As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
Not too long ago, I was told about a dance teacher (or two) who showed up at some dance venue expecting to get comped into the dance. They were "celebrities" of sorts and they spent some time at the door, expecting the promoters to acknowledge them and let them in. At some point, they decided not to stay and made a point of telling one of the organizers that they were not staying and were very upset.
The story that I was told was that these teachers were expecting to get free admission into the dance venue just because they were teachers or "somebodies". I was trying to figure out what was so special about them that they thought that they should get free admission to the venue. (It's much harder to impress me as I get older). I wonder if they felt that the venue should have felt honored that the teachers chose to grace their halls with their presence.
Personally, I think that dance teachers (in general) need to get out into the public eye frequently so that dancers can see them and decide if they want to take lessons from these teachers. It's to the benefit of the dance teachers if they show up at a dance so they can "work the crowd".
Certainly the dance venues *should* consider letting some of these teachers in because an appearance might promote the venue itself, even if they're teaching elsewhere. However, there is a problem with figuring out *who* are teachers. At some of the major dances, many dancers could claim to be teachers, even if they've never received any teacher training. Looking around Boston, who's actually "certified" to teach? (a few) Over the years, I and others have complained about people who "hang up their shingle" after having taken only a few classes.
It would be nice if the policy was more consistent, but it's up to each dance venue promoter to decide who they want to admit into their events for free. I don't think that it's something that should be expected from anyone in the dance world. Imagine how the amateur dancers feel about this...paying for all the lessons and dances while the "teachers" get in for free.
Granted, there plenty of dance venues that make lots of what has to be pure profit and can afford a few comps. On the other hand, there are some venues that barely make any money (or don't, at all) and they count on every revenue dollar to break even. In an analogy, those who use to wait on tables for a living tend to be better tippers. Likewise, those who make money off dancing should know what it's like to be watching each dollar that comes in (and some of those dance venues don't make anywhere near as much money as you might think).
On the other side of the same coin, it's also amazing how some dancers (the amateurs) will complain about shelling out their hard-earned cash for what has to be some incredible *bargains in Boston. Some of those local swing venues offer live music for dancing, even without the benefit of alcohol revenue to boost profits to pay for the band. One dance venue that stands out in my mind is Friday's Tango Rialto at the four-star Rialto restaurant in Harvard Square. For a mere $10, they offer Chef Jody's award-winning deserts and tango dancing until 1:30 am in a nice restaurant setting. I don't understand why some people will wait at the door until 12:15 am for the half-price admission (and after the desserts are taken away). Dancers from as far as Canada come through and are bowled over by the incredibly low admission price.
Dancers need to ask themselves if it's really necessary to cut corners to go dancing. We're not talking about dinner and dancing at the Bay Tower Room; it's just the difference between skipping half a dance and enjoying a complete dance evening. Don't short-change yourself.
I guess none of the ballroom, latin, hustle, and Argentine Tango dancers read this page because I didn't hear from any of them this week (and they were not excluded from the list of suspects from last week's Soapbox!)
Correction! I should have said it last week, but I forgot: It's incredibly *rude* to solicit the crowd at another teacher's dance. When I wrote that teachers should "show up at a dance so they can work the crowd", I meant that they should go and dance in public so that people can see them dancing. Teachers should not be soliciting customers at another teacher's dance. That can (and has) cause a lot of bad feelings between teachers.
The following is a contribution from a member of the swing dance community. I've extended invitations for commentary to various people and someone finally took me up on it. As in the typical disclaimer, the opinions expressed by this person are of those of that particular writer and does not necessarily reflect those of this website or of its readers. On the other hand, it might. :^) Letters of support, criticism, praise, and rebuttals are invited. :-)
A fast set? What is a fast set? Is this where you dance fast over and over and over again until you pass out? Even worse is a slow set. Do I want to dance more than five slow songs in a row? In fact, do I want to dance more than five songs of *any* type in a row? For me, the answer is no. I dance blues, hollywood style lindy, savoy style lindy, balboa, collegiate shag, and west coast. There are many dancers in this town who do the same. We can't just pick a dance form and dance it at just any tempo or type of music. By "type" I mean level of energy; for example, you can lindy to a very high energy 200 BPM song (only a few times a night!) but you can't lindy to a mellow 200 BPM song. However, the mellow 200 BPM song, or even the mellow 170 BPM song, calls for Balboa. So all night we're stuck dancing to the music that the DJ plays. If it's ten songs in a row of the same type, it's ten dances in a row of the same dance form. Now that's boring.
The argument I usually hear is that DJ's want to create a "groove" on the dance floor, that DJ'ing is an art. I had DJ'd professionally for about 3 years when I was in school (the pay was better than Burger King!), and I understand "set" theory. Every DJ wants to feel like he's an artist. This was great for spinning house and techno. But in the swing dance scene it's about the dancers, not the listeners. And the dancers want variety, especially with tempo and energy of the music.
