted will never utter a public word about it. So if you want a clearer picture of the epidemic of sexual violence against women, take all the stories you are hearing on Facebook or in the media and multiply by ten.

Our dance scene is no exception. I’ve seen firsthand how many people question the veracity or reliability of the women who go public with their stories — especially when the assaulter is a prominent instructor. I’ve seen firsthand how many people will make excuses for the instructor’s conduct. That’s one of the reasons it took 9 women (one being the highly decorated Ramona Staffeld) coming forward before the entire lindy hop community was willing to ban Steven Mitchell.

One of the most insidious excuses is that the accused has not been convicted in a court of law. But there is a reason women do not go to the authorities. As a fellow lindy hopper, Alex Gaw, so eloquently said, “If someone comes forward, it’s probably after a great deal of agonizing doubt and reflection, in part because they know exactly what they’ll face if they do. Until we live in a world where survivors of sexual assault feel empowered to report their attackers, where police are likely to make arrests based on reports of sexual assault, where prosecutors are more likely to pursue cases of sexual assault, and where juries are more likely to convict the offenders, there is no place in a community discussion for cries of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’”

We know that Steven is a rapist and a predator. The fact that he was not convicted — either because of statute of limitations issues or because people did not want to relive their most traumatic moment in an impersonal courtroom — does not change that, nor does it change the obligations we have as a community to provide a safe environment for our fellow dancers, instructors, and students. So when a teacher/student/dancer says, “I’ve been raped,” the appropriate response it to create a safe space for her and NOT ask her what she was wearing, why did she lead that person on, gaslight her, or trivialize her experience in any way. If you would like to better know how to support survivors, check this out: https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-respond-survivor

And, for god’s sake, we need to stop conflating skilled dancing with good character. Yes, I totally get that it can be hard to believe that someone you know, you admire, that you’ve watched on youtube, or taken classes from could be capable of such a thing. It’s natural to be shocked by what a woman/women have revealed about a particular individual, but it’s really important to remember that people don’t cry rape just for “funsies.” When someone like Tatiana Udry spoke out about abuse and assault within the Swing Community, I was thrilled to see how many people share her post and voiced support. I hope that when the name(s) are revealed, that the support continues to be there, regardless of how well those individual(s) swing out.

*******************************************************
Chers Amis danseurs de Facebook

Je suis consternée et inquiète par le nombre de témoignages de femmes qui admettent avoir été abusées sexuellement.
Le plus effrayant est le fait que les histoires mises en avant ne sont que la partie émergée de l’iceberg. La plupart des femmes qui ont été agressées ne le diront jamais en public. Pour avoir une idée de la réalité de la violence sexuelle subie par les femmes, prenez toutes les histoires que vous entendez sur Facebook ou dans les médias et multipliez le tout par dix.

Notre scène de danse ne fait pas exception à la règle. J’ai pu attester en premier lieu du nombre de gens qui questionnent la véracité ou la crédibilité des femmes qui choisissent de s’exprimer publiquement.– surtout lorsque l’agresseur en question est un professeur reconnu. J’ai pu voir moi-même comment les gens trouvent des excuses au comportement de l’enseignant en question. C’est une des raisons qui explique pourquoi il a fallut que 9 femmes s’expriment publiquement avant que la communauté ne soit prête à bannir Steven Mitchell.

L’une des excuses les plus insidieuses étant que l’accusé n’a pas été reconnu coupable devant la loi. Mais il y a une raison pour laquelle les femmes ne se présentent pas aux autorités de loi. Comme un camarade lindy hopper Alex Gaw l’a justement exprimé ” Si quelqu’un se décide enfin à parler , c’est probablement après une période douloureuse de doute et de réflexion ,en partie parce que la personne sait exactement ce à quoi elle devra faire face le cas échéant. Tant qu’on vivra dans un monde où les survivants d’agressions sexuelles ne sont pas soutenus lorsqu’ils dénoncent leurs agresseurs, tant que la police ne procèdera pas à des arrestations suite à des dépôts de plainte pour agressions sexuelles, tant qu’il y aura peu de chances que les procureurs donnent suite aux cas d’agressions sexuelles, et tant que les jury ne condamneront pas plus systématiquement les délinquants, Il ne devrait pas y avoir de place au sein des discussions de notre communauté pour ce genre de discours ‘innocent jusqu’à preuve du contraire.’”

