The Soapbox Archives:
One misperception that dancers often have is that dance teachers and/or organizers make a ton of money off the classes and that we're just pouring money into their pockets. At Beantown this year, one guy suggested that the Beantown organizers were making a ton of money off us at camp. Those of us at the table who knew Tony & Aurelie Tye laughed at him. He kept lowering his estimate and we kept laughing so he gave up. The point is that events like Beantown Lindy Hop Camp have a high level of quality that the organizers aren't willing to sacrifice (did Tony really buy a Karaoke machine for Beantown?). I don't even want to know how much it cost to fly Ryan Francois & Jenny Thomas (and their son) over from England.
Naturally some people will have alternative suggestions on lowering the costs, such as moving the venue to a hotel. When you add up the costs of a stay at a good hotel for a week, all the meals, and the costs of bringing in teachers from overseas and around the country, you gotta wonder if the hotel venue concept is really a better deal. And let's face it, if you're going to be taking classes all day and dancing all night, are you really going to be concerned about having someone make your bed every day? Personally, I like the idea of everyone eating in the same area at the same time (and the food at Endicott College is *really* good). I meet new people at every meal so I'll know whom to ask for a dance. Sitting at a picnic table with some world-class teachers for snacks and refreshments and hearing stories about choreographing the Lindy routine for the British version of "So you think you can dance" is just priceless.
Tracks? Yeah, some people don't like the idea of being sorted into track levels; they like to take whatever workshops they want. However, some of us are actually into getting better and we're going to progress faster if we're taking classes with other dancers of the same level of expertise. Those of us who were in the Blue track didn't have to wait for the one beginner to learn the Swing Out; they covered that in the first track.
. And, of course, you can't replace the 5-year relationship with the venue's liaison. That guy loves us swing dancers and he went out of his way to get us free wine and beer for our happy hour. You can't buy that kind of loyalty.
PS: Since I'm saying nice things about Beantown Lindy Hop Camp, it should be known that I was on staff at Beantown this year plus the fact I've known Tony & Aurelie Tye for 20 years. However, because of my work on this website, I've always gotten a discount to the event (the same I would get at any event). When you consider that I always help out the event anyway (for no reward) and I'm not working at this time, I bet it was at the back of the organizer's mind that it was a good way to make sure I showed up this year. Besides, how else do you get someone to drive teachers back to the airport after only three hours of sleep?
"Please be considerate to our other customers by washing your hands before leaving the restroom. You probably don't have germs on your hands, but why take the chance?"
I went into an AT&T cellphone store this weekend to look at phones and saw 4 salespeople in a mostly empty store with only one other customer. We had to go and drag over someone whenever we had a question. That reminds me of the time I went into a Sprint store many years ago when I was standing around waiting for help while four salespeople were goofing around the store (including throwing around paper airplanes).
I meantion that to draw a contrast to the Radio Shack store nearby that sold cellphones for several different vendors. The (adult) salesguy rushed over to see if we had any questions and then rushed into the backroom to pull out a pile of cellphones so we could hold each one and see if it had some particular features. He also made a pitch that his store had better prices than the vendor stores (down the sidewalk) and didn't stop trying to convince us to buy from him. The people at the company stores seemed young, probably in their 20s and could have easily been part-timers while going to school and probably didn't care if their company did well.
If the prices are comparable or even better, I'm going to go with the guy who truly believes in "customer service".
Every fourth of July I see people display their patriotism by waving their American flag or wearing their flag pins or hanging their flag banners on their homes. And every fourth of July I wonder how many of these people are truly patriotic and how many are just along for the party. How many really understand and appreciate the rights their Constitution really gives to them?
Back in 1978 I got up with several hundred people in Fanueil Hall and pledged my allegiance to the United States of America. I gave up my allegiance to my former home country (Canada). In high school, I had to take a Civics class so I was well prepared for the interview with the Naturalization officials. Over time, I had learned the words to The Star-Spangled Banner, America, the Beautiful, and My Country, 'Tis of Thee (mixing up the words with God Save our Gracious Queen) and took the opportunity to learn and understand the words to these songs as well as the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. Of course, I registered with the Selective Service System when I got to the right age.
Occasionally, I hear about people getting uptight about having to say the Pledge of Allegiance. These tend to be people who were born here and clearly don't understand what a *privilege* they have to live here. Immigrants seem to be more appreciative of being in this great country of ours; I wish the native-born Americans would consider what they have and what didn't have to go through to be here.
Every once in a while, I sit back and reflect on everything this country has gone through to get to this point....what we have and what we've lost. This just makes me prouder each day to be a citizen of these here United States of America.
The following was inspired by someone in the Tango scene who wanted me to consider making announcements of workshops being taught by local teachers. There are many reasons not to do so. This policy applies to both the Swing/Ballroom website (this one) and the Tango side.
Well, at the risk of repeating myself, there are many reasons not to expand my Tango (or the Swing/Ballroom) website:
But these are just excuses. What I want is a website that's easy and clear to understand and use. What I don't want is clutter.
When I made this website (the Swing/Ballroom side), I kept getting a lot of requests to be listed from venues from around the *country*. I don't know what you're thinking, but it seems rather silly to list venues in California alongside the Boston listings. I don't want my Boston readers to have to sift through all the listings just to find the local ones in which they're interested. That's why I have a California page now (as well as one for every state): to sort all the non-Massachusetts listings onto their own page and keep the local listings cleaner. When you consider that people in Boston tend not to drive long distances for their dancing fix, it made further sense to separate the information for Boston away from listings, for example, from those in western Massachusetts.
