March 28, 2014

#66: Why Event Directors Won't Help You... and Who Can

Explicit Music at WCS Events -
What You Can Do
This will probably be the shortest Rearview Mirror I've ever written, but it's one of the most important.

Last week, in #65: The Revolution is at Hand, one of the dancer's posts talked about the explicit lyrics in the songs played during late night dancing at conventions.

In the end, he recommended we start filing our concerns with the Head DJ and/or event directors as a possible solution.

Funny. That's what I recommended more than a year ago. And you know what? Nothing changed.

I'll be straight with you. People have been complaining to the DJ's, event directors, promoters, etc for more than fourteen years now, but still the music has grown worse and worse and... now we find ourselves at "Pull Your Hair." (see picture)

In the last few years, I know a ton of people have tried the solution mentioned - and they get a "promise" and an "absolutely!" and another "I'll do my best," and then... popper-sticks. Nothin'. Nada. No.

Here is my own suggestion. Let the hotel know. The hotel. They care. They want to protect the families and professionals that stay there. They want to protect their upscale and promising environment. They want to know.

#65: The Revolution is at Hand

Those Who Have Written in Freedom
Weekly WCS #65
The right of revolution (or right of rebellion) is the right or duty... of the people of a nation to overthrow a government that acts against their common interests." -Wikipedia on The Right of Revolution

I'm quite excited about this week's Note. Today I'm going to share with you three people who have, in my opinion, been brave and enough and willing enough to speak their minds... albeit online.

You see, speaking your mind about any topic I've touched on, even if I'm never mentioned (like Michael Kiehm's post I sent you a few weeks back), on the social networks is considered treason.

That sounds dramatic, I know, but if you read Setting Dancers Free: The Weekly Notes That Rocked West Coast Swing, you'll remember that I talk in length about what's been happening "behind the scenes" to people that question the judging, the points, the music, the drugs... just about anything I've ever talked about... online - especially on Facebook.

When one does so, it gets scary. And I mean really scary. I mean illegal-harassment-scary. Facebook kicks them off, others threaten to call the police, but their hate is like a virus. The harassment their drug. It's dangerous, lethal and constant. It's a given. So certain is it, one famous WCS personality online, who happens to agree with me on a lot of things, but not with everything, has taken to giving these freedom writers a heads up as soon as they post.

#64: The Amazing Charlie and Jackie

Finding Swing in New Places
Weekly Note #64
"Luanne, that was our turnoff!"
"Oh dam.. Guess we just have to go to Myrtle Beach!" -Shag, The Movie

I don't have a super huge, devastatingly-big reveal this week. Nope. I just feel like sharing with you two of the dances and one of the songs that has kept me smiling for at least a third of my year so far.

There was a time when Shag and WCS shared the same values and had some of the same goals, and though that period didn't last very long, I'm glad we did have it. 

I still remember my very first Charlie and Jackie event (Charlie Womble and Jackie McGee). I caught myself, after having traveled all the way across the nation, dancing with the people in my section - the table I was at, and the tables around me.

But guess what? All those tables were from areas in my own state! "What the heck?" I thought. "If I'm in the Shag-lands, then I'd better at least DANCE with the Shaggers, right? I mean, why else am I here???" 

And so I set off. Alone. I wandered from section to section, scanning the dance floor for guys that 1) I didn't know, 2) were dancing Shag (as best I could guess with the little I knew) and 3) were on time (hey, on time is on time, peeps... it translates into any language!).

#59: The War on West Coast Swing

The Hate Group That Is
Demolishing WCS
People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election. -Otto Van Bismark

I don't have a problem with Abstract Improvisation as a dance form. I think it's a new type of Modern dance with it's own rules, music and demographic. I don't think it should be called WCS... But I think anyone that loves Abstract Improvisation, should feel free to dance it. 

But Abstract Improvisation dancers don't feel that way about us. They don't think we should have our own places to dance. They don't think we should have our own conventions, our own music and our own heroes.

They want Pure West Coast Swing to die. 

Shortly after The Nissy and The Time Has Come were released, many Pure WCS dancers started separating out. They started sticking with their own locations, their own dance nights with their own DJ's and their own music.

I couldn't have been happier. They were doing what they loved. It should have ended there.

But it didn't.

#58: Changing the Essentials

Adding and Expanding the Essentials
of West Coast Swing
Weekly Note #58
It's not wise to violate rules, unless you know how to observe them. -TS Eliot

I'm grateful that my editors allowed me to rework and expand my original articles before releasing them in Telling the Truth. It's a much, much richer read as a result. Today I want to talk about the updates and expansions you will find in Chapter Four: The West Coast Swing Essentials. There are about five in all, but I've addressed some recent trends in competitions, auditions and workshops too. Here we go!

