The Soapbox Archives:
Long-time dancers have seen different promoters run a weekly Friday night dance and move on. And so it is with Swing City. Over a post-dance visit to the diner, our group expressed its wishes for the next series of Friday night dances. Benson asked me to bring that conversation to his soapbox. I have added comments many of you have made to me over time, and offer them with my best wishes for the next Friday night dance promoter(s.)
Volunteers at the door, including me, are often your customers' the first and last point of contact. Those customers ask questions to determine whether to come in, and upon leaving, offer reasons why they feel they had a good or bad time on a particular night. They also approach us at the supermarket, train station, etc. We relay comments to the promoters at the dances, and via this soapbox, I offer them to you.
We would like a venue which:
As a community, let's give our support to whomever steps forward to offer a Friday night venue. Where we agree, let's give compliments, and where our preferences differ, let's be kind when offering feedback. I can only imagine how much work is involved, and humbly suggest the dance promoter(s) deserves our thanks in addition to our admission fee.
And now the questions are: Is this possible? Is our diner conversation a match for what others would like to see?
Kathleen R has been dancing socially at swing dances since 1990, and has been a volunteer for local dance organizers, currently including Swing City since 2001 and the Boston Swing Dance Network's monthly dance at St. James the Armenian Church in Watertown since 1996.
#1: The Caveman
This creature is characterized less by his physical characteristics than his behavior. The Caveman can be tall or short, good-looking...or less so, intelligent...or not; it doesn't matter because it's his behavior that stands out.
The first thing you might notice is his method of getting a dance partner/date/mate. He'll grab the woman's wrist and start walking away with it. Of course, the owner of the wrist will have no choice but to follow the wrist. Sometimes there are verbal clues: "Woman! Come!", a grunt "ugh!", or there's just the tacit assumption that you belong to him for the next three minutes of the song.
What's worse is that he'll pull you in a bit too closely and who wants to be close to a caveman? But try to dance apart and he'll pull you back and say, "No, this way...". Perhaps The Caveman isn't so dumb? He's really making sure the woman doesn't have a option to turn down the dance...because The Caveman takes what he wants and doesn't apologize for it.
Our real life example of Caveman must be evolving, though. At first he didn't even grunt. Next week: Paddle-Ball Man
Now I got word that Olaf Bleck of SalsaBoston will be continuing Swing City as a weekly Friday dance somewhere in Cambridge in April. Is the community big enough to host two Friday night dances? I think it is, but I'm not worried about it right now.
I'm not concerned about the positioning of these new venues. I tend to be more concerned about bringing in new dancers. With all the numbers of people who look at this website every month (over 25,000), I'm wondering why these people aren't on the dance floor every week. If we can get these people out of their homes and onto the dance floor, it won't matter how many Friday night venues we have. *That* should be the mission statement of these new swing dance venues.
I hope these two new venues will somehow figure out how to work together to move the local swing dance community forward. This website will support both venues. Some of us have been around long enough to see new venues come and go. We've seen the swing dance community wax and wane. It's a continuing pattern and we're ready to go on to the next phase. We will provide more support those venues who choose to embrace the whole community.
The Dancer Evolution Tree: Paddle-Ball Man
Next in our on-going series in the classifications of species of dancer is Paddle-Ball Man.
Ever play with a paddle-ball when you were a kid? It was always convenient to be able to hit a ball and have it come back at you so you wouldn't have to run and retrieve it, especially if you didn't have pet dog to do the retrieving. It was a great tool for kids to learn hand-and-eye coordination when they tried to follow the ball and hit it again on the return trip. Hitting it 10 times in a row sometimes seemed like a major milestone in one's life.
It would seem that some dancers remember and try to relive those happy moments on the dance floor. This species of dancer will throw this partner out and then reel her back in, just to throw her back out away from him. Bounce, bounce, bounce. Hmm....I suppose we could also call this person the Fisherman as he also looks like he's casting his hook and bait out into the waters. Maybe he hopes to catch one and end up with *two* followers.
We should probably consider calling these dancers Dodgeball as we try to avoid getting hit by these human projectiles. Personally, I like the label Pinball as it looks like the leader is trying to see how many bounces he can get off the other dancers with his follower.
Next week? The Anchor (unless my two cohorts come up with something more interesting.)
Note to any and all Friday venues: Your events don't make it to the calendar unless I get a list of the dates on which you know you will be open. I'm not going to assume that you will be really be open unless you explicitly commit to those dates.
