As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
What makes music danceable?
One dance promoter was kind enough to share his opinions with us:
The energy that a band puts out has a lot to do with danceability. Did you notice how much the man known as Doc Scanlon was sweating at the end of the last IC dance? I've also seen some bands go flat one night and then play their hearts out on another night. The difference was their energy.
However, "energy" does not equate to "speed". In my personal opinion, Sing, Sing, Sing is generally not swingable, though it might be appropriate for Shag or Balboa. Yes, it's a big band piece, but very few bands play it in a way that makes it inspiring to swing to (though I like Eight To The Bar's version). This song has a drum beat that is too steady so the backbeat is hard to find (well, there really isn't any). That backbeat is essential to the danceability sound. And the normal speed of 212 beats per minute is too fast for the beginners at a dance. At that speed, dancers are just trying to keep up, as opposed to dancing.
Some examples of slower swing music might include some of Bobby Darin's more popular pieces, like "More", "Mac, The Knife", "Beyond The Sea", or many of Indigo Swing's songs. I recommend one CD from an unusual source: Dinner is Served from Williams-Sonoma! It has a lot of nice slower tempos with good swing rhythms.
What could help a band figure out what is "danceable"? The band members should learn to dance and get out on the dance floor. There are bands out there, such as Dom V and the Swing Out Big Band or The O-Tones where some band members actually dance alongside their customers. These musicians are able to see what makes dancers move. They realize that they don't have to sacrifice their artistic soul to satisfy the people who foot the bill.
What if you don't understand what the venue needs? Go attend one of their dances and bring along a dancer for notes. I gave some negative feedback to one band a couple of years ago for one of their dances. Instead of getting indignant, the band leader showed up at someone else's dance where they had a live band and we sat down to discuss the danceability of each song from the dancer's point of view. That's productive and helps the band get dance gigs, not just performance jobs.
As for the audience, don't forget to applaud when the band plays something that inspires you to dance. There's nothing like that instant feedback and instant gratification. Let the band know what you like to hear and maybe they'll play more of it.
This week's Soapbox was set off by the following piece of mail:
Please take the notice about the swing dance [...] at [identity removed] off the web site, we have decided to cancel the events until further notice. Thank you for your support - we had a lovely evening [...], but mostly all beginners and we were looking for a venue for intermediate and advanced dancers to practice with each other.
This week's Soapbox offers again a bad example not to follow. The identity of the person who sent me this note is not important; even the incident itself and the venue is not important. However, there are three things that should be pointed out:
The note implied that they had only one event and then decided to cancel it. If there was a desired result, there was no time given for that result to be achieved. I'm disappointed that they asked to be listed on this website and then didn't give it a chance to succeed.
The writer was doing fine when saying that the dances had been cancelled. However, adding the comment about the beginners is, I should say, "too much information". Since that dance offered a "beginner" lesson, it was easy to assume that the venue was "beginner-friendly" and it did say "all ages and all levels" were welcome. I was not aware of the hidden agenda and the listing was misleading. This was suppose to be a dance open to the public, not a specialized practice. I might have been able to make some suggestions regarding the venue if I had known ahead of time.
The thing that really bothers me, though, is that this was not the usual "advanced" dance *customer* who didn't want to be bothered with a dance beginner; this time, it was a dance organizer/promoter.
I have to ask: what percentage of advanced dancers were once beginners? Answer: *all of them*. Is it really that easy to forget what that period of time was like?
I'll admit that there are some people who will never be great dancers, no matter how long they keep at it. On the other hand, how do we know that any particular *beginner* will *never* be a good dancer, ever? I've said it many times in this Soapbox: the beginner dancer you ignore today could be tomorrow's dance champion who remembers those who treated them poorly in the beginning. Every *paying* customer deserves some measure of respect and dignity, regardless of dance level.
