Silhouettes of people holding a drum above their head, and a musical note in the air. Instruments and bright, exploding colors in background.

What Does DJing & Dancing Have To Do With Inclusion?

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“Diversity Is Being Invited to the Party; Inclusion Is Being Asked to Dance.” ~Vernã Myers

Music is universal. Dance is universal. Music and dance have the power to heal, and to unify communities. It’s important to me, as a socially conscious DJ, to create safe, inclusive, and fun spaces where people can get their groove on and build community on the dance floor. In order to do that, the music needs to respect and reflect all of the people in the room. Song choice is a key part of creating welcoming, inclusive, safer spaces for people to dance, and choosing songs that contribute to the environment you’re trying to create.

Oppressive songs are not only uncomfortable and often painful to hear, they contribute to a culture of violence and oppression. Music that contains racist, misogynistic, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist lyrics and messages contains a hidden message: “You’re not welcome here.” I don’t know how many times I’ve been in the dance zone, a song with an oppressive line hits, and the mood is gone. Total buzzkill. Songs choice also means playing music from across the globe, and for every movement. It’s about being intentional about the space I want to create and the experience I want people to have.

To dance is to feel free, fully alive, present in your body and with others. Dance is a natural way to build community, as dance is part of most cultures. In order to build community, beat by beat, there must be a level of trust, connection, and common values.

There is something powerful in watching a sea of people dancing, immersed in the music, feeling free, and seeing strangers become friends on the dance floor, all without saying a word. Dance doesn’t need words. The energy in the room is nothing short of magical.

If you were designing a dance space (or any type of space), what would it look like? How would you make sure that everyone is not only invited, but feels welcome?

  1. One Day Matisyahu 3:28
  2. Love Me Now John Legend 3:30
  3. Vivir Mi Vida Marc Anthony 4:12
  4. Talkin' Bout A Revolution Tracy Chapman 2:41
  5. Love Train The O'Jays 2:58
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  1. I love this blog and especially this post. We often put more energy into “inviting” people and not a whole lot of thought into how to “welcome” them once they arrive. For me, it was helpful to learn about the difference between Usability and Accessibility. For instance, if there’s a spot in the back of a large lecture hall for a wheelchair – then the space is accessible for a student needing a wheelchair. But if the lecturer or sign language interpreter was the person using a wheelchair, then the space isn’t usable for them – since they can’t get to the front of the room down a long row of stairs. I found this very helpful as I think about setting up events and making everyone feel welcomed.

    1. Robbie, thanks so much for reading and for your comment! What a great example of the difference between Usability and Accessibility. I appreciate you highlighting this important distinction.

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