Category Archives: Scene Leading

Bash or Organize

Raise your hands if you have the means to run your own event. It takes time, energy, financial resources, a dependable crew of people, a website, and more. It’s exhausting, stressful, and the payoff is much like climbing Long’s Peak.

Now it’s time to descend

Someone recently wrote: “If you want to see something better, then organize an event of your own and focus on bringing something great to the community rather than bashing someone else’s efforts.”

I think challenging people to create an event rather than complaining about one is a rather high bar to set for people speaking negatively about an event. It can take away these people’s voices especially when this opinion and plea comes from someone well-regarded within the dance community. One way to interpret this is that they’re trying to silence people that speak out when they might have good cause to and no other platform. This viewpoint also diminishes the thought that perhaps the people complaining have due cause.

Just because someone is providing something apparently good to the community, doesn’t mean they get a free pass from critique. Neither should people get a pass for showing effort.

As an organizer, you should be open to critique and strive to make improvements. Some ways we strive to receive feedback here is through surveys, inquiries via personal email or private conversation, and by keeping our ear to the ground. We want to do a great job and compare ourselves to great organizers outside our city and niche scene.

 

On The Outside Looking In

Here are stories of three people I noticed at dances and spoke with recently.

The first was a gentleman that arrived late to our Stanley Marketplace lesson. I could see him looking at us and so I greeted him from inside the circle. He asked if this was the Meetup and I said sure. He didn’t have a partner immediately, so my co-teacher partnered with him. Later we chatted a bit, I showed him a Charleston step, and he even did some social dancing.

The second occurred while I was packing up to leave the Stanley Swing Night. A woman was watching intently near the band’s merch suitcase. Once I had all my gear, I walked along the edge headed to my car. She was on the opposite side facing the band now. I hesitated and decided “why not, let’s strike up a conversation,” and asked if this was her first time to the Stanley Marketplace. It was and we chatted a bit. Hopefully, she’ll return to the next one or to one of our classes.

The third happened last night at the Mercury Cafe. While I was dancing, I noticed a man standing in the front of the water. He was looking intently at the dance floor. I noticed his Mobtown Ballroom shirt, figured he was from Baltimore (confirmed), and didn’t know anyone. With a lead-in like Baltimore and Mobtown, I figured I’d have an easier time starting a conversation and was right.

I offered to introduce him to any followers or leaders. He shared that he was a bit shy and that he’d like for me to point out some leaders to danc with since he prefers to follow. He mentioned that Denver appeared much different than Baltimore’s scene where anything goes. Hopefully, he had a fun evening.

What do you do when you notice a stranger with a clear desire to try swing dancing or find out more? For me, it’s easy to feel empowered when I’m running the dance or have a leadership position. It gives me more of a reason to say “welcome” or “have you been here before?” Other times, like the Merc example, I feel more confident when I have a starter conversation planned. Other times, if I can guess someones leader/follower preferences and I don’t fit the bill, I’ll suggest to a friend they ask that person to dance because they appear new.

We each have our ways. Regardless, I’d like to encourage more people to go out of their comfort zone to welcome strangers.

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.

Anti-Scarcity Model

I’m still surprised how often I have to explain what Swingin’ Denver is about. One recent example is when I was communicating with another teacher who believes in the scarcity model. This is where there is a limited amount of the whole pie and it’s in the best interest of each swing school to grab as much as possible because their fate is tied to getting more of that pie.
pecan-pie Continue reading

2017 Change Up

change-up-pitchUp until September, Swingin’ Denver venues were pretty homogeneous. Students were nearly guaranteed that they would see the same teachers teaching every single class at a particular venue. Then I got injured, Wiley took a job in Nevada, and we were suddenly adding different teachers.

Well, guess what? We have many more teachers on our 2017 teaching staff. You’ll see a lot of new teacher combinations across our 2 venues and 5 classes. This teacher and class variety means a few things:
– more specialty series
– students will hear more individual takes on technique and core patterns
– refreshed teachers
– students will hopefully adapt to different instructor’s teaching styles which will help them learn better at workshops, other local schools, and national events.

We’re excited about this and hope you are too!

Chronic Inconsistency

signature-of-mediocrity

I’m currently reading a book called Practically Radical. A friend loaned it to me and just now an underlined sentence jumped out at me – “The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency,” a quote from Jim Collins. This comes from a paragraph illustrating that one issue that many organizations face is constantly changing, lunging from one idea to the next, trying to grasp the next big thing while forgetting what they did that was right and worked in the past.

It reminds me of a conversation that fizzled out between another organizer and myself. They asked for an opportunity to explain how their event had changed and improved in the hopes that I would  support their event. I was looking forward to this meeting because it was regarding an event that continually changed, seemingly for the sake of change. You never knew what you were getting, so gradually as a potential participant, it seemed like a bad investment. Chronic inconsistency was their demise. Unfortunately, they never followed through with setting a meeting, so I’ll never know if their changes improved their event and if they had listened to their advice-givers over the years.

It’s certainly a cautionary tale, but good or bad, any lesson learned helps. As for the book, I look forward to what else it has in store for me as I strive to be consistent.

Anyone Can Be An Organizer

Yes,  anyone can be an organizer. It does take some valuable skills to be a good one, but anyone can be an organizer.

Why this topic? Within the past month, Swingin’ Denver teachers have received multiple requests for specialized topic classes and workshops. As much as we’d love to make every single request happen, we cannot. We’ve also discovered that sometimes requesters don’t even show up to the workshop they’ve requested.

Instead, we’ve encouraged these requesters to organize a class or workshop that’s special to them. Nothing’s happened yet, but we have hopes that a new organizer will pop up because they really want to learn whatever it is they’re asking for. Continue reading

5 Seconds

You have 5 seconds to make an impression. That’s pressure. That goes for our classes, dances, performances, and class recaps. That goes for the teachers, door greeters, performers, and DJs. We have to be personable, well-groomed, knowledgeable, confident, welcoming and genuine. Someone should be able to walk in the door and know what we’re about in 5 seconds.

tick-tock

The Case For Engagement

crosswalk-groupOriginally, this post was going to only be about social media, but that’s only one part of the interaction equation. Here at Swingin’ Denver, we like to engage our community through social media, namely Facebook, and in person at events with host or co-host. It’s our way of creating stronger social ties that, in turn, keep others engaged in our community. Continue reading