And by “drop” I really mean drop, stomp, put lighter fluid on, set on fire, then summon the Great Cthulhu to take them back where they belong, with the Ancient Unspoken Ones in the bottomless pits of a cursed ocean. Because these arguments are worthless bullshit.
The study of bullshit goes right back to a bad motherfucker called Aristotle, because the Ancient Greeks loved nothing more than debates, except debating about debates.
Aristotle often paused in debates and pondered: “wait a minute, what you just said is some markedly enormous, Minotaur-level pile of defecations right there”, so much so that he built the original list of thirteen fallacies (from the latin fallacia, literally meaning fancy bullshit) in his groundbreaking Athens Times bestseller De Sophisticis Elenchis. And thus, the study of bullshit was born: today, there are anywhere from 50 to 100 fallacies known to mankind, depending on how anal you are with your sub-divisions.
Today, we’re going back to Ancient Greece, enlisting in debate school and posing the following statement:
Women can be powerhouses of creativity just as likely as the next person who happens to possess a penis. They can be – and often are – the driving force in a dance couple.
Surprisingly, it’s not an observation with which everyone will agree: there’s a certain underlying separate-but-equal discourse regarding masculine and feminine roles going on in dance scenes in general that really, profoundly irks me. And it should irk you too. Because it’s, you guessed, bullshit. All those perceptions are built on one giant stinking pile of crocodile dung or another and, today, we’re going to be the disgruntled dungologists to dig through these gobs of guano.
Fallacy #4- The follow’s job is to follow, it says it right there!
What’s in a name? Some people think, a lot of things, apparently, but we all know it’s pure, unfiltered crap still steamy and fresh out the silverback gorilla’s buttcheeks.
This affirmation is as close to an equivocation fallacy as you’re gonna get without buying it a drink first. It’s the kind of play on words that unfunny people use to make unfunny jokes about unfunny things. When the world will be on the verge of a goddamn galaxy-crushing black hole, there’s still gonna be an asshole to say “Man, I’m a traditional dude: this is way too edgy for me.”
There’s a truly pervasive nomenclature problem with dance roles in English, because the words “lead” and “follow” are absolutely not open to interpretation. There is one speaker and one listener and, in most dance forms but especially improvisational ones such as Lindy Hop, this simply doesn’t mirror the reality, where the follow is free to inject so much input in the dance, at some point the line between leading and following becomes blurry like a delicious, free-range, unicorn-tears-of-joy and crystalline-laughs-of-baby-angels twisted ice cream cone.
The “follow problem” is a case of words hindering and limiting the role someone can play in a dance.
That’s not true of all languages however. In French, for example, dancers use the more role-neutral “cavalier” and “cavalière”. OK, it can roughly translate to “horse riders” and gives rise to a whole other set of questions, but at least it allows you more interpretative leeway than the rigid “lead/follow” roles traditionally held as a barrier between men and women.
The belief that followers should always follow is often accompanied by its drooling, poo-flinging twin brother, that women should always follow, which is at least equally wrong.
FUN FACT: Notice the difference between “woman” and “follow”, because it could save your life one day. Generally speaking, we’ll go ahead and say a “woman” was born with a vagina, or if you want to really, really cover all your basis, is someone who identifies themselves as someone who has/should have a vagina, and vaginas only, and only one vagina. It may or may not be vajazzled which is absolutely great either way.
On the other hand, a “follow” could technically be either a boy or a girl – damn, it could be a T-Rex, but it better be a freaking well-behaved T-Rex. The “follow” defines whatever entity is engaging in the act of “following” in a dance. Traditionally, women follow, but some women lead and nowadays you shouldn’t mix “women” and “follows” unless you want to be called a Neanderthal and caught on the losing side of a useless debate, so just don’t do it. Whatever “following” truly means is however grounds for a totally separate, exhaustive article.
Back to women should only follow, because that’s where the goldmine is.
You’ll hear about bullshit like ” different centers of mass”. So… a short guy should follow? Where the fuck do you get off, have they even discovered fire yet where you come from?
You’ll hear about how a girl’s body is different from a guy’s and the roles are tailor-made to each gender, how basically girls should shut the fuck up and follow because the reverse is the equivalent of flipping the bird to Mother Nature, chloroforming her, prying her mouth open with used rusted dildos and taking a three-days-old Taco Bell dump right on her tonsils.
