As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
Long time Boston dancer, Pat Keresey, passed away on Sunday, May 7, at the home of her parents in Gardner. She was 43. She had gone into surgery months ago for cancer. With all the people I know who had survived cancer (and I know quite a few), I had assumed she'd be out of action for a couple of months and be back on the dance floor at some point. Last month I found that she had been given only a few weeks to live.
Pat was one of the few "cross-over" dancers who felt comfortable in both the (East Coast) Swing and the West Coast Swing worlds. While never one to need the spotlight, she could always be counted on for a dance at any given event. She had been part of the Boston swing dance scene for as long as I could remember.
My own particular recollection of her was the bet that she and I had about who was older (I lost). She always looked younger than her age and probably won a lot of wagers that way. She will be missed.
There will be a wake for Pat on Tuesday, May 9 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at:
John Mack Funeral HomeThe funeral will be held on Wednesday, May 10 at 11:00 am at:
91 Vernon Street
Memorial Scared Heart ChurchDonations my be made in her name to
166 Cross Street
Now back to our regularly scheduled program...
Well, it's been a while, but this website's personal gadfly makes a reappearance after a long hibernation. I haven't gotten any really exciting mail lately, not since I was told that people hated my guts for expressing my opinion on my website.
I think that dissenting opinions are good and I wish more people would write in; it either makes me think about what I write or just reinforces my opinion.
If you've been following this Soapbox for the last few weeks, I discussed some ways for the dance community to help new dancers survive their first forays into the dance scene. Someone wrote in with his two cents. Some excerpts from that note (with the blessing of the author):
" Cliques are part of social life as we know it. Everyone hangs out with their friends, no matter where they go. Entering a new social scene, whether dance or work or otherwise, is always rough and requires either waiting around until you're known or just introducing yourself and making friends. and yes, it's intimidating, but that's just the way it is."And he's right: That's the way it is. Of course, if I was willing to settle for that and take the easy way out, I wouldn't have bothered writing about it for the last few weeks.
The fact that this is "the way it is" doesn't mean it's the way it has to be. It's easy to be lazy and just ignore the newcomer and put on them the burden of meeting everyone else. Hey, they're the "intruder"; let them do the work of meeting new people, right?. It's a lot harder to overcome the trepidation of trying to break into a existing social circle and to ask a better dancer for three minutes on the dance floor. Some people have a really hard time with it. One thing that I think a lot of people forget is "being nice" to someone new is really an investment in that person. Some of those "investments" don't pan out; others turn out to be a gold-mine. Some beginner dancers end up being *really* good dancers and you may want to dance with them in the future. It really isn't that much of a hardship to make newcomers feel welcome on the dance scene, especially for those people whose business depends on returning dancers? (e.g., teachers and promoters)
"Practices are for people to practice. If people go with their dance partner and practice at a practice and don't social dance, that's OK, because it's a practice and it's meant for people to practice what they're learning. Even advanced dancers have a lot to learn and need to spend time doing it on good dance floors because not everyone owns a studio."This is a very good point. If you go to a practice with an strict agenda, it's frustrating when you get thrown off the plan. If you're practicing, for example, for a competition, you need to concentrate on your game plan. However, I personally find it hard (Chinese kids are brought up to always feel guilty. :^) ) to ignore people who spend an hour leaning against the wall at a dance; it's even worse at a practice where there are fewer people and I can't pretend that I'm too busy to say hello. My point is that it would be pretty nice if the more experienced dancers could take a few minutes out of their routine to welcome the newbies so they don't feel like intruders.
How about, 'if you're a new dancer, don't be a wallflower and just ask people to dance because pretty much nobody says no when they're asked to dance.' I mean, come on, are people really -such- whimps about this thing?"Well, I did say, at least for the women, that they should be more aggressive about asking someone to dance; don't wait to get asked. However, I strongly disagree about "nobody says no". I know some people who do not want to dance with beginners...at all. How do I know? They told me. They know it's wrong, but that's how they feel. That's why I wrote about this subject in the first place. The newbie dancer, after seeing all the other people dancing strongly and confidently, has to work up their nerve to ask a stranger to dance. *I* have a hard time asking a stranger to dance and I've been dancing for almost ten years. I think it's certainly good training to get used to approaching a stranger and asking someone to dance is the perfect excuse!
