- What is this thing, called swing? | The Home of Happy Feet
- Daniel Newsome geeks out about music.
(tags: lindyhop swing music jazz beats dance)
- 19 Tips For Everyday Git Use
- Top tips for git
(tags: git software software-engineering tips)
- Scott Aaronson Answers Every Ridiculously Big Question I Throw at Him – Scientific American Blog Network
- A fascinating question and answer session with Aaronson.
(tags: physics quantum scott-aaronson philosophy computation mathematics)
A friend commented the other day that I don’t post much on here any more. I do occasionally write interesting stuff over on Reddit, so I thought I’d make some blog posts based on some of those comments. Here’s a little realisation I had about how we talk about the physics of lindy:
A follower was telling me how she always needs to create her own momentum or she won’t move anywhere, and I responded that if she does so, it breaks one of the most basic rules of following and causes confusion and miscommunication in the dance. — LindyEverywhere on Reddit
Followers aren’t on frictionless wheels. Naturally, they’d stop, but the game is for them to pretend to have a lot less friction than a body on legs actually does (and maybe a bit less mass, too, I think). They’re not just physically getting moved around by the leader without co-operating by playing that game. Shifting people who aren’t co-operating is martial arts, not lindy 🙂
What lindy teachers seem to be referring to when talking about keeping momentum and not injecting energy is that once you’re playing the game, you play it consistently. Maintaining that consistency is not a natural consequence of the physics of the situation, so the follower you were talking to was right to say physically, she’s actually moving herself a lot of the time, or, not having wheels, she’d just stop. Playing the game consistently is a learned skill.
Because this game is so engrained into the dance, a lot of experienced people abbreviate the description of what’s going on by speaking as if what followers do is just allow physics to take its course (when they’re not throwing in their own stuff, I mean), when what they’re actually doing is simulating being a different sort of body and allowing a simulated version of physics to take its course. I imagine this is a bit confusing for beginner follows. (The other thing is that I’ve heard balboa teachers talk about a different simulated physics for follows turning down a line, where they lose angular momentum and so curve in).
One good exercise I’ve seen for teaching this is to play “lindy tennis”: half of you get into a circle, half of you are the tennis balls. The people in the circle set the balls off across the circle with some direction and rotation, which the balls maintain (except for avoiding collisions with teach other). When the balls reach the edge of the circle, the people there catch them and re-direct them (gently!). Playing this fixed an awful lot of “followers stopping themselves” i.e. killing the momentum rather than continuing the line around beat 4 in swing-outs from open, because it teaches what the pretend physics is.
Edit: Thinking about it some more, it seems more “real” at high speeds and when the connection is transmitting an impulse, and more “faked” at low ones and when the leader isn’t exerting a force: in the first case, it may be that it feels like your upper body is being moved by the connection to the leader and you’re just keeping your legs under you so you don’t fall over (which is still kind of a choice, but a natural one), but the thing where follows are told to keep moving at a slow pace having been given a small impulse seems like something you learn to do so as to pretend you’re a frictionless follow moving in a vacuum.
I’ve been talking elsewhere, so I thought I’d make some posts about that.
Previously, I talked about the push to introduce codes of conduct for lindy hop events in the wake of a high profile sexual assault case. Over on Reddit, /r/SwingDancing saw quite a bit of discussion of the whole business, as you’d expect.
Someone calling themselves The Logical Lead started a Reddit discussion about a blog post of his and another discussion about where the boundaries of flirting are. His burden seems to be that Mobtown Ballroom’s Code bans flirting and victimises men, because of the third rule, which begins “Don’t treat the ballroom like a pick-up joint.”
He makes the true point that, in the recent case, things were made worse because the perpetrator was a famous and popular teacher. But he then went off the rails in saying that the community’s reaction was victimising men by targeting them rather than only dealing with the abuse of fame, and even implying that the codes would be abused by popular men to corner the market in women. I commented saying that, although the recent case was certainly about the misuse of fame, the discussion that followed allowed many women talk about problems they’d had, most of which were not with famous teachers.
On the question of differentiating flirting and harassment, this thread linked to Dogpossum’s own guide to dating dancers. Some people quibbled about Dogpossum’s advice, but I think the point is that if you’re asking how to do it and not fall foul of a code of conduct, you’re saying you’re not sure of your social skills and need rules. If you are skilled enough not to creep people out anyway, you can probably treat them more as guidelines.
I also bigged up the Northerners’ STEPS code and their FAQ, where they make it clear that “we certainly aren’t suggesting that dancers aren’t allowed to form romantic relationships at our events (including, a-hem, extremely short relationships)”.
