As social dancers, we navigate a complex world of body language and social relationships. Sometimes, we successfully figure them out. Other times, we don’t.
This “Bill of Rights and Obligations” is designed to give all dancers a guideline for how they should expect to be treated, and how they are expected to treat others.
Note: “expect to be treated” doesn’t mean that you will be treated that way – but it does mean that if you are not treated that way, it is wrong and should not be tolerated.
Bill of Rights
You always have the right to:
- Be treated with human decency at all times.
- Not be discriminated against based on your age, weight, height, gender, race, ability, sexual orientation, etc.*
- Personal safety and security, including freedom from sexual harassment, in all places.*
- Decline dances or interactions with anyone, at any time, for any reason.
- Dance within your ability, safety and comfort level.
- Refuse to do movements that you don’t want to do, or feel uncomfortable or unsafe doing.
- Speak up in situations or dances that jeopardize your well-being.
- Leave a dance at any time for any reason.*
Bill of Obligations
As a member of the community, you are obligated to:
- Treat others with human decency at all times.
- Not discriminate against others.
- Not harass, insult, or assault other members of the community.
- Accept ‘No’s given by potential or current partners.
- Not injure or put your partners at risk during a dance.
- Respect the limitations or requests of your partners.
- Ensure your partners are consenting to all activities you do with them, on or off the floor.
This is different from a right or obligation. These are not ‘baseline’ minimums; these are what is commonly accepted as the ‘right’ thing to do etiquette-wise.
- If you are declining to do something (like a dance or movement), be polite and kind.
- If your partner says ‘No’ to anything, be gracious and don’t press the matter further.
- If you say yes to a dance, engage fully with your dance partner – regardless of level.
- Avoid teaching on the floor whenever possible.
- Maintain good hygiene.
- Avoid movements that are widely disliked by a scene, unless you know your partner likes it (for example: touching the face of your partner, lifts, dips and drops).
- If you see a fellow dancer struggling with a disrespectful partner, ask if they would like help.
- Develop skills and strategies to deal with dangerous or disrespectful partners.
* Solving the ‘Discrimination vs. “Right to Say No” Conflict
This is an update to the original article, based on feedback from the community.
When I drafted this article, discrimination refers primarily to things that are systemic or sweeping. For example, not being allowed to join a team, class, event, activity, etc. because of a protected ground.
But, in most places, there is also ‘discrimination’ based on an individual basis for choices that directly affect the person doing the ‘discriminating’.
For example, in my Canadian province, a landlord in an apartment building may be liable for discrimination if they refuse to let people of a certain race rent an apartment, whereas an individual renting a room in their house is allowed to refuse rent to a person based on race because that person will be actively sharing the space and interacting with the individual. It may be uncool and frowned upon, but it’s not *illegal*.
So, in this case, you *have the right* to reject a dance with someone on a protected ground (even though you may be widely considered a jerk for it), but you *do not have the right* to prevent them from joining a particular activity, dance, team, etc. based on one of the protected grounds, if they’re otherwise qualified to attend.
Did we miss something? If you have something you would like to see added to any of the lists, leave it in the comments below.
From straightforward reading, the right and obligation 2 (no discrimination), and right 4 (right to decline for any reason) are in conflict. Let’s say a man declines a dance because he’s not comfortable dancing with other men, or a young girl declines an older man because of previous bad experiences with older men, or a dancer declines another because they think that other is a bad dancer. These are instances of discrimination based on sex, age and ability. In another case, a very short beginner avoids asking a very tall follower to dance because he doubts his ability to make the dance work with such different heights. That’s discrimination based on height. So if we take the no discrimination rule as the more important one, we’re pretty soon in a situation where you have an obligation to accept all dances except with known bad actors, and should pick the people you ask at random.
Or we can just say that people are allowed to discriminate as much as they want when it comes to dancing. Other people may approve or disapprove their choices or character, but they’re not really violating anyones rights by not dancing with them.
You’re right, they do appear to be in opposition.
I suppose in my drafting of those terms, I’m coming from a perspective of discrimination in a legal sense.
For example, it is illegal for a landlord of an apartment building not to rent to you because of a protected ground. But, a person renting a room in their home is allowed to ‘discriminate’ since the individual will be living within their own home.
So, in this instance, it would be unacceptable to be forced to participate or not participate in a program, dance, competition, class, etc. because of a protected ground. However, each individual reserves the *personal* right to dance/not dance with whomever they want for whatever reason they want – even if the ground is a ‘protected ground’.
If you want this list to be “bulletproof”, mabye these two points (+ point 8) should be modified a little:
1) Not be discriminated against based on your age, weight, height, gender, race, ability, sexual orientation, etc.
3) Decline dances or interactions with anyone, at any time, for any reason.
If I understand it correctly, my right is not to be discriminated in any way. But at a same time I can reject dances and interaction for any reason (= I dont like that other party is black, old, gay,…) 😀
I’m not sure where to ask this, but recently i ran into a fellow social dancer at a concert. We decided to dance together, and half-way through the dance i realized she was filming us. She didn’t mention it, either before or after, and I didn’t quite know what/if anything, so say. This person is an aspiring teacher, even though she is not yet teaching as far as I know. She is also very young (early 20s). What are your thoughts on this?
I’m not Laura but since there are no replies yet I just wanted to make sure you were able to resolve the issue the way you feel comfortable.
Did she have a third party filming the dance, or was the camera on her? In either case, she should have asked you for your consent to be filmed and published – since you never signed any release form, you have the legal right to ask her to take down the footage (I’m assuming she had published it on social media- even if she hadn’t, you can ask her to never publish it in the future), if you don’t want the footage to be shared in public.
If you’ve seen the footage and are okay with it being published -just feeling exploited and uncomfortable that she didn’t ask for your consent- it’s still a good idea to have a chat with her to let her know that what she did was illegal and could potentially get her in a lot of trouble. Hopefully she will have enough sense to realize her fault and apologize.
If the person filming the dance was third party, it can make matters more complicated; but assuming they were filming at her request, I would definitely start with her. (If you also personally know the third party, it’s a good idea to also have a chat with them about the legalities too)
A few suggestions on the distinction between Non-discrimination and the Right to Say No
Individuals have a right to discriminate in their personal preferences which is embodied in their right to say no.
Proposed change to your Bill of Rights
They also have the right to:
2. Not be discriminated against based on [superficial characteristics] by the dance community.
Proposed changes to your Bill of Obligations
This creates a concomitant obligation to:
2. Not tolerate discrimination against any member by the dance community.
3. Not harass, insult, or assault other members of the community or allow others to do so.
4. Encourage community members to welcome and dance with all types of people who come to public dance events and help them enjoy their dance experience.
Renumber the remaining Obligations.
You might want to also revise the Best Practices accordingly.
Great articles. You’re a treasure for the dance community.