These observations are often spouted by ill-informed, insecured apemen. A lot of women lead vastly better than them. And they always will.
If you’re a jealous and insensitive asshole, it’s your problem, not theirs. Seriously, stop saying that, you sound exactly like that shady unshaven dude from the office who once claimed that white people obviously have better brains for mathematics, and now everybody sits at another table for lunch and farts on his keyboard when he’s not around.
That is, you sound exactly like a prejudiced fucking idiot.
Fallacy #3- She’s a girl, she can’t teach a leader how to lead!
This is the kind of fallacies that could be linked to various “argumentum ad” sophisms, depending on how much of a clueless dick-o-copter you are. I’d be tempted to say it’s a mix of argumentum ad naturam, whereas someone claims something is good because it’s natural (like the false morel), and the famous “appeal to tradition” (ad antiquitatem), whereas someone claims that something is good because your ancestors did it. Like human sacrifice or, really, just a lot of crazy shit our predecessors did. Seriously, take your pick: it’s a miracle we’re still alive.
Not only can a woman be just as qualified to teach you how to lead because she most likely has vast amounts of leading knowledge that you have absolutely no fucking clue about (on the grounds that, if you say stuff like this, you’re a dumbass), but being taught by an actual follow (one who engages in the act of following, remember!) can bring a whole other dimension to your dancing that a lead will not necessarily be able to delve into as deeply. Namely, the feel and connection that follows expect, which bracket of arm tension is acceptable on the dance floor, and how to best react to a follow’s needs and expectations.
Mind you, same goes for leaders teaching followers to dance. Just reverse the nouns.
But somehow, guys (mainly leaders) teaching girls how to follow has never really been a big issue, has it? Are there any other reasons besides still being collectively paranoid, as men, about how someone is going to sneak up behind us while we’re dancing and chop off our balls? Despite all these centuries of mostly non-balls-chopping?
As I touched upon before, the fact that someone enjoys the custody of a uterus or not has little to do with their technical knowledge. Hey, they might not even know how to lead very well, but nonetheless will be particularly good coaches – just as some great coaches in sports haven’t even played the game that seriously, if at all. As teachers, they might blow the best performers out of the water – teaching skills are, after all, vastly different from what makes you shine on a dance floor. I’m sure all of us have at least one example in mind when we think of that.
So take it as an even broader point: don’t judge a teacher’s ability by what you see on the dance floor. Take a class and see what you get from it. Free your mind.
Fallacy #2- I don’t want my follows to hijack all over the place!
This irrational allegation states that, if we give follows more space on the dance floor, soon they’ll be out of control which will logically spiral into a cataclysmic rise in the oceans level that will obliterate all forms of Doritos on Earth. It’s also known as a slippery slope claim, and is best known as the ageless en vogue trend with fucking lunatics worldwide; the little black dress to the cocktail of batshit insane, mouth-frothing debates.
That’s the same type of people that are out on the steps of Congress right now shouting at the top of their lungs, advocating that if we allow governments to pass gun legislation they will soon crack down on hospitals and steal the first newborn of every couple in the country.
Or those who argue against same-sex marriage by belting out from behind their Bud Light: “What next? A guy’s gonna be allowed to marry a fucking dromedary?!” Because their brain has been medically dead and silently decaying behind their sorry, saggy excuse of a face for the past decades and they can’t see the difference between a consenting, legal person with a social security number who can hold a job, own a house and sign law-binding contracts (such as, wait for it, a marriage license!) and a goddamn desert animal who doesn’t think twice about shitting on its own feet.
Most people agree that those who employ slippery slope claims are usually terrible human beings, but somehow we have a blind spot for that when it comes to dancing.
So let me explain without losing my shit.
Just because followers take more liberties in the dance doesn’t mean that your integrity, as a leader, is in jeopardy. Quite the contrary: it just means you’ll encounter even more challenges and fun stuff to play with later on. It’s a two-way exchange in which, if you want novelty and fresh material, you have to give a bit of rope: everyone is inhabited by this urge to explore. Leaders want to try new moves. Followers want to try new variations and ways to behave that sometimes push the boundaries into Funky Town. Instead of bitching and savagely gnawing at each other’s back, we should come together and realize just exactly how wonderful this whole experience is. Embrace it as the amazing experiment that it is.
