One of the main goals of this festival is to create learning opportunities for our dancing community, in order to become more welcoming, inclusive, and diverse. We understand that this is a very complex topic and a long journey. However it is a fact that the current swing community is very homogeneously white, heteronormative and middle to upper class. Therefore a process of sensibilization is needed to better cater to the more marginalized groups in our community.

The first important point we want to address here is that this community lays its very foundation on art forms born out of the Black American culture, yet a lot of that history and of its creators remain unknown from the larger public. The originators of jazz have changed the world, and the music has since evolved to always reflect its time. We want to look at the origins of this music we love, and thus practically all music we hear nowadays. This means also understanding the context in which these artists had to live day by day. That will be the topic of our lectures and panel discussions on Friday (more details below).

A lack of cultural understanding of and appreciation for Black American culture within our greater scene is only one of the reasons why BIPOC, LGTBQIA+ and other minority groups always had a hard time finding a place in this community. Many were discouraged to join in the first place, and plenty left the community after a short while, disheartened by the experiences they had. Others had to swim against the stream and hide their true selves in order to fit in – and whenever they spoke up, they did not find the compassion they hoped for, but were rudely ignored instead. These situations might not apply to you personally but they still regularly happen to others, and this is clearly not what we want our participants to feel. We want everyone to feel welcome to join, to feel celebrated and contribute to this community. In order for this to happen, we want to create a dialogue with different members from different parts of our global community, which will take place during the panel on Saturday (more details below).

Are You Syncopated?! is a chance to question what we know and learn more about African and Black American history and culture and hopefully to create a much safer space for marginalized people to share their experiences through vulnerable conversations. We as organizers, musicians, dance teachers, dancers, listeners, community members, all want to connect and learn together. That’s how we try to bring positive changes in the scene!

Dancers & panelists

Joren Baraka van Eyken

Joren Baraka was born in Rwanda and raised in Belgium. He discovered dance as a way to express himself fully in his early teenage days. Music of the African diaspora influenced him strongly. By hearing tunes on street corners, learning through the sounds and lyrics of his preferred artists, he soon found his home in African American music like blues, jazz, funk, hiphop, always eager to learn more. As a young adult, he started diving into the dance that accompanied one the music styles he had been crazy about for years: Swing. He was immediately struck by how culturally different the swing dance scene was from how he learned about Swing. This influenced him profoundly as a social dancer, teacher, performer and organizer; even now after more than ten years of Swing dancing.

Firday, 16:15 – Lecture: The genesis of African and American musical traditions.

Centuries ago, millions of African people were being taken away from their lands and drafted into forced labor in the Americas under European rule. This had a profound impact on both continents, and certainly also on their musical traditions. Imagine you could watch and listen to an interactive radio show, live, and the presenter is right there in front of you, playing good old music, talking about its context. The goal here is to question How African and American musical traditions have continuously been influencing and inspiring one another since the first day up until present times.

Sunday, 20:30 – Dance Taster: Your body, your instrument –Swing dancing from an African perspective.

Music is expressing yourself through your instrument of choise. When your instrument is your voice, we call it singing. When it’s your body, we call it dance. Do you know some swing steps and basic counting? Or you don’t know any of that? Never mind! This time we will fly into swing from an other angle. How do Africans and Black Americans traditionally get to music and dance? How might the pioneers of Swing have discovered their basics? What happens when rhythm, groove and conversation become your starting point? 

Joris Focquaert

Joris Focquaert comes from Belgium. Vivid and curious, he likes to live in many places and currently resides in Berlin, Germany. While he has a background in physical theatre, his path led him to dancing and, more specifically, African-American jazz dances such as the Lindy Hop.

He relentlessly digs into the roots of jazz in dance and music. He is the founder of Crazy Legs Dance School in Ghent, the city where he honed his skills. And he’s also a musician playing trombone and clarinet. We are happy to welcome him to our party and look forward to his input.

Thursday, 19:30- Dance taster & ice breaker with Joren & Joris

Joris and Joren will open the celebration with a warming up and musical games to get us all in the mood.

Momo

Ailing from Osnabrück, Momo is a strong figure of the Lindy Hop scene. Originator of the “Happy Feet” party and the festival “Happy Feet Osnabrooklyn”, she’s also an amazing DJ. She will give us a dance taster and will also talk about roots and present implications.

Saturday, 16:15 – Panel: Reflecting the Past and the Present…and then?!

Learning about the history and cultural roots of Lindy Hop and Swing is necessary to fully appreciate it. But how can we be sensible and understand the circumstances for black people now and back then? What could be a good way to discuss the dancing scene and its inclusivity today? Momo created a small portable format that breaks down the problematic and identifies the inherent racism that European societies have carried on for centuries. This is a chance to discuss how we can make our scene more inclusive. And it will be more than just warm words!

Jean

In class Jean is caring and attentive, and puts herself into the crowd not only as an instructor but getting inspired and learning from students as well. Together with the SwingStep Team she is responsible for many classes, events and social gatherings that continue to nourish the Berlin dance scene. Together Jean and Momo will offer a fresh perspective on dancing roles.

Friday, 20:30 – Dance taster: Switch it! with Momo and Jean

You are leading and following and you always do the same two moves to switch with your partner between the roles? Or are you used to dance only one role, but you are also interested in the other part? We invite you to join and have more fun with exploring to dance both roles and to learn some more fancy possibilities to switch!