The Soapbox Archives:
Dance teachers, not unlike parents, have a big role and a big responsibility in how their students turn out. This has much to do not just with how they turn out as a dancer, but also how they turn out as human beings. This means that the students' attitude towards themselves, their classmates, and other dancers out in the wild is also a reflection of their dance teacher.
Does someone refuse to dance with beginners? Does the dancer push or pull their partners? Do they bang into other dancers on the dance floor? Do they *stay on beat*? Are they nice to other dancers? Are they supportive of other dancers and other dance venues? These are things that get absorbed by a student during classes and/or dance events. A promoter who just runs dances has the same responsibilities. Do they go around asking the new dancers out to the floor? Do they walk around the floor and making sure the dancers are having a good time? Do they listen to their customers? That has a big impact on the mood and attitude at a dance. That influences how friendly a dance venue is viewed by the newer or casual dancers. That determines how successful (re: profitable) a dance is because an unhappy newbie dancer doesn't come back.
Dance teachers should encourage their students to go out dancing as much as possible; they should encourage those students to go dancing at other venues. The teachers should indicate that mixing with other parts of the community makes it more inclusive and enlarges the pool of available dancers. Some teachers will encourage their students to take classes at other dance studios to increase their knowledge of the dance; I think this would also be a reflection of their confidence in their own teaching ability.
Being part of a dance community is not a passive activity. Those who claim to be part of the community should consider if they're doing enough to encourage others to support the whole community instead of just hanging out in cliques.
Note to all dance organizers
All things otherwise being equal (just as an example, all three new Friday night venues), the venue that gets their calendar information to me earlier gets listed above those that send me their information later. For example, for April 18, Swing City confirmed that date at least a week before I found the listing for that same date for the Boston Swing Central's dance on the band's website (the Co-op hasn't told me about it yet) so Swing City gets listed ahead of Boston Swing Central for that date, April 18. The early bird gets, er, the better positioning. Note that the Swing Dance Depot already gave me a list of dates out to October.
Telling me that it'll be on the same day of the week for the next month isn't good enough; if I don't get a note acknowledging that your event will be held on a specific date, that means there was no official confirmation. If you don't see your event listed on the calendars, it's a sign that you didn't send me the information I requested. Better get to it.
By the way, I'm sending out copies of the calendar in monthly format to some venues. They can print them out so their customers can see at a glance where they want to go dancing. If you send information during that month for *that* month, it won't be in the printouts that get handed out at the dance venues. Send your information early.
Teachers, how your students behave towards other dancers, particularly in other genres (ECS, Lindy Hop, WCS, ballroom, latin, etc), is a reflection upon *you*. If your students are unfriendly or if they stick up their nose at other dancers, the fingers point back to you.
The following piece was submitted by a follower.
Kingdom: Animalia/Metazoa (animals)
Phylum: Chordata (mostly vertebrates)
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Family: Hominidae (the great apes)
Genus: Homo (modern humans)
Species: Homo Sapiens ("knowing man")
Sub-Species: Homo Saltans ("dancing man")
Sub-Sub Species: The Sultan
This is the leader whose nonverbal invitation to dance is communicated by his hand extending toward you. Little do you know what lies ahead.
You walk together to a spot on the floor, with you somehow walking slightly ahead of him. The music starts. You wait for his lead. He does not move. Perhaps he is waiting for the introductory bar(s) of the tune so he can find the beat. But they have already been played by the band or recording and you are still standing there waiting. As a follower you remember what every good instructor has told you repeatedly: "Wait for the lead." Your silent question at this moment is: how long do you wait? Finally, he smiles with a hungry grin and says, "Go ahead."
What to do? With the music playing and all other leaders either dancing, taking a break, or otherwise unavailable, there you are -- in an awkward moment in the middle of the floor. Most followers will start dancing hoping the Sultan will join in. If the leader is simply a novice trying to build confidence dancing with a more experienced follower, he will pick up on the beat from the music and the follower and join in quickly, taking over the lead. It can be the beginning of a nice dance friendship. However, if he is a Sultan, the mentality is "you may dance for me now. Then you may peel me a grape."
Once this follower, whose Sultan-style leader was also part Anchor and part Spin Baby Spin Guy, said gently to the leader, "Aren't you going to dance too?" He became angry and replied that he was making her look good by his standing still and raising his arm to twirl her repeatedly. The result was that she was literally dancing in circles around him. She remembered a scene from the movie, The Ten Commandments, in which a group of sisters are called upon to dance for Moses so he would choose a wife from among them. He chose the only one who did not dance for them: Sephora.
