Today we’re joined by Andromeda. Andromeda is a phenomenal dancer who specializes in partnered social dance with a passion for the Lindy Hop in particular. She has been dancing for two years now. Andromeda is a female lead, which is always cool since dance traditionally has a male lead and female follow. Andromeda is incredibly enthusiastic about her art, as you’ll soon see, and the pictures she sent along are absolutely stunning. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I am a swing dancer! Swing dance is a partnered social dance, typically performed to big band or jazz music from the first half of the twentieth century. Lindy Hop, the style that I primarily dance, was developed by 1940s African American dancers in the dance halls of Harlem, most notably the Savoy Ballroom. Along with traditional 8-count Lindy Hop, I enjoy incorporating elements of 6-count Lindy Hop, Charleston, blues, and solo jazz into my dancing.
What inspires you?
Because swing dancing is a social activity, I constantly dance with other great dancers who inspire me to polish my swingout (the Lindy Hop basic step) and make my dancing as clean and energetic as I can. Along with my dance partners, one of my most consistent sources of inspiration is taking Lindy Hop classes. I have a theory that because we rarely feel inspired in school, many artists hesitate to look for inspiration in classes about their art, but it can be a great way to both improve your technique and be inspired by the instructors. It always makes my day when an instructor tells me, after struggling to nail a move for an hour, “That was perfect!”
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I first became interested in swing dancing when I went to college and joined a swing dance club. Once I discovered the swing community’s world of opportunities for personal, social, and artistic growth, I was hooked!
I have never had artistic aspirations – I actually don’t think of myself as a very “creative” or “artistic” person – but swing dance is always challenging me to step outside my comfort zone and create new ways to express myself while dancing. I guess I just kind of fell in love with it – which, in all honesty, is probably the best way to become an artist.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
I am a lead, which is unique because I am also a female. (Traditionally, male swing dancers lead and females follow.) Because I followed for a while before I realized that I preferred dancing as a lead, I have a special understanding of what the dance is like for my follows, and I do my best to make sure that they are comfortable and have plenty of room for their own styling while dancing with me.
Although there are many swing dancers, both male and female, who are “ambidancestrous” (can both lead and follow), I am one of the only female dancers I know of who leads exclusively – which is to say, I will always lead unless my partner specifically says that they would like to lead. To help visually communicate this idea, I usually dress androgynously (jeans and a button down or t-shirt) when I dance – not to look like a man, but to separate myself from women who exclusively follow, who typically wear skirts.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Never be afraid of hard work. I won’t lie – it can be extremely difficult to invest your time, money, and effort into learning new styles and honing your technique. But the truth is, if you’re dedicated to your art, hard work is just passion put into motion – and for dancers, the moment you get out on the dance floor and feel new confidence in yourself and your abilities, everything becomes worth it.
Also, as a side note – don’t buy any special equipment until you feel like you’re being held back by inadequate supplies. I danced for two years in oxfords or sneakers before the rubber soles became a problem, and then I dropped the big bucks on real swing dance shoes with suede soles (the industry standard). You CAN start to become a great artist using whatever you have available, as long as you dedicate your focus and effort!
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I identify as asexual.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
No, I’ve actually been very lucky – the president of the swing dance club at my school is also ace! We like to laugh together about how so often people think that dancing together is an expression of romantic interest or sexual tension, when for both of us (and most swing dancers, regardless of sexuality) it’s just a fun activity that we love.
When I have encountered prejudice or an unwelcoming attitude, it’s because I’m a female lead. If a follow turns me down when I ask them to dance, I just shrug my shoulders and find someone else. Sure, there may be some follows who won’t dance with me, or who think I’ll never be as good as a male lead, but it’s not my job to make them change their minds. It’s my job to become an amazing swing dancer – for myself, not anyone else – and let them think whatever they want as they watch me fly around the dance floor.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
There are two. The first is that I can’t appreciate how lovely people are. I’m a dancer – I have enormous amounts of appreciation for how people can move their bodies in beautiful and artistic ways. Being asexual is in no way a detriment to my ability to appreciate good dancing in others, and I think that’s really important to understand.
The second is that I can’t enjoy dancing a more sensual style, such as blues, where the follow’s torso is pressed against (or “connected with”) mine, and we’re moving together in very close sync, typically swaying (or “pulsing”) to a slow beat. I actually enjoy blues very much – not because it feels sensual or because I’m attracted to my follow, but because it’s fun to invent ways to make slow dancing interesting, and I like the sensation of having a strong physical connection with my follow. I think that allows for better dancing, which is always my goal.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
If you’re struggling with asexuality – and especially if you’re scared for the future – please know that being asexual isn’t the end of the world. It may be the end of your expectations, but that means new opportunities to grow. I spent a lot of time a while back telling myself I wasn’t ace, because I was terrified of what it would mean if I was. I wish I had spent that time honestly exploring my identity, rather than being afraid of it. The most important thing you can do is accept who you are now and grow from there.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Bobby White, one of the best swing dancers out there, writes at https://swungover.wordpress.com. If you’d like to know more about Lindy Hop, I definitely recommend reading his articles.
Thanks for reading!
Thank you, Andromeda, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.