However, people do get turned down. A veteran dancer will brush that off and find someone else to dance. A beginner dancer, however takes a small blow to their ego and self-esteem. Some overcome that, but if they hear it too often, they might decide it's just not worth the effort and leave.
Beginners need reassurance that they can dance, that they are normal, and that they'll get better. They don't need "mercy dances"; they need to know that they have potential and that they really don't have two left feet. Veteran dancers could take it as a challenge; if you're [a teacher and are] really that good, can you bring a smile to that newbie dancer on the floor and still have fun yourself? That's the real test. Those whose livelihood depends on returning dance students should be actively encouraging these new dancers to keep dancing. (I know of at least one teacher who has told students that they were hopeless.) Considering how many people take money for teaching or are promoting dancing these days, that applies to many of the current dance "veterans". That includes every person who runs a "dance practice".
"I think the bottom line is that dance, although fun, is also work and nobody should ever think otherwise. it's work physically and mentally and socially, and people who work have more fun and people that don't work have less fun. Isn't that the general rule in life anyway?"This is a serious point and something to consider. He's saying that you get what you put into it. You have to work at it.
Is it really "work"? Should it be? I thought that people dance to get away from work and stress. I thought it was suppose to be fun. It should not be a frightening experience; yet, for some, it is scary. Most guys will never dance (unless royally drunk) because they're terrified of being seen moving their hips on a dance floor in public. I believe that getting a lot of people to have fun is more enjoyable than having fun all by myself. It shouldn't be work. Smiling while dancing with someone? Shouldn't be work. Saying hello and asking a new dancer for a dance? Shouldn't be work. Dancing down to your partner's (or a beginner's) level? Gee, I thought that was just courtesy. I think that the better dancers don't have to make it their life's work to be nice to every newbie dancer; it just doesn't have to be thought of as an imposition.
Now, after all of that, perhaps next week I'll have some comments about why you should turn down a dance...
P.S.: Whether asking for or accepting a dance, you are creating a social interaction which calls for dance courtesy. The Metronome Ballroom in San Francisco has an excellent article on Social Dance Ettiquette.
Even after all this time, I still see people out there "yanking" on their partners. The potential for strained muscles and other injuries is frightening, especially for those who require use of their bodies to make a livinglike dance teachers, performers, athletes, doctors, etc.pretty much everyone. If you've ever been hurt by a particular dancer, you're justified in turning down a dance with them. I do think that it's a good idea to let them know that they've hurt you; they might care enough to try to mend their ways.
The other person to avoid is the "cad", for lack of a better word, or perhaps a "lech". A local petite flower happened to write in this week with her horror story about a guy who appeared at a local dance venue recently, with absolutely no knowledge of dancing, and proceeded to run his "dance" partners into other people, furniture, and walls, while trying to see how "close" he could get to her. There's no reason you have to dance with someone like that. Hopefully, someone like that will get the message and go elsewhere.
I was always under the belief that bands could either play "for themselves" or play "for the crowd", but never shall their paths cross.
This past week I made an excursion to That Swing Thing at Khourys in Somerville. Klourys is a typical neighborhood dive bar with a tile floor and once a month the Love Dogs Quintet (there's more than five of them?) jams for the swing dancers in the second room in a space that might measure out to 30'x50'. All the free-standing chairs and tables were moved out of the way to make space for the dancers. About 50 dancers showed up; I was told this was lower than normal, but I thought it was a fine density for dancing.
In the beginning it seemed like a practice for The Love Dogs because they weren't playing all of their usual swingable tunes, but as the evening dragged on, it became clearer that the band was seriously jammin'! Not only that, they were getting better! Whether swing, rock & roll, or blues, everything song was fun, high-energy, and danceable. Alison was hotter than hot on those keys. Without the formality of a major swing dance, they let their hair down (for those who had hair) and cut loose.
Hop To The Beat were the hosts for the evening and they're holding another one on June 21. Khourys is located at 118 Broadway in Somerville (not all that far from I-93 and Assembly Square). The lesson starts at 8:00 pm and the band plays from 9:00 pm to midnight. Admission is only $7. Ya, you should go.