Herrang Dance Camp was a whirlwind of an adventure for me this year. I had many great intentions of hanging out and being able to sell my books to some people and just chat, but most of the time I ended up doing stuff at home or chasing my child around the dance camp. Lucky for me there were lots of friendly faces to point me in the right direction.
This dance camp was the subject of controversy ahead of the start of the camp and after a two-year pause from Covid, it was a rocky start for them to get back and going again. Many people have expressed concern over how things would be handled for HDC to join the international swing dance community in acknowledging the ways in which we have been responsible for the cultural appropriation of this dance whose heritage rests with the African American people. If you want to know more and also how we can improve, CVFC has excellent resources and ongoing training:
It was also recommended to me to read the book by Seattle author, Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want To Talk About Race.
There has also been concern that HDC has also not been welcoming to those who are disabled and those from the LGBTQIA+ community. Because the topic of my book deals with gender, I decided to focus my efforts on the Queer community, but my intention was to work toward more diversity at Herräng and the dance community beyond these walls here. Since I was not taking classes and sometimes not even at the evening dances, it was a bit harder to find others to connect with. The first presentation we did -with reading the story and having a discussion about how to make the dance scene more friendly for trans and nonbinary folx - was attended by 3 people, one of whom was my neighbor that I personally invited. That was the 2nd week of the camp and to be honest, I didn't have a lot of hope of finding others that was working for change that week.
I was discouraged by my individual conversations where people either openly changed the subject when I talked about my book, or simply expressed that there was no need to talk about this because anyone can come to any dance event.
By the 3rd, and last week, I tried to lower my expectations for my presentation. But, things sort of shifted, and other people found their way to me. A small group started having discussions about diversity at Herräng and many of them came to my presentation, so we had 20 in attendance. Unfortunately, there was also a band that performed with members who had openly racist affiliations. At least the camp responded and shut it down, even though that was painful in the process. I couldn't be at all the conversations that followed or help with responding in such a public way as others did, but I was glad to lend a hand behind the scenes with my writing skills to a group that was passionate about seeing better representation and diversity in our swing dance crowd. I hope that these conversations will bubble over into new friends that gather again in future years. I hope that we will continue to have difficult conversations, show up in the ways that we are able, and find the other people that we need to find along the way.
I am exhausted both physically and emotionally, but I am also hopeful that there is a path forward that includes bringing together the people in power with those that are asking for change so that people of more diverse backgrounds can all feel welcome and included both here at Herräng Dance Camp and in other dance venues around the world.
I edited together our reading of the story with the pictures from the book itself, featuring the artwork of Jessica Gamboa. There are things in our reading that. we stumbled over and there are things in the visuals that needed more editing, but I believe sometimes we need to accept ourselves as the imperfectly perfect people that we are. To me, that means that sometimes we need to stop over-editing our recordings and be real. If you would like to check out our story reading (with music) click here. I will save our discussion insights for a separate post.
So much of the time, working on my stories by myself and struggling to get through the day as a parent, I'm not sure if I will ever make a difference. I wonder if enough people will actually read my books. I wonder if it is all worth it? And then I meet with others and read my book aloud, write more stories and revisions and my heart expands. Speaking of which - I am working on a second draft of Can't Transitions to Can and also working on the second story which will be featuring the nonbinary characters. (So, if you have a first edition of the book, you will notice that the wording is slightly different on the video - and it will change a little bit more before the second edition comes around. But, the core meaning of the story is unchanged. I am just trying to make things as simple and clear as possible for the best reading experience.)
If you would like to support my project and help spread the word, check out my pronoun pin buttons that are in the shop on my website, buy my book and share an extra copy with someone you know or your local library. I also would love to hear your stories. Reach out to me if you or someone you know would like to share your story on my blog.