March 17, 2014

#40: The Opposing Demographics of WCS

Two Different Dances in Action
A man has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.
-Walter Lippmann

A little while ago I mentioned my confusion over Boogie by the Bay's choice to go with DJ's who play even more 'boom boom' music than last year, despite all the complaints to the contrary.

Upon seeing this year's list of teachers however, I finally understood. More than 80% of their instructors this year teach Abstract, walking, stretching, 'dirty it up,' etc. which fits that droning 'boom boom' check-out scene perfectly. (If you already have a ticket and want some swing, I'd highly recommend some of the lindy & balboa workshops... Sylvia Sykes is a superstar on every swing scene. 2014 Note - BBB has since deleted their Lindy program.)

So they've made their choice. Even the US Open has re-done their headlining photos, and they are all of the upper body... no shots of 'dancing feet' anywhere... but arching and raised shoulders a-plenty. I miss the previous photos, and it makes me wonder what new dancers, or dancers from other arenas, must think when they visit the site. But nonetheless, considering the Tenets of Swing, they too have made their choice.

The evidence I bring to you today, however, relates more to the D is for Demographic article I wrote back in June (#28). I talked of how each kind of dance on this planet attracts their own 'demographic.' 

Just as Macy's has a different demographic than Bergdorf's, and horror flicks have a different demographic that period pieces, salsa has a different demographic from waltz and swing has a different demographic from abstract improvisation.

These two videos provide a perfect example- a swing demographic will love and want to dance by watching this video:

Video #1:
Dawn Hampton and John Dokes

If you think this video was simple and didn't have much going on in it, then you are definitely in the Abstract Improvisation crowd. Only trained dancers or those with a natural eye would see how extremely difficult the dance above actually was - and would understand how it would be a dance for the history books, instead of something to click forward through.

But an abstract crowd will love and want to dance like this video:

Video #2:
French Festival

Both crowds had young people, but one laughed at great swing music and the other jammed to it. One had incredible timing and teamwork, and the other one looked big and seamless, but was based more "suggest and fill" rather than lead and follow, leaving timing, footwork and play behind and replacing it with walking, posing and holding in order to mimic the exact and precise style ofother dancers, down to their shoes and dress, instead of being unique to themselves.

So. Some like it hot, and some like it cold. That's just the way it is. And both Boogie by the Bay, the US Open, Swingdiego and the World Swing Dance Council have all chosen Video #2. 

That's their freedom, yes, even though it damages untold amounts of people by using the word "swing" when they advertise their events. Every single dancer, teacher and studio teaching "swing" would tank their business sending their students to such places. 

So if you feel like your teacher is teaching video #1, or if you feel like the dancers in video #1 are having a much higher level of enjoyment of themselves, the music and each other (like I do) and you LIKE that kind of thing... you love it.... you love checking IN and watching close and jamming along, then this is evidence, once more, that you can save your money and enjoy 'jamming' at the real swing joints, wherever they may be.

From Weekly Note #40: More Evidence. First released on September 26th 2012.