You can keep your "set" theory but please change the variable by which you define your set. I don't mind having a 40's authentic swing set, and then a 50's set, or maybe a neoswing set, and then maybe a jazz set or a boogie woogie set. But vary the tempos within each set. This way if you play a perfect Balboa song, people who balboa will balboa and people who don't will do whatever it is they like to do to that type of song or just get a drink and talk to friends. But the next song will probably appeal to most of the people who sat out for the balboa song, as long as it's different. 5 balboa songs in a row and you've lost the interest of a big chunk of the community. 5 slow jazz songs in a row and you've lost the interest of another big group.
Most of us have some types of music we could dance to all night and some types that we could enjoy maybe once or twice an evening. Unfortunately, we don't all agree on which is which. Personally, I would be happy dividing the music equally between all types that you can find (even 80's and hip hop!), provided that with every couple of songs there was a refreshing change.
Someone who I talked to recently about this issue posed this question to a thread on Yehoodi called "Questions for Dancers and DJ's" under "Swing Talk." Check it outů (I think this is really the first time ever that people have actually agreed on Yehoodi) My favorite quote: "I really like it when I have NO IDEA what the DJ is going to play next. I like to be kept on my toes. That way, when something great comes on and I wasn't expecting it, I can go off."
So DJ's, please, keep it fresh and mix it up. If you want to DJ in sets, use the genre of the music to define your set, not the tempo. Rememberů we're the ones workin' out there on the dance floor!
I started my social dancing at Rugcutters Dance Studio in January of 1991 because all of my friends at the time were into dancing and that's where they started. I took two classes (Swing 1 and 2a) with Ron Gursky and Lynn Foord before I dared show my face at a dance. Even then, Lynn had to drag me out onto the dance floor at my first Rugcutters dance, and Susan Brown, my first dance-partner-to-be, pulled me out of the corner and off the wall at the IC dance the next night.
Getting asked to dance was the coolest thing for a guy who couldn't be forced at gunpoint to ask a stranger to dance. I was hooked. I was telling all of my friends about this wonderful activity. I also started collecting dance flyers and sending email to my friends to tell them about all the neat dance events (and class schedules) that were available. It got to the point where I was sending out email several times a day (I was hoping they'd all show up at the dances too!). Eventually, my friend, Mara Factor, suggested that I cut it down to one mailing a week and the newsletter was born. Soon I was sending out weekly email promoting swing dancing in Boston and supporting the business of the dance studios that I knew at the time. All that time, DanceNet was sent out for free to anyone who wanted to be on the mailing list.
It wasn't until a year or two later that I started calling the newsletter "DanceNet". I was talking to Anne Atheling who needed a name for the newsletter because she was writing up a list of dance resources for some publication. After bantering around with some random names, we came up with "DanceNet". At one time it was possibly unique but now several other newsletters and websites also have that name (I have no idea who was first).
During all that time, the readership has gone up and down and continues to be read each week from as far as California. With the availability of the same information on the DanceNet website, the number of subscribers has gone down, but many people still look forward to getting the newsletter on Monday morning when they get into work. There are still people on the mailing list who were with me at the beginning of my dancing career.
Even I can't believe I've been doing it for this long.
It was suggested that I hold some sort of dance event to commemorate this event. That may happen if I get around to it over the next few months.
Thanks to all the readers who have supported the newsletter and me over the last 10 years.
I was at the St. Jean's Baptist Church in NYC this week for a swing dance. A new band, The Marvel Comets (I kept thinking they were the "Marvel Comics"), played and I thought they were pretty good. The band contains at least one former member of the Blues Jumpers and they feature some good dance music. I think that they're a band worth watching out for in the future.
It figures that I went all the way to NYC just to dance at another church hall. Steven Mitchell and Virginie were there that weekend to teach workshops.
It was interesting that NYC has broken the $15 barrier for a live band dance. Someone said that this is because NYC is much bigger and much more expensive. One would think that they had more competition which should drive the prices down. I hope that this is one feature of the NYC swing scene that we never emulate because I think that is the point where some people will decide to stay home instead of going dancing. It's interesting to see who is the trend setter in Boston for price increases; many other venues, including non-band venues, seem to raise their admission prices after one initiates the action. Who will be the first?
The truth of the matter is that the lesson is *included* in the price of admission. It's really up to you whether or not you take the lesson...you're still paying for it. That's okay as long as they say "beginner dance lesson included in the admission price".
Is that fair? Yup. Taking the lesson is a choice. The lesson is part of the evening's experience and the promoters are trying to create a complete package for the time you spend at the dance. It's always a good idea because it encourages new dancers to start dancing with little or no pressure. That keeps bringing new people into the scene because they can try out dancing and take the lesson for no additional cost.
When I'm adding a listing to this website and I see "free beginner lesson", I try to remember to leave out the word "free" because if you go to one of those dances, you're paying for the lesson regardless of whether or not you take the lesson.
I remember Roger Weiss telling me about the guy who didn't dance and wanted to get into the IC dance for free. Roger told him that the admission price was for the music, not the dancing. :-)