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On The Dance Floor’s Edge

I witnessed something pretty neat last night. It’s a situation most of has been in. You’re poised on the edge of the dance looking hopefully for someone to ask to dance or someone to ask us you to dance. You’re new to the venue and you don’t know many people. It can be a nerve-racking experience. From my seat at the door I can see the hope on your face and then the moment where you turn away, losing that hope. It’s a change that affects your entire body language.

Then… then someone asks you to dance! It’s Jami Good asking you if you’d like to follow and her to lead. The dance begins.

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A Banning in KC

kenny-at-frankie-manningBack in the early 2000s, I (Kenny) was banned from Kansas City’s only all-ages swing dance venue. I was banned for soliciting attending dancers to come to my swing bomb events held across the Kansas City metro.

There was an understanding among ballroom studios that you never offered flyers for events that you were not directly participating in. Studios were insular and very protective of their students. They didn’t want to risk them going elsewhere.

I had become disillusioned with this studio, quit their team, and stopped teaching there. I had discovered the great shining light called lindy hop. In my naivety, I thought I could skirt the studio understanding by inviting dancers outside the studio space to pass out flyers on the sidewalk. That didn’t fly with the studio owner who physically accosted me and banned me.

It was a badge of honor to be banned there. It came with notoriety that felt pretty cool back then. My friends supported me, said they had my back, fluffed my ego. Even 5 years after that event, newer dancers knew I was that “banned guy.” Yeah, that was me.

Looking back, I realize I was foolish. I could have accomplished so much more if I worked with them, somehow communicating my needs and passions. In a way, I became those lindy hoppers I used to intensely dislike as they looked down upon as east coast swing dancers. Well, there I was looking down on the venue holding the only all-ages swing dance that allowed me to dance before I turned 21.

I could have probably used some friends that didn’t enjoy fanning my flames so much either. At the very least, some introspection. Banning is a harsh step and typically not taken very lightly. I wish someone close to me had said the studio owner had just cause. This was my dance mentor that kicked me out.

Banning is tough from all angles. Yours, the person doing the banning, the person making the accusation that results in a banning, the friends who are confused that perhaps pick sides to bolster you, their friend, that one that was just banned.

In the end, I know I was wrong. I don’t hold animosity toward the one that banned me or the person that perhaps told them what I was doing. It takes courage to step up and do the right thing like apologize, empathize, and to ask your friends to do the same thing.

Garnering Likes

do-you-like-me-graphic

When I first jumped on the social media train, I was enamored by generating Facebook likes. I would look at “competitors” Facebook pages and imagine having more likes than them. I somehow translated that likes = popularity = greater social ranking = business =… I think you get the point.

One of my methods would be to sponsor specific posts to generate likes. I tested out different keywords, different budgets, time length, or the day it started on. One week generated 90+, another 70+, another 30-ish. It felt pretty good watching the numbers climb.

Then I started looking at who was liking us. They looked nothing like the customers I wanted or were attracting into our classes. Even their profiles were slightly suspicious looking with all the memes and viral videos they were sharing. They may have been authentic, but their online behavior was suspect.

Googling Facebook advertising and what I was seeing raised my suspicions further and made me question my methods. Eventually, I stopped advertisements specifically geared toward generating likes. I still wanted likes, but I wanted greater quality likes as I’m sure any Facebook page owner would want.

Here’s where I think my money and time is better invested:
Event collaboration where we and another established business are co-hosting an event
Being active on our event pages
Boosting our classes on Facebook
Boosting our dances on Facebook
Reminding our students to like our page and subscribe
Having an interactive Facebook page where we generate unique content and “sell” about 1 in 10 times.

I hope this post helps some people out.  Quality over quantity is important here.

Emphasizing the 2&4

Have you ever seen this video before?

This is the breakdown of this video here where Harry Connick, Jr adjusted for the crowd’s offbeat 1, 3 clapping to bring them to the 2 & 4. If you look closely in the original video, you’ll also notice a brief moment where the drummer cheers him!

As The Andrew Sisters sing “If you want to keep the rhythm pumpin’, Bounce me brother with a solid four,” you’ll want that solid four as a dancer. Clapping on the 2 & 4, emphasizing the 2 & 4, etc.

Juan Villafane even went into further detail when teaching a Fast Charleston class at Stompology one year. He had working on dropping into the 2 & 4 more during our Charleston basics and then our Squat Charleston. He really wanted that emphasis to connect us into the music and our roots.