What's worse is that this was a dance organizer who had this attitude. Dance organizers should be thinking that today's bumbling beginner might be tomorrow's returning *paying* customer. *Any* returning customer is important. Why not invest in some time now to generate some goodwill for that one day when that beginner dancer returns in the future as an advanced dancer? If a venue wants only advanced dancers, there won't be enough people coming through the door to pay the rent.
Anyone who organizes dances places himself or herself on a higher standard of behavior. They accept money and are expected to provide good value for that money. If they say that "all levels are welcome", they should honor that. They should be honest about their ulterior motives to give their customers a chance to decide if they really want to spend their money at that particular venue.
This website works on behalf of the dancers, not the dance promoters. I try to provide the best available information so that dancers can make informed decisions on where they want to spend their time and money for dancing. I need honest information from the dance organizers to do that.
The moral of this story:
If you send a quick email requesting changes to the listing for your dance venue, you should consider including the city and *state* of your venue and even possibly information on the specific pages that need to be modified so I can make the changes quickly. There is a lot of information on this website and I don't personally know every venue. If you give me enough time to think about your venue, I will. :-P
The following is a note that I got from one of my readers. I thought it was worth sharing as a lead-in to the rest of the Soapbox.
I love it when people get fired up about things you write. For those who don't like your soapbox, they are sure to make sure they get their dose of it every week.
As you know, some opinions are not as thought out as others. But your post is only to make people think about stuff and they are definitely doing that per the Speakeasy comments. Mission accomplished. As aggravating as some of the "discussions" on the Speakeasy are, they are the more interesting ones than the "you rock" posts that are always on there.
Keep up the soapbox!
P.S. You rock!
Thank you, David, for your support and understanding. Also, thank you, Diane at the Rugcutters dance, who said that she agrees with the Soapbox each week for nailing the issues that are important to her.
On the Swing Speakeasy, someone had complained that this Soapbox tried to speak for the dance community. I find it amusing that some people think that this Soapbox tries to replace the voices of the dancers out in the Swing community. I speak for the community as much as any editorial column of any print or electronic publication might speak for their readers, meaning "*none*". However, since that comment was brought up in a public forum, I felt that it would be appropriate to answer it here in a public forum, though unlike the complainer, I don't hide behind an alias and I stand behind my words.
As many of you know, I make no money off this website or off dancing in general. I ask for no freebies (that includes CD's, lessons, or free admission) in return for a any listing or webauthoring on this website (as a matter of fact, I just told the Connecticut Swing Dance Society that I wouldn't charge them anything if they wanted to move their webpages to this website). I put 10-20 hours a week into this website, updating it so that dancers can have up-to-date information on their favorite dance venues. Of special note is the fact that I am beholden to no dance promoter nor any business and that includes the DanceNet sponsors. On top of that, I have a real job and a real life outside of dancing.
If I don't make money off the website, what do I get in return? My only self-indulgence is this little corner of this fairly large website to discuss issues of importance to many dancers. The dancers? Yes. Most of the commentary in this Soapbox is inspired by my readers. Every other week someone will come up to me and say "Hey! I know what you can write about this week!". Some others will send me email about something that's been bugging them. I suspect that some of my friends are coming up to me to tell me their stories in hopes that I'll write about it.
What's the point of this Soapbox? To highlight things that I personally like and things that bother my readers and me. Some examples of bad behavior that I might write about could include some of the following:
I want people to see these kinds of behavior as "less than desirable" and hopefully others will think twice when interacting with other dancers. What if some people disagree with what I write? Is that a failure? No. What usually happens is that these people will get mad and start talking about it. I want them all to think "um...did I do that?" (ha, ha! Made you *think* :-P ). At the same time there are people who write in to confirm and support what appears in this Soapbox. This latter group is usually the only group of people who bothers to write in or talk to me in person.
However, don't think that this Soapbox is limited to just my opinions. I've already invited a few people to write for this Soapbox; they're even more opinionated than I am. However, I suspect that they're quite happy to let me "have all the attention" if anyone disagrees with their point of view.
