As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
I found out that a classmate of mine in the Latin School Class of '80 passed away last week. This was not the usual tramatic event, like the plane crash (with two friends) or leukemia while in college or AIDS or even an accident. This was someone who lived within an hour from me who had complications after surgery.
I had just gone to our 20th high school reunion and at least half the class was there. Many had other plans, or otherwise, just couldn't make it. I wonder how many people just didn't want to bother. For me it was a wonderful time where we had outgrown the differences between the geeks and the jocks. I'm psyched for the 25th and am trying to generate more interest for it.
I lost two classmates while in high school, three in the last twenty years, and now I think that I'm at an age where that will occur more often among my peers. I hadn't seen that guy in 20 years and now I won't ever again. If you are due for a high school (or college) reunion and feel like blowing it off and maybe hitting the next one, think about who might not be there next time. Don't wait too long.
Back to dancing...
One dancer asked me to consider mentioning something in this forum.
It's amazing how many people don't applaud when a band finishes playing a song for a dance. I was at Ken's Place where Dom V and the Swing Out Big Band played on Halloween. There were many times when Dom V and Marie were loudly leading the applause to remind the dancers to show their appreciation for the band. This particular band played hard and well for the dancers that night, much better than the typical band there and they did *swing*. There aren't too many big bands where the bandleader is also a dancer and knows what inspires good dancing. Those bands that show up at Ken's Place aren't playing for big bucks (and I know what they could get...) so the least the dancers could do is show their appreciation for the music and encourage the band to play more. I thought Dom V and the Swing Out Big Band was hot that night and they blew the hall away.
It interesting that some people have not learned to dance within their own space. One guy kicked his foot back on beat 1 of a lindy turn and managed to stick his foot between the legs of a woman...who was dancing with *me*. Boy, was she surprised. :-P I was taught to share at a young age, but I don't think that applied to a dance partner. :^)
I remember Eric Mittler in California telling me that he docked points as a judge in a dance contest because one couple was doing wild and energetic acrobatics during a slower, milder song. I think that dancers should pay attention to the tempo of the song when dancing in public. I'm glad I know West Coast Swing so I can dance to the reeeeeally slow swing songs.
It seems a shame that The Upstairs Lounge has discontinued its long run of weekly swing dancing, despite the patient efforts of dj Forest "Big Daddy" Frazier. It's rare that we have such a dancers' advocate working on the inside on our behalf. Unfortunately, many of the dancers forget that bars are money-making propositions and that they have tunnel-vision for only one thing: alcohol sales.
Let's face it: dancers don't drink (in general). They're cheap. They want to pay their admission price and be left alone. We've seen many bars open for swing dancing and then close for lack of bar sales. I've heard of people trying to bring their own water bottles into a bar. It's a credit to Big Daddy that The Upstairs Lounge kept swing for so long.
The Veronique, Zanzibars, Zachary's, Johnny D's, Yesterday's (twice), The Roxy, Club Good Times, The Kinvara Pub. And now, The Upstairs Lounge.
One dancer did make a comment to me: Is it more depressing to have a bar's swing night finish off with one big party (well, where were *you* all this time?!?) or to let it go quietly with only the regulars on the last night?
I can't believe what some people try to pass off as a "dance party". A certain area studio is holding a weekly "social dance party" that consists of a 45-minute lesson and an hour of dancing for $12. $12? That'd be reasonable for *3 hour* dance, not one hour. A 45-minute group lesson for $12 is high. Many dances come with an *hour* lesson with 3 or more hours of dancing for that same price. This is really a lesson with time afterwards for a *practice*. I think calling it a social dance party is wrong.
While never publicly stated, this is now Dancenet policy: If it's two hours or less of social dancing (swing or otherwise), it's a "practice" and doesn't make it into the DanceNet calendar. If there's any such venue listed in the calendar now (in the monthly), it'll stay there until it expires, but no new "practices" will be listed there. If you're going to have a social dance, make it long enough to be worth the drive. An hour's worth of Social Dance is an oxymoron.
