On Masks and the Swing Dance Community

A selfie of Eve Rickert at a swing dance event. She looks into the camera wearing a white N95 mask and smiling. Masked people dance behind her.

There are few things in my life that give me more joy than dancing. I’ve been a dancer since I was 14, and a swing dancer since I was 21. When I lived in Vancouver, I lived for Thursday nights in summer when folks gathered to dance at the Kitsilano Showboat. It was dancing there that made Vancouver finally become home for me.

I moved to Victoria in late 2018, and it took me over a year to get settled enough to start showing up at dance events. In fact, I think I’d only been swing dancing for about a month before the pandemic shut everything down. For me, not being able to dance for two years was probably thing that had the biggest impact on me personally in the pandemic (I know, I’m fortunate).

So I was overjoyed when, early this year, I got an email from one of our local dance organizers saying that dancing was starting back up—and that vaccine passports and masks would be required. Going back to dancing after two years was an event, and all the more so because it felt actually safe, despite being surrounded by sweaty, twirling bodies.

As spring wore on and restrictions lifted, and masks in public spaces became the exception rather than the rule, the swing dancers held out. They did periodic surveys to take the temperature, and we repeatedly reaffirmed that we wanted precautions to stay. So even as I began to curtail the time I spent in public again, and cancelled my hopeful travel plans, local swing dances have continued to be places where I can go to experience connection and joy.

The same is true for other swing dance spaces: in May I attended Seattle’s Camp Jitterbug, where vaccines and masks (surgical or better! no cloth) were strictly required. Not only was it amazing be able to share space with hundreds of dancers and not simultaneously feel terrified that my presence here could take away my (or someone else’s) ability to dance forever, I felt held by the the ubiquitous visual reminder of our commitment to each other and to even the most vulnerable members of our community.

As I selectively and cautiously try to re-enter more spaces, counting on my N95 to protect me among groups of people who are not willing to make these same commitments to each other, this difference has grown to a point where it is palpable. Far more than just a chance to dance, this community has helped me hang onto my last shreds of hope, living proof that at least in some places, we are still committed to taking care of each other.

My heartfelt gratitude to Kevin, Christabel, Tonya and all the others who are committed to giving us safe places to dance.

Swing dance selfie © Eve Rickert 2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.