Lately the topic of cultural appropriation has come up more and more frequently. I think it is a good thing that people are talking about this but with the complicated history of race in the United States a lot of people have a lot of strong feelings and misunderstandings about the difference between these two. I want to start of by stating what follows is obviously my opinion. I can no more speak for all Black people, or even all Black Blues dancers than you can speak for every person of your race. This is a subject where reasonable people can disagree, I believe that we can disagree without being disagreeable…and the final thing to think on, a person can say or do a racist thing and still believe in the equality of different races. It does not in and of itself indicate racism it just reveals a prejudice or bias that is most likely learned from the media and environment of which we were brought up in. I am no different.
I’m going to start with my general belief on the difference between Appreciation and Appropriation — Appreciation is becoming one with a thing and finding your own voice to express yourself from within it. Appropriation is when you take the “words” and change them or their meaning to fit what you want to say. One is letting the thing change you and the other is changing the thing to suit you.
Appropriation in blues dance can take many forms but some of the ones I see most frequently, denying the connection of the dance to blues music, denying, covering up, or otherwise nullifying the artistic efforts of the Black dancers and musicians who created the forms, or laying claim to the name “blues dance” while at the same time trying to somehow distance yourself from the endeavors of the Black people who gave that word meaning in an artistic sense. (read more)
We first booked Damon in 2009, and he changed the London blues scene forever. Within six months, we had booked him again!
As a promoter I found Damon could:
- Draw a crowd
- Easily manage a class of 50-60 dancers
- Keep his teaching concise, useful and fun
- Build in practice time, and work 1 on 1 with dancers during practice time
- Has a charismatic manner that puts people at ease (especially new dancers)
- Notice and work with beginners and experienced dancers
- Improve the skills of dancers as I rotated both as follower and leader I noticed improvements from the beginning to the end of class
Damon has a wealth of knowledge about blues music, blues dance, movement in general… anything in general, if you get to talking to him. Mainly, I am grateful that he has moved to my city to help the blues community here grow. He is a skilled, knowledgeable, articulate, and approachable instructor. He has had a hand in my journey as a dancer and continues to help me grow.
Damon Stone has amazing hips and can teach you to use yours.
One of the neat things about Damon is he finds you where you are, first. I dig that, hard. I sincerely recommend a private lesson with Damon — he’ll get you with both the technique improvements that will clean your dancing and the mindset to break your dancing out of your habits.
I have been Swing / Blues dancing for going on 14 years in the Albany New York scene. It may seem strange but in that time I’ve had only a very small handful of group lessons and an even more scarce number of private lessons. At the same time the private lesson that I shared with Kat and Damon was shockingly impactful on my dancing.
It may seem somewhat off topic that I am a karate man of over 28 years experience. As such I have had a lot of instruction from many different instructors over that 28 years. I found Damon’s technique and ability to figure out what I was doing, and find a simple way to get me to do it better emblematic of a highly experienced attentive and creative instructor.
During my lesson Damon tapped into my depth of experience as a martial artist and found a way to get me to use that experience to inform my dancing.
This ability to help a student translate one form of experience into another I found impressive.
John MOOSE Grassi