Change #1: 
Swing Essentials vs. WCS Essentials

I wrote Swing Essentials before I'd researched or developed Tenets of Swing. Once both were out, people were confusing them. So this is just a very simple change. The WCS Essentials serve to help you identify West Coast Swing when you are watching it danced on the floor, especially during non-routine dancing. It certainly helps more with both than before they were developed. We went almost 60 years before any essentials were developed, but they have been praised by both the creators of the dance (yes! many are still with us thankfully!) and the true champions and legends of WCS today.

The Tenets of Swing, of course, are the things that bind all swing dancing together: Balboa, Shag, Jitterbug, etc. That article is also expanded in Telling the Truth, especially the section on Rock Steps. A single teacher outlawed them about ten years ago, and it's thrilling to see that they are making a comeback finally - as they should. They are an essential part - we lost 70% of all WCS patterns because of it.

#56: My Joyful Christmas Gift

Brand New Video from the
West Coast Swing Days
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice. -Psalm 96

I came across one of my favorite videos a few weeks ago. And considering their costumes and their absolute radiant joy and exuberance throughout the entire routine, and the fact that they do sexy in the right kind of "healthy" yet "sizzle" way... I thought it would be the perfect way to celebrate the holiday... and give you some red hot sparkling cheer to go with your dancin' feet!

The following video is of Eddie & Blair. Heard of Eddie & Blair? Well, neither had anyone else when they first took the floor way back in 1994. They were total newcomers. And you want to know how they did?

And they brought the house down.

Perhaps it was the song they used. After all, their coach did say, "You guys are young, so you can do something they can't... go FAST." As if they weren't already going fast back then... but Eddie & Blair took up the charge, and they went for it.

And these newcomers nabbed 2nd place in an incredibly difficult Classic competition... their first times on the floor. I love Eddie & Blair. I loved them as people, and I loved their routines... but this will always be my favorite.

March 21, 2014

#86: The WCS Mafia

The many scary similarities between
the WCS community and the Mafia.
If you want to compete, go to conventions or travel in today's world of West Coast Swing, you need to know one very important thing: you will be entering a world of criminals.

There are drugs. Dealers. Fraud. Theft. Payoffs. Money laundering. Conspiracies and, well, bad dancing (that should be criminal, right?). Everything. I'm looking forward to compiling a nice long list for you to add to this post later. 

I mean, I just learned that harassment is unlawful. Cyberbullying too, as they call it. Which has now lead to more than one break-in on more than one person's home. I have the police on speed dial for the violence. But we have a lot of others forms of violence and cyberbullying going on for all to see too. Check Amazon. Check Facebook. Check Twitter. Check the last three years! Check.

I always wondered why Facebook was so quick to delete posts and bump members offline when we non-criminals reported their hate and harassing rants. Now I know. In fact, now that I know, Facebook is probably up for a major lawsuit against them for allowing so much to transpire.

But the WCS community didn't know it was criminal. They don't think of themselves as criminals - because everyone is a criminal. It's a way of life. It's why people like you and me, who are normal, healthy adults who just want to dance, are so repulsed by it all. But 

Bottom line: criminal behavior has become a way of life for the West Coast Swing world. It's textbook mafia. Let's break it down...

March 17, 2014

#41: Silence Implies Consent

The Silence of WCS
Leadership is Deafening
Historical Background: 

In August and September of 2012 I experienced a whole new level of violence from certain professionals in the WCS community. Prior to then I had received many threats of violence, including death threats, but in these months they took real action and hunted me down in my very own home with the intention of ending my life.

Since no one in the community moved to stay their hand, I ended my development of a new council and began my move out of swing. I shared this information in Notes prior to this one, Note #41: The World Thinks We're Latin, and this article was my final follow-up on the subject. It was released on October 3rd 2012.

Qui tacet consentit. (Silence implies consent.) -Common Law Term

The "silence implies consent" law is, I believe, the root of the violence against my home and family.  The politicians of WCS email me and say they "can't believe anyone would do that!" or "I can't believe this is in our community!"  But then, they've seen incredible ugliness from these same pros online and in person and said nothing. Did nothing.

People are banned from events. Silence. No action.

"Silence implies consent." 

Let me be clear:

No pro or all-star on the planet would EVER come after me physically if they thought they didn't have the full support of our 'points, pro and political system.' 

#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.' 

March 14, 2014

#39: SOS Fall Migration

Shag Dancers on the
Water Tower of NMB
The following is an article first released in Weekly WCS Note #39: You'll Love It! on September 9th 2012. Revised and updated.

If you live anywhere on the East Coast, or are visiting the East Coast any time soon, then you NEED to drop by the SOS Fall Migration, anytime between September 14th-23rd in North Myrtle Beach, near the border of North and South Carolina.

I'm serious. Go. Even for a day... GO! Why?

Number one, there's no such thing as bad music in shag country. It's ALL swingable, all the time.

