As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
I hope you had a very happy and safe New Year's Eve celebration.
I had dinner down at Maggiano's, across from the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston on New Years Eve. It was a reservations-only night but we managed to snag a table anyways. It's a nice Italian restaurant, with big band music playing in the background. The food was very good; I liked the ambiance. "I'll be back..."
I really wish some of these dance venues and promoters would let me know when their swing activities change. I don't want to get their long generic newsletters because it wastes my time trying to find the important swing stuff and the newsletters never tell me what *changed*. It's even more annoying to find out a year later that their venue died unnoticed. You know who you are (well, maybe not).
I can't believe one person sent me a note on January *30* about their New Year's Eve ballroom event. I informed that person that they sent it too late to appear on my website and that the 5000 weekly *different* readers wouldn't see it here (well, I wasn't *that* nice about my reply).
Every once in a while I get around to actually reading some of the older existing information on this website and I'm appalled at how some of the information is outdated (some of it is my fault and some not). There's just so much information. However, I don't feel so guilty when I see much smaller websites with information that's even older. :-)
By the way, I'd be interested in hearing about the various New Year's Eve swing dancing events that you went to. I'm not going to publish any "reviews" but I want to hear about how the scene is doing from the readers' point of view. I almost went into the event at the Hard Rock Cafe...
Ah, almost forgot. My first whine of the new year:
I've been seeing these Walk-a-Thons/Run-a-Thons where people try to raise money for some noble cause. I'm glad that there are those of you who do what you can to help others in need at a time when gift-giving is at an all-time low due to the sputtering economy.
However, I do have an issue with the way many of these things work these days. The people get a "pledge" of some monies in return for "doing something" like running the Marathon or riding a bike or walking for a distance. However, these days, you're more likely to get hit up for a fixed amount and they want the check in advance. Sometimes it's a letter in the mail asking for a pledge...well, it's not a "pledge" when they get the check up front; at least they include an addressed, stamped envelope for you.
Now I will assume that this approach is suppose to save money and it's easier to get the check up front than to chase down people afterwards to get them to honor their word. On the other hand, there's no commitment to completing the presumed promised activity; there's no real commitment to even leave the house that day.
Back in *my* day, when I was a wee little boy, I chased down people with my pledge sheet in hand. I worked hard to fill out that sheet with names and pledges for *every mile* I walked. The event (typically "Walk for Hunger") had checkpoints where they'd certified that you had actually reached that point in the walk so that you'd have *proof* that you really made the honest effort (or got partial credit) to complete the task in honor of the charity that you were supporting. I wanted every penny that was promised for my personal effort so I walked down the last mile, even if my feet hurt. I'm sure that most people will participate in the event that they've promised in exchange for the "pledge" but I think that the people contributing to these charities deserve a better show of commitment on the part of the participants and the event's organizers.
By the way, as one who made pledges of support to my friends in the past, I sometimes asked the "walkers/riders" to come to me first with their pledge sheet, so that I could establish the "benchmark", the amount of money that "other" contributors could see others giving (usually higher than average).
I think the current process has taken away some of the commitment that people have to give to these causes. I can't tell if they've really "earned" my donation.
I'm off to a nice start on this year. Someone is helping me to fulfill part of *last year's* New Year's resolution of learning to tap dance: I just got my first set of tap shoes for Christmas. :-)
As I was driving up I-93 the other week, I saw what could only be described as a "comet". As many of you know, as a comet streaks towards the sun, its surface heats up and bits of water and dust get flung off in a big cloud behind the comet and forms the "tail" of the comet (pushed away from the comet by the solar wind). On the highway, this large trailer truck was having the snow blown off its roof by the wind and the snow swirled into a big cloud behind the truck as it barrelled along the highway. Visibility, needless to say, was terrible as long as you were behind the truck.
On the same road, I saw an open-bed pickup driving along and it created enough of a turbulence that the wind swirled the snow in the back into little clouds (incidentally, it shows the drag and lack of streamlining of these vehicles). The snow clouds weren't as bad as the tractor/trailer but still interferred with normal driving.
For those of you driving around in the snow (no fair gloating, Laura!), *please* clean off the *tops* of your cars. If the snow freezes over and you're driving down the highway, the wind is going to pick it up as a sheet and slam it into the car behind you. If *they* get into an accident, I'm sure that it'll be hard to put the legal blame on you because you'll be long gone, but it will still be your fault. Please clean off the roof along with the rest of your car.
It'd be nice if they had "de-icing" facilities like the airports for clearing the snow and ice off the tops of trucks so that they wouldn't create a road hazard for the rest of us in regular cars.
This website reached an interesting milestone this week; *6000* different computers accessed this website this week alone; total hits (all pages and graphics) for the week: 118716. Talk about an good idea that got out of control.
