safer spaces

Our take on creating a comfortable, safe and welcoming swing dance community.

At Cape Town Swing, we are committed to creating safer spaces that embrace diversity and help to ensure everyone feels comfortable and welcome, regardless of their identity or circumstances, for example, their age, gender identity, skin colour, sexual orientation, ability, etc. To achieve this, we actively promote a culture of inclusion, equity, kindness, generosity, and respect among our dancers.

Historical Context

Globally, the swing dance scene was prompted to address safety issues after significant incidents were reported in 2015 and in 2017. Despite being known as a "friendly, inclusive, non-sexual" dance, the lindy hop scene faced challenges that sparked discussions on safety and the need for preventive structures. In response, the Cape Town Swing team proactively developed processes to prevent and address safety incidents, which are outlined below.

Our Approach

Prevention of any form of abuse or harassment is a priority for us. We educate all our dancers about boundaries, respect, and the importance of consent through our classes and culture.

Additionally, we maintain a comprehensive Code of Conduct, which attendees implicitly agree to when participating in our events.

To further ensure safety, we have dedicated Safer Spaces Representatives at our events, identifiable by their orange heart badges, who can be approached directly with safety concerns about the dance scene.

Incident Report Form

Do you need to report an incident?

 

If you experience any discomfort or encounter incidents violating our Code of Conduct, we encourage you to report it to our Safer Spaces team. We have an anonymous reporting platform to protect your privacy and ensure your safety.


Incident report form

Incident Levels

Physical contact is integral to partnered dancing, but we recognise the potential for non-consensual, inappropriate, or abusive behaviour. While everyone has different boundaries and comfort zones, we have defined three "levels" of incidents to make reporting easier and to help guide us in the appropriate actions.


Level 1: Uncomfortable

There is a wide range of behaviours that we include under Level 1 and this may differ from person to person, but the main criterion is: I feel uncomfortable. Any situation causing discomfort, even if not involving physical contact, should be reported. It helps prevent future occurrences and promotes a safer environment.

If you feel uncomfortable in any way (at one of our events or classes or from an interaction with one of our regular dancers), we strongly encourage you to report it to us. It may be the case that the person was unaware of their behaviour, and a simple conversation with one of our Safer Spaces reps may prevent a repeat of the scenario. However, these may be flags for more serious issues and, if dealt with immediately, could prevent the situation from escalating. You might think it is only you, that you are being silly, that it was probably nothing. You may be right. But you may also be one of many who have experienced the same. By reporting these situations, you could save someone else from experiencing the same or worse.

Some examples of behaviour that fits under Level 1:

  • They held me too close when we danced and didn't respect my space.
  • They repeatedly asked me to dance after I said no.
  • Their body odour/sweaty shirt/bad breath was really unpleasant.
  • They constantly stared at me.
  • Their hand brushed my breasts, my buttocks and/or between my legs when we danced and they didn't apologise.
  • They made me feel uncomfortable or unwelcome based on my age/gender identity/race/sexual orientation/ability etc.

Level 2: Harassment

If you feel uncomfortable and believe there is a threat of danger, please report the incident immediately. The main criterion for Level 2 is that you are feeling uncomfortable AND you felt that you (or someone else) might be in danger. Harassment incidents are taken extremely seriously and may lead to bans from our events.

Some examples:

  • They followed me to my car.
  • They sent me inappropriate texts.
  • They propositioned me.
  • They cornered me.
  • They wouldn't let me leave.
  • They threatened me.
  • They pressured me into drinking too much.
  • They repeatedly touched me.
  • They didn't stop when I asked them to.
  • They used a racial/gender-based/sexual orientation-based slur against me.

These are only some examples, and other more subtle actions could also qualify. These all qualify legally as harassment and will be taken extremely seriously. It only takes a single report such as this to trigger a response from our team. The best channel to report this would be either by phone call, text, email or in person with one of our safe spaces reps. The response will depend on what you are comfortable with, but we may need to take action to keep the rest of the community safe. With your consent, we would hold a disciplinary hearing for the individual, and they would almost certainly be banned from all our events. Their name would be recorded on our private database and communicated privately to all other regional dance groups. We will also support you in any way that we can to help you feel safe in our community once more.

