Rhythm City Production's statement inspired by Black Lives Matter activism, June 12, 2020
Black lives matter.
Black voices matter.
Jazz music and Jazz dances are cultural products of Black experience. This includes and incorporates Black experiences of today, yesterday, and generations ago. As practitioners of and students of Jazz dances (including the Swing Jazz dances of Lindy hop, Vernacular Solo Jazz) we must recognize and explicitly speak of Black experience: from the past through to today.
We can’t celebrate Lindy hop as a joyful dance without acknowledging the ways in which, for the original dancers, that joy was an escape from a white supremacist society. Our most honoured musicians and dancers and their families and friends lived in a society that imposed on them laws, policies, harassment, and assaults intended to disempower and impoverish Black people. The outcomes of these policies are what we live with today: the inequities they created; the injustices they entrenched. Swing music and dance exists in this context.
During the pandemic shutdown, we have the opportunity to examine our priorities as dancers, students, instructors, DJs, and organizers who enjoy and, in some cases, profit off of the Black cultural products of Jazz music and Jazz dance. A return to dancing and instruction following COVID-19 isolation must come with significant changes. We envision a community mandate that allows us all to enjoy this dance and music while 1) centring its Black history and contexts, 2) prioritizing safety, inclusion, power, and voice among Black dancers, however experienced or new they are to the scene, and 3) keeping conversations open as we continue to learn, and as our commitments to the first two priorities bring new opportunities and new richness to our communities.
If you would like to contribute to this mandate, please message us. We are particularly interested in the input of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour), and will compensate contributors’ labour with money and/or class/event credits.
We enthusiastically support movements to centre Black experience and actively fight racist practices, policies, legislation, and institutions. Watch this space for regular posts amplifying Black voices, organizations, and actions in pursuit of racial and economic justice. Stay tuned also for posts celebrating Black joy, triumph, and excellence, as these, too, fuel the resistance movement currently gaining much anticipated momentum.
Here, with mingled triumph, rage, and sorrow, The Northwest Tap Connection with #Hellyoutalmbout, a dance performance both searing and exhilarating. Say their names.
*I use the term Black because this is the term I see being used by the racialized people I’m referring to for their ancestors, their fellows, and themselves. White society and law has used many terms to dehumanize, isolate, and marginalize numerous people of various origins, ethnicities, and histories, and never with their wishes, hopes, interests, and lived experiences in mind. I do my best to be guided and informed by the voices of the people silenced and harmed by a system that was made to benefit me and people who look like me. I learn from them because I can’t see all that they can see from their perspective and because they represent and speak from a body of work in this arena that goes way back and is of immeasurable value.
Owner & Director, Rhythm City Productions