Black Women: The Avoided Dancer

In our scene, Black women are avoided. There is a reason why black women are among the lowest demographic in the blues/swing dancing communities. And yet, thus far it’s something we’ve refused to talk about because we fear getting pushback for discussing it. So these discussions take place in small group chats and behind the scenes, as we discuss our frustrations with feeling so unseen within our community. This is not the time to start the conversation about being good to new dancers or dancers that are new to the area. Yes, there is a population that takes some time to get dances, and that’s something we should focus on, but not right now. This is about non famous black women struggling to be danced with. The fact that even with being famous it’s easy to go to a new scene and get ignored all over again.

When black women join the community it becomes obvious them that they are not desired. They are not desired as partners, in the dance and in life, and that only by being impressive will they be considered at all. To be a black woman in this community and to be popular means a lot of different things. One has to have a strong sense of style, that style cannot be overly sexualized, has to be moderately professional at all times, and they have to be comfortable with the fact that the style of the overall scene will never fit their body types or the way that their hair works. They will never “look” like what the scene values and they have to carve out of space for themselves.

They get used to the lack of compliments, except about their ass, and the lack of romantic interest that they get. They get used to being more assertive to get dances because otherwise they will spend the whole night sitting out unless they friend decides to ask them to dance.They get used to the avoided eye contact, and the feeling of being prey in the water of sharks on the sides of the the edge of the floor. Where the least desired dancers are the only ones who are willing to ask them dance. They tone down the sexual side dance for fear of being seen as too sexy, although that’s the whole point of the dance. Heaven forbid they be tall, or shy or more full bodied. That makes this even harder. No one wants to dance with you. “you don’t look like and can never be the white women we so highly admire in our community,” is what the community tells you by the this avoidance. Black women are used to being strong but this is always hurtful.

Some of this can be fixed by becoming a fixture in the community, but it’s easy to fall back into these feelings as soon as you attend an event you’ve never been to, go to a new local scene, or being out at an event without your friends. It all comes rushing back then, that you, and folks that look like you (and other minority women) aren’t as wanted as the thin, pretty, blond woman who spends the whole night dancing starting day 1. It slowly eats at your soul and without support it can cause you to leave a local scene, all the way through leaving the scene itself. But Grey, I can almost hear people saying to me “that doesn’t happen to my friend.” “that doesn’t happen in my scene.” I encourage you if you having these thoughts to take a step back and watch your community. Take a step back and ask your black female friend, “do you have these problems?” If they trust you, they’ll tell you the truth. They probably do.

So, now you know it’s an issue and want to help, here’s some things you can do.
  • Have ambassadors particularly chat with and ask black women to dance
  • Check in (if you are an organizer) with black women and help ease some of the out of place feelings
  • Tell the black dancers in your life when you like how they look, or what they have done with their hair
  • Encourage friends to dance with bodies that don’t look like theirs
  • Encourage your scene to not fall into the trap of (typically) white men feeling too “incompetent” to dance with black women
  • White folks that find black people attractive, get over your shit weird guilt about it. They’d rather dance than not. Also Maybe some don’t date white folks, but many don’t because Y’ALL NEVER SHOW US INTEREST, it’s not that we won’t.Just, stop being weird about it.
  • Invite your black female dancer friends out
  • DON’T TOUCH HAIR
  • Encourage younger dancers to still do competitions, pursue dreams, even if no one looks like you
  • Connect them with other black folk in the community

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