How to be a professional lindy hop teacher. How?

A famous international teacher wrote this in a public post on facebook today.

Hey y’all, real talk. I have encountered multiple people this week who have never taken classes from me, are not signed up to take classes from me, yet have told me they have seen my class recap videos and been practicing from them. The purpose of my recap videos is to help the people who actually have bothered to become my students and who have shown up to learn from me. Believe it or not, this is my livelihood, I make a living from teaching dance. I sell instructional videos from my website. Undermining that is an incredibly shitty thing to do. The same way I would hope you wouldn’t buy a friend’s band’s CD and then just turn around and burn copies for everyone you know (and would hopefully encourage them to actually support the artist and go buy their own copy), I would hope you would encourage folks to actually come take a class from someone who has built a career doing a thing. The easy option is I just don’t do recap videos anymore (shocking concept, but for much of my dance career, video recaps just weren’t a thing). But I actually care about students’ improvement and would love to provide that as a resource because I think it is helpful (as many folks also seem to), so the option I’d rather pursue is just be respectful of artists. Thanks.

This post was shared by a mutual friend. This was my comment:

I don’t buy this argument at all.
Recap videos are a brilliant way to market a teacher’s skills. They get people gigs, it gets people into workshops at events.

Recap videos often circulate between people who don’t have the money or opportunity to go to big workshops, and they’re an ongoing resource for a local scene. It’s also super common for someone to take a recap video back from a weekend to their home town, and then work on the material with their friends and dance partners (who may not have attended the workshop!) This is how dance knowledge permeates and spreads. It’s also a good strategy for people with low incomes to access knowledge.
To be honest, I have zero problems with people of colour, women, other marginalised folk doing this sort of ‘textual poaching’ from a white man 😃 😃 😃

This is not the same as people filming you while you’re teaching a class. That’s fucked up and not ok.
If you’re not ok with the way video footage circulates in the community, don’t let people film your recaps. Boom.
If you want to capitalise on the fact that your fanbase is sharing videos of you, learning from you, emulating you, get onto it! That is some powerful audience-engagement!
Things you can do:

  • Follow up on that conversation with that fan (which, tbh, is a hugely flattering thing for them to do), by saying something like “Oh, that’s so good to hear! We should organise a zoom session so you can ask questions as you work through things! I have pretty reasonable rates, and we can make it work for small groups.” This is effective because this fan is clearly ok with working from a screen (usually a tiny phone screen!), and a zoom session would be a step up! It’s not often that an audience makes their preferred mode of engagement so clear!
  • Regard that conversation as a fan being brave enough to approach their hero, and respond with positive enthusiasm. Ask them questions about their dancing, ask them what they liked about the video, and what they’d like to do next. That fan will remember that conversation, take it home, and tell it to zillions of people. That sort of interaction gives teachers a rep as ‘a nice person’ and that rep convinces local organisers to hire teachers. You don’t have to put on a fake cheery persona; just respond like a decent human being to someone who’s telling you (in so many ways) that they think you are amazing.
  • Rethink the way you structure your recaps to take advantage of this free circulation and marketing. Add a little intro with details of how to reach you. Limit the content in the recap. Have students dance the recap material instead.
  • Don’t do recaps at all, but release them yourself from your own website (or a third party site), where you say to the group: “Give me your email addresses, and you can have access to the recap videos on my website” and then you can garner their email addresses for your marketing!
  • Be very clear in your T&C with organisers about recaps and filming them. I personally say to teachers that they are not obliged to do recaps, filmed or otherwise, and I make it very clear to all registrants that teachers may not offer a chance for them to film recaps (ie their registration fee does not cover the chance to film a recap).

The more I thought about this, the angrier I got.

In the replies to his post, where people offer suggestions for monetising or controlling the circulation of this footage, he says “I’m old school. I teach dance classes. Not trying to be a youtube/insta/whatever power user” and then another big name teacher chimes in with “this is great but it’s a lot of – more – work” and this made me furious.

Most of the people who put on events that host these sorts of teachers do it for free. They work very hard to give these teachers work and provide workshops for their local scene. There’s very little money to be made (most people hope to break even, or subsidise with other stuff). It _is_ a lot of work. And they do this _in addition_ to their day jobs, caring for families… and often, teaching weekly dance classes.

To hear a high profile teacher denigrate this type of work makes me VERY ANGRY. And yes, it is lots of work to do this sort of management and promotion. HAVE THEY ONLY JUST REALISED THIS?!

I hear this bullshit from white man musicians all the time. As though being ‘a musician’ means that you just ‘do art’ and the audiences magically come to hear you ‘do art’. NO BITCH, THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. Being a working artist means you WORK. You work on your craft, but sorry, white man, that means doing promotion, profile management, networking, all that distasteful plebean stuff. You also put work into being good at working with others (sound crew, venue managers, promoters, bar staff), you develop a sense of brand or how you want to be promoted, you develop actual promotional material (a bio, some photos, and – god forbid! – a website).

Argh this makes me so, so angry.

