Liza May

USO 2016 Update #13 - The First Congress!


Today is the second day of the US Open Congress.

  • 9:45 Group Warm Up
  • 10:00 Mock Floor Trials Rehearsals/Private Lesson Time
  • 1:00 Lecture (Robert Royston)
  • 2:00 Lecture (Deborah Szekeley)
  • 3:00 Workshop
  • 4:00 Workshop
  • 7:00 Next Step Forum
  • 7:30 Multi Media Presentation - The Past, The Present, The Future
  • 8:30 Social Dancing

Last night was fantastic! This is exciting!

The entire Congress is being filmed so that we will have an archive of all lectures and workshops; and more importantly, of the Forum discussions as well.

Phil and Benji spoke last night about the expectation that this first year represents the first primitive steps in the creation of a Congress for our swing community, modelled on the hugely successful and influential Congresses of the Ballroom and Ice Dancing/Figure Skating worlds.

What an incredible wealth of knowledge is being shared - I was stunned.

53 US Open titles were represented by last night's staff - Benji, Jordan, Tatiana, Deborah Szekely, and Robert Royston!

Benji described the concept of the Congress which is, in part, to create a safe space to have a wide open forum discussion on all aspects of our sport. An alternative to the spontaneous and often adversarial conversations from the days of to today's Facebook threads, where the emphasis is on continual reevaluation and elevation of the art form and the community (as opposed to criticism, denigration, or other unhelpful directions.)

Last night's lectures alone were worth the crazy small price of admission - $99 for three days of this?!? - Yvonne Antonacci, Robert Royston, and Jordan and Tatiana - so MUCH information just last night.

I am beyond excited about the Forum discussions ... so looking forward to hearing the thinking of these esteemed leaders of the community. What an opportunity, holy cow. There's never time to ask these questions and have more than a one-sentence cursory answer.

Among 1,000 other questions, I want to ask:

We are unique among dance genres in that we manage to pull off a "balancing act" of Studio vs Street; Competition vs Social; Tradition vs Progress. Are we balancing perfectly, right now, just as is? Or are we lopsided?

What business model will make our community financially sustainable, rather than simply recirculating the same dollar bill? How do we make our sport affordable, so that it is not just an expensive hobby for those who can afford it? How do we make our community workable for those who would like to make West Coast Swing their life's work?

Which country will "lead" the International West Coast Swing community? Will it continue to be the United States? Or will our "center" move to another part of the world? Will each country have its own version of West Coast Swing? Will WCS take on the culture of each region, since we are, after all, a "street" dance, meaning evolution over time?

Do we need a "President?" A "Face" of West Coast Swing? A formal Spokesperson, Statesman, "Voice?" Or are we best as an informal, decentralized, loosely organized "bee hive?" A grassroots "movement?"

Today there is competition between events. In the past we certainly didn't think about "assessing" events. There would be griping, of course; but ultimately you felt lucky that there was an event - any event - and you were able to be there. If you had a floor, music, and partners, you had fun.  Now times are different and there are many events to choose from  --  hard on Event Directors because we no longer patronize poorly run events, or those with a bad "vibe"  --  but better for the community as a whole, as it upgrades the standards.   What makes an event good? What do the great events have in common?

What is our Champions Division? How does one become a Champion?  Do we need a "Pro" Division, and if so, who's in it?

How can we use technology to our benefit? Can we create high quality dance content for iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and so on? Podcasts? TED talks on West Coast Swing?

How do we maintain that characteristic of WCS that sets it apart  - the unique adaptability of our dance form? How do we incorporate new styles, genres, music - and at the same time maintain our identity? In other words, what is "Swing Content?"

Should all divisions get Spotlight finals? And the "best" new music? Or should these "bennies" be reserved for Champions? How about Allstars? Should Allstars be treated like Champions, and is Allstars an end point?  Are we encouraging Allstars to be complacent by not providing incentives to progress to a higher level?

What is the biggest threat to the West Coast Swing community? To the future of the dance itself? To the future of our community?

What should be the role of NASDE?  NASDE currently represents only 12 American events which, in 2016, seem almost randomly designated; as the relative size, prestige, influence, and "importance" of  events - not to mention the sheer number of them - has shifted so dramatically over the last decade.  Should NASDE be reconfigured to represent the International community?  If so, how?

Where will the community be in five years? In ten? How do you, dancer and reader, picture the West Coast Swing community in 2026?

How do we get young people - specifically boys - to want to dance West Coast Swing? I asked Brennar about boys in the Shag community - Brennar says that in large part it takes other friends already doing it to make dancing attractive to boys.  How do we do what they've managed to do in Shag? How do we get there from here?

What is our BIGGEST challenge at this moment? What core problem have we not yet solved? What question do we, as a community, not know the answer to, that we should like to figure out?

So many brilliant minds, with so much experience, here to share thinking on these issues and everything else that comes up for discussion. This Congress is simply fantastic!

Filed Under: US Open

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