Fusion, as a partner dance concept, is a very new thing. It’s so new that we are still debating what the word means. This debate is complicated by the fact that many people do not even realize that there are multiple definitions being used. By my count, there are three distinct camps in the Great Fusion Debate.
Andrew Sutton, one of the first people to discuss fusion and an early promoter, instructor and organizer of the Fusion Exchange, defines fusion as “fusing your movement to your partners movement to the music”. This is the philosophical definition. It does not define a dance, but a way of dancing. (Or, more specifically, a way of conceptualizing partner dance.) In this definition, fusion is a way of approaching partner dancing. The actual dance style is irrelevant, all partnered dance can be done as fusion.
This is the first “fusion as dance” category. In this style partners fuse their respective dance experience to create a new aesthetic. Each partnership has a different aesthetic, but each dance falls within this definition of fusion. (A tango dancer who dances with a blues dancer will look completely different than a blues dancer with a salsa dancer. Both are fusion dancing.) In this style of dance the important skills are a basic knowledge of multiple dance styles and how to modify your connection to match your partner. This defines not a specific dance style, but a way of dancing which incorporates multiple dance styles.
This is the second “fusion as dance” category. In this approach, fusion isn’t a philosophy or the fusing of different styles, it’s a completely new aesthetic. There is a (or multiple) fusion basic(s) and there are fusion dances events with fusion music. The exact definition of these concepts is still being decided, but they are being discussed and used. This definition is analogous to the definition of blues, lindy hop, or tango. There is a subtle difference this definition and Fusion-as-Fusion. Fusion-as-Fusion is a skill set one learns, this is an entirely new dance aesthetic based many extant dance styles, as well as other partnered disciplines such as acro-yoga and partnered improv.
So . . . Who Cares?
Definitions are important. They allow us to have a unified approach to the things we do. If you go to a “fusion” event, are people going to be dancing Fusion-as-Fusion or Fusion-as-Aesthetic? Will you feel cheated if you take a “fusion” class and the teacher focuses on Fusion-As-Philosophy? Will these different definitions coalesce or will we end up with multiple dances with the same name?
I don’t know the answers, but it’s an exciting time to be a dancer.
Hi folks, we are proud to introduce our very first podcast in the series. An interview with the one and only Damon Stone. During the discussion, Hafsa brings up a video of Damon Stone and Heidi Fite from STLBX 2005. Here’s a link to the video that she was referring to: http://youtu.be/RNVpNbZrcX8
Blues Dance World Podcast will be specifically focused on topics of blues and fusion dance culture. These podcasts will be posted once a month, so keep an eye out for them.
Main Host: Hafsa
Producer: Andy Lee
Guest: Damon Stone
Consent is a topic that has popped up everywhere in the last year and blues dance communities all over the country are no exception. Consent is often brought up as a piece of the larger debate centered around how to make our dances safer and more welcoming places, for both new and existing members.
consent – to agree to do or allow something : to give permission for something to happen or be done
When we’re talking about consent in the dance community, there are two categories of things that ‘can be done’ that we talk about. Dance things and non dance things. This article will focus on the dance related consent issues.
The historical model for consent on the dance floor looks something like this. Men are supposed to ask women to dance. Men are often encouraged to ask non-verbally with an extended hand or enticing eyes (maybe borrowed from tango’s cabaseo). If a woman declines, she should give an excuse, then sit out the rest of the dance.
This historical model has some obvious problems. For one it disempowers women. Not only are women not allowed to dance whenever they want, but they are penalized for being discriminating about who they want to dance with. If the people you want to dance with happen to be slower than the creepy guy who always breaths on your neck, you’re out of luck. It breeds a culture of fear and mistrust in women that leads to things like refusing to make eye contact and secret signals to friends when you need a rescue from a would be dance partner. This does not help make our dance scene as welcoming as possible.
At the same time, there are good things about this model. The guys who really believe in the chivalry aspect will often escort their partner back to their seat after a dance, offer to get them water, etc. The model allows them to take on the role of gentleman, which can encourage a really wonderful sense of respect in how they treat the women in their community. Especially when looking at the men who come from tango they treat cabaseo as a way to put the power in a woman’s hands. She may decline the dances she doesn’t want, without the requirement of sitting out because nothing has been said.
So while the historical model has some unfortunate gender issues, there is a sense of politeness and respect that comes from it that can often be very nice.
New Consent Model
On the other end of the spectrum, we have a very new consent model coming primarily out of the recess community. This model prioritizes degendered initiation and explicit verbal consent. Everyone is allowed to ask everyone else to dance and verbal requests are strongly encouraged. This model also takes consent beyond just consent to dance and includes things like consent to be dipped and consent to dance in different positions. Also, a no may be given without a reason and without sitting out for the rest of the dance.
Just like the historical model, dancers often run into some issues here. For many people, asking for explicit verbal consent is scary. Especially if you can receive a no without explanation, that’s a really hard thing to handle and takes a lot of courage. Especially for new dancers, this often makes the community feel less welcoming. And asking for consent for everything, including small dips and close embrace often feels cumbersome. Finally, the degendering of the community may make some new converts uncomfortable. It is true that men especially are often uncomfortable dancing with other men, and may be uncomfortable being asked by men. This is something that may make the community less accessible to new members.
On the other hand, this model certainly has it’s benefits. It is much more empowering to women, since they can ask for dances they want, and aren’t limited by their choices not to dance with some people. An explicit consent model makes it much less likely that anyone’s boundaries will be crossed. It’s true that not everyone will be comfortable dancing in close embrace and it’s nice to have the chance to tell your partner that, rather than awkwardly holding them away with a hand on their shoulder every time they try.
Most modern blues scenes fall somewhere in between these two extremes. At most dances around the country, it is acceptable for women to ask people to dance. There is generally some combination of verbal and non-verbal dance requests, often varying based on the existing familiarity of the partners. Frequently people who know each other well will use non-verbal cues, while still using verbal requests with new people. And most modern blues scenes have become lax on the the ‘if you said no, sit out the song’ rule, though this one is still up for debate in some places.
Overall, the goal of discussing consent in dance scenes is to make those scenes as safe and welcoming for dancers as possible. How that safety is achieved is different across different scenes, and different approaches will resonate with different people. Figure out what makes you, as a dancer, feel safe and comfortable. Then engage with your partners and engage with your scene to help get those needs met. If need be, travel around and find a scene where the expectations of consent most closely match what you want to see. All these things will help make sure we each have safe, comfortable dance scenes for everyone.