f DanceNet: What's new in swing dancing in Boston

Check this page each week for new information on the swing dance scene in Boston, particularly new class schedules and dancing for the area, as well as the webmaster's weekly "editorial". Changes for the rest of New England will appear on those respective pages. Refer to the Boston dance calendar for updates on individual listings.

Changes to the other state pages are usually not announced; there's just too many of them and typically do not affect the general readership of this site.

December 8, 2023

This Week's News Older News

From the corner booth...

28 years!

Who would have known that this website would be around after for 28 years! How many dancers, dance studios, clubs, venues, and websites have lasted that long?

This started out as an email in 1991 when I started taking swing dance lessons and attending dances and I wanted to let my new dance friends know about all the dancing information that I was picking up. I was so enthusiastic that I was sending out the emails almost every day. It wasn't until my friend Mara suggested that I send it out once a week to keep down the amount of email and the weekly DanceNet newsletter was born. It was during a conversation with former Bostonian (now Parisian) ballroom and tango dancer Anne Atheling that I came up with the name "DanceNet" for the newsletter.

A few years later, the World Wide Web caught on and everyone and their brother was posting information on the Internet. Putting the newsletter on the Web seemed like a logical excuse to learn how to make webpages and "DanceNet on the Web" was born on November 28, 1995. Everything was done manually as it is mostly done now. It almost seems like a waste now to have programs like Dreamweaver (they are not cheap) because I didn't use it, though getting my first scanner paid for itself many times over. All of my newsletter readers started using the website and it expanded exponentially from there. Since I was using my personal webpage on my ISP account, the costs of the website quickly ran up over $100 a month (and that was over 20 years ago). This gave me an excuse to look for a new ISP and better yet, a domain name for my dance website. The obvious dancenet.com was already taken, though I think it's available these days. A lot of the "cool" URL's were also taken and I thought I was settling for "havetodance.com".

I got more experience over time as I made simple webpages for my dance teacher friends and their venues (e.g, Rugcutters, Best Foot Forward, Tempo Dance Center and more). I also made forwarding addresses for these venues. One venue liked having "@havetodance.com" as part of their email address that they asked for a real mailbox at havetodance.com (you can reach the Marblehead School of Ballet at msb@havetodance.com).

Dancing was a wonderful way to meet people (well, mostly the women. I don't pay that much attention to the guys, to be honest). I think I was an average dancer, but the website gave me a celebrity status on the same level as many of the teachers. ("That's the guy who does the website!") I must admit getting free admission to many of the dances was not a bad thing, though I never asked for free admission from any venue. it also allowed me to get to know many of the teachers and venue organizers well, too. To be honest, in hindsight, I wish I had kept anonymous; it would have been more fun to keep them wondering who the Phantom Dancer was. I wonder if I got treated better by some dance organizers because I was "someone", though I must admit that I've been treated fairly poorly by some dance organizers so I can't imagine what they would have done if I had been a "nobody" (actually, I do know).

I've been around a long time, long enough to be around for all the ups and downs of the local swing dance scene. I was around when West Coast Swing invaded our dance floors and we thought Lindy Hop and Swing was going away. I've been around for at least one round of new dancers who thought Swing dancing didn't exist in Boston before they showed up. I can say it was here a long time before I ever showed up and I'm sure it'll be around long after I'm gone. Dancing, especially Swing dancing, makes life better.

Today, Dancenet is still a very simple website, that is, there's actually very minimal coding. I imagine that a lot of work could be done to customize the website for cellphones and tablets, but that's not my focus. I want to emphasize content over form. I've always wanted to maximize the amount of information and not worry so much about how fancy the information looks. As a result, there is less information to download and I've been complimented on the speed at which the webpages load up on a browser. Even with 5G speeds, I'm sure people appreciate getting their information as soon as possible as they're on their way to a dance.

This website seems to have lost some momentum, though, because there was no dancing during the "lost" years of the Covid isolation. Too bad, because dancing was needed to keep people's s pirits up. As a result, there was a phase where some people got out of the dance business and were replaced by newer people, people with no history with this website. These people were not used to sending me their information; they feel that having Facebook pages was enough. Even some of the organizations that used to support this website have had turnovers in their staff and don't know that their group used to make sure I had their latest information. And after all these years, I find that I have other responsibilities that take up my time. This dancing phase was suppose to last only three years as did all my other hobbies.

As a result, I need your help: I need you to tell the dance organizers that they need to get their information to me. No, I don't mean getting me on their mailing list to get their newsletters; it also doesn't mean to make sure I get their facebook announcements. I get enough of those and it takes me forever to compare their newsletters against what I already have on my website. That's just a waste of my time. I need new listings of events so I can concentrate on typing in that information. I need updates to make sure my readers have accurate and the most current information on which to decide where to spend their discretionary cash. I also need to know when a venues goes away so I can remove their listings. The best way to make sure that happens is if you, the consumer of dance information, makes sure the dance organizers get their information to me in a way that it gives me an incentive to enter their information as soon as I can. And I need this information in my inbox which is also my to-do list. I won't remember to go back to find messages that came across Facebook during the day after I get home from work. Remember, I don't make money off this website; it's the dance organizers' *job* to use this website to get people into their classes and dances.

PS: This corner of the website is my personal soapbox. The name of this column comes "from the corner booth" at the former New Yorker Diner in Watertown where we'd go for breakfast after a dance. A lot of what's written in this space originated and hashed out over a stack of toast and coffee at the diner.

If you're a dance venue and you're holding open public events again, please send email to me directly. I can't guarantee that I'll pay attention to newsletters and group mailings. And I definitely won't be looking at your social media for the information.

See you on the dance floor.

Benson Wong

Hey! If you want to send information to be included on this website, take a look at the formatting guidelines.

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