April 24, 2013

#61: April's Fool - A WCS Story

Don't be a fool!
Weekly Note #61
Where sickness thrives, bad things will follow. - Tolkein

This is the Note everyone needs to read. Everyone. It changed the world in one single day. Read on...

I have changed the two dancers' names in the story to protect their identities. This is a true story, from start to finish. A real life "Aesop's Fable," if you will. Read on...

(aka APRIL vs. MAY )

This is a story about April and May. Two women, two dancers, two attendees of a recent new WSDC convention, only in its second year. April and May also share another quality; they are both in the Novice division. They both signed up for the Novice Jack & Jill and they both danced to the same music on the dance floor.  But this is where their similarities end. Let's get to know them, shall we?

Meet April. She's 25, but only looks 15 when she isn't at a convention. Mostly this is due to the way she holds herself. She wears torn jeans, baggy t-shirts with deep dipping V's so that you can see different parts of her bra from time to time because she holds herself "tucked in." She wraps her arms around herself, tucks her shoulders forward and down so that when she talks, she appears smaller and less pushy, no matter what she's actually saying.

When she meets people for the first time, she is always offering to "help" or "take care of" them, but she soon ignores them after that.  She very much wants a boyfriend, and very much prefers they be a high-level dancer. When she isn't dating anyone, she is highly flirtatious and initiates a lot of help and attention. She feel extremely threatened when an object of her affection is paying any kind of attention to others, especially others she doesn't know or "own."

Though she is 25, April has moved around a lot. She is a nomad of sorts. She never attended college, nor does she think it's respectable to do so. Education, in her mind, is a waste of time. When she hears that others have earned degrees or accolades, she either checks out and stares into space or simply rolls her eyes.

She has a job at a local Subway-type sandwich place, making sandwiches. She complains about the customers though. She thinks they over react a lot about nothing.  She says she's only working because she isn't married yet. When asked about her future, she doesn't address the next five or ten years, but only the next month to a year. She also brings up babies a lot, or husbands, especially when she is dating someone.

April has not been doing WCS very long. Only a year. She's never taken a group lesson. She has never taken a private lesson. She has only attended two events.  Even so, she considers herself to be an All-Star in the making. This is in part due to the fact that she's dating the best All-Star dancer in the area (a feat that she brags about quite heartily and in great depth to nearly anyone she meets while with him).

April thinks it will take just one more event to get her into Intermediate. Before we go that direction, let's take a moment to discuss her counterpart.

Meet May. May is not in her 20's. She is 42. But again, she appears much younger. She has a slight figure and also holds herself somewhat "tucked in," only with her shoulders though, not her arms. When May does this, though, it is from shyness, rather than an attempt to trigger the rescuer in you, which April loves to do.

May is quite intelligent, though she doesn't let on at first. She is both a writer and a publicist of sorts. She is humble, but very excited about her work. She works quite hard actually, and often has to miss a night or two of dancing every month for work.

May is also dating a dance instructor, who is also a promoter. But she is not dating him in order to move up the ranks. Quite the opposite, in fact. She rarely tells anyone they are dating. Most learn about it from someone else. She is extremely supportive of her boyfriend, even though he does not treat her very well.

But May looks up to him. She likes learning, and she feels like he knows a lot. He often criticizes her in front of other dancers, but it's easy to see that she's trying her absolute best. Unfortunately, she most often feels like she deserves the harsh critiques and rarely questions his judgement.

May also takes lessons from other dancers and men. In fact, May has been dancing WCS for nearly seven years, and she's been working hard on it all the time. In lessons, May asks the best questions. She truly wants to be the best follow she can be, and have the best technique possible too.

May wants to compete because her boyfriend is still a promoter in swing and because "everyone does it." But she is still in Novice, despite all of her hard work and efforts. May is actually very good at WCS, but she is not very good at Abstract, because it is confusing - it requires an element of disregard for her partners. This goes against all she has learned. She can't imagine fighting against her partner. She still truly believes her Pure WCS training can make her successful at WSDC events.


Both April and May shared their stories about the Novice J&J with me - and they were two very different stories indeed. But let me lay some groundwork first.

As I'm sure some of you have noticed, WSDC events are now offering "reformed" schedules to dupe people into thinking that they are nothing like the event formats discussed in Note #27: Convention Mention. This event is no different. It advertised semi-finals. And unlike the events I talked about, this event actually held them.

Hmmm... did that little news bite catch your attention?  "Semi-finals! Yay! I finally have a shot!"  But if you were actually there... if you actually danced in the divisions, then you know different, don't you?

Let me break it down for you:

The Novice Division had more than 80 people.
They put all 80 on the floor.
They played three songs.
And then it was over.

Who cares about semi's when the first round it totally rigged?  I really want to encourage you to start doing some math. 80+ contestants at $20 bucks a pop... bam! $1,600+ got them one heat and three songs total. Wow. The prize money was on the level of a small club too. And no trophies either. Triple wow.

Anyhow, back to April and May.


If you've read everything I've written, you already know how this plays out. You should be able to guess it all straight off. Go ahead and try - see what your experiences tell you.

I knew. I knew it so well, in fact, that when I'd heard that May, who is a reader, actually spent over $500 to fly to this event, had actually entered a Jack & Jill, I did a full-blown face palm slap. "Why in the world?" I asked, "Why in the world?!?!" I knew exactly what she was getting herself into. I don't know why she expected anything different.