On Metafilter, Reddit has a reputation as a terrible place full of MRAs, libertarians and other ne’er do wells, but The Logical Lead didn’t get a very good reception for his stuff, so I suppose it depends which sub-reddits you’re talking about.
- Lindy Hop Event Organizers Conversation on Creating Safer Dance Spaces – YouTube
- An hour’s conversation between various scene and event organisers on codes of conduct and whatnot. Including the Swing Patrol UK’s Scott Cupit, and Nina Gilkenson of Mobtown Ballroom, whose CoC I’ve previously linked to. Good stuff. One thing I didn’t realise is that organisers are regularly giving offenders the boot but doing so quietly so people don’t get scared. Organisers don’t want to stop the party (are camps total debauches only in the USA, or do I just not get invited to the right afterparties?), want to treat people as adults (Cupit rejects the idea of CoC specially for teachers on that basis), and don’t want to police every damn social interaction. OTOH recognise that there’s a groundswell for more explicit policies and enforcement.
(tags: lindyhop lindy-hop sexual-assault dance dancing)
- What ISIS Really Wants – The Atlantic
- “The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.” Via Mefi.
(tags: isis islam war terrorism caliphate apocalypse)
This post links to descriptions of sexual assault.
Lindy hop got its own version of the Jimmy Saville revelations recently, when it became clear that a long standing international dance teacher (who wasn’t someone I’d heard of prior to this, as it happens) had abused various women. Jeff Leyco has collated a bunch of links to people talking about it, the most important of which is Sarah Sullivan’s original blog posting describing her experiences.
There’s sometimes a confusion about types of evidence, and between degrees of evidence and degrees of belief, that happens when people read accusations like this online. Testimony is evidence, especially if it’s potentially costly to the testifier if they lie. We rightly demand a very high probability of truth before we bless certain beliefs for certain uses (for example, in a court of law or a science journal). But that the probability doesn’t need to be as high before deciding to keep someone away from young women at dance camps, for example. There were surprisingly few “oh, the Internet says it, so it must have happened, riiiight” comments, but not none. Those commenters looked pretty foolish when the other shoes dropped, and a pattern of predation emerged in the reports of other women. If you’re not actually having to decide whether to allow that teacher to come to your dance camp next weekend, it seems wise to shut up and wait for those other shoes to hit the floor rather than sounding off on the Internet.
There was some use of the word “awkward” to refer to the perp. People who are socially awkward don’t do the stuff described by these women, which, moral considerations aside, requires some nerve (in the case of initiating physical contact) and Dark Side social skills (isolating the victims, telling them they’re special, and so on). Let’s stop calling predators “socially awkward”, it’s an insult to socially awkward people.
Codes of Conduct
One popular suggesting in the wake of all this is to institute codes of conduct for dance events. Having been initially a little wary of that, I’m now in favour as a result of chatting with friend C (who got me into lindy in the first place) and reading around.
One thing that seems to be happening is that people are adopting language from codes for professional conferences. I’d argue that these codes are not suitable for use at dance events without modification. If you’re going to have a code, it’s not a talisman against predators that you can just hold up like a crucifix in front of a vampire and hope they go away. You have to enforce it, and that means getting language right so it’s enforceable.
What am I on about? Broadly, that there’s a difference between the environment you want at a conference where everyone’s on the clock (and subject to employment law) and something that’s a cross between a party and the practice of an art.
There’s also some danger of confusion between the social justice concept of a Safe Space, and the sort of environment the general public would want to dance and socialise in. A Safe Space in the former sense is typically heavily policed against a fairly strict and specialised language code which bans certain words, and the police usually prohibit discussion about matters they consider settled. Assuming that such Spaces make anyone safer, they do so at the expense of other good things, which are put aside in favour of an overriding concern for Safety; and the converse is also true: not making your Space Safe means you’re trading off those other goods against the risk of some people not being Safe (see Mefi, previously). Face this, accept there’s nothing wrong with trading off goods against each other, and don’t use the phrase “safe space” to describe the environment you’re trying to create.
Elizabeth Dingivan criticises this post on safe conferences both for advocating an over-patrolled environment and for concentrating on preventing problems rather than promoting positive values. It’s worth checking our her comment.
Edit: another thought that occurs is that unless you have the resources to police heavily, you cannot in fact offer a totally safe space even if you want to, so your terminology should not offer something you’re not going to deliver.
More specifically, we need to say more about banning “sexualised material”: if it means porny pictures are banned that’s fair, but do you want to ban a bunch of those songs about food which aren’t actually about food or the songs in which there’s sexual commentary on men’s and women’s bodies? Probably not, because we allow things in an artistic context that we don’t want to see around the office (if you were trying to create a Safe Space, the answer would be different here).