Fallacy #1- She obviously got that move from *insert leader’s name here*
This could really be any other comment that sums up a woman’s work as stemming directly from some manly figure – because obviously a woman couldn’t possibly be creative or good enough to come up with a move or anything on her own, or contribute in any kind of way whatsoever to a project such as a choreography, right? If we see a pro female teaching a move, we automatically go into “where did she get that” mode. Look into your soul, do you systematically do that for guys as well? How many of you have heard, after a dinstinctly inspired spotlight in competition, someone turn around and say “OMG he’s amazing” as if the follow wasn’t even there?
That’s another example of the very popular double standard that runs rampant in society. The most overused example of those double standard biases is about sex of course, whereas a man with multiple partners is basically a king, and a girl with multiple partners is basically a whore. I mean, who should honestly give a shit in today’s world? I don’t want to be crass here, folks, but the cold hard truth is that people fuck. Big time. They fuck everywhere, and they fuck constantly. They’ve been fucking before you, and they’ll be fucking long after you’re dust.
Goddamn after thousands of years of this bullshit can we get over it already?
If there’s one thing I’m fucking sick and and tired of hearing, especially in regards to teaching and even more especially dance performances, it’s how awesome this and that lead is, while largely leaving the girl in the shadows – sometimes throwing a patronizing “wow! I don’t know how she followed that!” in the mix for good measure.
Because we see the result of the work in a dance routine as primarily the guy leading and the girl following, we sometimes forget that the entirety of the piece was created and performed by two individuals. We tend to hail the man as the creative genius behind this move, that transition, this new insane aerial because physically that’s what seems to happen before our astonished eyes. But deep down, you know it’s just lazy bullshit that our brain makes up because it’s familiar with the story. A story that goes hand in hand with thousands of years of brainwashing.
And, you know what, this is getting fucking old.
I think it’s time top leaders not only realize this but start giving active props to their female partners – or keep doing so if they’re already doing it, as I know very well some are. This is a case where just passively not mentioning anything about it is not enough: sometimes, you have to make efforts to break a narrative you find is unjust.
As for myself, I’m glad to say I was very privileged to work with some of the most talented swing dancers of this generation: Carla Heiney, Maryse Lebeau, Annie Trudeau, Geneviève St-Laurent, Nadine Gagnon, Vanessa Granjon, Lunou Samson-Poirot, not to mention the countless times I’ve worked on one or two isolated occasions with someone… Some of those names you might recognize more than others, but that’s not really the point: I’m very comfortable with stating that at least 50% of the work I’ve done with these wonderful followers came from them – and not only minor input like arms styling but whole sections of choreography, concepts, steps variations. I’m 100% certain that all the good performers and dancers out there have been tremendously influenced by strings of strong and talented women.
Whether they acknowledge it or not.
So, leaders, stop and ask your partner what they think about such and such move, or how it could be lead better; thank them for a dance, even if it’s the thousandth time; congratulate them profusely and publicly when you feel in your heart she’s done something awesome. Recognize the place they already occupy. Don’t gloss over it, thinking it’s obvious – as I’ve done many times – : as we’ve seen, to a lot of people, it’s not obvious at all.
And fucking stop grabbing them by the elbow while they’re talking to someone because “hey c’m’ere! I want to try something!” Seriously? This fucking sucks. Show some respect.
Whatever your gender, don’t be shy to stand up and say “fuck you” to the nay-sayers, or any variation you find is more polite if you happen to be Canadian, or some sort of other equally reprehensible offense.
Refer to this article if need be: I’ll take the heat, loud and proud.
But that’s exclusively because I’m hidden behind the relative anonymity of the Internet.
If you need me to step up to a fight in real life, you’re shit out of luck, because I can only mostly throw Charleston kicks.
While not punching misogynistic sophists in their metaphorical nuts, Zack can be found at Swing ConneXion.
Other articles for your reading pleasure:
|The Ten Commandments of the Dance Floor||5 Realizations You Need To Make About Dance Teachers|