We would like to stress that anyone coming forward with this sort of complaint will be believed. The onus will be on the perpetrator to prove their innocence. In certain cases, we may recommend that the issue be taken up with the relevant authorities who can offer more substantial protection.

Level 3: Violation

In the rare event of physical harm, attempted harm, or severe situations, we will respond promptly and provide support through legal or restorative processes. Although it is our strongest hope that this sort of event never happens, we have to be realistic and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Level 3 includes any incident that goes beyond fear to physical harm – but may also include attempted harm and other severe situations.

Some examples:

  • They assaulted me.
  • They raped me.
  • They tried to hurt, touch and/or rape me.
  • They forced me to touch them.
  • They hurt me.
In the case of a Level 3 report, we will:
  • Take the report seriously and take action.
  • Support and comfort you.
  • With your consent, take immediate action (such as removing the individual from our events) to protect you and our community from the person, while respecting your anonymity and protecting your name.
  • Support you in a legal or restorative process based on your preferences.

Safer Spaces Team

Our Safer Spaces initiative is managed by a small team of individuals: Muriel, Selina, Kim and Brendan. Any incident report form submissions are reviewed by this team, respecting the privacy of those involved. They are also designated as visible Safer Spaces Reps (see below) and can be approached with any concerns.


Muriel

Muriel Gravenor

Ruby

Selina Palm

Brendan

Kim Snyders

Brendan

Brendan Argent

Safer Spaces Representatives

Our Safer Spaces Representatives are community volunteers who are well-versed and trained in our Safer Spaces texts. We have numerous Reps in the scene, identifiable by their orange heart badges, so that there can be a visible presence at all CTS events and classes. Their role will be to look out for people on the dance floor, be a point person for others to go to for support or to report an incident, and be able to recognise uncomfortable interactions, reach out to people who might need support, and know who to refer them to if necessary.

Ruby
Muriel

Anna James

Ruby

Derrick Lanor

Brendan

Jasmine Hawkins

Brendan

Michael Kloos

Code of Conduct

At Cape Town Swing, we embrace the joyful and inclusive nature of Lindy Hop that thrived in the Savoy Ballroom, the first racially integrated ballroom in the United States. As such, we welcome everyone to our classes and events, regardless of their background. We expect all attendees to respect each other and maintain a safe, welcoming environment.

To that aim, we have a set of guidelines for behaviour at our classes and events.


General Agreement

  1. This space is for everyone: we welcome you, and expect you to do the same for everyone else.
  2. We will not tolerate harassment of any kind. Please help us to maintain the safety of this space by reporting any harassment you experience or observe. We will honour your bravery in doing this by respecting your confidentiality. Please read our full policy on harassment.
  3. We will not tolerate prejudice of any kind. In line with this, do not use language that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist or otherwise alienating.

Anyone who does not abide by these rules will be asked to leave and may be permanently banned from our space.


Dance Floor Etiquette

In order to ensure that everyone can have a good time on our dance floors, please respect the following:

  • Feel free to ask everyone to dance, especially new dancers and visitors – this is how we help make everyone feel welcome.
  • Avoid making assumptions about dance roles – just ask: “Would you like to lead/follow?”
  • Say yes. There is nothing better than an enthusiastic agreement to a dance.
  • Say no (thank you). This is your right and requires no explanation or apology.
  • If someone declines a dance, that’s okay! Don’t take it personally – just say, “Sure, maybe next time!”
  • Say STOP. If anyone touches you inappropriately or makes you uncomfortable IN ANY WAY, tell them to stop and inform one of the staff or Safer Spaces Reps if they do not.
  • No aerials, lifts or drops on the social floor. Keep these for jam circles and competitions – and only if you have verbal consent. Don’t lead a follower in something that they don’t have consent in.
  • Dancing is sweaty - bring extra clothes to change into.
  • If you do not wish to be photographed/filmed, please inform the staff on arrival. Do not use flash photography. Do not film classes without the teachers’ consent.
  • Be careful and respectful of other dancers on the floor. If you knock/bump/step on/kick someone accidentally, immediately stop dancing, check that they are ok and apologise.
  • Be conscious of nonverbal signals and respect your partner’s personal boundaries. Seek consent within the dance, e.g. not everyone feels comfortable in a closed embrace.
  • Do not give unsolicited advice. In fact, leave advice off the social floor entirely. If someone wants your input, they will ask for it.