Nous savons que Steven est un violeur et un prédateur sexuel. Le fait qu’il n’ait pas été inculpé –soit par délai de prescription ou parce que les victimes ne voulaient pas revivre leur traumatisme devant une salle d’audience impersonnelle — ne change rien aux faits, et cela ne change en rien les obligations que nous avons en tant que communauté de fournir un environnement sans dangers pour nos camarades danseurs, nos enseignants, et nos étudiants. Lorsqu’un professeur/étudiant/danseur dit, “J’ai été violé,” la réponse appropriée est de créer un environnement sain et sans risques pour lui/elle et NON de lui demander ce qu’il/elle portait, pourquoi il/elle a laissé(e) cette personne aller jusque là, d’attiser la situation ,ou de banaliser son experience de quelque façon qu’il soit. Si vous désirez savoir comment mieux soutenir les victimes, jetez un oeil à ce lien : https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-respond-survivor

Et bon sang, arrêtons de confondre talent de danseur et bons traits de caractère . Oui, je comprends complètement qu’il peut vous sembler difficile de croire que quelqu’un que vous connaissez, que vous admirez, que vous avez regardé sur youtube, de qui vous avez appris en cours soit capable de choses pareilles. C’est tout à fait naturel d’être choqué par ce qu’une ou plusieurs femmes révèlent sur un individu , mais il est important de rappeler que les gens ne dénoncent pas un viol pour se marrer ou pour tuer le temps.” Lorsque que quelqu’un comme Tatiana a parlé publiquement d’abus et d’agressions sexuelles au sein de la communauté swing, j’été heureuse de voir combien de personnes ont partagé son histoire et combien lui ont témoigné leur soutien. J’espère que lorsque le(s) nom(s) seront révélé(s), votre soutien sera toujours là en dépit de la capacité qu’ont ces individus à faire des swing out.

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사랑하는 페이스북 댄서 친구들께

저는 성폭력을 당했다고 고백해주시는 여성들의 이야기에 놀라고 좌절하고있습니다. 더욱 걱정 되는 것은 이러한 이여기들은 빙산의 일각일 뿐이라는 것입니다. 대부분의 피해자 여성들은 공개적으로 피해 사실을 얘기하지 않고 있는 실정입니다. 이러한 정황상 여성을 대상으로 하는 성폭력의 실상을 더 명료하게 알고싶다면, 페이스북이나 다른 미디어에서 들리는 이야기들을 열배로 곱해주시길 바랍니다.

우리의 댄스씬도 예외는 될 수 없습니다. 저는 제 눈으로 특히나 가해자가 유명한 강사일수록, 공개적으로 피해사실을 이야기한 여성의 진실성과 보증성을 질문하는 많은 사람들을 보았습니다. 얼마나 많은 사람들이 강사를 대변하는 변명을 하는지 저는 직접 보았습니다. 그렇기 때문에 9명의 여성이 공개적 고백을 하고나서야 린디합 커뮤니티가 스티븐 미첼을 추방시킬 마음이 생긴 이유도 그중 하나입니다.

제일 말도 안되는 변명중 하나는 그들이 법정에서 유죄판정을 받지 않았다는 이유였습니다. 하지만 피해여성들이 사법기관에 가지 않는 이유가 있습니다. 같은 린디하퍼인 Alex Gaw가 “만일 누군가가 피해사실을 공개하기로 결정했다면, 그들은 자신이 이를 공개하므로써 어떤일을 앞으로 겪을지 이미 잘 알고있고 그렇기 때문에 깊은 고심과 걱정을 했을 것이다” 라고 잘 표현했습니다. 우리가 피해자들이 가해자를 신고하기에 자유롭게 느낄 수 있고, 경찰들은 성폭력 신고에 따라 가해자를 체포할 수 있으며, 검사들이 더욱 적극적으로 성폭력 사건을 다루고, 마지막으로 판결자들이 더욱 가해자를 위법자로 인정하는 사회가 되지 않는 이상, “판결 전까지는 무죄” 라는 커뮤니티 속 주장은 설 자리가 없다고 생각합니다.
우리는 스티븐이 성폭력 목적의 가해자이며 강간범 이러는 것을 압니다. 법적 사실은 그는 사법처리 되지 않았다는 것 입니다-공소시효 말소나 피해자들이 가장 힘들었던 순간을 비인간적인 법정에서 다시 회고하고 싶지 않았기 때문입니다-. 하지만 이러한 사실은 우리가 커뮤니티로써 우리 댄서,강사,학생들에게 안전한 환경을 만들 의무를 바꾸진 않습니다.
그러기 때문에 강사/학생/댄서가 “성폭력을 당했다” 라고 말을 한다면, 합당한 대처는 그녀를 위해 안전한 공간을 마련해주는 것이지, 절대로 그녀가 뭘 입고있었는지, 왜 그사람과 그런식으로 얘기했는지, 그녀를 추궁하거나 그녀거 당한 피해사실을 작은 것으로 간과하지 말아야 합니다. 성폭력 피해자에 대한 대처법의 이해 통해 그들을 도와주고 싶다면 링크를 참조해주세요: https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-respond-survivor