Hmmm....five things to complain about this week. I should lay off the morning coffee.
A reader commented that he noticed that sometimes during the free lesson before a dance, the teacher (and the lesson) is overpowered by the conversations engaged by the not-so-innocent bystanders who are not taking the lesson.
Perhaps these people on the sidelines aren't aware that their conversation carry so far and perhaps they just don't care, but it is somewhat rude to interfer with people who are actually trying to learn how to dance. The reader thought that it's not the experienced dancers who do this and that they know better, but I'm not so sure I'd be so quick to absolve them all of any responsibility. (I *might* be guilty of this, but I'm not quite sure).
Regardless of who's doing it, we should all be more considerate of the teachers and the people who are taking the free lesson. After all, we wouldn't want to interfer with their goal of being able to dance better, do we?
Wasn't Doc Scanlon's Rhythm Boys great on Saturday? If you listen to the variety of music they play, you realize that they aren't a swing band, they're a *dance* band. They play a variety of tempos and styles that cross over the swing boundary while still allowing the audience to dance the style that they want to. How? By their energy. Doc Scanlon's Rhythm Boys offer themselves and their energy to the dancers; they put everything into their music to transfer their energy to the dancers to get them excited to dance. It doesn't matter if they're playing a ballad (schmooze) or if they're playing Sing, Sing, Sing, you're inspired by the music and you want to dance. It makes sense that this band is an annual favorite at the monthly Boston Swing Dance Network dance. Even with the competing event down on the cape, I was told that this week's dance had one of its best attendance records.
Don Dworkin (aka Doc Scanlon) told me that they expect a new repertoire of music in their portfolio and possiblly a new CD. Meanwhile, get their CD, Rumble Seat.
Unfortunately not everyone appreciates the resources that are available here. I was discussing this with Total Swing's Jim Calderone and we think that it's getting harder to get unsolicited information from people who hold dances. These are also the same people who are currently complaining that they're not getting the numbers of attendees that they want at their dances.
Is it costing these people money to send us the information? No, most of them are on email. Are they worried about someone else making money off their dance? Jim and I aren't making a dime in terms of compensation from posting the dancing information on our respective websites. Perhaps these dance promoters don't like us. Regardless of whether or not people like us personally or even like our websites, the fact remains that DanceNet and Total Swing collectively are responsible for a *large* amount of dance traffic in Boston, New England, and around the country. It is in the best interests of both the dancers and promoters to include DanceNet and Total Swing in all mailings.
Jim lives in another country while I travel a lot around this country. By the way, hello from Los Gatos, California. It takes time to get that information onto our respective websites. We don't always get out to every dance to pick up flyers. Even if we did, after a while, all of those flyers start to look alike ("Oh, I already picked up that one."). It is the responsibility of the dance promoters to get their information to us. We can't list any event if we don't hear about it. I see some venues mention their event in some forum and expect us to get our information that way. Unfortunately, Jim and I each respectively have a life and don't always see those postings; these messages weren't sent to us directly. Again, these are the same people who complain about poor attendance. Remember, I don't get paid to surf other people's websites in search of dance information that I don't already have. I should not be doing what is really the responsibility of the dance promoters who *do* want more paying customers.
Even more important are notification of cancellations. Case in point: a fairly major studio dance was cancelled recently. This is a regular dance whether or not it's announced on this website. On the basis of distributed flyers, this dance was on. No official message was conveyed to Jim or to me that this dance was cancelled. I found out about the cancellation because of the watchful eye of someone whose purpose in life is to let me know when something's wrong with my website. Jim Calderone indicated that he even looked at that studio's website for 20 minutes before noticing the cancellation notice. With the regularity of that particular dance, there was a very good chance that dancers would have shown up for the cancelled dance. What happened before email and the web?
Cancellations should be sent to both local swing dance websites so we can get that information out to as many people as possible. While the websites can be modified at any time, the weekly email DanceNet newsletter is sent out only *once* a week so last minute changes are never sent out. I have to wonder how much these businesses really care about their dance customers if they don't make a good faith effort to get correct information out to the public as soon as possible. We have to wonder about their business sense if they can't realize that.