Next in the continuing series: The Anchor
The one who pains me the most is The Anchor. The Anchor is someone who requires a heavy lead or else she doesn't move.
This has nothing to do with a person's size or physical weight. I've danced with people who were, honestly, overweight, but they moved like a dream.
Sometimes the Anchor has a delayed reaction to the lead. If there's no tension in the arms, it can take a while for the lead to travel from the hand to the follower's shoulder and brain. By the time the follower senses the lead, the leader is already thinking about the next beat and has to lead "harder" so he and his partner can arrive on the second beat together. Other times this has to do with what movements are associated with what part of the beat. For example, some people will *start* moving on the beat and make a weight change *after* the beat; I tend to *finish* the weight change (transitioning from one foot to the other) on the beat. That causes a mismatch in timing when a lead is given and there's a pause before the follower's body starts moving.
Other times, I have to blame the other guys. Why? Because some leaders will "pull" or "push" their partners around so their followers will get used to heavy leads and not move unless they get a "strong" lead; they become unaccustomed to receiving gentler and more subtle leads. If I have to give a hard lead to get her to move on the beat, it's a distraction from thinking about what I'm suppose to be doing next.
However, I did say that the Anchor "pains" me; this was the point of this Soapbox. When I say "pain", I mean that literally. When a guy/leader pulls and pushes his partner around during a dance, the follower will end up with a sore shoulder and a sore back, if not now, then tomorrow morning. However, with The Anchor, I'm on the receiving end of that pain. My back (and sometimes my shoulder) ends up hurting because I had to strain to move something that didn't want to be moved (on the beat, that is). Is there a guy/leader version? Yeah, we can call him Mack (Truck) or Bulldozer: way too much power for something that requires a little finesse.
The Boston Swing Cooperative
was the first out the gate with their announcement that they'd have Friday night dances
at the Cambridge YWCA. They'll be running DJ dances for a while and it's assumed that
they'll be elsewhere after April. They're planning for a bigger crowd than the location
will hold and that shows their determination. This group is comprised of some people who have been
involved with parts of the swing dance community for the last few years.
FYI: On Monday night, they sent me a note saying that they'll have The Beantown Swing Orchestra on their opening night.
The day after the Co-op met with a bunch of us who had been on the dance scene for a long time already, we found out that Swing City was going to be reborn, in a new location and a new attitude. Well, that took a bit of wind out of the Co-op's sails, but didn't knock them out. Now they have some competition. I don't think that's a bad thing. The new Swing City will run by someone who's been a fairly major part of the local dance scene, but totally new to swing dancing.
Now, totally out of left field, we find out about the Swing Dance Depot who will be operating what appears to be a full schedule of live music dances in Watertown. So far their schedule goes out to October.
Which one will I support? All of them; or rather, none of them.
This website has no allegiances or deals with any venues. The ultimate goal of this website isn't to support the dance venues. The goal of this website is to support the dance customers. I want the dance customers to have choices and I want each promoter to work their butts off to get people in their doors. Now they'll have to.
What should you do?
The Boston Dance Coop has a core group of fans who prefer recorded music. Swing City has name recognition and a mailing list. The Swing Dance Depot has a live band schedule that make it worth getting out of the house every weekend but doesn't have a customer base or a mailing list (but I can walk there!). The latter probably has the toughest job and has a month to get the word out.
Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines.
The following piece was submitted by a follower.
Spin, Baby, Spin! Guy
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: Spin Baby Spin Guy
Ah, the joys of spinning, and spinning, and guess what? Spinning, some more...
That's what a follower has to look forward to when she dances with the Spin Baby Spin Guy.
The Spin Baby Spin Guy doesn't have much (if any) consideration for his partner. You know you're dancing with Spin Baby Spin Guy when you start to count your spins. Anything over 3 spins and guess what? I hope you're enjoying the dance, because it's the last time you'll be dancing with me. If you go over 5 spins, guess what? It's time for an intervention, my friend!
Spin Baby Spin Guy, is your catalog of moves so limited? Well, take a lesson, already! What's that? You say you've taken plenty of lessons...well what are you trying to do, hypnotize yourself? Or is it a control thing? Or are you just obsessed with spinning?
Whatever your story is, please do me a favor...when the music ends and the spinning ceases, don't run away too quickly to find your next victim...give me a few seconds to recover (you see I'm dizzy now and my head hurts) so I can remember who you are.
Can you guess why? Because I'm going to Run Baby Run, next time I see you!