그리고 제발 잘추는 댄서가 좋은 인성을 가졌다고 생각하는 것을 멈춰야합니다. 물론 당신이 알고, 우상시하는, 자신이 유투브에서 보고 강습을 들은 대상이 그런일을 저지를 것이라고 믿기 어려운것은 이해가능합니다. 일정 대상을 향한 피해사실 고백은 당신을 놀라게 할 수있지만, 중요한 한가지 사실을 기억해주세요, 그들은 장난으로 강간을 외치지 않습니다. 타티아나와같은 인물이 성폭력과 이용당한 상황을 스윙댄스 커뮤니티에서 이야기 했을때, 전 그녀의 글을 공유하고 지지하는 많은 사람들의 반응에 무척 기뻣습니다. 저는 가해자(들)의 이름이 공개된 이후에도 그 (들)의 춤의 실력과 상관없이 피해자들에 대한 지지가 계속 되면 좋겠습니다.

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Дорогие друзья!

Я поражена и обескуражена количеством историй о женщинах, подвергающихся сексуальному насилию. Самое горькое, что истории, которые доходят до нас — это лишь верхушка айсберга. Большинство жертв публично никогда не скажут об этом ни слова, так что если вы хотите получить представление о реальных масштабах эпидемии сексуального насилия над женщинами — умножайте количество признаний, появляющихся в фейсбуке и СМИ, на десять.

Наше танцевальное сообщество — не исключение. Я лично не раз сталкивалась с тем, что истинность и достоверность историй, рассказанных жертвами сексуального насилия, ставится под сомнение, особенно в тех случаях, когда насильником является известный преподаватель: многие в подобной ситуации стремятся найти его поведению оправдание. В частности из-за этого потребовалось целых 9 публичных признаний, чтобы исключить Стивена Митчелла из линди-сообщества.

Одно из наиболее удобных оправданий заключается в том, что преступник не был признан виновным в суде. Но есть причина, по которой женщины не обращаются в суд. Как точно подметил мой хороший знакомый Алекс Гоу (Alex Gaw), «если человек решается рассказать свою историю публично, то это скорее всего происходит после мучительных сомнений и раздумий — отчасти из-за того, что он прекрасно понимает, с чем ему придется столкнуться после публичного признания. Пока жертвы сексуального насилия не почувствуют себя вправе подавать в суд на насильников, пока полиция не будет готова производить аресты по заявлениям о сексуальном домогательстве, пока судебные органы не начнут с готовностью браться за расследование дел о сексуальном домогательстве, и пока присяжные не станут регулярно признавать таких преступников виновными, в публичном обсуждении проблемы не может быть места репликам “невиновен, пока не доказано обратное”».

Мы знаем, что Стивен Митчелл — маньяк и насильник. Тот факт, что он не был привлечен к уголовной ответственности (в связи с законом об исковой давности или потому, что его жертвы не были готовы обсуждать полученную травму, имеющую столь интимный характер, в обезличивающем зале суда), не отменяет правдивости этого утверждения. Это также не освобождает членов нашего сообщества от обязанности поддерживать безопасную и комфортную атмосферу для всех танцоров, в том числе преподавателей и учеников. И если преподаватель/ученик/танцор говорит «меня изнасиловали», адекватной реакцией будет именно создание безопасной для жертвы атмосферы, а НЕ психологическое давление, снижение значимости пережитого опыта или допрос с пристрастием о том, что было надето на жертве и подавала ли она насильнику неоднозначные сигналы. Если вы хотите больше узнать о том, как именно следует оказывать поддержку жертвам сексуального насилия, почитайте эту статью: https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-respond-survivor

И, ради бога, давайте перестанем делать выводы о порядочности человека исходя из его танцевальных навыков. Да, я понимаю, сложно поверить, что кто-то хорошо вам знакомый, кто-то, кем вы восхищаетесь, чьи выступления вы смотрите на youtube и у кого вы берете уроки, может быть способен на такой поступок. Шок — это естественная реакция на подобные признания, однако очень важно помнить, что человек, подвергшийся изнасилованию, не станет впустую разбрасываться словами. Когда Татьяна (Tatiana Udry) открыто сообщила о сексуальном домогательстве и насилии в нашем танцевальном сообществе, я была невероятно рада тому, что очень многие поделились ее постом и выразили поддержку. И я надеюсь, что когда будет раскрыто имя насильника (или их имена), эта поддержка не ослабеет, независимо от того, насколько авторитетным танцором окажется этот человек.