When people look at the calendar, I want them to be able to find the highlights, the important stuff, right away. For me, that means recreational dancing and *special* workshops with instructors they won't see for a while. If people are going to take classes, they're going to spend more time thinking about what classes they want and with whom they're going to take them. Everyone has their favorite teachers and they won't want to sift through all the class schedules just to find the one offered by their preferred instructor: they're just going to go to that teacher's website and look it up. Adding local classes/workshops to the calendar just makes it hard to find where to go dancing on a specific date.
And, as I always say, it's the instructors' best interest to get more paying customers so they're going to have work a little harder to attract students. I'm not going to clutter up my webpages just because they want me to list everything they offer.
Yet, I haven't danced tango in about 10 years and I did have at least one person question my "right" to run a Tango information website.
The reason I'm still maintaining the (Tango) website in spite of the fact that I don't dance tango anymore is that I still have a lot of friends in the tango community and I'm helping them maintain a level playing field for all the dance professionals, that is, so everyone has an equal and fair opportunity to reach the dancers.
I have seen certain individuals (in both the Swing/Ballroom and Tango scenes) who would not hesitate to take advantage of my website to announce "workshops" often in order to gain more visibility. Some of them would welcome the opportunity to control the flow of dance information and steer customers to their own offerings. I've even had several people ask me to move their listings higher on my pages in order that they get more visibility. I've seen certain venues try to be the one clear source of local dance information, but those venues also competed against the other venues. I don't want someone making money off the dance to be in control of the information that the community gets to see. This website has one gatekeeper who makes sure that all submitted information adhere to a certain standard (even if it's kinda nebulous).
The result? The honest dance professionals don't have to play dirty to keep up.
I think it's up to the teachers to put the relevant information on their websites and I can just link to them. I'm not interested in spending the time to enter everyone's class schedule every month.
Why don't I just switch to a website where everyone can enter their own information? Because I care about the quality of the information on this website. With an automated system, there is no one watching over the data and therefore, quality suffers as a result. The New England Swing Dance Server is one perfect example of this. I don't know if anyone bothers to type in information anymore on that website. Best Coast Swing was a nice shiny website that had promise, but the webmaster shut it down due to lack of interest.
When you have an automated system for entering your information, people who aren't Internet saavy won't ever get their classes in there. Yes, there are still people who don't have email and aren't on the Internet and this means information will be incomplete on an automated website.
Everything is local. It's nice to have information for other parts of the country, but the focus is local. Most of the dancers in the Boston area aren't going to be interested in dancing in other states so the information on this website has to be geared for them. They shouldn't have to "Search" for their local information; it should be made available right away. Only a small percentage of the local readers will be interested in looking for dancing elsewhere so the information should be available, but there are so many other sources of information that it's silly to duplicate the effort. (FYI: I once caught a website in another state that was trying to be a complete nationwide swing dance resource. They had copied entire HTML pages off this website and presented it as their own. I only knew this because they copied all my typos, too!)
One of the arguments for expanding the announcements of local workshops is that visitors might want to take them. That's nice, but it's not my problem. Visitors to the area, if they're going to stay for any length of time, are going to be interested in *dancing*, not taking classes, unless they're going to be around for six months or more. The best way to catch those people is to leave the class/workshop flyers at the local dance. That information should also go on the teachers' websites. I just provide an easy access to those websites and I don't leave anyone out.
I think that it's the job of the ones making money off dancing to be the ones working to promote their own venues. That means getting their flyers to the various dances. If a tango dancer comes into town, they're going to visit a milonga before deciding to take a class or workshop.
Having said all that, however, I can't argue against a workshop that helps dancers *dance* better (I held a couple of workshops years ago for that purpose) and these kinds of classes should be encouraged. I think that the local teachers should consider adding "dance technique" classes. I haven't seen classes like that since Bob Thomas' 10-week invitation-only workshops about 15 years ago.
I really don't know who was the one who didn't throw away his/her gum in the trash, but I'd like everyone to consider the following:
All of this because one person was too lazy to even wrap their chewed gum in some paper or tissue and throw it away in the trash. This is what children do; we're adults and should know better.
Note that while I don't know who left their gum for me to step on, people do notice those things and they talk. I hope all dancers will start watching for these people and either tell the dance venue organizers or tell the culprits to cut it out.
I was at the Watertown Home Depot recently getting some building supplies (as any homeowner is wont to do).
As I was loading 2x4's into my car, someone drove up and aimed their car at the spot beside my car. As I continued loading, this person tooted her horn to let me know she was there and wanted the spot where my shopping cart was. Seeing that I needed only 30 more seconds to finish unloading my car and that I was surrounded by 10 other open parking spots, I continued moving the studs into my car.
At that point, she *leaned* into the horn. I looked up and said, "There are all these other parking spots! Why do you need *this* one?" At this point, she called me an "asshole" which is a very logical way to get me to do what she wanted.
At this point, some guy over in the next aisle leaned out of his car and yelled out "Leave the shopping cart in her way!". Had to smile at that one. And I thought about it. But in the long run, I decided to rise above this and returned the shopping cart to the front of the store. And when I got back to the car, I saw that she took up as much of the space as possible so it'd be hard for anyone else to park beside her.
I realize the meanest thing I could have done was say:
"I hope you live a very long life...because anyone who spends this much effort being angry at the world deserves to be miserable for as long as possible.
However, one of my friends came up with the best strategy. She would have said "I would be happy to move the cart out of your way if you want to say 'please' or you can stay angry. What's it going to be?"
This person probably lives in Watertown, Belmont, Allston or Cambridge. Let me know if you run into her.