I’m sorry for losing my temper.  That normally doesn’t happen, but Swing Scene… we need to talk.

While teaching at a large Lindy event last month I had to apologize to a class for yelling at them because two different students were filming Evita and me during class.  Rather, I chose to apologize because for me, losing one’s cool is not professional, and I didn’t feel good for having done so. But let me be clear. I don’t regret content of my message, just how it was delivered.

Despising the Rock Stars We Create:

I wonder at what point it became acceptable to casually whip out your camera to film others without their consent? When does the student cross the line to become the consumer, where filming teachers automatically comes with the price of admission?  I can’t begin to tell you how invasive it feels to have someone take their camera (usually a smart phone) and point it at you, especially when they’ve not even asked you first?  You see, we talk about the deplorable “Rock Star” mentality that some instructors possess, but what should we expect when we treat teachers as such. It might be hyperbole to say that students become the paparazzi worthy of an episode of TMZ, but it can feel that invasive, all the same, and I’d suggest that it perpetuates this culture of rock stardom.

Sustainable Economies:

Perhaps our quaint swing subculture is simply a microcosm of the greater society of which we are all apart, in as much as we are increasingly detached from each other and more out for our own self-interests. What I mean is that people talk about how giving and wonderful this community is yet, we seem to take from each other in a transactional way that often leaves me feeling more disenchanted with it all. There have been numerous times at Herräng, according to many the standard bearer of Lindy Hop dance camps, where, as Evita and I are finishing a class, people from outside the “classroom” (which is actually an over-sized tent) will run to the open flaps, whip out their cameras and begin filming! Along with being rude and disrespectful to the teachers, it’s also disrespectful to the students who paid for that class with their time, energy and actual money. I’d also argue that it’s stealing from the event organizers who are paying those teachers to teach that class, yet getting no compensation from the pilfering passersby. Because if everyone just ran up at the end of class to film, then why should anyone be foolish enough to pay for it? Further, if that class content were to end up on YouTube for everyone to access, then why would students need to attend future workshops when the material is available for free?

The Way We Were:

At the risk of sounding dated and curmudgeonly, I’ll say, “in my day, we weren’t allowed to film teachers during or after class.” In fact, most (if not none) of them didn’t even offer class recaps, so at the end of a class there was a scramble to find a couple (hopefully one better than you and your partner) who would be willing to dance the sequence for you while hold your camcorder as steady as possible.  If you weren’t fortunate enough to own a camcorder, then you’d scrawl the most important notes, tips and pointers that you could remember regarding the gold nuggets of wisdom and inspiration that the teachers had divulged. As for all that, I’m not suggesting that we became better faster, but I believe that we developed a stronger sense of ownership over our education. And I’ll also suggest that with all of our technological advancements, students also haven’t gotten much better faster, and if anything, they have just plateaued better faster.

So What?

Now, I used Herräng as an example, but it certainly isn’t the only place where this has happened to us, and I’m not putting the blame solely on organizers to enforce filming policies. I think clear boundaries should be set from the top and then adhered to by the teachers and students so that expectations can be managed. If you’re an instructor in your local scene, teach your students about etiquette, and not just in your classroom, but also when they visit other scenes and bigger events. As a student, if you’re that worried about filming the class content, approach the teacher before the class to clarify their policies.

As adults, I would love to see us all use our words and ask teachers if it’s alright to film. But again, think about other ways in which you can be an active, present learner while you’re in the classroom instead of just getting that souvenir at the end of class. I think people’s attention spans are shorter now, and students can struggle to stay present and engaged for even an hour-long class. I’d recommend buying a dance journal/diary and bringing it with you to each class.  Actively taking notes while the teacher is talking keeps you engaged in the learning process, and at the very least, you’ll have more space on your phone for cat videos and selfies.


What do you think? Are teachers entitled to dictate how their image is captured or has our cultured progressed to a point where this isn’t an issue?  Let me know what you think in the comments section below.