Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What does STEPS mean?
How did it come about?
What is the ‘global discussion’?
Why is it called STEPS?
Won’t this whole discussion of sexual assault and codes of conduct thing just scare new dancers away?
I’m a dance organiser/teacher and I’ve never seen anything like this is all my years in the scene, aren’t you all overreacting?
Why should our dance organisation have a code of conduct?
Why should we adopt the STEPS code?
How do we adopt the code?
We’re based outside of the UK, can we use the code?
Our dance group is interested in using the code but we aren’t Lindy Hoppers, is this OK?
My dance group doesn’t have a code of conduct, is this bad?
Aren’t you all just a bunch of killjoys?
How does the code work in the case of malicious, or otherwise untrue reports?
Seriously, we think this whole website is wrong! What are you doing to reflect our views?
What does The U.N.C.L.E. mean?
Can we be listed on the U.N.C.L.E. calendar, as it appears on the Safety in Swing Dance website?
Who created Safety in Swing Dance?

What does STEPS mean?

Safety, Trust, Engagement, Prevention, Support
STEPS’ for short!

  • Safety for everyone
  • Trust that feedback and complaints will be handled appropriately and in confidence
  • Engagement of organisers, teachers, DJ’s, door personnel etc to make events safe
  • Prevention of incidents early on
  • Support across different scenes

are some of the elements in the STEPS code.

How did it come about?

The STEPS code and the Safety in Swing Dance website is a local response to the global discussions on safety taking place within the Lindy Hop community, inspired by a January 2015 blog post by Sarah Sullivan.
Local discussions took place primarily on the Chester Swing Dance Society Facebook group, where the conversation naturally evolved. A summary of those discussions can be viewed here.

Essentially, a number of Northern scene organisers and dance teachers were working on the same project at the same time, and so decided to pool resources and work together.
The multiple voices involved in the project have been extremely important, in both a practical, shared workload sense, AND in a philosophical, ideological sense.

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What is the ‘global discussion’?

During January and February 2015, the topic of safety in the Swing dance community has been discussed across a variety of social media.

The topic itself is not a new one, but the methods for communicating are. Ideas and information can now be ‘shared’ and ‘tumbl’d’ and even those far away are able to participate. What was once a private concern is now a public one, and this openness has inspired many teachers and organisers across the world to make a renewed commitment to providing safer dance spaces.

A number of topical blog posts from various Swing dancers worldwide, including Sarah Sullivan’s, are linked to from our Resources page.
We don’t necessarily agree with every opinion expressed in the blogs and their subsequent comments, but we do think every voice should be heard.

Collecting these posts together forms a context for the local discussion, and the resultant STEPS code.

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Why is it called STEPS?

This is something that the code originators discussed at length, but in summary:

The earliest discussions took place publicly, on Facebook, and most of those that participated had already collaborated on a different project, The U.N.C.L.E.
When we started to discuss a name for the code,  at first, another familial title seemed an obvious choice. However, concerns about the use of a ‘gendered’ name were voiced, and after 12 public nominations for a new name, STEPS won an online vote.

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Won’t this whole discussion of sexual assault and codes of conduct thing just scare new dancers away?

We can’t pretend that we haven’t worried about that too – despite the large global community, Lindy Hop is still a fairly niche hobby in the UK, especially outside of London. Like you, we want our scene to grow and flourish – the last thing we want to do is scare people off by handing out Rape Crisis leaflets.

This is why we’ve made the main STEPS code into a broad ‘good guidelines for social behaviour’ document – we already have laws to protect us against crime, so of course we follow those laws when the situation dictates it. The code is designed to help us deal with the specific problems of our specific community. It suggests actions for everyone that will contribute to a lovely environment and we hope, prevent needless isolation.

We aren’t making posters for venues or producing scary contracts for new dancers to sign – right now the code is just one additional page for your website that will clear up any confusion as to what is and isn’t acceptable at our events, and show those that need additional support how they can access it.

We ask users of the code to link back to the main site so that anyone seeking clarification can easily find it, but so that it isn’t there to scare people on first glance.

In future, we hope to make some little colour hand outs, for organisers to add to their leaflet tables, if they wish.

The Lindy scene is already really pretty darn safe (compared to say, night clubbing, or even some of the raunchier partner dances) and we’re just trying to keep in that way.

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I’m a dance organiser/teacher and I’ve never seen anything like this is all my years in the scene, aren’t you all over reacting?

You’re lucky! We’ve seen it, or know of it, and some of us have even experienced it first hand.
In the last 15 years at least three high-status Swing dance international community members have been imprisoned for sexual offences. Considering most cases of rape and sexual assault are not reported (see some statistics here) it’s extremely likely that those three cases are the tip of the iceberg.

Lindy Hop is fantastic, and it attracts some truly wonderful people, so yes, we’d all love to believe that abuse doesn’t happen here but once, no one wanted to believe that 1970s disc jockeys or children’s television presenters were involved in crimes of sexual violence.
Look how that turned out.

There has been some discussion in the Swing community about the concept of “willful blindness” and it does seem to have some relevance here:

The interesting thing is that wilful blindness can be due to emotional investment and a subconscious belief that we are personally powerless.

The amazing thing is that if you LOVE Lindy Hop and/or other types of Swing dancing, and are a part of the international community (even if all you do is turn up to dance a few times a year) you can make a difference.

Learn more about willful blindness here.

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Why should our dance organisation have a code of conduct?

