As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster. The opinions expressed here are those of the DanceNet webmaster only.
The "Professional" Dance Teacher?
"I've already seen this movie, but I want my friend to see it. Can I get in for free?"
"So you're a massage therapistů. Could you get this knot out of my shoulder?"
"I missed your lecture so I could have dinner with friends. Would you please tell me what you said?"
"You're a doctor? Would you look at my wrist and tell me what is causing this pain when I play tennis?"
"There's a computer training class happening now? Mind if I sit in and just watch?"
Do these scenarios sound unrealistic? Dance teachers hear variations of these all the time.
When dance teachers run classes, they are conducting business, and they expect to be treated professionally. No instructor minds giving some quick advice or clarifying something they said, but private lessons are available for students who want to improve their dancing and want the personal attention of a teacher. Lessons-whether the "free" (paid for by the organizer) ones at a dance or the classes/workshops offered elsewhere-are how teachers earn their income (or their competing money, or their own private lesson money to improve their own dancing); is it fair to ask them to give you their time and knowledge for nothing? There are plenty of fellow dancers willing to share moves and ideas; ask around if you want to learn that way. If you believe the teachers are best suited to impart that knowledge, that they have something worthwhile to offer you, is that not valuable enough to pay for?
When instructors go out to dance, they are usually there for the same reason you are-to dance and enjoy themselves. They are not there to give lessons, they don't want to critique your dancing, they will not sit in judgment of your style, they should not outdance you or make you look bad. So please, ask them to dance, but don't ask them to give you a private lesson for free.
Julie Kaufmann runs Julie Kaufmann Dancin' and has been on the local dance scene for many years.
The band performed some newer music but it was the list of old Big Nite Out tunes that reminded some of us of "the good old days" when the band came up every year from Philadelphia to play for us. Some of us remember Big Nite Out as the house band for the Pinewoods Swing dance weekend. This event, as happened at Pinewoods 11 years ago, featured Mary Witt of the O-Tones as a guess performer. Brings back memories.
I did have one issue during the evening. During the entire evening, I felt that something was missing. Singer Wendi Bourne played rhythm guitar but there was no lead guitar (Tom Mitchell from Big Nite Out played on some of the tracks on the new CD). Someone else said that there was no piano or keyboard player (though there is one on the CD). That left a hole in the music that the singers and the rest of the band couldn't cover up.
However, I'm looking to the next time Girls From Mars shows up in the area. It was a nice change from the music we've been hearing in the area. I liked dancing to their music; their rendition of Stompin' at the Savoy with their three-part harmonies has to be my favorite. And I got them to autograph their CD for me. Live music is best.
It was cold and windy on the way up (possibly 40's and 10 mph wind) and we could see a weather monitoring station at the topway off in the distance. About halfway up the trail I decided what I was going to say when I got to the top.
After less than two hours of hiking, we reached the top and I shouted out...
"You mean people do this for *fun*?!? Are they nuts?!?"
It was with great amusement that several people had forwarded to me some excerpts from the newsletter of the Tango Society of Boston (they've taken me off their mailing list).
In it was an announcement that a new local tango teacher was teaching the lessons at their Wednesday dance/practice and that this teacher was giving discounts to his outside classes. The announcement was basically a promotion of that tango teacher. A couple of teachers had sent me mail to tell me that they had never been offered this same sort of deal though they had been teaching the dance since before the Society was created. These teachers had never been announced on the TSB's newsletter or website when they had taught (for free) the Wednesday free lessons in the past.
This was an interesting development since the TSB had made it a public policy over the years to *not* promote any of the local teachers "The Tango Society does not recommend or endorse specific teachers." (from their website), even if they had taught the free (and unpaid) lessons at the Wednesday milonga. It's even more ironic that the new teacher is the former president of the Tango Society who, in the past, had stopped the Wednesday teachers from announcing their own outside classes after the free lessons and from announcing workshops by visiting teachers. I find it hilarious that the TSB's board continues to feed ammunition to their critics.
From a previous TSB newsleter:
"There are additional smaller but also important protections against conflict of interest situations, such as policies for non-favoritism towards treatment of Tango-related commercial businesses. Sometimes, conflicts of interest can be created when an organization like the Tango Society favors one local professional teacher over another, and "sends more business his or her way." The Tango Society has an explicit policy that encourages all local professional teachers to publicize their offerings equally."
With a new group of directors (more or less the same people, but in different positions), the Tango Society of Boston is in a position to wipe the slate clean and rebuild their relationships with the various dancers they had alienated over the years. They should definitely follow their own policies; everyone should be treated equally and fairly. As a non-profit organization intended to promote the whole tango *community*, there should not be any appearance of nepotism. Everyone should be offered a chance to contribute to the society and the TSB board should not show any hint of favoritism.
Oh yes, one last item. As a public service, I offer the following advice:
If someone is offering discounts for dance classes, compare their pre-discount and post-discount prices. And then compare those prices with other dance classes available in the local area to see if you're really getting a deal. Personally, I go for the dance teachers' reputation before thinking about whether or not I'm getting a "deal".
For the ones that I talk to on a regular basis, I get to hear interesting stories from these dance professionals, particularly stories about the people they encounter along the way. Unfortunately, it's the bad or weird stories that stand out the most, even though the bad apples are a tiny minority in the community. They provide the fodder for animated conversations over drinks after an event.
While I might have touched upon pieces of this over the last few years, I felt that it might be important to talk about the responsibilities of a dance customer. While I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, I know of at least one dance teacher who points out articles on this website that might provide some guidance or hints about how to get along with everyone else on the dance floor so I've put down some of my ideas in one place as a reference for everyone who might read them and I will continue to add items as they come up.
If you're a dance teacher or a workshop organizer, you might want to consider printing up these rules and posting them outside the classroom.