Sarah Sullivan is a lindy hopper who has been dancing for 11 years and co-organizes a popular swing dance venue the Mobtown Ballroom in Baltimore, MD. Yesterday Sarah posted on her personal blog a shocking story about a well-known older dance instructor Steven Mitchell, and his long history of inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances directed at her, beginning in her teenage years.
I'm so saddened by the story, but also inspired by Sarah's strength in telling it. She eloquently, clearly and carefully details the whole sordid tale. Please go read it right now.
In the comments, Steven responds with his own apology. This unfortunately is followed by allegations by at least two other women who said that they were mistreated in a similar manner. It's just a fucking mess.
I don't know how this situation is going to shake out. But I'm encouraged by the incredibly supportive tone that I've witnessed in the comments on Sarah's blog and on Facebook. And I'm reminded of the steps that event organizers and others have already taken to make sure that unwanted sexual advances and sexual predation don't happen at their events, such as the new code of conduct at Lindy Focus.
I believe we can do more. At my museum I work at, there are many levels of protocol, policy, guidelines, and staff in place to make sure that we are a safe place for minors especially, but all of our audiences and staff. Schools, libraries, youth non-profits, women's health centers, and others have pioneered years of practices in how to ensure that minors and women are not the subject of unwanted sexual advances and violence. We can learn from all of that experience.
But first we need to own up to the problem and face it head on. Thank you, Sarah, for bravely setting the example for all of us. We've got some work to do.
Pictured: My friend Nicole Z, staffing the "safe spaces" booth at Lindy Focus 2014
This past week I got to experience my first Lindy Focus, in lovely Asheville, North Carolina, along with 1,000 other lindy hoppers and jazz musicians from around the US. I had almost zero expectations for the event, having only viewed a couple of videos and chatted with some friends about it.
There are a lot of things that make Lindy Focus a special place: the classes taught by world-class dancers, the dances that start in the evening and go straight to the next morning, the festive atmosphere everywhere, the DIY spirit of the event. But what stands out for me is the emphasis on live jazz music.
Lindy Focus brought together an Avengers-level supergroup of musicians for the evening dances. Led by Jonathan Stout on guitar, the lineup included the best swing musicians in the land, including Laura Windley on vocals, Gordon Au and Ben Polcer on trumpet, Aurora Nealandand Paul Consetino on clarinet and sax, Lucian Cobb on trombone, Josh Collazo on drums, Jason Jurzak on bass, and many more incredible jazz artists from all over the States. The level of tightness of this band, having never played together before, was mind-blowing.
The year 2014 was a pretty good year for me. Many of my highlights for the year were spent with my team at Yehoodi.com, doing what we do best: creating cool media and events showcasing this crazy dance we love so much.
Read about Yehoodi's many accomplishments in 2014 here. I love lindy hop so much.
I'm currently having a grand time at "Lindy Focus," a weeklong celebration of lindy hop and swingin jazz in Asheville, North Carolina. Held in the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, the hotel basically gets overrun by 1,000 or so lindy hoppers and jazz musicians for seven days of festivities. There's classes, jazz jams, vintage clothing vendors, and of course lots and lots of dancing. It's kind of like Herrang in a hotel.
Believe it or not, Episode #69 is the final show of the season... and the last weekly edition of “SwingNation.”
Watch the whole episode to get the skinny on what’s happening to the internet’s only regular talk show on swing dancing. We talk about why we are moving from the weekly format, and what’s the future of “SwingNation.” And we do a fond recap of our favorite episodes from our 68 show run. What were your favorite shows?
We close out the show with thanks to all of those who played a part in making “SwingNation” what it is. Thanks for watching... and keep swingin out!
I can't get enough of this lindy hop / vernacular jazz routine by the troupe Echoes of Harlem from Australia. I love all their formations, creative choreography, and phrasing. Rarely do you see a team routine accentuate different instruments with different dancers so well.
Damn, Australia! Go on with your bad self.
From the 2014 Melbourne Lindy Exchange. SONG: 'Now You Has Jazz' - Louis Armstrong and the All stars live at the Newport Jazz Festival.