Because Sarah’s story was not an isolated incident, and because we all have a responsibility to build safety into the the events we run and attend.
That’s not to say that a code of conduct will solve all problems, rather we consider it to be a tool that can be used alongside other community actions. See ‘Notes for Organisers‘ and ‘Notes for Dancers‘ for more information.

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Why should we adopt the STEPS code?

For starters, it’s free! Plus, the majority of the work is already complete, and you’ll be part of a broad, but still local, network committed to improving safety in the Swing dance community. You can see the whole ‘family’ over here.

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How do we adopt the code?

All the info you need is on this page.

We’re based outside of the UK, can we use the code?

Nope, sorry!

This code was designed to compliment UK culture and law – your own country is likely to have many differences and you’ll need a code that is appropriate to you. Feel free to use this site as a template for your own work – we started with an online public discussion, a summary is available to view, along with other inspirational material via our Resources page).

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We’re interested in using the code but we aren’t Lindy Hoppers, is this OK?

Maybe! The code was discussed and devised in the context of vintage, vernacular, swing dances (Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, Charleston etc). It’s less relevant to solo dances like Jazz, because they don’t require the intimacy of touch. It’s almost definitely not suitable for Alt Blues, Fusion, Salsa or Argentine Tango because the tone of the dances is quite different, and the cultural expectations are too.

Once again though, we’re happy for you to use this as a template for your own code. We started with a public online discussion, which you can view a summary of via our Resources page.

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My dance group doesn’t have a code of conduct, is this bad?

Not necessarily. Most Swing dance organisers have been discretely attending to the issues surrounding safety for years, and have been rather successful at it. However, this success has allowed the myth that ‘nothing bad happens in Lindy Hop’ to flourish, which is why some organisers are now looking to make their safety work more visible. There are also concerns that some incidents may have gone unreported, simply because there is no clear way to make reports, and no way of gauging what is reportable.

Notes for Organisers‘, ‘Notes for Dancersand the ‘Summary of Discussion’ have further information on these topics.

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Aren’t you all just a bunch of killjoys?

Humph. We’d like to think not!

The STEPS Code isn’t about ruining anyone’s good time – we can still drink booze (of course we can! Why else would we hold events in licensed venues?) and we certainly aren’t suggesting that dancers aren’t allowed to form romantic relationships at our events (including, a-hem, extremely short relationships). As long as relationships are consensual they are not an issue – however, it’s worth noting that the National Crown Prosecution Service/Police Conference on Rape Investigation and Prosecution gave very clear direction on the definition of sexual consent in January 2015 and some points made are particularly relevant to this discussion..

… but as long as y’all are staying LEGAL and the romantic relationships that ARE formed are not based on exploitative behaviours or abuses of power and status, it’s none of our business!

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How does the code work in the case of malicious, or otherwise untrue reports?

We believe this is covered in the very first clause of our Code of Conduct. Defamation of character (including libel and slander) is prohibited by several UK laws, including those that relate to Harassment.

Read more here, here, and here.

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Seriously, we think this whole website is wrong! What are you doing to reflect OUR views?

The Code of Conduct and it’s supporting documents can’t represent all opinions, it’s just not possible.

We’d still love to listen to you though, to find out why you’re so opposed, and hear about your own proposed solutions.
We’ve started a Facebook discussion group for that reason, as well as to make our previous more low key discussions more accessible to all. Come and join it. It’s aimed at organisers and teachers in the UK, (although anyone can view it) but we’d love to hear from non-staff dancers with a particular interest in safety too. We’re hoping it’ll be a place for information and education, much like the US based Safety Dance group (link on our Resource page).

We’re also happy to link to critiques of this website, or to online discussions or blogs that take opposing views. Multiple voices are important to the whole Safety in Swing philosophy, and that includes disagreeable voices!

We do expect you to be polite, and to use respectful language – to quote from Safety Dance;

* Sexist, homophobic, transphobic, racist, ableist, and other hateful language will not be tolerated.
* This is not a space for debating the validity of others’ experiences, especially in cases of harassment or assault
* It’s not okay to tell someone else how they should feel

As long as your critique or viewpoint is not hateful, and does not negate the experience of others, we will happily engage with you and link to you.

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What does The U.N.C.L.E. mean?

In this context, The U.N.C.L.E stands for ‘The United Northern Calendar of Lindy Hop Events’. It was founded by Richard Colley (Aspirations Dance) and Emma Apple (Chester Swing Dance Society) in 2014, and is another instance of the coming together of a variety of North West groups and scenes.

Can we be listed on the U.N.C.L.E. calendar, as it appears on the Safety in Swing Dance website?

If your dance organisation has adopted the code, and you run events in the North of England then, yes, absolutely! Simply set up your own Google calendar and send an email to kortelainen.taina (at) gmail (dot) com with the title, ‘Please sync me, U.N.C.L.E!’

We’ll also accept requests from non-STEPS dance organisations based in the North, but we do expect you to have a published code of conduct of your own, or to be able demonstrate your commitment to safety in some other way.

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Who created Safety in Swing Dance?

Safety in Swing Dance is collaborative effort.
The website is owned and maintained by Taina Kortelainen (of Would You Dance?) and Paula Hardy Kangelos (Manchester Lindy Committee) but the content is a collation of many voices, directly and indirectly See the Resources page for more information.

The code of conduct was devised by Paula and Taina, Emma Apple, Ali Bohm, Tessa Smith, Jane Inckle and Bruce Hitchcock with input from Andrew Wilson and in consultation with Inspector Brett Rutty, a serving officer with Humberside Police.

We continue to welcome further ideas and input!

Any more questions? Comment below!

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