The International Square Dance Magazine

Pamela Bailis

Pamela Bailis brings up some very important points that should be on every caller, cuer, and dance leaders mind as they put on dances and participate in dance related events. Being inclusive in our dancing and socializing gives more people the opportunity to really enjoy this wonderful activity we all share and love.

Social Justice concerns equity and fair access, in many areas of our lives, including dancing. Creating caring communities of dancers wherever we dance, in class or at club dances, should be a major focus for social justice on the dance floor.

Social Justice on the dance floor implies that callers (at dances and in classes), class coordinators, club officials, and we dancers interact and work collaboratively, as “team-players” to insure that all dancers are engaged and included. Yes, “it takes a village” to support all of the players in our sport and to promote and insure the longevity and joy we all experience as dancers. It’s about inclusiveness, building strong connections and bonds between us, and creating collegiality and compassion amongst all of us.

I would like to suggest that callers and club officials at all classes and dances take responsibility for setting the context for social justice on the dance floor. This would mean that announcements include reminders about:

• Pre-setting up squares is discouraged
• Sensitivity to including new dancers (graduates) who are ready to dance at the level of the dance
• Maintaining a solo dancers rotation
• Perhaps rotating plus and mainstream tips
• Share your partners
• Reminders about this are on-going and included regularly in club newsletters
• Truly welcoming all of us, as family, at all of our dances.

This isn’t a big deal to do. It would mean that callers set the context at the beginning of each dance reminding all of us dancers that everyone should help make sure that everyone dances. Many couples have partners who don’t want to dance every tip. Partners could dance with a solo person just once or split a tip. Also, having a place to meet (with a large, readable sign) for solo dancers is a good idea. This is usually done at large festivals and National Conventions.

It has come to our attention (again) that many club and non-club dancers prefer to dance exclusively with one another. Other couples (even experienced dancers) are excluded from their pre-set up squares. Dancing with your friends and club members is fine and fun...but not for every single tip. This practice is socially unjust, unkind and does not support social justice on the dance floor. Please save a tip or more for other folks who are visiting your dances.

Another area of social in-justice concerns folks walking out of squares when other dancers enter. This practice is selfish, inconsiderate and unkind. Would any of us like to see that happen to us?

All dancers should be welcome, with or without partners. It would be everyone’s responsibility to make sure that all dancers actually dance. I realize that many dancers from the same club prefer to only dance with one another. This practice is irresponsible, unprofessional, and demonstrates exclusivity. Many folks, including experienced dancers, are often left out.

This issue of solo dancers is important for many reasons. Many couples break up, or one partner is ill or dies. Should that mean that the other partner doesn’t dance? Often times it’s difficult to find a partner before a convention or a dance. Should folks stay home and NOT dance? In addition, there are many solo men and women who begin classes without a partner as a fun, social activity, but end up dropping out or reluctant to continue because they don’t have a regular partner. Solo dancers should not be discriminated against. It’s not some disease or handicap. Many folks will find themselves without a partner sooner or later. We, as a group of caring professionals, callers, educators, and dancers should embrace all folks who continue to dance – with or without a partner. Our sport will flourish if everyone is included and not excluded because of a loss of a partner.

One important strategy is for gals to learn the man’s part, and vice versa. This would also help a lot, and should be encouraged (vs. discouraged) by class callers or class coordinators. Another strategy for including all dancers is to split or share the tip. Solo dancers can trade off, some doing the first part of the tip (pattern part) and others doing the second (singing) part of the tip. Also I’ve seen dancers “share” a tip by one person or one couple “jumping in and out” as appropriate. All of these work well, when given much support and reinforcement by callers and class instructors, practicing social justice on the dance floor.

I make these suggestions to keep our sport healthy, alive, and flourish. Not just surviving, but THRIVING! We don’t want to lose dancers who don’t have regular partners or couples who feel excluded. It’s up to all of us to take action and prevent this from happening. “It takes a village...” All of us interacting together to form a collaborative community of caring and responsive dancers...committed to forging pathways to Social Justice on the Dance Floor!

Pamela Bailis has been square and round dancing for 13 years. She’s been on the Board of two different clubs, served as President of the Red Ribbon Squares for three years, and is currently serving as a Senior District Director for the Associated Square Dancers of California. She is also Chairperson for the High Fliers, which is a group that visits and tours the city hosting the National Square/Round Dance Convention each year.

Pamela worked in the UCLA Graduate School of Education for over 30 years in the Teacher Education Program, training and supervising California credential candidates. Although retired for three years, she still is invited back to teach a couple courses each year.

Fun set to music!