It’s been a a minute, but a lot is going on! I’d like to add to my previous rambles by sharing some thoughts on a recent conversation I partook in recently. While some earlier posts on this blog have discussed the pros and cons on running and dancing on teams, there is a new and recent angle which I’d like to discuss.
There’s no easy way to say this so I’m gonna just right out with it:
People are now team-whoring.
Ya, I said it.
I’ll get to it, but first, let me explain some ideas and then attempt to pull things back into a nice, neat package.
In a traditional dance community, people go to a studio, LEARN THE DANCE, then explore the possibility of performance or competition once they understand what the hell they are doing. Seems fairly logical, no? I agree!
What are the benefits? Many! On one hand, during this gestation period where you are developing your skills and awareness, you can explore the style and technique of other, talented instructors. This is good.
Exposure to a lot of different teachers (key point here people) can never harm you. On the contrary, having things explained in a variety of ways can help in understanding complex topics from a variety of angles. As far as I can tell, this is an intelligent course of action for the young dancer.
Ok, enough about the classical $hit Del, how does this relate to us in the social Latin dance community?
Glad you asked!
Here’s a great chance to explore what happens in Chicago in 2017.
A new dancer walks into one of the Latin dance studios in the city and after 3-4 short months, get’s asked to join a team. Often times, it’s because the can breathe pretty good and walk in a straight line. If we’re being fair, what can you really know from 3-4 months in class? To illustrate further, that amount in time in class is only like 12-16 total hours of learning. I do believe that the new dancer in the current climate has to have a moment of clarity where they realize they don’t know what the hell they are doing. How to get around this? Learn from more teachers!
Yes! Do they go to class? NO! Then what do they do?!?!
They go to auditions.
Instead of a teacher, young dancers in Chicago now look for a director. It might seem insignificant but there is a huge difference in what a teacher and a director SHOULD be. Both roles are crucial to the development of new dancer but at the end of the day, they are two DIFFERENT jobs. Some (like myself) try and do both (fools errand in the beginning), but it’s not fair to those that come to class.
The cruel irony for the directors/teachers is that you require people to have the proper training in order to execute choreography.
As a director, you’re put in a position of having a bunch of know-nothings in the room and now your vision and artistry is halted as you revert back to being a teacher. If the teaching process is neglected, the new dancers now only know a bunch of preset movements but still doesn’t understand the dance. As someone who has danced with some awesome stage dancers, it’s startling to realize they don’t know what CBL from CPR. It’s crazy!
Complications further arise when you have dancers who are now on three or more teams. As a director, you WILL run into the moment when you realize you’ve invested time into someone and they suddenly can’t commit to a performance due to other dance commitments. What does the director do? What SHOULD he/she do? I welcome young dancers to put themselves into their director’s shoes for a moment and ponder on what they would do in the same situation. There isn’t an easy answer.
On one hand, directors want to be cool and not claim ownership of a dancer. Unless we’re paying them, we have no right to do so. On the other hand, we are hesitant to invest too much in dancer who doesn’t invest fully into us.
Time is the most valuable thing any of us have, it isn’t something that should be needlessly wasted on people, places or things that don’t return an investment. After consulting with some trusted director friends, the agreed upon conclusion is that you commit to those who commit to you. Seems fair for all involved.
But wait, enough of you directors and teacher, what about the dancers?
The young dancer is better off taking a CLASS from someone they admire. Ultimately, it’s fair to the current dancer to take a class from a particular teacher yet stay committed to a team and a director of their choosing. Director’s have to be OK with that scenario as well and trust they’ve earned their dancers commitment.
Why? Because the dancer can learn for the sake of learning and improving their skills.In turn the director knows they can count on the dancer when they are needed. It’s a win-win. I like win-wins.
As a dancer, it might be best to find the person that you vibe with philosophically.
I wouldn’t be 100% real if I didn’t mention the fact that some dancers can manage being on multiple teams. I’m seeing this work when the dance styles of the teams they’re on and different. For example, if they are on two different teams, one can be a Salsa/Mambo team and the other, for example, a Bachata team. It’s when we get into multiple team of the same style that things can start to get messy.
You see, every director has their own vision of what “Salsa” or “Bachata” means to them. Since we all have our own voices, our techniques and philosophies will be different. As a dancer, it might be best to find the person that you vibe with philosophically.
That sounds weird right?
But hear me out, it’s the mind of the potential director that we have to agree with. Are they artsy? Technical? Showy? Go balls to the wall? No one director can or should be everything to everyone. We all have our strengths and weaknesses as leaders and you have to find who speaks to your learning/directing style.
If you admire certain aspects from other teachers, well then go TAKE THEIR CLASS! It’s really that simple. Decide whether you want to be a Big Mac, Whopper or a delicious Beast Burger, but make a choice!
I’ve changed my stance on teams over the years. While I used to be less excited about directing, but I now see the value in giving the gift of dance in its many forms.
It’s great that people want to be on stage, but somewhere along the lines, the natural process of growth has gotten set aside for being involved in the next ‘shit of the minute.’
I’ve been involved in Chicago’s scene for almost 15 years now (crazy!). I believe I’ve earned my spot as a leader in this community and all I want to say is that we can do better. For any young dancers who might read this, embrace the process of learning, you won’t regret it!
For my fellow directors, I hope I expressed some of your feelings and frustrations dealing with the constant evolution of our community.
Maybe I’m alone in these thoughts, who knows?
What do you guys think? Am I totally off base? Do I rock hard (the answer is yes)? Chime in!
Until next time, to your dancing…