Dance consumers vs. Dance Participants

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Anthony Argyriou

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Dec 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM12/2/99
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On Fri, 3 Dec 1999 00:43:00 GMT, "Cynthia M. Van Ness"
<af...@freenet.buffalo.edu> wrote:

>Our dance organizations are nonprofit organizations. Those who work to
>produce local dance series and large dance events labor for no wages or,
>if you're a performer, low compensation. If you ever get irritated with
>the foibles of your local dance organization and find yourself wishing
>that it was "run more like a business," then you are hereby nominated to
>lead the campaign to *pay* your organizers and performers prevailing
>wages like a business would and double or triple admission costs
>accordingly.

This is not always true. A local (Victorian, not folk) dance series I
attend is legally a business, and there is almost always a small
distribution to the organizers after the bills are paid. Admission is
low ($10 for a formal event in a _nice_ hall). Admittedly, the profit
wouldn't pay a wage to the organizers, but there is a profit.


Lavolta Press

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Dec 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM12/2/99
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Anthony Argyriou wrote:

I also know of some events with paid organizers.

I think Cynthia is right though, in that some attendees complain about events
without ever seeming to consider that they themselves might be able to help
to remedy the problems, in many cases without doing huge amounts of
individual work. It's true that some things will never be solved to the
complete satisfaction of all attendees. For example a location or evening
that is highly convenient for some dancers will inevitably be less convenient
for some others.

However, if people don't like the quality of attendance (not enough
experienced dancers, not enough men, or whatever) they could fairly easily
distribute flyers to other dances they are already attending, to attract
these people. I think it's a good idea for organizers to have some extra
flyers ready for people who are willing to distribute them. If dancers don't
like the refreshments they might be able to bring cookies or juice that they
do like once in awhile-- not necessarily every time. Etc.

However, most dancers have already taken one step away from passivity by
actually attending dances. I've had a few beginning students who had thought
all their lives that dance is something you watch, and who had to overcome an
initial psychological hurdle to actually do it personally.

Fran Grimble

---------------------------------------------
Visit our web pages!
Books on historic costume and vintage clothes
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Jerry & Sally Cunningham

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Dec 2, 1999, 3:00:00 AM12/2/99
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Cynthia M. Van Ness wrote:
>
> Here's a long essay,
(In other words, why wasn't someone finding his ancestors for
> him?)
>
> So I and others wrote back with these explanations:
>
> 1. The people who knew those families are now deceased or elderly and
> infirm.
> 2. The people who knew those families are alive and well but do not use
> the internet.
> 3. The people who knew those families do use the net, but have interests
> other than genealogy and do not read genealogy newsgroups.
> Plus we suggested #4: Just because you have voiced a demand does not mean
> that someone else is obligated to meet it.
> >
> The consumer mentality (CM) is one that insists that as soon as I
> articulate a need or desire, someone else is responsible for satisfying
> it, and if someone doesn't do so fairly promptly, I have grounds for a
> grievance. It is a strikingly passive stance; unwilling to do X for
> myself, I expect X to therefore be done for me by others.
>

Well said, Cynthia! The corollary to this mindset is found in a sign in
one of our local repair shops: "Your failure to plan ahead does not
constitute an emergency on our part."

Hopefully this consumer mentality is a rarity, and most of the dancers
and the people who read this newsgroup are much busier dancing and
organizing than they are looking for other people to make them happy.
In fact, I'm sure of it. But it was a good essay :)
Sally

Cynthia M. Van Ness

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Dec 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM12/3/99
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Here's a long essay, in which I ramble on about ideas that have been
fermenting in the back of my head for a while, with the hopes that others
will find my "thinking out loud" of interest. If I get boring or
pedantic, well, then hit Delete or go on to the next message.