The point? We think most leaders and followers agree it is more fun to dance with you than for you.
Back about 15 years ago, when the Boston Swing Dance Network dances were held at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the place that gave us the name, The IC Dances, someone decided that they had every "right" to hold a swing dance at the same location as the pre-existing monthly BSDN dance and to hand out flyers at the BSDN event. That interloper decided that it was perfectly okay to leech off the customers that another dance promoter worked so hard to earn.
That particular dance promoter knew the rules: you don't advertise your own event at another venue if you're going to be competing with that venue and you certainly don't hold a dance at a location where someone else worked so hard to build up. It's just rude, it's wrong and it's just *unethical*. It's just as bad if you're a dance teacher and you handed out your class flyers outside another teacher's location, particularly as the other teacher's students are leaving the building. This person was saying that stealing customers was more important than maintaining peace and goodwill within the dance community.
I'm annoyed because I was at a dance and someone from a competing event went into the dance's parking lot and put flyers for that competing dance on the windshield of every car in the parking lot. If you know that you won't be allowed to leave your flyers at the dance with everyone else's flyers, then you must know that they won't want you to put your flyers on all the cars in the parking lot. The parking lot is *private* property and it's trespassing if you have to go in there to put your flyers on the cars. The fact that no one will be sued or arrested doesn't change the fact that it shouldn't be done. Let's not even talk about the fact that someone had to *touch* my car in order to put a flyer on the windshield.
What's the difference between putting a flyer on someone's windshield and spam? Answer: none. And something on the windshield is a hazard to safe driving. I shouldn't have to take the time to stop my car to remove a flyer off my windshield because I never gave permission for someone to put the flyer there
Bottom line: You don't advertise your event or classes at a competing dance event. No if's, and's, or but's. (Editor's note and correction: You don't do it without getting permission and you should abide by their decision.) The rules may not be written down anywhere but they apply to everyone, even if not everyone agrees to it. It may not matter to this particular dance venue, but it matters to *me* and it may have some influence on the priority that venue's information is given on this website. I wonder how that venue's promoters would feel if someone did it to them?
In these situations, all dance promotors should be asking one of two questions before taking any action:
Which question you ask determines how people view you as a human being and whether or not your potential customers want to support your venue.
To the offending dance venue: Do you really think you helped your venue or did you actually hurt it? I think you owe someone an apology.
Editor's note: I received the following within 24 hours (including sleep time) from the organizers for the Swing Dance Depot, one of the three current Friday night venues. To balance the publicity that this event generated, I was asked to also mention that it was the new Swing City in Somerville that had its patrons' cars left with the flyers.
Please note that I deliberately didn't mention the Swing Depot's name in the editorial above. My intention was to highlight what I considered bad behavior so that this activity is not repeated again. One dance promoter characterized this event as a "rookie mistake" and I think we should view it as such.
It is important that a new venue gets off on a positive note as events such as this sticks in people's minds and guides their behavior towards a promoter and their venue for a long time. I'm glad that this was resolved quickly. I still believe that these two venues, along with the third Friday venue, Boston Swing Central, should be judged on their merits: do they throw a good dance? However, let's keep the playing field level and fair.
Some of us are still pissed at that guy from 15 years ago.
I saw your posting, and was horrified by what has happened! I have sent Olaf an apology directly. Will you please post my apology so that it available for everyone to read ? I would greatly appreciate it, thank you.
Again with deepest regrets,
David E Smith, SwingDanceDepot (4/21/2008)
I am writing with my sincerest apologies for the placement of the fliers advertising my dance venue at another dance event.
I accept full responsibility for the actions of a volunteer, who, while trying to help me advertise my soon to be opened Swing Dance Depot, actually caused negative feelings among some patrons of the dance when she placed fliers on the windshields of the dance patrons. Unfortunately, I was not aware of my volunteer's actions until this morning, when I read the letter of complaint that was posted on DanceNet (see above). Had I known at the time what my volunteer had done, I would have gone to the dance event, and removed every single flier myself.
