Let's talk about What's Changed on Wednesdays
Each Wednesday, an historic building in the heart of Liverpool, The Black E, hosts dancers of an historical dance, the Lindy hop. We've been dancing for almost a decade, and in that time- we've made some mistakes, had some epic wins and learned a thing or two. Since classes started back after the Covid-19 restrictions, we know that some of our members are asking 'When are levelled classes coming back? When will the intermediate stuff happen?' This blog will explain where we're at and hopefully answer those questions (and more!).
With roots in African American culture, Blues, Jazz and the Harlem Renaissance- Mersey Swing aren’t attempting to re-enact history each Wednesday's Swing dancing class. Rather, we are grappling with our own city's past links to the Transatlantic slave trade, its long standing influences of immigration and how that has shaped the culture of Liverpool and how we move forward, continuing to learn from, pay respect to and celebrate the originators of this dance. In 2020, the murder of George Flloyd sparked comments in the Lindy Hop community that had already been voiced by Black dancers, and, sadly largely ignored by White dancers. So dance scenes around the world have been questioning themselves and examining where structural racism and cultural appropriation has wormed its way into Swing dancing. This will be a continuing journey.
"But what's that all got to do with Wednesday nights?!" I hear you ask! With all that in mind, as we began to think about rebooting the classes we examined how we could better share Swing dancing with our community. There's an African proverb that says:
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
As we began to restart our regular classes. The board of directors decided to not return to our old model of offering levelled classes. Instead, wherever we’re able, we’re trying to create flat, circular structures of learning, where dancers learn both from each other as well as from whoever is leading the class. It is our intention to recognise the collaborative sharing of ideas that the originators of Jazz and Swing dance experienced and to move away from the competitive, eurocentric hierarchy that the Swing dance scene has become in more recent times. We as a scene are learning, we want to be honest about that, and acknowledge our mistakes and when we see that we can do better, we'll strive toward that.
We know from Mersey Swing's classes in the past, that in times where we've had a mixture of experienced dancers and beginners, that experienced dancers still made progress and beginners progressed much faster. We will be mindful of creating lessons that are fun, engaging and challenging- we're making sure that each class starts accessible to all and gives a progressive challenge by the end. We invite you, whether you've been coming for a while, or haven't at all yet- to take charge of your own learning journey and make the most of each class. If you're not sure how to, we'd love to help and give you some ideas- you can speak to me (Hannah) or another of our experienced team (Cat, Helen, John, Normandie and Susan).
Although we remain open level for our weekly classes, our monthly workshops are a welcome challenge to dancers who are more experienced or who want to learn something new. These workshops will be a mixture of solo jazz and partnered dancing, and we're planning to introduce different Swing styles such as Collegiate Shag, Blues, Balboa and more.
We're also looking at introducing short courses again for those that would like to focus on a particular move, or Swing dance style- these will be progressive and will build skills week by week.
As always, we're open to feedback. We'll be sharing a questionnaire in October where you can tell us your thoughts, or you can speak with the Directors in person, or via email.