Let me open with a story from another newsgroup, which I'll use to
illuminate assumptions that I see in our contra dance community:

I frequent genealogy newsgroups (kinda part of my day job) and recall
about two years ago that a fellow wrote that he had posted the surnames he
was researching on the proper newsgroup a few weeks earlier and had not
gotten a response. His message, which I wish I'd saved, was a politely
formulated suggestion that he was being unfairly ignored by said
newsgroup, and that he thought he was entitled to bring a politely
formulated complaint. He asked how long should he have to wait to get an
answer? (In other words, why wasn't someone finding his ancestors for
him?)

So I and others wrote back with these explanations:

1. The people who knew those families are now deceased or elderly and
infirm.
2. The people who knew those families are alive and well but do not use
the internet.
3. The people who knew those families do use the net, but have interests
other than genealogy and do not read genealogy newsgroups.
Plus we suggested #4: Just because you have voiced a demand does not mean
that someone else is obligated to meet it.

Now, what does this have to do with dance?

What I found telling was the budding genealogist's consumer mentality,
which I analyze thusly:

The consumer mentality (CM) is one that insists that as soon as I
articulate a need or desire, someone else is responsible for satisfying
it, and if someone doesn't do so fairly promptly, I have grounds for a
grievance. It is a strikingly passive stance; unwilling to do X for
myself, I expect X to therefore be done for me by others.

CM is obviously the necessary driving force behind the production and
consumption of consumer goods and services, and its value in those
contexts is off-topic in this NG. But when CM shows up in our dance
communities, I sense that it is a harmful rather than helpful force.

Our dance organizations are nonprofit organizations. Those who work to
produce local dance series and large dance events labor for no wages or,
if you're a performer, low compensation. If you ever get irritated with
the foibles of your local dance organization and find yourself wishing
that it was "run more like a business," then you are hereby nominated to
lead the campaign to *pay* your organizers and performers prevailing
wages like a business would and double or triple admission costs
accordingly.

An advantage of the nonprofit organization, beyond its trade-off of little
or no compensation for labor in exchange for low admission prices, is that
in this "unbusinesslike" setting, there are no strict distinctions between
management and labor and customer. Many of us inhabit more than one role
at once, being both organizers and performers, or dancers and performers,
or dancers and organizers. I would argue that our dance culture benefits
from these loose, flexible role arrangements; they enable and promote
actual community "ownership" of the dance. A dance modeled on the
privatized, for-profit model would necessarily have to establish formal
roles (AKA employees, owners/bosses, customers) and the community's
ownership and participation (beyond passive consumership) would perforce
be curtailed or eliminated.

Contra dance organizers and performers are drawn to this alternative,
nonprofit culture for a reason--the same reason that Buffalo's own Ani
DiFranco started her own label rather than sell her artistic soul to a big
record company. (We are *so* proud of her here!!) I think our musicians
value community venues as much as if not more than commercial ones; they
value their artistic freedom, and they value the responsive and
appreciative audiences that contra dance gigs provide. We don't passively
sit and chatter while they play in the background, we actively *use* that
music!! (Not being a musician, I invite those who are to speak for
themselves.)

For their part, organizers notice that passive "cultural" entertainment
(which consists mainly of picking this videotape or channel or CD or
website over that one) is fairly antisocial. We delight in organizing
experiences in which people actually do something together, in which all
are needed, to make something joyful and beautiful happen--in real time
and space, using the talents of ordinary people instead of machines (sound
systems excepted). Something in which is the point is definitely *not* to
make a profit--although breaking even is always necessary.

Dance organizers care about providing opportunities for direct, tangible,
sensory, *unmediated* experience. In this technologically saturated age,
we are rapidly and eagerly replacing unscripted real life experiences with
sensorily impoverished, scripted, mediated ones. (Example: At an
educational technology conference in Buffalo recently, elementary school
teachers were taught how to produce virtual field trips for their students
using the internet--as though passively watching a screen was more
educational than taking the kids to the nature preserve, the corner
bakery, the post office, City Hall.)