When women talk about harassment and violence

So you want to be an ally to women? Or, you’re already an ally to women and want to check in and see how to up your game? Or you’ve never thought about harassment and violence against women until now and you’re ready to make some small changes that will have a large impact?

Let’s talk about Rape Anxiety. It’s a thing. Even I have dealt with this when I am walking alone at night or when I’m near large groups of men (regardless of the time of day). When I’m out walking/jogging, I am regularly scanning to see if someone might be following me. Yeah, that might sound crazy, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. So please, regardless of your personal experiences, if someone speaks to you about sexual harassment or gendered violence, please take it seriously.

“But even well-intentioned guys may be unaware of how their position of power creates intimidating situations.”

Please read this article – originally posted on Up Worthy – and share it broadly.

1. I need you to listen to me.

Resist your impulse to “not-all-men” your way out of the conversation. If I’m talking to you about this issue, it’s because I trust you and I think it’s an important discussion to have.

Please understand that my experiences may change your worldview a little bit — and that yours might change mine. If both of us approach the conversation with the assumption that we have something to learn, chances are we will.

2. I need you to be aware of how your behavior could unintentionally make the women (and femme and queer people) around you uncomfortable.

Maybe you’re trying to chat up a woman at the bar who doesn’t seem interested and you’re just not taking a hint. Maybe a step in the right direction is realizing that the woman who’s glancing back at you while you walk down the street is trying to assess if you’re a threat.

When you’re more in tune with the harassment that women experience every day simply by existing in the world, the next step is to notice if and how you play a role in those situations. Lots of times your threat is harmless, of course. But it never hurts to think critically about how you treat women, especially those you don’t know, in public.

3. I need you to use your privilege as a shield.

Guys, it’s exhausting to have to do all of this work ourselves. We really want your help.

The perpetrators of gendered microaggressions, sexual harassment, and sexual violence aren’t strangers — they’re the men in your classes, your workplace, your gym. So if you see something, please say something.

If a coworker makes an inappropriate comment to you about another coworker’s body, please tell them it’s not OK.

If you see a dude harassing a female friend at a party or a bar, please tactfully interject yourself into the situation to give her an out.

And, for the love of all that is holy, PLEASE teach your sons, brothers, and friends to do the same.

It may be uncomfortable to start talking about sexual violence and harassment, but it’s so, so necessary for all of us.

Those conversations could make a real difference in whether people like me feel safe and comfortable in the world.

That matters.

ILHC 2014 – A Champion

I had SUCH a great time at ILHC this year because I was so freaking busy doing like I do: two Pro/Ams, Slow Division with Mikey Pedroza, Showcase with Kevin St. Laurent, and commentary on Swing Nation’s live streaming of the Invitational Strictly.

First things first: The Pro/Am! Tim worked his balls off to get this choreography together with me. I’m so proud of him and how well he did on Game Day!

Felipe and I worked on this choreography while at Herrang this year. He dedicated so many  hours to this choreography and it shows. Yeah yeah!!

And did I mention he is Brazilian 😀

What can I say other than dancing with Mikey is a blast. Just look at how silly we are together!

At ILHC 2013, we did pretty well by taking 2nd place, but this year we won. Huzzah!!

Showcase Division: Ha!!! It was our year (***reminiscent of Strictly Ballroom)!

First place in the Showcase Division. Pretty proud of ourselves.

And, last but not least, Swing Nation time!!

So, yeah, a great year. Can’t wait to see what I can create for 2015!

ILHC 2014 Jo & Kevin

Picture by David Soltysik

 

 

Czech Fashion Magazine

Kevin and I made it into a Czech Men’s Fashion Magazine. Needless to say, I’m pretty thrilled!

For Men

Czech photoshoot

Oh my, who are these lovely lindy hoppers? Katja Završnik and Peter Winqvist Loggins

Katja Završnik and Peter Winqvist Loggins

Pamela Gaizutyte and Juan Ignacio Villafane
Pamela Gaizutyte and Juan Ignacio Villafane

 

“Top swing dance teachers from around the world showing their best pieces from swing era. For Men Magazine May 2015. The magazine text says: swing, sexy, cool as shit and so on…”

Photographer: Matej Tresnak Photography