I’ve chosen to split this text into three sections. Each section named after the aspect it adresses. My part, which are my individual thoughts, first hand, straight from my head, The Culture, which is my somewhat objective attempt at discussing the issue from a cultural standpoint (specifically dance culture, more specifically ”streetdance culture” or hiphop culture) and the last part which I named The Conclusion, just to wrap it up a bit.
This post is a message for the entire swedish streetdance community, and anyone else who might be interested in my (as an individual’s) experience as part of it.
I feel like we rarely ever talk, like actually talk as a community. Some people will even claim that we shouldn’t need to talk. See, we might meet up now and then, to dance like we do, but we rarely sit down and have a discussion, yet we’re supposed to be a community; a group of people with a somewhat common goal, a shared culture, some norms and a system of our own.
Naturally, a community is supposed to regulate itself, handle what need be handled for the bettering and growth of the community according to the will of the people in it. Personally I don’t see this happening. Why haven’t we talked about Åsa Folkhögskola? And I dont mean why haven’t you sat down with ur close friends to discuss it. I mean us, as individuals in the community, putting time into having the conversations in the forums we have access to and share.
If ur an active member of the community, you can’t possibly have missed what the people at Åsa have come to call ”the big crash”. 3 teachers well known in the community were put on blast online and ended up getting fired a few days later. This is what you know. What you probably don’t know is how outrageously poor the establishment itself handled it. The establishment itself being Åsa Folkhögskola.
For the people that don’t know what I’m talking about, to briefly sum up what went down. Three teachers were put on blast due to claims of sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse of positions of power. These claims started circultating in connection with the #metoo movement on the internet last year. The whole process was messy, meetings were scheduled, both students and teacher were kept in the dark until eventually the school ruled these teacher unfit to teach, fired them and eventually hired new teachers.
What I can’t wrap my head around is how our community aspires to be healthy and functioning without us adressing this properly. Because there’s no way a school like Åsa can fire three ground pillars of the 5 person staff that is the dance course and fairly replace them within a month. It’s not just any 3 pillars too, they’re all some of the most respected, influential and renowned dancers we have in our community and regardless of what got them fired nobody can deny that the positions left behind are gonna be hard to fill. Impossible even. One of the indivuals is the founder of the dance course itself! The teachers and the students attending built Åsas reputation! And for the school to irresponsibly and rashly replace these teachers, sweep everything under the rug, wear the same shirt of reputation (that has taken years to make) and act like the school is the same old same old is incredibly disrespectful to the teachers that built what it is known for and what it is today.
How can they kick these 3 teachers out, when this issue has been discussed before, and back then the establishment decided to let the teacher/teachers that were under fire stay. Once again, brief sum up, teacher/teachers were under fire for having relationships with students, sexual harassment and/or abuse of power. Back then the teachers/teacher were suspended for a period of time to later be allowed to come back, this was ruled by the people in charge of the school. Now, several years in the future, once again these teachers are under fire for things that have happened in the past. So, my question is how were these members in charge of the school not put under fire aswell? How many people in positions of power knew of the situation and decided not to act on it? If three people got fired now after not being fired the first time, then the people who knew about the situation (the people who made the decision back then) should have to go too.
(Note here that I’m speaking of teacher/teachers since all of these things don’t apply to all teachers concerned. I wish to speak of this in a general manner and not neccessarily throw any names out there. This to shine light on the problem itself rather than on the individual teachers.)
People will argue that having relationships with students is inappropriate. I’m not arguing against this since that debate gets very gray zone-y and debatable unless it’s specifically intended to be absolute with no exceptions what so ever. Neither am I arguing against being fired for sexual harassment or the alike. What I am arguing against though is insisting on a clean sweep for the school to ”start fresh” and ”build something new”, claiming this is why what has been done has been done, and then not sweeping the place clean.
From a cultural perspective, what went down is an outrage. Three incredibly influential and important members of the swedish dance scene, who mentored and taught people from my generation and the people before me, who hosted some of the earliest street dance events we had and helped bring attention to the swedish scene were kicked out at the blink of an eye, after the school was put under pressure from the outside.