What happens when we inject CM into this rich, noncommercial culture? We
get Dance Consumers--as opposed to Dance Participants. I don't like
proposing such stark, either/or dichotomies, since nearly all of us who
contribute to the health of our dance communities have our "Consumer"
moments. But, since I want to get a point across, I'll blaze ahead.

Some observations:

Dance Consumers want to know if they'll meet any single men or women at
the dance, which leads to...

Dance Consumers rarely dance with newcomers unless they are attractive
and single.

Dance Consumers happily eat the refreshments but never bring any.

Dance Consumers say, "Dance organizers should [fill in the blank]" rather
than offering, "Can I help with [fill in the blank]?" Okay, I confess
that this whole essay was inspired by a recent thread here. Certain
dancers want their organizations to provide "experienced dancers only"
events. My counter-suggestion: Dancers who want these events should start
planning them, with our blessings. Find yourself a hall, book the
performers, develop a guest list, so you can include and exclude whoever
you wish. This dance organizer thinks you will gain valuable dance
organizing experience from throwing a private party for people of your own
choosing, and hopes that you will bring that experience back to your home
dance group. But I think that organizing a public dance for which only
certain segments of the public are welcome is just plain wrong, unethical,
possibly illegal in some of the halls we use, or, if you prefer nicey-nice
euphemisms, "inappropriate."

Dance Consumers think in terms of what I deserve from the dance
instead of what the dance deserves from me.

Without reciprocity, when there is all taking and no giving, there is no
community, just consumerism.

-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-=+=-
Cynthia Van Ness, MLS, email: af...@freenet.buffalo.edu Genealogy, Buffalo
pages: http://www.buffnet.net/~allemand/aboutcv.htm "Better a bleeding
heart than none at all." --Unknown

Cynthia M. Van Ness

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Dec 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM12/3/99
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On Thu, 2 Dec 1999, Anthony Argyriou wrote:

> This is not always true. A local (Victorian, not folk) dance series I
> attend is legally a business, and there is almost always a small
> distribution to the organizers after the bills are paid. Admission is
> low ($10 for a formal event in a _nice_ hall). Admittedly, the profit
> wouldn't pay a wage to the organizers, but there is a profit.

Wow! Here we regularly alternate between dances that do and do not break
even, so I assumed that thas the typical state everywhere. Thanks for the
correction.

Neal Rhodes

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Dec 3, 1999, 3:00:00 AM12/3/99
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Cynthia M. Van Ness wrote:
>
> Here's a long essay, in which I ramble on about ideas that have been
> fermenting in the back of my head for a while, with the hopes that others
> will find my "thinking out loud" of interest. If I get boring or
> pedantic, well, then hit Delete or go on to the next message.

How about: Dance Consumers would NEVER consider wheeling someone else's
buggy into the grocery store on the way in, but they'll sue if a stray
buggy hits their beloved SUV. (hmm. was there anyone I forgot to
offend there? )

I thought your essay articulated an important point. We have erected
this distinction in our culture: PERFORMER ||| AUDIENCE. The |||
represents a brick wall. We expect our PERFORMERS to be perfect.
When new callers try a dance in Atlanta, I've seen a total lack of
patience on the part of the dancers. I've tried calling enough to
know it ain't as easy as it looks. I also know we've got to create
the breeding/developing ground for callers or we ain't gonna have any
soon enough.

As a musician, I has taken me 35 years to get to where I was willing
to play in public. (not that I've improved much in the last 30)
Now I feel the satisfaction of creating music/dance from thin air,
and yes, it is more satisfying than selecting a much better band from
a choice of CD's.

