As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
In addition to staying in touch with the amateur dancers, I talk fairly often with the dance professionals in the area and they usually have a good story to tell me.
One of the misconceptions that many amateur dancers have is that the local dance teachers rank lower than the dance teachers who travel around the country giving workshops. One incident that comes to mind was related by a dance teacher I know well. This dance teacher was not invited to teach at a local swing dance weekend in the past because they "had enough local teachers" at the event. It's unfortunate that some local dancers and dance venues view local teachers as being of lesser quality than the national teachers, because this particular teacher was a former US Open champion and I'm certain that he or she had gotten better since winning that competition. The fact that this teacher was now a "local" teacher placed them lower in the eyes of many dancers.
Maxwell Ho had once told me that "you have to leave the area to be appreciated". Someone like him gets to travel around to workshops, much to the appreciation of dancers all around, though local dance organizers don't seem all that interested in hiring him. Former Bostonian Kate Ford felt the same way and now she's in demand around the country for her workshops. Bob Thomas is another teacher who is frequently seen teaching workshops in Connecticut and travels around the country doing shows, but is undervalued among the local dancers; one of the best kept secrets is his talents as a tap dancer. I feel sorry for those who have never taken his dance technique classes in the past. Someone like Ron Gursky gets invited to dance camps to lecture on historical dance, but how many local dancers know about his expertise? He's also in demand as a choreographer. These are just examples of dancers who spend their local time just being good dance teachers; we should take the opportunity to learn from them while they're still around.
The national teachers are usually here for a weekend and then they're gone. Who will be around to help you once the national teachers leave. The local teachers. Who's going to help you when you have problems with what you learned that weekend? The local teachers. Who continues to teach the beginners and train the new blood that keeps the dance community alive? The local teachers.
Many of the local teachers are past the point of training for competition. They're now concentrated on improving their teaching craft and making sure their students learn how to dance. I think it's a disservice to these teachers, who led us through our first rock-step, to think that these local teachers "aren't good enough".
A friend of mine told me she overheard an interesting conversation at the IC dance on Saturday between a couple of guys that went something like this:
Guy #1: "Man, I don't know what's wrong with these people..."
Guy #2: "Huh?"
Guy #1: "Some guy just yelled at me just now."
Guy #2: "Why? Why would he yell at you?"
Guy #1: "Because I kept kicking him [on the dance floor]..."
At this point, we all went "Doh!" and fell over laughing.
Marie Lawlor and Domenic Valarioti have been announcing "No Aerials" at the Winchester swing dances for a while now (which resulted in some sustained applause by the real dancers}. Marie told me that some kid came up to Domenic recently and thanked him and encouraged him to continue to tell people how dangerous aerials were. This guy then pulled up his pants leg to show the surgery done to repair his knee. This guy was one of the "kids" who got upset at the aerials ban and went elsewhere to do the lindy aerials seen in the GAP commercial. This guy also blew out his knee which required some heavy surgery, though he is apparently repaired enough to continue dancing.
My comments on the subject, as always, is: What *is* the point of aerials while on the social dance floor. What is the point unless you're getting paid to perform aerials? Is the risk of serious injury worth it? What do you really get out of it? The guy's job is to take care of his dance partner and not put her in harm's way (which, of course, includes not dancing her into another dancer). I stopped running for exercise a long time ago because it was hurting my knee for dancing and skiing. It wasn't worth the risk of stopping my dancing forever. Aerials have the potential to do much more serious damage to the knees and it's usually the follower who bears the brunt of the injury.
I heard that Roger Weiss will be asking dancers to move their Shim Sham lines off to the side and away from the stage at the IC dances. I know that Tony and Aurelie always start their lines off to the side but this Saturday's crowd started it right in front of the stage (Tony and Aurelie weren't there that night). Roger commented that with a crowded dance floor, it wasn't fair to the other dancers for the line dancers to do form their lines on the prime dance area and crowd out the other dancers. I think he's right, though I also don't like dance jams for the same reason and he likes them (as long as it's not the same faces all the time).
