pennsicdance: Civility (was "peanut gallery 2")

Diana Slivinska slavicdiva at
Tue Aug 30 08:08:58 PDT 2005

Hello everyone!

Lorelei wrote:

> What I feel is splitting the group:
> - the people in the barn being called the "Great Unwashed Masses" and 
> "Dance
> Slobs" by people in the tent
> - the name calling returned by people in the barn calling people in 
> the tent
> "Dance Nazi's" and "Dance Snobs."
> - It's the story of a friend of mine, nearly in tears, told me about 
> having
> her nicer, all be it not Italian, field garb sized up by dancers she
> approached
> during the Italian 15c party- and bluntly turned down when she was 
> looking
> for a partner for a few of her favorite dances.
> - its the fact that dancers in the barn felt the need to leave when
> dancers from the tent came up and took over the space.
> All of these are things I observed directly.  Not second-hand accounts.
> What kind of role-models are any of us being when THIS is how we are 
> seen
> treating each other?

I've been lurking on this discussion for awhile now, mostly because I 
don't get to dance as much as I used to.  I'm still serving as my 
Kingdom's principal herald, and after I've been on my feet most of a 
day, my feet just don't want me on them at night, as well.  This year 
we had 7 Courts at Pennsic--end result?  I got to dance a little during 
the first week.

I am really sorry to hear about the name-calling and general incivility 
that seems to be going on among dancers of whatever stripe.  In the 
SCA, we are supposed to be "minor nobility;" I truly hope that we 
strive to emulate the better qualities of minor nobility and not the 
less-attractive ones.  Name-calling, snobbery (and reverse snobbery) 
and other forms of minor nastiness have no place in my SCA.

It could be that the "Great Unwashed Masses" comment started as a joke. 
  Unfortunately, such comments, which are often intended as an "in-joke" 
among a few cognoscenti, have a way of evolving into something bigger 
and nastier.

I dealt with something similar before I was a Kingdom Herald--I saw a 
group of my fellow heralds (from my Kingdom, no less!) sitting in the 
Barn, mercilessly making fun of armory people had submitted.  Most of 
the discussion appeared designed to demonstrate a "We're *so* superior 
because *we* know what constitutes Good Period Style (tm)" mindset.

I was appalled.  What if one of the people whose submission was being 
parodied walked by?  What does that say about "heralds" as a community? 
  Obviously, that we are a bunch of snotty people who like putting 
others down.  A great deal of that mindset and those comments came 
about because a couple of the older, stronger voices in that community 
(i.e., people who were looked to as "leaders") made comments like that, 
and many of the younger people modeled their behaviour on what they saw 
from their "leaders."  Generally, I avoided hanging out with these 
folks, since their behaviour embarrassed me.

When I became a PH, I determined to put a stop to that attitude and 
that practice, at least in my Kingdom.  With the help of some 
similarly-discomfited fellow heralds, we set about educating the 
younger folks about just how nasty we appear when we make fun of 
people's armory in public.  I didn't issue any great fiats, but just 
pointed out discourtesy when I saw it, and politely asked people not to 
do that.  After 2 years & 3 months, my College of Heralds now has a 
reputation for being helpful and friendly--even to people from other 
Kingdoms!  I haven't heard or seen a major public snarkfest in years 
(that's what gatherings of heralds invariably devolved 
into--snarkfests), and I think my Kingdom is better for it.

It is never courteous to call people names, whether it's "Great 
Unwashed Masses" or "Dance Nazis," even if it started out as a joke.  
Name-calling is a means used by insecure bullies to make themselves 
feel superior, as are most of the behaviours I have seen discussed on 
this topic.  And frankly, I don't understand some people's need to 
"feel superior," especially when that manifests itself by being mean to 
other people.  OK, so you turned up your nose at that lady's clothing 
when she asked you to dance, and now you feel all superior and 
snooty--but will she be coming back anytime soon?  Maybe she's a really 
good dancer, but just can't sew--or didn't bring her best clothing to 
Pennsic.  Or spent all day marshaling on the field, and saw dancers 
having fun on her way home & decided to join them.  You never know!

If asked to dance a dance I don't like, I try to be honest, but polite: 
  "Thank you for asking me, milord, but I don't care for this dance; 
please keep me in mind for another" sure beats "I am not going to dance 
this OOP abomination, with you or anyone else!" in my book.  I'll say 
if I don't know a dance, or if I'm just too tired to do it.  There is 
no need to ruin other people's experience because I want to be the 
"Arbiter of Rightness" in this or any other area.  I can sit out a few 
dances I don't like--I won't die.  :)

If we, as a community, refrain from behaving discourteously to people, 
the "Dance Nazi" label will fade.  That sometimes means dancing with 
people who are less experienced, less beautifully dressed (or beautiful 
in general), and less well-known.  That means that our "leaders" (by 
which I mean "prominent people in the dance community") will discourage 
the guilty pleasure of a public snarkfest and will, instead, encourage 
unfamiliar faces to come and share the activity we love.  If we want 
people to feel welcome, we have to be welcoming.  Or we can become an 
insular little group that doesn't welcome anyone without the right 
pedigree, and social dance at Pennsic can die when we all get too old 
to do it anymore.

FWIW, I had a great time on the nights that I danced.  Why was that?  I 
had awesome partners!  I danced with Hermankin (from the East), 
Aindreas (from AEthelmearc), Martin (from Ealdormere), Lyev (from 
AEthelmearc) and a few other folks whose names escape me.  All of them 
were fun and engaging partners who danced *with me,* not to show off 
their steps or their snootiness.  All of them were very courteous, and 
danced with a very great variety of people, which was also wonderful to 

And I am now waaaaaay too late for work!  Ciao for now,


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