What can you do to help? You can encourage the various dance venues to do their part. Tell them that you get all of your dance information from this website (or Jim Calderone's Total Swing) and that I need timely receipt of their dance information. Even more important, I need to know right away when a dance venue *cancels* an event. I've been blamed in the past when a dance venue cancelled an event and dancers showed up anyway because that dance promoter did not utilize the resources of this website to spread that information to the widest possible audience.
As for the dance promoters, note that I take my laptop on my travels. If I get information through email, it stays in my Inbox until I enter the information into the webpages, usually late at night when I'm not connected to the Internet. At that point, I'm not in a position to look at another's webpage to get information. If you want your event listed on the DanceNet calendar, you would help yourself the most by sending me the information through email.
P.S.: The people who were complaining about losing more weekly places to dance, such as The Upstairs Lounge, should think about going back to places like Ken's Place. That's just a suggestion. I heard that some people don't like live music. I have a lot of respect for Lisa, Jim, and Chuck who chose to honor their departed friend who wanted a special place in Boston to showcase musicians and their music.
P.P.S.: Lindy In The Park was fun today. The bandstand in Golden Gate Park was closed for resurfacing so the electrical outlets weren't available for the stereo. Organizers Dave and Ken brought along powered speakers and *a portable generator* to provide power for the sound system. This is dedication.
This week turned up an unusual situation where a band had put up a webpage ridiculing a dance promoter because that promoter decided that the band was not right for his venue. A band's reputation is determined by where they play; why advertise that a band got *rejected*? I would think that anyone who could stand up and perform in front of a live audience would have much thicker skin than that.
So much for that theory.
The band's excuse was that it was "tongue-in-cheek". I would imagine that this would fall under the same level of humor as someone publicly ridiculing their boss for not giving them a raise. As a matter of fact, at my first job someone got fired on April Fool's Day for doing exactly that.
Dance bands should have a professional attitude to dealing with rejection. If a band gets rejected for a gig, they will normally ask "why" and probably get an answer like "Your music is not quite the style that we want." These bands will sit back and decide to do one of two things:
The alledged intent of the webpage was to "encourage" any appropriate dance promoter to hire the band for their dances. The band claims that the page was a joke by/for its fans; however, some of us felt that this was a personal attack on the reputation on someone who has spent many years fostering the Boston swing dance scene. A dance promoter should have the right to choose the kinds of music he or she wants to hear at his or her dance. It is up to the band to make their music appropriate to that dance promoter's venue, not the other way around.
This particular dance venue is probably the biggest and most regular dance in Boston (I don't think I need to say which one it is, do I?) Other (local swing) bands have been denied a gig at this venue because they did not "swing" or was not "danceable". Yes, their egos were hurt, but the (or any) dance promoter is not going hire a band that he believes will not make his customers happy. And, yes, whether a band is swingable or danceable is very subjective, but who's paying the bills? These other bands have always listened to the feedback from the dance promoter (because he doesn't hold much back. :^) ) and have used that advice to at least help them win gigs elsewhere.
As a side note, I've provided two other bands with my opinions on their "swingability". I'm sure I hurt their ego. They've worked on their music and have gotten gigs that I didn't think they'd ever get. Another band that was "helped" but didn't listen? I haven't heard them play in years. These other bands do not assume that the problem is with the dance promoter. They took it as a challenge to see if they surprise the promoter with a play list good enough for that dance venue.
Personally I feel that what the band involved made a public relations mistake. The head of the band indicated that it was mistake and that the newest version of their website was not intended to include that offending webpage and that it was suppose to have been deleted months ago. That's good to hear; however, that oversight caused some concern and hard feelings in Boston.
I hope that both the band and the dance promoter can now work together to see what can be done so we can see this band perform in Boston.
Next week: A dance promoter shares his opinions on what he looks for when hiring a band. Other dance promoters are welcome to share their comments. Send them in by Sunday.