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)