Who’s The Elitist Now?

Sometimes life gets too busy to think about anything besides what’s going on, so sorry for being lame. I’m going to make an effort to write more.

Anyway, after our weekly Lindy Hop dance on Saturday, a group of friends and I went out to a pizza place for food. We ran into some other dancers there, most of whom I didn’t know (and I don’t think they were even at the dance) and we sat down to eat with them as one of our other friends were sitting there. There were probably 10 or 12 people.

One of the dancers who was sitting near the middle of the table, who I’ve never seen at our weekly dance before and only occasionly attends the Tuesday Rock-a-billy dance, began trash talking the lindy hoppers and calling us elitists. (For those who want a more comprehensive story about the Tuesday night dance can read my post about it here.) He then took his finger and pushed up his nose. (Excuse me, but I’m a Jew. I don’t eat pig, much less can I be one.)

Um, hello! We were sitting right there! It’s not like we can’t freakin’ hear you 4 feet away!

This mentality amongst non lindy hoppers in town has been around since before I ever began dancing. We’ve tried to make people change their opinions about us, but words and rumors spread much faster than people seeing our actions.

Has this guy ever danced with me? No. Has he ever spoken to me or to my friends? No. Then how does he know how I am, or how any other lindy hopper is, for that matter?

If he came to me or any of my friends and gave us a concrete reason why we’re stuck up, then I could at least respect that. None of us are perfect, and it’s extremely plausible that there’s been a time that someone has not felt welcomed or has felt left out in some way. If he had an actual reason, then we could at least apologize for our actions and move forward  instead of hearing him talk about us, perhaps even unknowingly, right in front of us. I mean, for all I know, he doesn’t actually even know who I am and wouldn’t recognize me if I were just walking down the street. (which, seriously, how could he NOT know who I am? A red carpet is thrown down for me everywhere I walk.)

It’s even possible that there’s nothing that a specific person has done, but it’s more of the collective “lindy hopper” group that seems to have done something, like a separate entity that no one person is actually a part of.

Personally, I don’t dance with a lot of people at Tuesday night. There have been numerous incidents where I’ve been pushed, pulled, jerked, yanked, stepped on, elbowed in the face and even kicked in the back by other dancers there, and not a single person ever apologized to me. I was walking by someone who was dancing and he elbowed me in the face, knocked me over, and casually turned to me on the ground and said, “Oh, sorry”, and went back to dancing!

About a month ago I was dancing with a Tuesday nighter, who was being particularly rough with me, and mentioned that I always look nervous when I dance with him. I told him he was hurting me, and he didn’t say anything and kept on being as rough as ever. Why would I want to dance with someone who doesn’t care if they’re hurting me?

I don’t really enjoy getting hurt, so I tend to dance with people who I trust to take care of me. I rarely turn someone down for a dance though if they ask me to dance. If people weren’t so rough, I’d be more than happy ask more people to dance. But with no health insurance and already dancing 7 days a week, I can’t really afford to get hurt right now.

I think a lot of it is rumor that’s been carried down over the years. Things were different 6 or 7 years ago. Many of the advance lindy hoppers didn’t dance with anyone except each other at the Tuesday night dance. They would sneak in so they didn’t have to pay, and one of them even told me that she intentionally looks angry and mean so that no one will ask her to dance. Even though I was learning Lindy Hop at the time, I still thought the lindy hoppers were elitist and kept to themselves. The difference was my reaction to it was, “They’re elitist? Awesome. I’m still going to learn this dance, so they’re going to know me whether they want to or not”. It didn’t matter to me. I just needed to learn Lindy Hop.

None of those people dance here anymore though. The crowd is completely different and is much friendlier than it used to be and they dance with a lot more people than the previous lindy hoppers did. But somehow people’s reactions towards us haven’t changed to coincide with our change, for a large part, anyway.

I speculate that the crux of the issue is that people feel insecure that they can’t do what we’re doing. Obviously, Lindy Hop looks a lot more complicated than the 4-count Jitterbug that most people do at the Tuesday night dance.

Don’t get me wrong; there are people who find us to be very approachable, who come ask us about lessons and other dances around town and even compliment us on our dancing. But it’s just as often that we hear about someone calling us elitist and stuck up.

