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Safer Dance Spaces – How to resolve a concern directly

Sharing a concern with someone who has made you uncomfortable is very difficult. Here are some communication steps that may help! If you still feel uncomfortable, you should reach out to the event organizer or an event volunteer.

Feedback is best given in a private conversation, but we recommend staying in a public space where others can help if needed.

  1. Describe the observable behaviour that caused discomfort (rather than commenting on the person). Starting feedback with “I noticed” or “I saw/heard” may be a helpful way to structure this first step, but it’s also okay to make a statement about a literal action someone took.
  2. Describe the consequences and effects of their behaviour. This involves sharing how their behaviour and your needs conflicted, and how you felt about it. It is important to talk about the impact on you (or the affected person).
  3. Make a clear request. Repeat what your needs are in a direct way.
  4. If the person doesn’t respond to Step 3 automatically, ask a question that prompts them to share their thoughts on the conflict resolution process. For example, you could ask, “How do you feel about what I just said?” Alternatively, you could ask the person to repeat what they understood.

Example: Giving feedback on concerning behaviour that affects you directly

  1. You dipped me really low at the end of that dance.
  2. I’m a new dancer, and I don’t really feel comfortable with such a deep dip. I haven’t learned how, and it makes me nervous.
  3. Could we finish a dance in a different way, at least until I tell you I feel comfortable with dips?
  4. What do you think?

Example: Giving feedback on concerning behaviour that you’ve observed

  1. I noticed you’ve spent a lot of time talking and dancing with Marie tonight. I think it’s her first night here, and she hasn’t really had a chance to talk to other people or dance with other people.
  2. You’ve been part of the scene for a while, so you know that swing dance is a social dance where we encourage people to change partners and meet new people, if that makes them comfortable. As a new dancer, Marie might not know she can decline a dance.
  3. It’s great when people are friendly and dance with new people, but could you give her a little more space? Maybe you could introduce her to other leads?
  4. How do you feel about what I just said?

Example: Checking in with someone who might not be okay

  1. Hi, I’m Anny, one of the event volunteers. Welcome to Swing Out! I just wanted to chat with you for a second. Is that okay?! (in private) How’s your first night going? I noticed that John has been spending a lot of time with you tonight, and that you haven’t had a chance to dance with others.
  2. I thought you might be feeling a little unsure about the situation, so I just wanted to check in to make sure you felt comfortable.
  3. It’s important to us that you know you can decline a dance. Swing dance is a social dance, so you can break away from a partner after a dance and ask someone new to dance. We don’t want people to feel like they have to dance with someone repeatedly or out of politeness.
  4. How are you feeling about it?

Improving your dance – how to give and ask for feedback

Here are some great tips from Canadian Swing Dance Champions:

Asking for dance feedback

Asking/Receiving Tip

✓✓ Do Say ✓✓

✗✗ Don’t Say ✗✗

Ask a specific question, don’t ask for a general evaluation “Do you feel I gave you enough support in that dip?” “Any feedback?”
Ask them in advance to signal you when/if they notice a particular error. “Can you please tell me if I grip your fingers too much? After the song is over: “How were my fingers?”
Ask for personal preferences “Do you prefer a stronger push here?” “How hard am I supposed to push?”
Ask for a quick check-in during a
dance, not a long-answer question.
“Am I giving you enough
“So how does this ‘stretch’ thing work?”
Teachers are not automatically
critiquing you. Don’t troll for freebies.
Before a dance: “Would you mind checking my _______?” And the end: “Can you give me any pointers?”
Request an experienced partner to give you specific opportunities. To an experienced dancer: “I’m working on spinning. Would you mind giving me a bunch of spin moves?” To a beginner dancer: “Spin me more!”

Giving dance feedback

Asking/Receiving Tip

✓✓ Do Say ✓✓

✗✗ Don’t Say ✗✗

Use “I” messages “I’m not feeling where you want me to go” You’re not leading it properly”
Focus on the skill or body part, not the person “I feel a lot of tension in your arm” “You’re too heavy”
Avoid commands “Oops, need more room please!” “Get out of my space!”
Use specific examples, if possible “When I catch your back, I need you to keep going back into my connection” “Your return doesn’t feel right”
Don’t exaggerate “Once in a while I feel pulled out of balance” “You never let me sink in”
Make a request: “Can you give me more compression here, please?” “You’re too squishy!”
Avoid “don’ts” “Remember your frame!” “Don’t break your frame!”
Be constructive, not critical “I think it might work better if you move your hand higher” “Your hand is too low”
Don’t teach; refer to a teacher “That sounds like a great question to ask my teacher.” “That’s not right – let me show you how to do it”


Who to contact for help in the case of sexual assault

Read this helpful resource created by the University of Manitoba