Alicia Vance


May 30, 2016


In what capacity would you describe yourself as a part of the music community of New Orleans?

As an dancer. Even though I get plenty of playing gigs, it’s still not highly professionalized. Bands hire dancers or people are making up bands that feature dancers. It’s fun, it’s pretty, but in the gig world it’s not necessary to have dancers so it’s great that dancing is becoming so prevalent in this world. Swing dancing has seen this rise that’s very complimentary to jazz and a lot of musicians have said it’s very inspiring to see dancers reacting to the music they’re playing.

Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?

The academic definition is not actually very apparent in practical life. The definition feels a little bit like hyperbole. It is marked advantage to being a man. It doesn’t necessarily have to be derogatory towards women but being a man in this industry gets you a lot further than being a woman. Their starting place is much higher and sometimes I see that, on a psychological level, men are expected to go further or put themselves out there and fail a bunch which might be a better path to success. I see so few women jamming and I don’t know why. I don’t know why there’s a shyness about it. I suppose it has to do with feeling good enough to present yourself and having that confidence, whether it’s in music or dance. There’s a whole social psychology side to this.

Do you always notice when individuals are acting is a sexist way?

Using the word sexism already implies so much malice so I don’t even like to use that word. I feel like so much of it is engrained and then internalized by women. It’s been way more structural in how much more freedom men have in terms of developing their skills. In dance, there are more women than there are men so it means that the handful of guys that actually become decent—and the few that become excellent—are so coveted both for gigs and socially. Whereas there is a sea of talented women so you have to work exceptionally hard to make yourself a distinguishable enough woman to always be coveted in terms of dancing. I remember one of my friends talking about how even though she’s been teaching for 15 years and is super talented, it is rare that women ever get hired as a solo dancer. Or how dance events will hire a man and then ask him who he wants as his partner. It’s never the other way around. They never hire a woman first and then ask who she would like her partner or co-teacher to be. There is that element of the microcosm here which is that the talented male dancers are just in higher demand. Their talents are more coveted and more rewarded.

Do you remember being taught or told anything about behavioral expectations that your male peers were not told?

Oh my god, the things that my brother got to learn. He learned how to drive the tractor. He got to go hunting with my dad. It was pretty crazy to watch my brother be the quintessential boy from day one and be this little ball of testosterone at all times. I don’t think my dad was particularly bad about encouraging gender stereotypes but us kids lean ridiculously towards certain elements of gender stereotypes. The skills that my brother got taught have always made me envious. I had to learn them much later in life or I haven’t learned them at all.

Do you have any concerns about raising a daughter and the misconceptions that might be presented to her as she’s growing up?

I definitely am cognizant of the different types of encouragement that boys and girls get and playtime that develops into desires and skills. I don’t have personal qualms about raising a daughter because I know that I am very motivated to learn and do stuff and she’s going to fall right in line. I’m super excited about when we’re going to ride dirt bikes, do wild and crazy physical stuff which is something girls don’t necessarily get that boys get a lot of.