If you look at the respect involved here there is quite the lack of it. Neither for the students or the teachers involved. On one side we have the students being supplied with no information at all in the ”decision making process” which was right after we were informed that some stuff from years back had re-surfaced and our techers might not be coming back to school. No information about what had actually happened back then was shared ”officially” (some rumors and the alike were going around, some stories could be read online etc), one day it was labeled sexual harassment another day they said it was sexual assault, the third it was having relationships with students and abusing power. An official statement was never made. We weren’t even allowed to form our own opinion of the situation since we were denied the information with which to do so. After speaking to the teachers I was informed that they were also very much kept in the dark with what was going on.
One of the teachers involved was the founder of the course, and the other two had later on joined in. Together they built it up and made it what it became known for, aswell as giving it the reputation it has amongst dancers in Sweden, as I mentioned earlier. Åsa Folkhögskola was known as one of the few places and used to be the only place in Sweden where you could get a ”legitimate” education in Hiphop, House, Popping, Breaking and Locking. Legitimate meaning with care taken to the cultural aspect of the dances.
To truly learn a cultural dance, care must be taken to the cultural aspects of said dance, simply taking a class of steps isn’t enough. Unlike classically schooled dances the frame for the various styles within streetdance isn’t as clearly cut on paper (an by this I mean with actual regulations stated on paper). It is however dependent on a system nonetheless where the community regulates the rights and the wrongs with tools of their own. The system regulating what’s right and wrong in ”streetdance” isn’t as established internationally (as it is locally in some areas) in terms of having organizations dedicated to keeping schools in check. Thus we as a local community have to shape our community to what we want it t be. If we wish to be a force to be reckoned with on the international scene, our community disregarding this as trivial isn’t going to be taken lightly upon.
Even if the term isn’t official, the amount of ”streetcredd” collected from the community once you’ve established something like this should be imense. The respect given to the people involved and the influence awarded shouldn’t be taken lightly. Yet nobody is talking about what these people did. Yet nobody sees any issues with the school continuing the education in the same manner, carrying on with the reputation they didn’t even establish themselves, hiring new teachers like nothing happened and speaking of Åsa as this amazing dance school with zero regards to what made it amazing in the first place. Sure, people will argue that anybody could’ve done it. Arranged for a meeting ground in the woods where dancers could learn and grow together. The gag is they didn’t. These teachers did. It’s the people that make the place, so thinking you can continue on like nothing happened is naive and disrespectful.
Teaching and passing on knowledge in the community is sacred and should be treated as such, naturally, in a perfect world, the people teaching would’ve picked their successors when the time is right. This is not what our scene looks like now. We have teachers popping up on left and right for the sole purpose that there is a market for it, making all kinds of claims about what passes as ”street dance”. Rashly trying to find a replacement for these teacher, hiring the ”best” one according to an unqualified opinion (the none-dancer school board), in the middle of work term, choosing from what’s available nationally and within range only puts the quality of the education at risk. To be honest, nobody can do what these teachers did because they were the ones who did it. Thus the need for the clean sweep. You can’t just take something somebody else made and wear it, ‘cause it won’t fit.
”Adapting” a culture that was never meant to be put in a classroom to fit in a classroom is incredibly difficult and alot of things get lost in the process. Thus, the fact that the school was known to do so such a great job, is a rarity. What Åsa managed to establish wasn’t handled with care and the aftermath after the crash was a joke. Alot of people now act like everything is fine and that this is a thing of the past, but this is as much of an embarrassment now as it was then.
I chose to release this post now (although I started writing it months ago), since it took me a while to process and figure out how to put my experience of the whole situation into words.
A new year has started at Åsa with some new and some old faces. All I’ve got to say about the year to come is that if this is supposed to be a fresh start make sure It’s actually clean. For the new students, attending the ”new” Åsa, I look forward to hearing about your experiences when your year is over.
To the teachers who left: I wish to send my regards to the three teachers from before. What you did won’t be left unacknowledged. I only got to experience your Åsa for less than one term, but I carry what I learnt with me and I use some of it everyday. I came out better on the other side. Thank you.
I would end this post with good vibes only, but I prefer to acknowledge and partake in all the emotions on the emotional spectrum with all they have to offer, so
Sincere vibes only