Harassment Policy

We actively prevent sexual harassment within our community. If you experience or witness any inappropriate behaviour, you can report it anonymously. In cases of criminal behaviour, such as harassment or assault, we encourage involving the police, and we will support you throughout the process.

According to South African Law*, sexual harassment is defined as:

 

  • Unwelcome sexual attention.
  • Unwelcome explicit or implicit behaviour, suggestions, messages or remarks of a sexual nature that have the effect of offending, intimidating or humiliating.
  • Implied or expressed promise of reward for complying with a sexually oriented request.
  • Implied or expressed threat of reprisal (or actual reprisal) for refusal to comply with a sexually oriented request.

With the above in mind, the following behaviour counts as sexual harassment:

 

  • Staring or leering.
  • Unnecessary familiarity or unwelcome touching.
  • Suggestive comments or jokes.
  • Insults or taunts of a sexual nature.
  • Intrusive questions or statements about your private life.
  • Sending sexually explicit emails or text messages.
  • Inappropriate advances on social networking sites.
  • Requests for sex or repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates.
  • Behaviour that may be considered an offence under criminal law, such as physical assault, indecent exposure, sexual assault, stalking, or obscene communications.

How does this relate to a dance environment?

 

  • Sexual harassment is not interaction, flirtation, or friendship which is mutual or consensual.
  • Happy, consensual dances (no matter how close the position) are totally fine.
  • Hooking up at a dance event with a consenting adult is also totally acceptable.

Sexual harassment is a type of sexual discrimination, which is illegal in South African workplaces.

 

  • This means that it’s illegal to sexually harass your host or hostee, your dance partner, teacher or student, your DJ or sound engineer, volunteer or musician, event manager, MC, or performer.
  • It also means that it is illegal to hold a dance partner very close if they don’t want to be held.

Sexual harassment can be obvious or indirect, physical or verbal, repeated or one-off, and perpetrated by males or females against people of any sex.

 

  • If you aren’t sure; if you think it’s creepy or it makes you feel uncomfortable and you want a second opinion; if you see something and you’ve got a hunch: ask for advice.
  • If someone says they don’t want to dance and you insist, touching them and pulling them, that is harassment.
  • Accidental ‘boob swipes’, touching a partner’s rear, groin, or upper legs warrant an immediate apology and a change of dancing to avoid it happening again.

* Paraphrased from the Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011

What do you do if you need help?

 

  • Report any behaviour that you deem to be inappropriate.
  • You have the right to remain anonymous, and we will respect that.
  • When it comes to criminal behaviour (sexual harassment or sexual assault), we urge you to take it to the police, and we will support you in this.
Our course of action:

 

  • We will do everything in our power to protect our dancers and will tolerate no harassment whatsoever.
  • We reserve the right to remove anyone from our classes and events.
  • Minor offences will result in a single warning.
  • Repeat offences or major offences will result in expulsion and banning from all future Cape Town Swing events, and, where appropriate, will be referred to the police.

Our Commitment

We are committed to protecting our dancers and will not tolerate harassment in any form. Offenders will receive warnings for minor offences, while repeat or major offences may result in expulsion and banning from future events and if necessary, involvement of the police.

Together, we create a safe and joyful space for all dancers, fostering respect and celebrating diversity.