Oh, one last item before I call it a day. Someone commented on an angry note that he received in the mail as part of a group mailing. The note pretty much blasted Boston because alledgedly no one took any initiative to bring Indigo Swing into Boston ( Hartford, CT and Norwich , VT are getting them). While I agreed with the part about it being a shame that no one brought them in (though someone is bringing Bill Elliot!), I've learned a LONG time ago (I've been in the computer business since 1984) that sending out opinions flavored with personal anger (in this case, against the dance community) is probably not a good idea. Making outrageous comments (trying to discount it as an overenthusiastic brainfart) just makes people take the opposite view and turn them against the writer. I should know. :-)
I finally got around to checking out Broadway Studios this week. I know that NYC's George Gee and his Make-Believe Ballroom Orchestra will be playing there this week so I will show up to support the band. The wooden dance floor there is pretty big (slightly smaller than Ken's Place), even with the stage taking up a large corner of the space. There is live music on Wednesdays, with swing dancing on most nights and Tango on Sundays. The space is good with plenty of safe space to dance in, even with a large crowd number of people there. I walked by the HiBall Lounge that night but there wasn't much happening there.
On Saturday, I checked out The Dog House with my friends Laura and Beth Ann (also visiting from Boston). This place is at 1133 Mission Street, between 7th and 8th, and reminds me of the Dance Complex in Cambridge in that it offers a wide variety of dance classes there. While the beginner lesson is going on, there's another room available downstairs for practicing. The dance floor is even bigger than Broadway Studios and is a good surface for dancing. Music is by a dj (who appears to need some better equipment). There were alot of good dancers there. I highly recommend this as a swing dance venue.
Lindy In The Park
Oh yeah, almost forgot. I gotta stop staying out late on Saturday so I can be awake for Lindy In The Park. As usual, a huge crowd shows up to dance on Sundays at the bandstand in the Music Concourse of Golden Gate Park. How many people showed up? Wild guess: 70. That's a ton of people, considering the bandstand isn't all that big. Nobody cared because they all had fun dancing for 4 hours (well, I *left* after four hours; they stayed.) The interesting thing is that I never got kicked while dancing in that dense crowd.
You know you're old when the local Oldies station plays the music that was popular during high school. KFRC 99.7 FM, Silicon Valley's Oldies station played The Village People's Y.M.C.A. on the air today. I feel old. :^)
This morning I showed up at Lindy In The Park. Due to my desire to get a free parking space, I'm very often one of the first ones there. Dave Wong (a local dancer) brought out a couple of brooms and, after I moved my stuff to the side, I grabbed a broom and started sweeping the stage. After I was done, some guy came over to say "good job", but he added that next time I shouldn't sweep the dust onto his jacket which he had left on the center of the stage.
I reflected upon that and told him that it was sad that the first guy (second after Dave) to grab a broom was someone who lived 3000 miles away. He offered a lame excuse about not seeing the brooms. The first thing done before any Lindy In The Park is that the bandstand is swept to make the surface better for the dancer, usually by one of the people running the event with a push broom so this guy definitely had to know that the brooms were available. I even got the brooms out of the storage room myself the week before and I don't even live there. The guy here is a "user", not a "giver"; he gratefully enjoys the benefits of someone else's work but he wasn't willing to give up a small part of his time and energy to help support it.
The point here is that the/any swing community survives by enthusiastic volunteers who offer their time and efforts to improve dancing for everyone (for example: the guy who maintains this website). Such improvements can only take place with the continuing support of all the dancers. The dancers should not assume that someone else is going to do all the work; at some time, these volunteers (Anne Atheling and Don Wang are two local dancers who immediately come to mind) will eventually decide to move on to other ventures or they just get tired of what they're doing and they will stop. Don't think that someone else will always be around to do the "job".
I was talking Jennifer at Lindy In The Park and she commented that they tend to play the slower big band music in San Francisco, as opposed to the faster music in Boston. We agreed that we should put the two dance communities into a mixing bowl and stir it up well and then split it up evenly. A wider range of music makes it much more interesting than playing the same sort of music continuously.
The dancers in San Francisco seem to do a lot of spontaneous dance jams, though their motivations seem much different from that of the Boston dancers. From what I've read on the Speakeasy, the Boston dancers seem to want "show off" time where they own the floor with everyone else watching and cheering them on. In San Francisco, the dancers are constantly looking for friends who just had a birthday and they will play a long song so the birthday person will be the center of attention with a continuously changing set of dance partners. This happens even in the bars such as Broadway Studios. I think that this policy of dance jams makes for a more cohesive dance community. The birthday dancer(s) gets some special attention and the privilege of dancing with a lot of people for one song. The emphasis is never on how cool they look on the floor; their goal to give the birthday person a very special time dancing. After that, the other dances just go back to their own dancing.
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