Our Values

As an exercise in self-reflection, we surveyed our Troupe members to ask them what our team meant to them and what they felt our values were. This was developed into the core values of our Troupe.

Joy
Inclusivity
Education
Respect

The London Starlings’ anti-racism and education pledge

This statement is our pledge to the worldwide community of African American vernacular jazz dance, and to each other. 

We have enjoyed competition success from performing this dance across Europe, and respect that we owe our existence to the creators of this art form. We vow to use our platform to celebrate the dance’s African American cultural heritage, to stand up against inequality, and to challenge racism.

We acknowledge and celebrate the African American roots of the dance that we love, and in particular we acknowledge and honour the Black women who were pioneers of African American vernacular jazz dances. We recognise that the intersection of racism and sexism has caused and still causes huge inequalities for women of colour, in the jazz dance community and in wider society, and that historic erasure is a symptom of this. We will actively work against the erasure of Black artists (jazz dancers and musicians), but particularly against the historic erasure of Black women and their significant achievements in the world of jazz, their influence on the art form, and their contribution to safe community spaces for people of all genders and sexualities. 

Our troupe members past and present come from all across the UK, and across the globe too. While none of our team members are of African American descent and we are all guests of this culture, the histories of the countries we hail from are all connected through the tragic and horrifying transatlantic slave trade and brutal colonial rule. We acknowledge that our cultural histories are forever linked by this overt racism and that painful injustices towards Black people and people of colour are still present to this day. Although this dance brings our troupe together in solidarity, joy and sisterhood, we must never forget its roots, or ours.

Our troupe today is indebted to the women who came before us, the African American chorus dancers of the Harlem Renaissance and the British chorus girls of the 1890s and early 1900’s. But we need to rethink the all-white image of vintage Hollywood chorus lines and embrace a richer cultural history. We understand that our knowledge has gaps. This is why we are committed to continuous education and re-education. We work towards developing our appreciation of this art form and do not wish to engage in appropriation. We show and share our appreciation by learning the history, social context and cultural values of African American vernacular jazz dances. This dance is not just steps, it’s so much more than that. We acknowledge that the freedom, movement and innovation of jazz stems from descendants of those who were enslaved and continuously held back for hundreds of years. 

Language and the etymology of historic words and phrases linked to African American vernacular jazz dances are incredibly important. We need to better understand the history of the language used in vintage songs and names of dance moves in order to identify those phrases and words that are problematic today, and to be mindful of the songs we choose to dance to. We do not wish to encourage words and terms that were created to stereotype people, to perpetuate racism, or that have racist connotations today. In 2018 we removed “Dixie” from our troupe name (The Dixie Dinahs) as part of our commitment to reject celebrating the racism of slavery-era Confederate States in the USA. In 2021, we once again changed our troupe name after learning the etymology of “Dinah” being used as a generic, and often belittling name for enslaved African women in 19th century America.

We acknowledge that structural racism exists in the UK and that inequalities and discrimination (direct and indirect) are evident in the swing dance community. We recognise that our troupe is not as racially diverse as it could be, and that structural socio-economic inequalities feed into this. We acknowledge that to be able to be part of this dance troupe and community is to be privileged, and we aim to make our dance community (classes, troupe training, and socials) more accessible moving forwards. We want to face these structural inequalities head on.

We know that words aren’t enough. The pledge below outlines our actions that are born from this statement. This is not a fixed action list and will be developed as our thinking and education develops.

We pledge to:

  1. Initiate a BLM and anti-racist education subgroup within our troupe
  2. Learn the history of the dance’s movements and musical connection in order to preserve the original spirit of jazz.
  3. Create an internal resource regarding the dance’s history that we can collaborate on and refer to at any time. Our troupe members can then record and share any information they have learnt – i.e. from point 2 and 6.
  4. Donate regularly to Black community groups in and around London.
  5. Share educational resources and research on Black female jazz artists through history.
  6. Curate useful anti-racist and BLM resources from within the swing dance community. For example, to share links from the Collective Voices for Change manifesto and Move Together talks.
  7. Develop an open resource of songs and words that we identify as problematic with a background as to why this may be to facilitate discussion, to acknowledge the pain these words have caused and to no longer promote racist legacies.
  8. Identify ways to improve our troupe’s diversity. We hope to develop some community engagement and workshop offers and will update with more concrete action when our plan is in place.