The Soapbox Archives:
Jim currently lives in Norway.
When I started running a dance event in Cambridge around 1996, the issue of aerials wasn't even on anyone's list of concerns. That changed overnight.
At my venue, we were packing in about 30 to 40 people a night, if we had an amazing night. I'll never forget when the change happened though. I was going to be late that evening so my dance partner was responsible for getting Ken's Place ready on her own. When I did get there, I walked through the doors and my first thought was "oh crap, they scheduled another event on top of mine". After a few long moments, I began to recognize the people on the floor and realized that this WAS my event.
The event had grown to over 150 from the previous week. The floor was populated with alot of faces I knew, but more to the point, it was populated with very young faces that I didn't know.
When I read your soapbox, I was horrified at the reminder of the Arlington Town Hall. Think about it for a moment.... How incredibly stupid is it to have lit candles on the floor and hop over them while dancing. Maybe (and i doubt it), the people responsible for lighting the candles took into account the amazing risk of skirt fires....Maybe....for themselves, but did they also take that risk into account for others attending those dances? Leaning towards "no" here, because had they done that, any reasonable person would conclude that its one of the most Fu%/(&ed up things anyone has ever thought of doing on a social dance floor. If I owned that floor, I would have done the exact same thing, and kicked the whole bloody lot of dance events out the door. The fact that some bad apples spoil it for the rest of us is an unfortunate fact of life.
Back to my dance:
The faces I didn't recognize were that of very young people who were suddenly turned on to swing dancing by some clever marketing from the Gap. Yes, I'm talking about the dreaded GAP ad. Overnight, scores of eager young kids were flooding dance floors all around Boston resulting in the hapless flipping of girls into the air and lots of fun doing it. I remember the emergency meetings we had at Ken's to discuss this and what to do about it. We didn't want to discourage the enthusiasm, after all, outreach to younger people was a major part of Totalswing's charter, but at the sametime, we had a responsibility to our patrons to provide a safe environment for everyone to enjoy.
The people doing air steps on the open dance floor were certainly not trained. If we had trained people doing them, we'd also have eager young inexperienced people copying them. The answer was simple: We banned aerials. We were one of the first to ban aerials with signs if I recall correctly. And, we used an image from the GAP ad to make the point. Up until that time, it was sort of an unwritten rule of common sense to leave aerials to performing.
At Ken's with a floor packed with 200 people or more during that summer of the Gap Ad, there was no room to do aerials anyway even had we encouraged it. Aside from the danger potential, this is also an incredibly selfish use of dance floor real estate don't you think? Again, I would hope that people would consider "dance space etiquette" as well, but given the inexperience of the people doing the air steps, I had to reason that this was not foremost on their minds.
At Ken's we enforced our policy, and we actively stopped anyone we saw doing aerials. No one ever gave us a hard time about it and we never had to kick anyone out. When we saw a couple trying airsteps and doing something wrong (and lets face it, if you do aerials wrong it can be very dangerous, I think we can all agree upon that one), we would point that out as well. On occasion we'd taken them to one of the rooms we didn't use for dancing, and show them how to do the aerial correctly. With that came the speeches about social dance floors, and danger, and performing, and also a nudge towards one of the instructors in town who ran aerial classes, and most importantly, a stern warning NOT to do what we just showed them at our club or any other social dance club.
It's clear, however: You can not run a social dance and allow aerials, and not expect inexperienced people on the same dance floor to give it a try. With the exception of dance exhibition, there must be a blanket ban on acrobatic moves on the dance floor.
Carry that thought process to the town hall. Did the people bringing lit candles consider the safety of the people who might wander over to the area of the floor covered in candles? Or, did the people who brought of the candles employ a selfish logic that its ok to bring candles to THEIR part of the dance floor? Either way, .... not the clientele I wanted at Ken's.
Over at the other side of town......
I always laugh when I read someone trying to explain why we swing in an all encompassing way :-) I think I can speak for myself only, it has absolutely nothing to do with sex on the dance floor or even an innocent copping of the feel. And let's face it, with me, its got nothing to do with the "girl" (Editor's Note: I think I was probably the last person in Boston to figure out that Jim was gay). I often danced same sex, usually as the follower, but sometimes as the lead. There are so many little things that make the whole... the connection, the improv, the music, everything that adds up to something "in the moment".
I'll give you two examples:
Anyway, have enjoyed the banter thus far.