Because May, with all her training, all her experience and all of her knowledge... didn't even make it to semi-finals. Even the judges she knew didn't put her in.  I could've told her that $600 bucks ago! Oh. Right. I did.

After returning home, May was complaining and shocked, but all I could think of was... "DUH!!!" A Pure WCS dancer has NO business bothering with a WSDC event these days. If you know of anyone with a ton of points these days, it should be a red flag for you, not a green light!  Need help?

April. April should convince you. April, in her blissful ignorance of all things swing and all things dance (every Abstract girl is going to tell you they have a dance background - taking jazz or tap at the age of 5 doesn't really count - ask before you buy, my dears... ask before you buy...), didn't just make semi-finals. Oh no. April made it all the way into finals. Into the Top 3 in fact. Out of 80 dancers... she made the Top 3.

May tried. April didn't.
May worked hard. April just laughed.
May got nothing. April got everything.

Surprised? You shouldn't be.  Not by now.  Not after everything I've written.

I think May deserved what she got. She knew exactly what's going on out there. When she drew the Abstract men, she tried to follow them, tried to use her education out there.  What a waste of time, talent and energy.  Who the heck out there believes any of this Points stuff is legitimate anymore?

Listen to me, and listen to me carefully:

Education has no place in Abstract.
And since Abstract Improvisation is what the WSDC is pushing, 
then education has no place in WSDC events. 

May was so upset, you guys. She really, really was.  She is trying to make sense of everything, while trying not to look Truth in the eyes. I never told May about April. I don't think she could've handled it. I don't think she could've handled knowing that a random girl off the streets from the local bagel place, who is incredibly proud of her avoidance of all education of any sort, walked in off the streets and nailed the Top 3 out of 80 people at her second event.

May became April's fool.
Don't be a fool.
Look Truth in the eye.


A Message for those who came before the flood of Aprils....

When I first started dancing WCS, it was attracting Engineers, Lawyers, School Teachers and even a few celebs. I still remember when Geena Davis was at an event taking a workshop. I didn't stalk her or anything, but I did start jumping in my seat when, shortly thereafter, she appeared on the next Academy Awards. I don't remember what she was presenting, or what she was commenting on, but I remember very clearly when she turned her head to the camera and said, "I love to dance" with, literally!, a wink a smile.

It was awesome. But she wasn't the first dancer to appear on film. Nick and I can never ever walk into a room full of Hall of Famers without hearing about all of the movies they've been in. The original creators and dancers of WCS were so highly talented, that they didn't just appear in movies... they constantly had TV crews doing pieces on them. Seriously. They'd go to a club and film a jam session. I can't blame them. The men are some of my absolute favorite leads on the planet and I still learn from watching the women dance. Bam. They inspire me SO much.

That's the dance scene I joined. That's the kind of people I was drawn to.  People who loved "knowing" the dance they were doing - aware of who does this and who does that.  Aware of the changes in styling and where they came from. They knew who, what and when.

The WCS community I joined was a community of thinkers, try-ers and doers. Education of any kind was valued, loved and shared. It fit right in. I knew I was with my own.

A few weeks ago, I got a good hard slap in the face with reality. I had dinner with some 100% Abstract dancers. Don't ask me how... it's a long and painfully weird story. The bottom line is that I did.

And I have never been so insulted. Look, they didn't know who Nick and I were, so we met the uncensored versions of themselves, and for that I'm glad. But we left with the realization that there are just some people we really can't get along with.  That was a bit of a shock for us. We've never met anyone we couldn't enjoy interacting with on some level.  But this taught us... and taught us good.

We just aren't that snobby, that opinionated or that picky. We aren't that negative, that exasperated or that critical. We've never, in the whole history of our marriage, had such a difficult dinner.  Just because anyone looks "young" or "youngish" doesn't excuse anyone from being mean, shallow or spaced out when they interact with other people.

For example, normal rules of conduct didn't seem to exist. We would be talking to them across the table, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, one of them started talking to the other in whispers. Literally. Multiple times were conversations interrupted out of the blue and, in awkwardness, we simply waited to see what came next. All the rules of basic human interaction were suspended, and we left both exhausted and confused.

I've started dabbling in other areas of interest. And you know what? They have their own celebrities and Pulitzer prize winning  people too... but I haven't met a single person that's put down or degraded anything that's of worth and value... and especially not education, research or knowledge.

I'm not saying anyone needs a degree or anything - shoot, we had a Vons grocery clerk clean house one time - I thought it was awesome! But it is a very different thing when one is made fun of because of it.  Such qualities are now mocked and scorned, and that's just a recipe for disaster. A culture of implosion. Of illness.

When the WSDC culture has become one of denigration of all things good, excellent, hard or treasured, then it's a pretty obvious sign, in my humble opinion, that it's our time to go...

...and leave the 'trash'-talkers to those who adore them so much: the WSDC, their Points, and The Ten they insist on supporting.

In a democracy, all peoples are represented. But this ain't no democracy, my loves, and Pure WCS doesn't have a single seat at their table.

Let Go.
Let's Go.
"Where sickness thrives, bad things will follow."

I don't plan on being around for any of that, do you?

From Weekly WCS Note #61: April and Fools. Released April 2013.