Recently, one dance promoter was trying to figure out how to keep a venue open because of declining numbers. A couple of weeks ago a sizeable number of new couples showed up but those people didn't show up the week afterwards. What happened? Some men had put themselves in the rotation as a "follower". Some of these newcomers who had to overcome a lot of emotional baggage in order to go dancing with their significant other had found themselves dancing with a guy and they decided not to return.
It's that last case that I want to focus on.
I definitely think that everyone should learn to both lead and follow; it'll only make someone a better dancer. Even more so, dancing the opposite part (i.e., a guy as a follower versus a leader) with a member of the same sex (MOTSS) helps you develop an appreciation for what your partner has to go through when dancing with *you*.
However, regardless of the great strides that our society has had in promoting an open mind towards other and/or different ideas, there are still pockets of society (sometimes very *large* pockets) who aren't quite ready to accept ideas that are different from those with which they grew up with. One of those is men dancing with men. (Is anyone going to even raise an eyebrow when women dance with women?)
At beginner dance lessons, the newcomer (male) dancers are typically holding off a flood of anxiety and fear of moving their body in public. This is new and scary to them. In many of those cases, they need just one little straw that will break their nerve. Venues that offer beginner public group lessons should help these guys ease their fears and gain some confidence so they'll be less wary of showing up. The venues should make sure that there is no additional stress on these new dancers who would probably rather be somewhere else doing *anything* else. We guys have been "taught" all these years that it's not okay to be holding another guy's hand for social reasons. You can give someone a black eye in a fight, as long as you don't hold his hand in public. That's the way society is *today*. We shouldn't force these new male dancers to have to dance with another guy if they're not ready for it.
For the sake of these new dancers, I suggest that role-swapping be saved for an intermediate class, not a fresh-off-the-street beginner class. We need to be retaining these shy and very scared men dancers; we need a continuing influx of dancers of both sexes to keep the community alive. We shouldn't be frightening off these guys with doing something they want no part of (such as dancing with other guys). Once that flow of new dancers stops, the dance community starts dying as the veterans slow down their dancing and move on to other things. When the dancers get more experience and more confidence, then it's appropriate to introduce role-reversals for "cross-training".
I got into dancing when I figured out how many women I'd be meeting. I would imagine that most men get into dancing for that same reason. Either that or they were "forced" to by their significant other. Having to dance with a guy so soon would have scared me off when I was just starting out.
The dance venues are profit-making businesses with an eye on the bottom line. They are not in the business of social engineering. If they don't get new dancers in the door who will return, the business will *close* and we will lose another swing dance venue (and I've seen plenty of them go away in the last 12 years). Don't give the dance venues a hard time if they discourage role-switching; they're probably having a hard enough time as it is. There are no winners if a dance venue closes. As long-time dancers in the community who want choices of venues at which to dance, we should be sensitive to that.
While I'm sure that it didn't have the same impact as, say, a memo about what the governor had for lunch, I felt that asking a teacher if they wanted a certain gig in a public note was "unprofessional". Imagine if you were to get that gig and you now knew that you weren't the first choice?
This dance promoter wrote back that the note went out to a small group of people because the real announcement came later. This promoter also indicated that he/she wasn't really "in the business" so he/she was *not* a professional (not full-time). I guess she felt that I must have had "a problem".
However, I felt, and I was always led to believe that, making money off dancing (i.e., "being" a professional) was complete separate from "acting" professional. I make absolutely no money from this website; however, I have a responsibility to "act" professionally within the context of this website (not that I always succeed, mind you). How one chooses to act and what one is are two different issues.
In this case, I felt that a dance promoter did not have any respect for the privacy of a dance teacher, that their feelings about having their "job offer" made public weren't really important. I felt that such "job offers", whether for pay or for a favor, should be done in private, a personal note, not in a group (meaning, going to more than *one* person) mailing. Whether this teacher spent years honing their skills or if they had just finished their most recent Swing 1 class, if they're good enough to bring in to teach a group of your customers, they deserve to be *treated* professionally just as they have an obligation to *behave* professionally. The paying customer doesn't know or care if the teacher is getting $100 or just a couple of drinks for the lessons; those teachers are "professional" and are being *presented* as a professional.
In any case, this dance promoter did not understand or refused to understand or admit that anything was done improperly and I felt that there was no point in further arguing with this person. I suppose that I should take his/her word for the fact that she is not a "professional", though you can be an amateur and still act professionally (just as there are professionals who act like amateurs). Most dance professionals that I know work really hard to make sure they *don't* get mentioned in this Soapbox.
It's amazing how many people have sent in requests for a listing on this website without a single "please" or "thank you". Have our manners atrophied that much? Some people just send in their information, prepared as if it were a classified ad, and not even bother to say "please consider the following for inclusion on your website". Whether people are too busy or too lazy to be polite, our society has some real problems if it's considered normal and okay to be rude.