Number two, they love it when you dance WCS. Not rude WCS, where you throw your partner into other couples, but real slotted WCS... they'll even ask you to dance. And if you want to do a little shag? Anyone will help you learn. They are a very supportive, loving, nurturing and, well, rockin' community.

Number three, it's the experience of a lifetime. Get this- North Myrtle Beach (not to be confused with Myrtle Beach... that has a trillion million crazy miniature golf courses and gift shops with "shark doors" where you walk in through a two story high shark bite), is mostly comprised of one big main street. And on that one big main street is, what, a ton of shag clubs?

I mean, you can't miss shag there even if you tried. I mean, look at the picture. If you look up, you'll see water tower has shag dancers on both sides of it. And when you look down, you'll see that every brick on the street has the etchings of a shag club from every corner you can think of. Along with big huge "walk of fame" made up of massive golden records with famous shag DJ's name's on them.

March 13, 2014

#35: Recommended Reading

Summer Reading
Excerpt from the article Summer Reading, that was in Weekly WCS Note #35: The Good Life. Released August 6th 2012. Updated and revised.

"We read to know we are not alone." -C.S. Lewis

Hi everyone - I hope you are enjoying the Olympics! They are such an excellent source for training and inspiration. I've written two posts about them already on my blogs. If you haven't read them yet, here they are: Get Your Training On and Olympic Torch Strikes Gold.

In the meantime, I have some awesome reading to share with you...


A reader shared a link to The Gift of Fear on his Facebook page, along with the following words:

March 05, 2014

#38: Joke of the Day: Jason Creel

When Bad Dancers Say
They Are Professionals
In the times of fear and confusion the job of informing the public was the responsibility of the Daily Planet. A great metropolitan newspaper, whose reputation for clarity and truth had become a symbol of hope for the city of Metropolis. -1st Issue of Superman, 1938

I am not cruel. I am not a bully. I do not enjoy the current trend in humor - the one where the butt of every joke is a person. They "poke" (jab real hard, IMHO) fun at age groups, intelligence, social groups and certain regions. It's rather exhausting, really, how many things we're supposed to make fun of these days.

But I am a lover of Shakespeare. I do find foolish things just that: foolish. Centuries ago, fools were comical. But today, fools are praised and put on a pedestal. Like today's guest. He will make you laugh. He will make you cry. Yes, indeed.

I discovered him through a Southern California reader. They forwarded me a local promoter's email about a brand new addition to his upcoming event. The reader didn't know who the new teacher was, so he looked him up on YouTube and decided to forward both the dancer's most recent video to me, along with the original advertisement. I'm so glad he did.

You see, it's been hard, watching us shift from a hand full of fools to a majority of fools over the last fifteen years. It just hasn't been easy. And normally I don't laugh at an abuse of power by today's event directors. I hate how they shaft people who pay good money to bow down to those that get in for free or make money. It's crazy.

But a day like today was bound to arise. Where the fools aren't just the majority, they are everybody. Because only a true fool would hire such another great fool for their event. And only a true fool would claim they are almighty and powerful when in reality they are merely an ant.

#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.

#57: Stealing from Street Swing

Looking Back on the Powerhouse
Performers of Street Swing
I warn you, if you bore me, I shall take my revenge.
-JRR Tolkein

I wonder... Over the break I uploaded a ton of videos that haven't been up on the internet yet. Some were blocked due the music copyrights, but most went up clean and smooth... and I'm so glad I get to share them with you!

The following videos are just a few of the ones I uploaded, but they are special and I think you'll get a lot out of them. That's because all of these videos are STREET SWING videos. That means the dancers could pick their partner, but they didn't get to choose their music. They walked out into the spotlight at the Disneyland Hotel and had to rise to the pressure, no matter what song they ended up playing.

March 03, 2014

#62: Michael Kiehm's Substance Abuse in WCS?

Protector or Perpetrator?
Weekly Note #62
It's just been so accepted for so long that even the younger dancers are starting to engage in it. -Michael Kiehm

In one of my very first Weekly Notes, #7: Groupies & More..., I describe a disturbing experience while judging at Jay Byam's Palm Springs Summer Dance Camp:

The last 'All-Star/Champion' (insert slight cough) Jack & Jill I judged was in Palm Springs. Talk about Abstract. All but two of the women were split weight, pigeon toed and sloppy as all get out.

Yes, they all had super long hair, were very young and were all wearing tight pants while arching their tushes out... but while I was trying to judge, I literally kept having flash-backs to several of the Novice women I'd seen and wished to God they were out there dancing in front of me instead. I later learned that none of those amazing women whose dancing played in my head made finals... what? 

Guess you really do get what you pay for. Jay had added all new untrained judges that weekend (all working for free, of course) and had let many of his paid and trained judges go. It showed in the results everywhere, not just in Novice. What I was watching before me was ludicrous. It wasn't even dancing. Or movement, really. It was chaos.

What a scam.