I noticed something very cool at the end of the video for the All Star Invitational Jack and Jill at this year’s Lone Star Championships. Peter Strom and Karen Turman shared a memory in the form of one of the first aerials they learned together when they started over 10 years ago.
Few other people in that room got that reference. Among them, were the two people who went up to hug them at the end of that jam—Mike Faltesek and Amy Johnson—because they were arpund the first time it happened back in Minnesota where they're all from originally.
(check out the 2nd place couple starting at 2:28)
It struck me that enough time has passed that a lot of people aren’t aware of these kinds of connections.
Coincidentally, during one of the late nights at the last Lindy Focus, the head DJ- Rob Moreland-made the observation that the event felt different because of a noticeable divide in demographics of the dance floor.
He noticed that there were are a large number of veteran dancers who were at the event just to dance, so there were a lot more people closing out the late nights. Newer dancers did the opposite: go to the camp meetings, dance through the main dance, and then turn in early to have enough energy to get through the classes during the day.
Over at the blog "The Rantings of a Lindy Hopper," Alice made the following observation about the Southern California scene not too long ago.
Another peculiar quirk about our scene is that even though we have so many amazing dancers that are very accessible to everyone weekly, there is a large gap between the ‘pros’ and the other dancers.
Pro may not be the term I’d use, but I’ve noticed the same sort of gap in DC with the added observation that there seems to be an inordinately fewer amount of people who have been dancing four to seven years.
Lots of newbies and lots of veterans. But fewer in-betweens, relatively speaking.
From talking with people and personal observations I think this imbalance is an indication of the way people have come into the dance over the years. During the so called "Gap Revival" of the late 90’s, people took up Lindy Hop in huge numbers. Although the number of newcomers has remained steady over the years, we haven’t seen a comparable wave since then. So if attrition hits each yearly “generation” equally, then there’s still a larger number active dancers from the neo-swing era than from any other period.
However, I think attrition might actually be worse for the post neo-swing dancers since those people have fewer peers to keep them in the scene. It is a social dance after all, even for the veterans. Aside from the actual dancing, it seems that people come back more to hang out with friends than to meet new people; at least as time goes on. People with fewer peers and contacts in the scene have less incentive to dance as much as they did when they first started.
Meanwhile the business paradigm for most dance promoters is to usually focus on attracting and cultivating newer dancers. Most of the money out there to be made is from classes; whether they are offered in weekly formats or weekend workshops. In fact, I know of at least one promoter that considers holding dances as marketing expense rather than as a significant or dependable revenue stream.
So there’s this growing constituency of experienced dancers. Many of them are very good, and aren’t necessarily interested in traveling to learn. Probably because they have shifted dancing down the priority list and partly because the cost/benefit of taking classes doesn’t make it worthwhile financially. However they can and will show up to quality events.
It’s interesting to note that a good number of dancers in this demographic were notable instructors and competitors not too long ago themselves, but have dropped out of the national scene for whatever reason.
A lot of this occurred to me while I was hanging out at Lindy Focus during the days not taking classes. It was nice to relax in a hotel, but there were times where we wandered the hotel with no purpose other than to find into other people in the same boat.
Is it worth trying to cater to this crowd? And if so, how do you do it? Speaking for myself, I'm pretty fickle when it comes to dance events and honestly I'm paying to dance and hang out with friends. While it might have been nice to have a non-dance activity or two to participate in during Lindy Focus, I'm not sure what could be programmed that would be worthwhile and cost effective for the organizers and the attendees. I have a couple ideas that we might test drive at ILHC this year. We'll see how it goes.
Although I will say that much fun was had showing that 2nd clip up there to people that week. Part of it was from seeing Mikey in that awesome sweater, but I think there is a genuine sense of nostalgia of those days which doesn't necessarily have to be about bad dancing. Check out Peter Strom, Mike Faltesek, Amy Johnson in this clip from 2001.
Hard to say how this dynamic is going to affect our scene in the future, but I doubt that it is going to change any time soon.
Anyone else have any thoughts about how this will affect the scene or personal views on interacting with dancers a different stage of dance addiction than you?