Pedagogy Statement (Abridged)
Steps in Time® Ballroom Dancing
Working toward an Ethic of Anti-Glamour
Ten Commandments and a Bingo Card
“I thought to myself, ‘I might as well be doing this someplace where it counts.’”
-Fred Astaire, on leaving the ballroom dance studio business…
and returning to the pictures.
In the spring of 2016, I began cold calling assisted living & memory care communities, offering free introductory ballroom dance lessons–to gauge potential future interest. This was a tactic I later realized I had appropriated from the Fred Astaire Dance Studios. Seven years doing anything will certainly affect the muscle memory, and placing a phone call of this sort felt somewhat embedded in mine at that time. These early phone calls marked the beginning of what would become the Steps in Time program, for which I obtained a trademark in 2019. Of course, Steps in Time is also the title of Fred Astaire’s autobiography. That the Steps in Time® in question is a class of dance instruction and not a book is how I was ever able to obtain the trademark in the first place. Now the summer of 2023, I have worked, almost exclusively, partner-dancing in elder care spaces for the past seven years. The longer I operate this somewhat niche operation, the better I understand it both methodologically and ideologically.
Following Juliet McMains’ Glamour Addiction, I am interested in exploring how Steps in Time® could constitute an “antidote to glamour,” as she describes it; and provide a more community-centered use for ballroom dance pedagogy. Following the work of Carmen Morgan, who interrogates community engagement practices in the performing arts, and advocates for community justice based approaches instead, I aim to ground and also account for my ballroom dance pedagogy through an ethic of anti-glamour. To this end, I offer the following list of guiding principles that have shaped and continue to inform the Steps in Time® practice. While my own application of these principles happens primarily in elder congregate care spaces, it is my hope that this ethical framework could be useful in other community-centered applications as well–and the dissemination of ballroom / partner dance practice more broadly.
1. Relationality & Mutuality
2. Care over Competition
3. Culture of Community and Consent
4. Leadership & Followership
5. Dance Partner First
6. Attentiveness to Access Needs
7. No Fucking Country Clubs
8. System Questioning, System Building & System Change
9. Sustainability over Profit
10. Unsettling Strategies: Resisting the “Dance Belongs to Everyone” Mindset
Steps in Time® core dances and techniques are organized to fit into the space of a Bingo card. Many of the figures (dance steps) can be mixed and matched across dance styles, and the techniques can be applied to all four dances (e.g. Swing Isolations can be applied to many of the Hustle patterns–all of which can be useful when dancing Merengue). This syllabus is meant to provide facilitators with a common “dance language” and points of reference. These systems and practices are not hard and fast, but ever-evolving.