UO club promotes sexual consent through dance

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Oregon Ballroom Dance Club has been a part of the University of Oregon and Eugene community for 22 years. This year, it is showing the correlation of consent with dance and applying it to sexual consent as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Dancing, in my biased opinion, is a fantastic outlet to learn how to dance and you get to meet a lot of people, but it is all based on permission and asking and being polite and courteous to the other people,” club treasurer Grant Pearson said.

Pearson said there are many similarities to courting someone you want to dance with and someone you want to be intimate with.

“I think [dance] is a very close correlation to sex because it is really close. My dad used to say that ‘dancing is just the vertical version of the horizontal desire.’ So I think they are very closely connected,” Pearson said.

Club president Corinn Ferwalt said that when the club was approached to be a part of SAAM, she saw many similarities between the month and her club.

“I was really excited to partner with sexual assault awareness month because a lot of the community that we have built at our events is centered around consent and respect and team work,” Ferwalt said. “Partner dancing works with the ideas of sexual assault awareness month so perfectly.”

She said that the structure of the lessons don’t have to change much to promote consent, but that they are adding more conversation about why it ties in with sexual consent.

“We are encouraging the discussion of sexual assault awareness and encouraging people to explore how they interact with their fellow dancers how and partner dancing can be used as a conduit of how do you interact with someone in a way that produces consent,” Ferwalt said.

The structure of a lead and follow dancers also displays consent.

“[Lead and following dancers] really delves down into the ideas of consent because once in a while you will be dancing with a lead that leads something that is either unsafe or something you don’t want to do, and then it depends on what kind of follower you are, you just don’t do it, or you talk to that person about it,” Ferwalt said. “Tango can get really close and personal if you let it, so we encourage people to ask are you comfortable with the closed position (chest to chest).”

Tonight, the club is hosting a free tango lesson in the LLC South Performace Hall at 7:30.

Club member Natalie Eckharet said that the room will be decorated in the teal SAAM color and a member of the SAAM team will be speaking more about the cause.

“It’s a safer was to spend Friday night, especially of you’re not old enough to go to the bars. Our event is a way to come, relax, hang out on campus,” Eckharet said.

Overall, the group said it has always promoted consent in dance situations, but it now sees how well it ties into sexual consent.

“Relating it to sexual assault is a new aspect to it,” Ferwalt said, “but the ideas of consent and working with your partner to make a dance happen is something we’ve always had and something that is necessary for a comfortable dance situation.”

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