Please rest assured that I absolutely do not subscribe to the view that stealing customers is acceptable. In my attempt to spread the word about Swing Dance Depot, I failed to review with my volunteer, the unspoken rules of advertising that state that one must never advertise one's venue at a competing dance event. As a passionate swing dancer myself, I am merely trying to create another opportunity for people to enjoy swing dancing. It is my hope that everyone reading this letter will accept my deepest apologies for any harm done by the misplaced fliers. I can assure you that this type of mistake will not happen again.
I hope to see many of you out on the dance floor.
with deepest regrets,
David E Smith, SwingDanceDepot (4/21/2008)
Editor's Note: The Swing Dance Depot opens on May 2, 2008, in Watertown.
It also seems appropriate that I got a note from some organization asking if we were still publishing the monthly Boston Swing Dance Society newsletter. I was the official publisher along with editor Roberta Tovey and writer Laura Sohval. That document hasn't been published in about 13 years, I think. For some reason I remember the circulation to be about 140 newsletters a month, manually folded and stamped. I left that to continue sending out my weekly electronic newsletter (now 17 years old with about 400 subscribers) and to start this website (over 11 years old with a monthly readership of about 25,000).
I couldn't imagine that back then that the community would have grown so much or that we'd be able to reach so many dancers in such a period of time. I don't think we could have envisioned the influence and effects of technology to keep us informed about the simple and ancient activity of holding someone's hand and moving around with them to music. Certainly, it wouldn't have been possible to get a dance promoter to make a public apology like the above 15 years ago or that one would have the means to do so to so many dancers. I'd like to thank Roberta Tovey for the editorial guidance and education that I received while working with her. I think of her every time I write in this space because I can feel her standing over my shoulder every time I go and fix a typo.
Friday is also the official grand (re-)opening of Swing City in Somerville. They had been open for two weeks already and shaking down any issues that came up so it'll be interesting to see how they do after Friday.
Boston Swing Central in Central Square, Cambridge, was suppose to have been settled, except that they were only planning on being at the YWCA for April. They have a new location, starting May 9, and it'll be a whole new ball game for them. I think moving was a good idea since ventilation in the main room was bad and it was a small room (about one third the size of Swing City).
Therefore, the decision as to where to go dancing on Friday nights will have to be put off until after May 9. Check them all out and vote with your feet (literally). I think Boston can support two of the Friday night swing venues, so it'll be interesting to see who survives.
As an side note, I think Swing City should be included in the upcoming Boston Independence (Blues & Lindy) Exchange, even as an "alternative" event. Swing City was announced before the BIX event for that Friday (May 23). We went through this last year when the BIX was scheduled on top of the 20+ year old Boston Swing Dance Network's regular monthly dance and the IC Dance was not originally included as part of the scheduled until someone complained. Swing City should make similar noise. The Boston Swing Cooperative, as part of its stated objective to bring together all the local swing dance venues, should support that cause.
Skip Jones of Rhode Island's Friends of Ballroom Dancing passed away back in February 29. I was wondering I hadn't heard from the guy in a while. I never met him but I could see that he was a passionate supporter of ballroom dance.
His legacy continues on with others picking up the baton and carrying on with the equally non-profit Newport Ballroom Dance.
My current car got christened the other week. Some idiot was trying to get into a full garage and hit me while trying to back out of the entrance gate.
She got out of her car only after I did and she asked, "Didn't you
see my backup lights?!?"
I said, "Why didn't you wait for me to back up?"
She said, "I didn't see you there"
The logic of that statement left me speechless.
When she backed up, I could see that her front quarter panel was all crumpled in and her passenger mirror was hanging off the car by the cable. That explains why she hit me. Just to annoy her, I pulled right up to the garage's gate. As she screamed out "It's full!", I flashed my gate pass, the gate raised up and I drove in to my reserved parking spot.
At least I had 6 months of an unblemished car. My last car got hit the day after I got it. I think all of my cars have had someone hit it eventually.
I just had a good laugh. I'm using Trend Micro's internet security suite because it was rated number 1 in a comparison not too long ago in Consumer Reports of about 10 different antivirus/firewall/spyware programs (July, 2007, I think). I recently turned on the Parental Control features, just because it was there.
When I went to the Tango Society of Boston's website on April 9, Trend Micro replaced the content of the calendar (in my browser) with the warning that the default webpage was identified as "undesirable" for sex content. No, there wasn't any such thing on the website.
Great...now I forgot why I went to that website in the first place.