Contrast Contra with Western Squares, at least how I remember it:
Western Squares:
Artificial Music on 45's
Artificial Dress, made of Artificial Fabrics
Artificial Attitudes re-inforced by the calls
("Swing old grumpy")

Contra or Barn Dance
Real Music, either old or new
Real Instruments
Real Clothes, frequently of real fibers
Real Dances, either old or new
Real Attitudes regarding sharing an experience

Part of my preference for Contra is that it is a "real" experience.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Neal Rhodes MNOP Ltd (770)-
972-5430
President Lilburn (atlanta) GA 30247 Fax:
978-4741
ne...@mnopltd.com
http://www.mnopltd.com/

David6

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Dec 5, 1999, 3:00:00 AM12/5/99
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Hi Cynthia,

Very nice mini-essay, which has prompted the
following musings. If I may offer a perspective
from the world of social science...

Social scientists (and political scientists in
particular) refer to the "collective action
problem." Once upon a time, we all used to think
that whenever a group of people wanted
to get something from which the whole community
would benefit, they would generally form
themselves into a group and work to make it
happen. This common wisdom was challenged back in
the 1960s by an economist named Olson, who argued
that as a matter of fact, most such groups fail.
He suggested that most individuals, given the
chance to participate, instead choose to
"free-ride" on the efforts of others. Thus it's
very hard to create lasting, effective
organizations to provide benefits available to
all.

When groups do manage to organize, Olson proposed,
it was because they had managed to find a solution
to the collective action problem. He suggested
three possible solutions: (1) require
participation by force -- such as union membership
in a closed-shop workplace, (2) offer participants
incentives that they cannot get without
participating -- such as the insurance that
farmers can get through the Farm Bureau, and
(3) find one or more individuals that value the
collective benefits so highly that they are
willing to put in vastly disproportionate amounts
of resources to ensure that they are attained.

Not that Olson is the last word on collective
action theory, but I'd say most dances get by on
a mixture of (2) and (3). Dancers have to pay to
be able to dance, so they have to participate in
the organization to that extent in order to get
the benefit of dancing. But most dance
organizations do not ask dancers for anything more
than money -- all of the other tasks are completed
through method (3).

Dance organizers are putting in many more of their
own resources than the dancers around them, which
can be hard to justify to oneself indefinitely. So
the get "burned-out" and eventually move on to
other things. Of course, some wonderful organizers
continue to put in their time year after year, to
the amazement of all around them -- these are the
folks who still find the trade worthwhile.

[On the other hand, for some organizers the
trade-off is not just creating a dance for all,
but the much more personal incentive of
accumulating the power and ego-boost one gets from
being in charge. But I digress...]

Perhaps the "consumer mentality" is, to some
extent, our own creation. By not asking dancers to
participate more fully in the community in order
to take part in the dancing, we teach them that
the simple act of forking over their five dollars
at the door is all they need to do to enjoy the
dancing.

Two thoughts from this chain of reasoning: one way
to decrease the consumer mentality might be to ask
dancers to do more than just pay at the door. Ask
regular dancers to do some small tasks once in a
while (a little like churches asking regular
congregation members to serve as ushers now and
then).

Second, it's important to try to provide specific
incentives for people to take on leadership roles
and to stay in them. Then the disproportionate
amount of energy they put into producing the
dances will seem more worthwhile.

David
dav...@artsci.wustl.edu
http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~david6


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Before you buy.

N.J. Mol

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Dec 5, 1999, 3:00:00 AM12/5/99
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I agree with David a lot.
I think it is very usefull to think and brainstorm with each other about
ideas to get participants more involved.

I will start with the following. I lead Israeli folkdance groups. Now,
during Chanuka, I ask a few Israeli people in my group to perform the daily
ceremony in lighting the candles and to say the belonging bracha (prayer)
and to sing the songs they sang in Israel. They are free to do it as they
want it. In that way people felt involved and added spontaneous ideas. Like
making soefganiot, bringing a special chanoekia etc..

Hope to hear more ideas.

Nico Mol, Amsterdam-Europe.

David6 <dav...@artsci.wustl.edu> schreef in berichtnieuws
82ctlo$tm$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...

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