- Jim Calderone
This morning I was at my destination T stop where I decided to pick up a lottery ticket on the way to work. The kiosk is really small and there's barely enough room for two people to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, actually 1.5 people wide for normal clearance.
I did my business and tried to get out by trying to squeeze by the 6 people blocking the only way out. No one bothered to step aside; apparently they didn't understand the physics that there was only so much room in that kiosk and no one else could get to the register if they didn't let me out.
So what did I do? I shouldered my way out and tried to drag my rollaway laptop bag behind me. Apparently it bounced off the knee of the person who was standing behind me. I was about to say "sorry", but this lady gave me an angry look and said, "You know I have a bad knee...".
I immediately said, "No, I don't." I couldn't believe this: she was mad at me because my laptop bag bumped her while she was blocking my only path out. She was blaming me because she wasn't polite enough or smart enough to move out of the way so that I could leave and she could get to the register. There was no way anyone else was going to get in to make their purchases if she didn't let anyone leave. Naturally, it must have been my fault, just like it was when a driver backed into my car because she didn't bother to look in the rearview mirror.
While she started her rant, I decided to leave before my manners abandoned me.
Some of us recently came to the conclusion that our original shirts were finally ready to be used as rags but we liked the shirts enough to order a second run of them. Most likely, someone wearing one of the new ones was involved with running the Boston Swing Dance Society (or someone who knows me really well). At the suggestion of one of the former board members, I included the URL for this website so that people seeing the t-shirt and asking for information on dancing in Boston will know where to go for that information (I was nice and didn't include the URL on the shirt going to the webmaster for Total Swing).
As I get older, I'm less likely to wear t-shirts that look more like walking advertisements. I haven't bought a t-shirt with the huge logo for some major sportswear manufacturer in a while. For some reason, those shirts make me feel like a "kid". However, t-shirts with a small logo off to the side look "official" or that I'm part of some organization that does something useful. They have a more "serious" look to them.
Please look around for the people wearing those shirts and let me know what you think of them. I haven't put any thought into producing them for general sale, but I'm considering it. However, if I do it, I'm most likely going to pick one color for the general population.
I went dancing recently and encounted the *worse* band that I've heard in a long time. I wish I had stayed home that night. The dance organizer was so embarassed that he was going around apologizing to the guests.
I didn't know if this was a group of musicians who played together regularly or if they were just whomever was available to play that night. I kept hearing musicians play off-key. When the bandleader honored the drummer for his playing, I was thinking that I couldn't even *hear* the drummer.
I heard this band was anxious to get a gig at this venue and they probably came cheap. Whatever they were paid, it wasn't worth it. Customers show up *expecting* the musicians to play their best and they don't care what financial arrangements they have with the venue. I would have rather had the money go to a decent DJ instead. Suffice it to say that this band will never be invited back.
The most appalling aspect of the event was the fact that an out-of-town dance organizer was there and said that the music was "good enough" for him. A dance organizer should be very concerned about his customers walking away at the end feeling like they got gypped or that they wasted their time.
A clue as to the music: As I was leaving the venue, I heard the theme from the "Dick Van Dyke Show". Why this is being played at a swing dance, I'll never know.
The thing that caught my attention was the fact that these newspaper publications were all of the tabloid-sized type: The Herald, The Metro, etc. I didn't notice any Boston Globes.
I wonder if this is a characteristic of the kinds of people who read these newspapers, i.e., not properly disposing of their newspapers after reading them. I remember when the Herald switched to the "New York Post" type of layout where it'd be easier to read on the subway because you didn't have to unfold/fold large pages.
I hope "easy to read" wasn't intended to cater to those who might be classified as "lazy". There are still a lot of descarded papers on the train, even with the special newspaper trash locations at every T station. It's amazing to watch someone take a newspaper off the seat and put it on the floor so they could sit down. I don't know why some people think it's too much trouble to hang on to the newspaper and just dump it out at their next stop. I bet they use the excuse of leaving it around for someone else to read it.
The next dance season starts next week with the arrival of September. People will be finishing their vacations and returning to the normal lives they lead the rest of the year and they'll be looking for their favorite dance venues to plan their week.
As I always say, it's not my job to go look for the promoters' information to put on this website. The ones who want paying customers to walk through their doors should have enough motivation to send their information to me within a reasonable amount of time so I can include it on this website. If you don't see it on the calendar, that just means no one sent the information to me.