March 05, 2014

#37: Caring for Your Swing Club

It's Perilous Times for
Swing Clubs Today
For you are the makers of the flag and it is well that you glory in the making. -Franklin Knight Lane

Last week I was pretty harsh on Boogie by the Bay. But, as most of you know, I used to be on the board for BBB. So what gives?
The answer lies in the people.

When I was a part of the BBB team, I loved the people I was working with. There are a few of them that I still miss dearly, and would do anything to work with them again, like Ana Burton and James Gafford. But you probably don't know those names, do you? Yet the parts they play for BBB are huge. And they've done it for years.

But they aren't the only ones. There are many more voices that go into that event, and when it comes down to a vote, the majority wins. And the majority, in many cases, is easy to persuade.

So if you have even one Nissy on a board, you'd be amazed at what kind of change they can inflict on club, or in this case, an event. If you have two or three, or even a few groupies... well, then, look out.

And that's what I'm asking you to do now. 
Look. Out.

Because it only takes one person to change an entire club. One person.

Here in California, one of last few standing Clubs that still honored and preserved WCS voted a major Groupie into the president's seat. Wow. What a difference it has made. All of the teachers hired for each of the monthly dances? Abstract. Only. The music? Downhill. Fast. The new staff? Clique-y. It simply does not resemble the Club that it was for the last 20 years.

How did this happen? The members weren't looking for this kind of change, and they are definitely stunned at their president's "rude" stances towards people that have worked hard for the club in the past. So why did they vote this person in?

Charm. And a soft spot. 

We as dance community have always had a soft spot for new blood. We think they have some key insight or perspective we haven't thought of, and we think the absolute best of them, never questioning or doubting that their intent is of the purest kind.

So a young blooded (they are not young in age, just maturity) club member wants to lead. They seem passionate. They seem to care about the position. Why not?

And now here they are. Knocked speechless after the very first meeting with this new president and his brazen new agenda... the stories of that meeting and the ones since have gone viral in the 'deep water' community. When it reached my ears I thought "But isn't that what they wanted? Didn't they know him?"

But I've never had a soft spot for new blood. I have a soft spot for earnest and sincere people, those who love to learn, those who radiate joy... those who absolutely love WCS, no matter how long they've been doing it... I have a lot of soft spots. But I'm not afraid to admit that someone might have their own personal agenda. I'm not afraid to admit that some people are just out for themselves. I'm not afraid to admit that someone is a jerk. No matter what suit and tie they put on.

I challenge you to do the same.

Our clubs, worldwide, are supposed to be a safe haven for our dancing. But with two different dances clashing and shedding blood everywhere, it's essential that you take care when you vote. That you really seek those people who are running and find out what they really think and what they really want. The same goes for your current board members too.

Obviously Abstract lovers tend to be charming and disarming... which is why you don't stop at one question. Do you know how many people have emailed me over the last year saying that they asked a certain event director what kind of music they played at their event, and they answered "a mix"... when statistically that same event director played 98% boom boom and lyrical music, and even crossed swing songs off of their DJ's lists?

Don't take their first answer at face value. Get to know the people who want to serve on your board. Ask more questions. Be thoughtful. Be aware. It only takes one bad apple. In BBB's case, it took a few personality changes. And oh, the difference it has made.

It's time to start looking past "new blood," "young blood" and "different blood" and vote in whoever is BEST at representing you and the music, teachers and dance you actually want to do.

Excerpt from Weekly WCS Note #37: What's in a Club? Released August 20th 2012. Revised and updated.