As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
Someone sent me email telling me that a certain group was playing somewhere and he provided me with a phone number. That's all I was given.
Now, I travel alot and I do much of my website editting on my laptop. If someone tells me about an event and gives me a phone number to call, I get royally annoyed because I don't get reimbursed for my dance-related long distance phone calls (perhap I should, but it's a pain to keep track of it). Why bother telling me about a dance event without giving me any important details, like *where* it will be? I spent enough unpaid time entering information into these pages without having to spend more time tracking down information (I *do* have a real job and a life outside of dancing!). I should not also be expected to shell out money out of my own pocket to call the dance promoters who can't be bothered to call or write to get some free advertisement for their money-making event.
An old-timer on the dance scene complained about some people (you might know how you are) who have a tendency to take up a LOT of space on the dance floor, for instance, when doing moving tandem charleston and other figures. These dance figures have a tendency to travel across the dance floor where other dancers might be occupying the same dance floor space. Taking up the space is not a necessarily a bad thing. The problem occurs when these people kick other dancers and then get mad because these people were in their way. If you see people like this and you know who their dance teachers are, I'd appreciate it if you let me know who they are. I'd be very interested in finding out if that's what these people are being taught to do (i.e., to kick other dancers).
A shock went through the West Coast Swing community as Fred Rapoport announced that the Piety Corner Club has discontinued its weekly dancing. Bill Cameron, who has been teaching there on Tuesdays for the last several years, has decided that the weekly 4-hour roundtrip (and sometimes more) has been enough and has decided to step down from his gig there.
The West Coast Swing community seems to not have had a good year in the Boston area as several venues either quit or switched to other activities. Compared to the Lindy (smooth or otherwise) community, the WCS crowd has not been very active in encouraging venues to offer more WCS dancing.
Please continue to support the remaining WCS venues. The Longfellow Dance Club continues to offer weekly WCS dancing while some others will still have their monthly WCS dances.
How many of you think that a guy can wear a necktie loosely/casually and not look drunk?
I shall pass this world, but once.
Any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show.
another human being, let me do it now and not defer it.
For I shall not pass this way again.
It seemed appropriate that I should find this prose again at this time, as I find that a long-time dance friend, and a genuinely nice person, is fighting for her life against cancer and losing. When everything is said and done, our time on this planet is relatively short and the opportunities to do something nice for another human being should not be pushed down the to-do list, lest their time (or yours) be unexpectedly cut short. After that, the survivors are left with regret for all the things they didn't do for their friends when they had the chance.
A friend had read a story about all those people who started doing "good things for humanity" towards the end of 1999 because they figured the world would end on January 1, 2000 and that it would be Judgement Day for everyone. He laughed at these people because he figured God (or a reasonable facesimile) judged people like they do at skating contests: they drop the high and low scores and averaged the rest.
Dance studios, on the other hand, have more influence over this issue. If teachers would consider including "mixers" or "ladies' choice" in their studio dances, it might create an atmosphere where partners are switched around more often or where all women get an even chance at getting a dance. The dance studios should consider these "ladies' choice" moments to help new dancers get in the practice time they need to build confidence to return for more lessons and dancing. This helps the new male dancers overcome their shyness in getting out to the dance floor.
Personally, I think the women should feel perfectly fine about asking guys to dance. Don't wait to "get picked"! On the swing scene, the aggressive women dancers are also the ones who dance all the time.
From my personal experience, I don't know if I would have stayed with dancing if someone (who eventually became my regular dance partner) hadn't spotted me hiding in the corner at my first two dances and dragged me out to the dance floor.
The dancer studios should think about making it fun for everyone, not just the experienced dancers. There are some dances (venues) that have a reputation for not wanting to deal with beginners on the social dance floor. It is at those dances that the dance teachers should be working harder to make the beginner dancers feel welcome. What happens if the students don't have a good time? They'll stay away or stop dancing completely
By the way, if I hear that a particular teacher is not welcoming to beginners, I will make every effort to direct them...to another teacher who I know is very supportive of beginner dancers.
There are also some other issues that dance studios should consider to retain their beginner students. A dance studio party should lean towards the music that is used in the dance classes. Is it really necessary to play "the hottest stuff from New York"? A beginner dancer will recognize the music from their classes and a lightbulb will go off in their head, "Hey! I can dance to this music!". For example, if slow R&B is used for a West Coast Swing class, perhaps a dance studio should lean in that direction instead of playing funk and disco at their dances. This gives the beginner dancer some confidence because they know the music and can dance to it.
Ettiquette is also a fairly major and common issue.
"I actually saw a man stop dancing with a woman half way through a song, as she wasn't keeping up with his lead. Of course, the woman was embarrassed and left shortly after."Well, it's not only guys who do it, but that's beside the point. At one time, we were all beginners. If it weren't for the woman at my two dances who dragged me out onto the dance floor, I don't think I would have stuck with dancing and this website, of course, wouldn't have existed (Thank you, Susan Brown). Every newbie dancer deserves a chance to get some experience on the social dance floor (and get a chance to improve) and it's only three minutes (or whatever the length of the song) out of a whole dance. I think that's a cheap investment in a potential swingaholic.
The new dancers are a valuable resource that must be cultivated. They are the lifeblood of all the dance venues, both for the dance studios and the dancing venues. They make it possible for the dance venue to stay profitable and in business. A recruiting effort should be made by the promoters who's own lifeblood depends on the returning dancers. As each generation (two year's worth) of dancers gets older, a smaller percentage of each group continues to dance and the revenue from that group gets smaller. While keeping the more experienced dancers happy, the dance promoters should make an effort to encourage the new dancers to come back.
I got a few comments back from a few readers about last week's Soapbox that considered some ways to retain the beginner dancer and make them feel more comfortable on the dance scene.
One teacher who wrote to tell me that he makes a point of organizing his dances to help newcomers/beginners. While he has generally gotten favorable comments on his efforts, he has gotten a few reviews from customers who didn't appreciate his efforts to make everyone feel welcome to the dance; that surprised him. He was also afraid of being one of the studios that I was refering to in last week's Soapbox.
In general, I've come to believe that the people at whom I'm aiming my Soapboxes generally don't believe that they are guilty of what I'm writing about and generally won't think to ask me if it's them. The teacher who wrote back to me wasn't the problem.
I was particularly distressed by the note from one newbie dance who has been discouraged by people who hang out together in cliques at dances and practices. Yes, even at the practices.
It seems that the smaller venues, like a 20-person practice session are even more intimidating because new people stick out like a sore thumb. In these situations, it's obvious who knows each other and who's the odd man out. This is a good time for the established dancers to draw out the few newbies that show up.
Some suggestions included:
It's dancing, It's suppose to be fun. "It's supposed to be a way we say 'Life is good' with someone else".
That wild and crazy Lindy Lady in San Francisco (who looks remarkably like actress Rene Russo) suggested holding "Snow Balls" (as opposed to "Ladies' Choice") where, for one very long song, one couple will start dancing and after half a minute, they split up and pull someone else (perferably a stranger) out to the dance floor for another 30 seconds. This repeats (...and they get two friends, and so on and so on...) until the entire room is dancing. This helps by taking away the decision to either dance with a known good dancer or to try dancing with someone new.