As I’m soaking in the deliciousness of the salted caramel gelato, my friend Meredith said something that grabbed my attention. We talked about how we traveled a bit and how we peeked into some local scenes. When the subject of blessed local studios/swing dance societies with great promoters, DJs, teachers & well diverse group of dancers, we both agreed you want to tell them, “Oh my gosh guys… you don’t know how good you have it until leave.” That’s exactly right. When the universe lines everything up and you have the perfect dance night, you forget how much work goes into running successful lessons/socials. Seeing how it’s my goal to help everyone grow and promote West Coast Swing, I want to share some insight/tips to show your local community some appreciation.
Give some love to the non-regulars attendees: First timers and visitors to a studio/new dancers bring in new clients because they’re the ones who tell others about their exciting new venture- thus they shouldn’t be overlooked. We’ve been there. We know what it’s like to be immersed into a new dance studio, barely know anybody, and granted you hardly know anything about the dance other than your YouTube introduction. It’s imperative you ensure newcomers and visitors feel comfortable and included. Here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with beginners.
- Don’t turn the ballroom into a high school cafeteria!
Remember the scene in Mean Girls where Janis is explaining the layout to Cady of who sits where at lunch? When a studio has been around for a long time, it’s easy for groups to form. It can appear a lot like a high school lunchroom when dancers don’t mix and mingle. If you see someone who’s not familiar, go and introduce yourself! Even if it’s just to say hi! The first impression you make, especially when someone has never been a part of a dance studio is key. Especially with there digital age filled with Yelp/Google reviews, you don’t want word to spread that your club is socially distant and unwelcoming. Put in the effort to ease in new dancers and it will expand and develop the community.
- Don’t teach on the social floor.
This deserves a whole blog in itself, but it’s a universal truth that teaching on the social floor is a BIG no-no. Teaching should be set aside for group lessons and private instruction. If someone’s new, being taught on the social dance shouldn’t be their first learning encounter with the dance. As someone who’s experienced a pro giving me a mini-lecture on the social floor, it’s not fun. Your self-esteem shoots down, your head space isn’t enjoyable for dance cause you’re concerned they don’t like dancing with you, and it creates a negative vibe. Succinctly put it’s no bueno. If someone needs help because they might hurt themselves or their partner, pull them aside from the dance floor and give them advice between songs.
(Me when someone tries to teach me on the social floor)
- Be mind of your tact and body language
— Whether it’s intentional or unintentional body language speaks SO much on the dance floor. Refrain from saying anything negative, and also be aware of how your body language and facial expressions are coming across. Now I’ve given you tips on newbies to scene (which I can’t stress how valuable they are), I’ll discuss talk about some other folks who could also be overlooked sometimes — behind the scenes staff!
Speaking as a working DJ on the circuit, it really gets under my skin when my Westie colleagues don’t get the respect they deserve. I can’t speak as a teacher or successful promoter (tried hosting local events, failed) but I can tell you I’ve been mistreated as a DJ before and it’s not fun.Event promoters will promote other DJs on social media on other nights and when I’m on the decks there’s virtually no mention of me on social.That’s happened. I’ve DJ’d in places where they’ll give other DJs on staff shout outs on the mic and they skipped over me. I’ve DJ’d in places where I’m isolated in the booth, and no one really asks me to dance/talks to me. Basically, I’m a warm body to them who presses buttons. DJs make or break the dance night. You could have the creme of the crop DJs or you can be in dances I’ve been to where the room clears in 15 minutes cause the only thing played is Neil Diamond.
I’m not saying to bring us flowers, take us out for steak dinners (although we love food, haha) and give us compliments all night long. I’m simply stating that often times dancers can make DJing appear to be a thankless job. We DJs work for YOU. We spend hours curating music. We pay extra careful attention to the tone and feeling of the ballroom and base our musical selections off of YOUR dancing. Don’t ever take your DJ for granted. If they’re a featured/guest DJ make sure they’re taken care of (I.e. rate, equipment, A CHAIR, etc.) unless you want some generic CD with mystery tunes to be your music of the night, I suggest you thank them and give them the credit they deserve. This applies to all dance staff. Sometimes they do this on a volunteer basis and don’t get paid! So seriously y’all, thank your staff, give social media shout outs, if they did an awesome job and giving awesome dance feels tell your friends! Word of mouth rocks.
Before I close I want to give a shout out to Hugo Miguez and Stacy Kay who run WCS Tuesday’s in Tampa. The fact you live stream nearly every Tuesday to showcase your scene is awesome. You put together a different theme each week (I.e. Guys night, JnJ, Spotlight, Throwback), and basically, you make everyone feel included and that’s how it should be.
From the first timers to the ones who regularly attend the club year after year, it makes a difference on how we treat each other. Bottom line please don’t take your local scene for granted, because when you leave after experiencing a delectable scene it hurts! Haha It truly does. Some people even live in Westie deserts no WCS community exist. They have to drive hours away just to dance. So, hug a dancer, befriend new friends and in the words of Ellen, “be kind to one another.”
For more fabulous tips on growing and sustaining a healthy dance community visit Tessa Cunningham Munroe’s Coach’s Corner post!