This also means that us teachers, bringing up the next generation of dancers, should also be emphasizing the 2 & 4. This could be through clapping out the rhythm. We can make sure we’re fully scatting the rhythm and emphasizing the 2 & 4 vocally. We also need to be picking appropriate swing tunes that swing hard and answer “yes” when you ask “would I dance to this on the social floor?”

SWING KIDS, Robert Sean Leonard, Tushka Bergen, 1993
SWING KIDS, Robert Sean Leonard, Tushka Bergen, 1993

Timing is Everything

One of my favorite songs growing up had the lyrics “Time is ticking away, tick tick ticking away.” It repeats in my head sometimes when I’m rushing to meetings, texting people I might be late due to traffic, or waiting for people to arrive. Needless to say, time is very important, important enough to include “Arrive early to class” into our Code of Conduct.

We greatly appreciate the people that show up early and are ready to learn. Our Swing 1 class at The Arvada Tavern is crushing expectations right now. Jesse and I also try to reward our timely Swing 3 students by diving immediately into material at 7pm when class starts. We prefer to reward those people rather than making them wait.

What would you think if we started classes late or ran them late? If you’re like most people, you probably have a schedule to keep¬† and you have expectations set forth by our calendar and advertisements – class starts at X time, classes are 75 minutes long, the dance starts at 9pm. I once showed up at a dance that was supposed to start at 8pm. It started at 8:25pm.

We want you in class for the entire time. We get that life can sometimes sneak up on you (or metro Denver traffic). In the end, we want you in class even if you’re late because we want you to learn the great material we have planned. But… please do your absolute best to arrive ready to start on time.

Role/Action

talking-headsIt was recently emphasized to me and another teacher that we need to change how we address leaders and followers in class. Specifically, our teachers should state “leaders” or “followers,” so that it lessens confusion when making further statements like “leaders lead by rotating…” rather than “leads lead by rotating.” Address the role and then the action. Small change, big difference.

The Expert Witness

back-to-backOn January 13, 2014, I was asked to be an expert witness for a personal injury case concerning a man who flipped a woman and grievously injured her. The lawyers found my aerial recap videos on YouTube, looked me up via my website, and emailed me. We talked that day and the next morning at 7am I sent them questions for their upcoming deposition.

Over the next 16 days, I spent 25+ hours on this project. I analyzed the written deposition, picking apart the defendant’s language; critiqued the video deposition where the defendant demonstrated how he performed the back-to-back aerial; videotaped the aerials using his technique and mine, comparing and contrasting the two through captured stills; and writing a best practices document along with my deposition analysis.

It was intense. We even discussed that they might need me and an aerial partner at the hearing to demonstrate. That was to happen the day I was supposed to fly to Grenoble. Fortunately, this case never went to trial. They settled out of court thanks mainly to my work.

Here are some takeaways from this case:

  • If you’re inebriated, don’t do aerials. Don’t offer, don’t suggest, don’t accept.
  • If you’ve never done aerials before with this person and you’re both sober, do preps before going over. Build trust.
  • If the trust isn’t there and you’re compromised in some manner, do not fly and do not throw.
  • If you’re wearing compromising clothing or footwear, do not fly or throw. This could be a tight shirt limiting arm movement or stiletto heels.
  • If you successfully threw a gymnast for your first aerial, it’s totally them and not you. Same thing goes for tiny children. In the scheme of things, doing an aerial successfully with gymnasts and tiny children doesn’t count.
  • As a base, you should always have a sense (visual or physical) where your flyer is. If you don’t, re-establish it quickly and get ready to become a landing pad.
  • As a flyer when doing connected throws and landing, you should also have a physical sense where your base is. If you don’t, re-establish quickly or get your arms out quickly for a crash landing.

The 6 Song Rule

ask-to-dance

With a knee injury, you get a lot of socializing practice and you learn new things. Last week, I learned how one dancer helps others feel welcome. We’ll call it the 6 Song Rule.

Apparently, she pays attention to people that may have been sitting out a long time without being asked to dance. If she noticed that this person had been sitting out 6 songs, she’ll ask them to dance. That way they’ll feel more welcome into our dance community that can be intimidating at times. I think we all could learn something here.

Today’s Music – Wingy Manone

Back in 2007, I DJ’ed the 4th Annual Harlem Nights in Utah alongside Mike Faltesek, Ryan Borkenhagen (that guy again!), Ron Dante Capunay, and Jimmy Suisse. One of my best memories is finding out about Wingy Manone that weekend. I love the vocals, the chunky rhythms, the spirited horns, the chunky rhythm carrying your movement through and through. Search for more of his music on Spotify or here to download.

wingy-manone