Got something on your mind? Care to share it? Want to write something for this Soapbox? I will look at anything that is carefully thought out and well written. No ranting or raving. If I can revisit my opinion before publishing it, so can you. However, please note that anything sent to me regarding dancing is fair game for this Soapbox, so be nice. I'd like to see people take a stand and speak their mind. Also, if I can sign my name below and stand up for my opinions, so can you.
I wanted to answer the individual who is an alledged "transplant" from NYC. This person blamed "politics" for a certain NY band not getting hired at the Watertown dance: The dance promoter listened to the tape; he listened to the CD; and he finally heard the band live locally. After each time, he decided that the band was not right for him. Also, only one person had ever written in to request this band. So much for "politics" and so much for local fan support.
I myself heard the Flipped Fedoras at the Roxy years ago, bought their "homemade" CD, and brought them to the attention of the IC dance promoter. We almost got to dance to their music at the IC. (Remember whose fault that was?) I also told the same promoter about Jet Set Six and we did hear them play in Watertown. (As an aside, a NY band recently became a sponsor of this website; I think this shows *my* support for NY bands.)
Those of you who wish to see any particular band appear at local venues, like the IC Dance, should make your voices heard *directly* with the dance promoter. The dance promoters need a face or an email address so your "votes" can be counted. A promoter will not hire a band that he (or she) feels is not right for their venue. Lack of direct local fan support merely confirms that decision. A few vocal dancers have been showing their support for various bands on some swing discussion websites, but they did not bother writing or calling the dance promoters. *DO NOT* assume that the promoters read those forums; they might have better things to do with their lives. Also, don't hide behind some pseudo-name. The first assumption the dance promoter will make about a pseudo-name is it's really a band member trying to sucker others to do their promoting for them. Use a real name or a real email address so that the promoter knows that a real *paying* customer wants to hear that band locally.
I provided a totally free service for listing (swing) dance events. I put in my 10-20 hours a week of dealing with the information that flows through my emailbox. I make no money off dancing or off this website.
The dance venues out there, for-profit or otherwise, are trying to get people to attend their classes and/or dances. They want people to show up. They are "in the business".
It amazes me that a few of these dance venues try very hard to turn my not-for-profit activities into "work". I've gotten email messages with a only a phone number to call or a URL to click on to get information. I'd like to make them aware of the fact that it *is not* my job to provide free publicity for them on the web.
Regardless of rumors to the contrary, I do have a life outside of dancing. I have a full-time job and I also need to eat, sleep, rest, and occasionally even dance. Also, editing the website interferes with playing Half-Life & Team Fortress on-line (look for someone called "Terror Maroon")!
To make it easier and more likely that I'll list your event, here are the following hints.
One more thing, while the primary focus of this website is Swing and Lindy, I do post information on other forms of dancing. The priority is:
Meanwhile, Merry Christmas (to those of you who celebrate it, that is) and I hope you have a great New Year.
With the good that Ken's Place did (over $10,000 given away to charity), I think that Boston is a poorer place today.
More commentary in next week's Soapbox.
I'd like to thank all the DanceNet sponsors for making this website possible. These nice people covered all of the ISP costs for this website (and it wasn't cheap). Not only that, there was some left over at the end of the year. Since this website is not suppose to make any "profit", the monies left over were donated to charity. This year's recipient was The Pine Street Inn homeless shelter in the South End section of Boston. I realized after sending in the check that I should have donated the money to the Gardner, MA Visiting Nurses Association in memory of Pat Keresey who passed away this year; I'll try to remember to do that for next year.
With that, I'd like to welcome Connecticut's Eight To The Bar as a sponsor for this website. I've been dancing to this great band for years and am never disappoint to the energy they bring to a dance. One thing that stands out in my mind was the time that I ended up dancing to their version of "Sing, Sing, Sing" before I realized that this was the one song that I won't dance to. They can put the swing rhythm into a song that's not suppose to have it. I am happy to include them in the circle of dance venues to which I give my personal support and endorsement. They've always had my support, considering the rating I give on my band page, but now it's official.