Come on, let’s not be high schoolers about this. At least say it to my face. I’m more than willing to have the issue out with someone and even apologize if I’ve done something wrong.

I can see where some people are coming from. I can recall seeing the really cool kids in high school, being all cool with their friends as I watch intently, wishing I was one of them, wishing that they would just come over and talk to me. But they’re too busy being attractive athletes, flaunting their bodies around with their friends and laughing and having the time of their lives. God, they suck. They’re bad and mean people for ignoring me the way they have.

And then 5 years later I realized why they never came to talk to me. Because instead of eating lunch in the cafeteria like everyone else, I spent my lunches in the bathroom with my one other friend eating my bologna and cheese sandwich and knitting or playing Magic. Funny how that works.

It’s really about a lack of education. This isn’t much of an issue at the Saturday dance that Brett Dahlenburg and I run because the drop-in lesson is East Coast Swing, almost everyone is doing Lindy Hop, and I make a point to dance with every lead in the room and to talk to them while we’re dancing so we can get to know each other a little better. Lindy Hop is all around them and they’re not only used to seeing it, but used to the music we prefer to dance to. Plus, the dance is a quarter of the size of the Tuesday night dance, so it’s much easier to get to know everyone there.

But there’s a different group that runs the Tuesday night dance though, where the main lesson is 6-count Jitterbug, most people are doing 4-count Jitterbug to ridiculously fast Rock-a-billy music, and there’s far too many people to even think about dancing with everyone in the room. And no one ever listens to the announcements we make there about all the classes, events and dances that we’re organizing or see the flyers we personally put in each person’s hand to even know that they have the opportunity to learn if they want to. So it makes sense that when these Tuesday nighters see the lindy hoppers waltz in straight to the front of the room and do all this fancy shmancy Lindy Hop that they: 1. feel insecure about their own dancing, even if it’s something they only do once in a while and 2. makes the lindy hoppers look like they’re hot shots, and that they probably think they’re hot shots.

The funny thing is that most, if not all of the lindy hoppers feel just as insecure about their dancing as everyone else there, if not more.

Would it change their perception of us if we didn’t dance in front of the room? Probably not, as it never has before. Would it change if we spent the whole night doing 4-count Jitterbug and not dancing with each other at all? Perhaps, but as soon as we danced with our friends again, we’d be acting elitist.

The point is, if you’re going to dig on me or my friends, come say it to my face. The fact that I have to hear you talking about me behind my back within earshot is: 1. pretty immature 2. makes it obvious that you probably didn’t form your own opinion and haven’t done your research on the issue and 3. doesn’t make you look any better than what you’re accusing me of.

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About Rachel

Rachel Green is an avid lindy hopper, instructor, performer and bad mamma jamma. She's also the co-owner of Rhythm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a community-oriented venue dedicated to Lindy hop and to freelance dance instructors. When Rachel isn't dancing, teaching, or organizing, she's usually picking pennies up off the ground or trying to win at dutch blitz. View all posts by Rachel

2 responses to “Who’s The Elitist Now?

  • Sarah

    I hear your frustration. I encountered the same thing when I was an undergrad running the swing club at my university. We found out that among some of the other dancers around campus, my partner and ‘crew?’ were (pardon me) “Lindy Nazis”. o.0 We could never figure out exactly why.

    Lindy Hop was our favorite dance, but we we danced with everyone and when we followed, we worked with our leads and did they dance they were doing. We taught classes both in Lindy and in East Coast/Jitterbug…?

    It’s a little mystifying. I do think it comes from the Lindy Hop being a dance that requires lots of training to be good at. It’s not something you pick up in 30 min, so if you know Lindy, it separates you from people who don’t.

    Should that lead people to be insecure and/or snotty? Nopers.

  • Dance Elitism | TwinRAM

    […] Lindy snobbbery – part of my rails against this label, as I like to think of myself as inclusive, “I’ll try to understand everyone’s dance styles” and “I may love lindy hop but your dance has its merits too”.  I like to think that lindy is easy to get into,  via east coast swing and similar simple patterns, and that it’s very much easily danceable at many tempos, to many different kinds of music. There are definitely different styles and differing philosophies on how the dance works, but we seem to get along quite well. And it’s an easy to recognise “popular” dance style – or, perhaps more accurately, it was a popular dance style. […]

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