Over the past year, I went from being a full time employee at a non-profit and doing dance on the side, to doing dance and part-time food delivery, to being a part-time admin at a software company in order to do more teaching and traveling for dance. Looking back on these transitions, and the financial implications of all of them, has had me thinking a lot about the relative perceived value of different kinds of work.
Body work, or work that involves the body outside of the medical field, is seen as relatively low value, despite it’s impact on physical and psychological well-being. “But Laney,” you say, “it’s not low value. People charge a lot of money for private lessons/teaching dance/massage/acupuncture/etc.” And you’re partially right – people charge a fairly high hourly rate for those types of things – up to and exceeding $100/hour, in some cases. The key there, however, is hourly. Many folks who provide these types of services do not come anywhere close to billing 40 hours per week. The closer one comes to doing work that is sanctioned by the western medicine behemoth, the more legitimate the work seems to mainstream society, and the more likely it is to provide an actual living.
Dance in general, social dance in particular, and street dances even more, are not viewed as valuable on a broad scale. There is, of course, a community of people that do value it, and spend many of their precious (and often scarce) extra dollars on dances, lessons, events, and performances. However, The Public does not see it as providing something that many people need and/or want.
Personally, dancing in general, social dancing particularly, and specifically blues and lindy hop are all incredibly valuable to me. They have given me a community. They add beauty and pleasure to my life. They also open me to *all* of life – blues music expresses so many things, and a lot of them are not pretty, or happy, or good. As I have become more educated about blues music and dancing, I have also become more concerned with social justice, and more engaged in issues that affect the whole country. There is much to be gained from dancing beyond the obvious of fun and meeting people – and I think those things are important and worth being spread.
There are a few currently running events that are doing the work of opening up our communities to the wider world – Boston Blend and Burque Blues Blowout are the ones that come to mind. Creating choreography and sharing amazing performances can serve this purpose as well. In Minnesota, we’re finally starting to work with the Blues (music) Society to collaborate on various projects.
What is your scene doing? What can you do?