At the 2nd annual Design 4 Dance conference about 2 weeks ago, during National Dance Week, I found an amazing community of people that could not have been more aligned with the Dance Lab mission to help everyone enjoy and do more dancing. This was actually the theme of the conference – what can we do to get more people to dance?
With many amazing speakers and dance “catalysts”, there was more great information and inspiration than can be summed in a blog post. But the key conversation that I’d really like to continue was actually the most intense, almost contentious, issue: using the word “dance” when trying to get people to dance.
On one hand, many folks there related stories of how the word ‘dance’ can actually be “toxic” or counterproductive because for many people there’s a lot of baggage and negative emotion attached to the word. Several people even stated that to succeed in getting people up and moving, just call it anything else except ‘dance’.
On the other hand, there were strong feelings in the room about treating something many of us are so passionate about as a bad word.
Myself, I am convinced and dedicated to the mission of reclaiming the word, reframing what “dance” means in American society. We acknowledge the baggage that’s there now and actively recast it every chance we get.
Avoiding the word is a short-term hack that helps a few people. Cultural change is how we make the biggest difference in the long run.
And it really is American culture that needs the most reframing here. It was noted at the conference that many other cultures around the world don’t have issues with dance – it’s just a natural part of their customs and traditions, where pretty much everyone assumes you dance. It’s the U.S. culture, with its emphasis on competition, how you look, and judgment of others achievements that can make dance scary and uncomfortable.
This topic gets me so energized that one of my favorite ideas to come out of the Design4Dance conference was the #danceis hashtag campaign. The basic idea was to get people to post about what dance is to them, personally, showing the world that dance means something different to each person and each meaning is valid.
The Dance Labs team got excited about this idea and came up with dozens of different phrases to complete #danceis. We then want use a single phrase each day for a month to set a daily theme for the hashtag.
So, let’s do this! Look at the month of June in the Dance Labs calendar for the theme of the day.
The only thing I ask is that we post words, phrases and pictures under this hashtag that help cast the word “dance” in a way that feels accessible to everyone. Make it personal, but try to avoid things that would make people think “dance is not for me”. A gorgeous picture of a ballet dancer in mid-flight may be inspiring to some, but can also be very inaccessible to a lot of the people we’re trying to reach.
Of course, since the #danceis idea is so core to the Dance Labs mission, we’ll keep posting along these lines long after the 30 days. Let’s see how far we can make this go!