Relatedly, partner dancing got started in part as an early form of speed dating, and some people come to dancing hoping to meet romantic partners, in a way which would not be appropriate for a professional conference. There’s nothing wrong with this in itself, though there are wrong ways to go about it and one needs to be alert for the difference between dance chemistry and sexual desire. I don’t know how to convey this in a short document, but just “no harassment, no sexy stuff” won’t cut it.
When we dance, we’re touching another person and, in some dances, adopting a close hold. It’s worth going into more detail about what’s OK here, rather than just banning “inappropriate touching”. It’s also worth dealing with what to do when bad stuff happens by accident when moving at speed, not something that ForkMyDongleCon ’13 attendees had to worry about, I guess. (I’d also like to ban teachers from initiating back-rub circles at the end of lessons, please: that sort of touch isn’t what people signed up for).
I like the policies of Mobtown, Baltimore (though the bullet about various banned -isms shades towards Internet social justice jargon and makes me wonder if I’ll get the boot for saying “Mark’s such a crazy dancer”) and Holy Lindy Land, Israel. I like Bryn’s suggestions on Sarah Sullivan’s posting.
A couple more general points: it’s worth distinguishing hints and tips from serious offences. It’s worth emphasising that we’re dealing with hopefully rare stuff here and most people are lovely. I remember discussion of Cambridge Dancers’ Club’s etiquette page where people wondered whether a long etiquette manual might put the punters off. Both these points can be addressed by having a serious bit and a funny FAQ (a FAQ’s a good format for avoiding the CDC page’s wall of text). I like Holy Lindy Land’s pictures, too.
Final point: there’s no point in any of this if there’s no-one to tell about problems or if problems are not investigated and resolved once you tell someone. This requires a lot of the people who organise events, who are often volunteers. In the case I’ve heard about where harassment was not dealt with at an event, those organisers were women, so it wasn’t a case of men belittling women’s problems. Organisers want to be liked and find confrontation difficult, just like anyone else. I’ve never done that job, so I don’t know what to do about that.
Sayle doesn’t like SCD because it’s a dumbed-down popularity contest. This might be fair: the judges do have dancing knowledge, but the public get a say via a phone vote, and on the programme itself there’s lots of other bollocks which has little to do with art or skill, which is why I got bored with SCD.
Alas, Sayle seems to have falsely conflated the whole of ballroom dancing with SCD. tangokitty’s excellent comment at the Guardian points out that this neglects the large number of social dancers. One unfortunate effect of SCD is that it leaves people (including prospective and newbie ballroom dancers) with the impression that true ballroom dancing will culminate in fake tan and sequins.
Sayle likes the freedom of Northern Soul, which isn’t a partner dance, so is an odd choice for comparison with ballroom. There’s a limit to how much you can go crazy on the floor and also keep dancing with another person. (Neither was Nothern Soul “unselfconscious”, according to the Guardian’s expert commenters). Silly Sayle: improvisation and freedom is why lindyhop is better than ballroom, not why Northern Soul is. Naturally, you should also feel free to make up your own reason why ballroom is better than lindy.
Sayle goes on to say that ballroom tango is “robotic”. I say staccato, you say potato: Sayle’s free to prefer chocolate ice cream to strawberry, but it’s not clear what that has to do with our moral obligation to assist in Marxist class war. He adds that the music is terrible, but in fact, SCD’s music for tango (and paso doble) is often the wrong music for the dance, leading to horrors like this. Ballroom can in fact be sexy (previously), although Sayle’s assertion that a partner dance involving a man and a woman is always about sex is problematic and I’m tempted to set the Tumblr SJWs on him til he’s sorry.
tl;dr: Sayle’s at his best when talking about how crappy popular TV is, but knows bugger all about dance and/or is just trolling to drum up publicity for his new show.
Edit: Metafilter has some interesting discussion on the article.
- Read The Leprechauns of Software Engineering | Leanpub
- Looks interesting, a few sample chapters on the “10 x” programmer and waterfall.
(tags: management software waterfall ebook)
- William Gibson: ‘We always think of ourselves as the cream of creation’ | Books | The Observer
- Gibson has a new book out.
(tags: william-gibson sci-fi science-fiction books review)
- The Last Chance Ragtime Band by Harry & Edna on the Wireless | Mixcloud
- Last Chance Ragtime Band on the radio, talking about playing for dancers. I knew them before they were famous.
(tags: music ragtime dancing lindyhop new-orleans)