Liza May

Seattle 2015 Update #6 - What Are They Doing?

Saturday morning Andy* said "Run down and have a look at the Newcomers Workshop. I think you'll like it."

So between Novice heats -- (Huge division - 96 Novice followers! 61 followers and 55 leaders would go to Quarters! 22 to Semis. 11 couples and one alternate would finally make it through to Finals) -- between heats I grabbed my camera bag and ran down the long escalator to the ballroom below to check it out.

Blew. My. Mind.

The ballroom was so packed me and my fat camera bag had to squeeze in the door, bumping and weaving between people standing and sitting everywhere on carpets and balanced on chairs to hear and see Solomon and Angei teaching in the middle of the room.

Lines of couples mastering pushes and passes stretching from the door to the back wall. Engaged, laughing, totally focused on what, from what I heard, was jewels of information and wisdom - a goldmine of useful, funny, and welcoming advice to these brand-spanking-newbie dancers.

300 people!

Brand new, never heard of West Coast Swing, came to the hotel to learn our dance.

300 people!


I asked Debby Floyd Gentges how on earth they managed this feat. How, where, did they get 300 people to drive into town on a Saturday morning to learn to dance?

Cause think about it. 300 people is the size of many dance events.

Whatever they did we need to know about it.  This is an accomplishment worth duplicating around the country and the world.

Debby says it took three weeks. That's all!

They had Seattle dancers tell their friends and neighbors.

They used Facebook. They created a Facebook event page and had Seattle dancers invite their Facebook non-dancer friends.

They took flyers to their workplaces (Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Boeing) and other spots around Seattle.

And three weeks later they had 300 overexcited new west coast swing dancers in the Seattle community!

The day of lessons was free.

Admission to Saturday Night was free.

Which meant 300 wide-eyed, amazed, new dancers were in the ballroom Saturday night, to see Classic and Rising Star, Novice and Allstar Jack and Jills, presentations, exhibitions, the wonderful new Junior couple.

And the scene on the social dance floor all night long, which went till daylight on Easter Sunday.

If that isn't enough to get anyone hooked I don't know what is.

Isn't this fantastic? I LOVE this.

They do a lot of things right here in Seattle. All weekend long I've been asking what are you guys doing here? Everyone is SO friendly, so happy.  And you're all so damn good. Why? What are you doing?

I've heard several explanations:

  • It's the college-student influence. There are a lot of college students in the Seattle wcs community so the vibe is "college-studenty"  - fun, experimental, hip, focused on learning.

  • It's the tech influence. Not for nothing are Seattle dances, and this hotel, 4 1/2 miles from Microsoft headquarters. Tech culture - and its friendly, literal, talented, information-sponge, creative, risk-taking personality - might explain the dance community.

  • It's the Northwest influence.  Native-American meets Nordic meets Asian.  The result a vibrant spirit of enterprise, growth, and a history of the active seeking out and recruitment of new "settlers" to the area, with the new talents and skills they bring to the community.  A Seattle tradition of openness towards newcomers.

Debby says it's all these things.  But most of all ...

It's because this community is run by a club who, from its beginnings in 1995, has been very aware of the turf wars, rivalries, politics, and long-standing dramas in other communities - both the club-run communities, and the business-for-profit communities around the country

The Seattle club has taken great care to avoid these common pitfalls and the corrosive effects they might have had on the community they wanted to build.

They've been intent here on deliberately fostering cooperation between teachers, between pros, studios, and between dancers themselves.

Debby says they are committed to making Seattle a friendly community. With a special effort towards the welcoming of newcomers and out-of-town visitors.

The result of this attention and work is that Seattle has "stolen" dancers from around the United States, and the world.

Because it's fun here! They're friendly - and, like I've said, they are really good.

I'd move here. If I didn't have four kids and almost-six grandchildren back home in DC I'd want to move here.

And I don't like rain.

By the way, it's not raining here today. It also wasn't raining yesterday. 

  1. That's Andy Vanosdale, who together with Kevin Wright, are taking over as Event Directors. This was Jim Minty's last year, after ten years running this event and watching it outgrow two hotels to find itself at this gorgeous convention center here in downtown Bellevue.
  2. Debby:
    "I remember being told 13 years ago of communities in so many other cities that had discord which resulted in torn dance communities. We did not want that. This issue was kept in mind as we began to build.
    "We cheer for one another, support the wins and support the work.
    "We have a good reputation of being great city hosts to all dancers heading this way. It's fun to hear when someone is coming into town as many of us will chime in with things to do in the city, where to dance and very frequently offer transportation and housing.
    "It seems to be working. In the 13 years I've been in the WCS Seattle group growth has been explosive and yet we maintain all of the above."

Filed Under: Seattle

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