Anyway. This is why over the years as an organiser, and as someone who’s also been the ‘talent’, I’ve realised that the ‘talent’ is interchangeable, but the people on the ground who run events, who work the door, set up rooms, and clean up after parties, are the really irreplaceable people.

Digital business tools for dancers: Sam’s hack.

Topic: useful admin tools for dance businesses

[NB not tools for social media marketing or graphic design. Just basic business tools]

Last year I did some research into the various tools a dance business uses, and discovered some useful things. Note, I am based in Australia, so some of our laws RE storing personal data aren’t shared by other countries.

If you’re running a business that teaches dance and runs parties and workshops, you need a few digital tools:

– a website
– an email tool
– a way to take payment digitally
– a way to organise registrations
– You’ll also need some sort of accounting software too, but your local tax laws and accountant’s preferences will help you decide what you’ll use.

We’re all usually bound by pretty tight budgets, so it’s fair to say that we want the best we can get, for the least amount of money. And we all know that the cheapest isn’t always the best.
But we also know that not all of us have the technical skills or experience running a dance business (not to mention time) to learnt to use a bunch of new computer things.

Anyway, this is what I found. It’s not an exhaustive list, and it’s pretty much just for me here in Australia.

Let’s assume we have two users.
User 1: New to running a local dance business, lots of good _dance_ and teaching skills, very little experience marketing, handling income and expenses, no real experience dealing with computer software, etc. Limited budget, time-poor. So, a regular dancer.

User 2: Experience running a dance business, experience with a range of software tools, dance and teaching skills. Time-poor, small budget. Wants to upgrade from older tools, reduce admin hassle, and streamline the process. So, the other type of regular dancer :D

From what I’ve seen, there are a couple of ways to get all the tools you need:
1. An all-in-one tool that handles email lists, digital sales (both online, or via a phone in person at a dance), a nice looking website (with the analytics you need)

2. A host of individual tools (eg a sales tool, an email tool, a website tool (whether it’s one you build yourself, or one out of the box)

The first option can be (and usually is) more expensive. There are cheapy options out there, but most of them don’t do all the things a small dance business really needs. Sometimes the more expensive complete packages are a bit limited (eg the email option only lets you have 500 addresses on your list; the website sales integration only works with a particular bank or shop front app).

But the first option is easier because:
– you don’t have to spend lots of time learning to use a lot of different tools.
– you have one account that you log into, from which you can add other users/admin accounts
– the integration of all the tools means you can see when user X buys a product, cross reference it with how often they open emails from you, and track their progress through your site. To my mind, this is the BEST thing. But it’s not so useful if you’re not at the point where you need or can make use of this data.
Downside of this option: price. It can seem super exy for a small business that doesn’t have any seed money.

By far the best of these options is Squarespace. It’s not the cheapest, in fact it’s quite expensive, but it saves you a lot of things:
– security is better because you don’t have a heap of random tools with different log ins that you share with everyone in your team;
– security can be weaker, because you only have that one point of entry to all these essential tools. Good thing is that squarespace is pretty secure.
– the website templates are really really nice, and look really professional. This is essential for a business that needs customers to trust it’s online shop.
– the website design can be changed via the code directly, or using the design tools in the main dashboard. You can create a page quickly, and move images and blocks of text around quickly.
– the shop front tool is beautifully integrated from the front end (the customer’s point of view). It looks slick and professional, which is good for developing trust.
– you can add approximately one billion trillion ‘extensions’ to the basic website. ie you can integrate a bunch of other tools, from accounting software, to email marketing, store fronts, your social media accounts, and printing. Yes, you can create your own tshirts and sell them through your site without having to handle printing or inventory.
– it will help you through buying a domain, which is often another sticking point for new businesses.

The downside of squarespace:
– it’s expensive
– learning to use the website building tools can be tricky (I found it challenging, and I have a lot of experience building sites from code to using builders)

The second option (lots of different tools) is often the cheapest option. But it’s ‘messy’. If you go this route, these are the tools I’d recommend:

– Square for sales. It’s secure, it has good support (ie people to help you), you can use it with your phone (so you don’t need to buy any sales hardware). It has a simple online shopfront (very basic, but serviceable, and not too ugly), and it’s the cheapest. Cheaper than paypal or Trybooking. And more flexible.
It is ‘basic’, but that’s it’s appeal: it’s not too hard to learn to use. But don’t expect too many bells and whistles.
You can take your phone to class, and then when people arrive and want to pay, you can do it all right there with just your phone. No cash, no extra hardware. Game changer in a covid world.
Equity: many of us offer free or discounted tickets for students, low income, etc. I haven’t checked it, but I’m certain Square would offer a ‘reduced’ or ‘comp’ sales option for your items.
– Does it handle your inventory (eg how many items you have left to sell, etc)? I assume so, but I’m not sure.
– Does it handle registrations (which is another way of talking about inventory)? I haven’t tested this.
I haven’t used a separate registration tool for years, as most of the modern online sales tools handle that as a basic feature. As dance event organisers, we really want to know how many people are coming, how many tickets we have left, and then we want to know info about each sale (lead/follow, etc). Not very complex stuff, really.

– Website.
I’d go with squarespace. I’ve used a range of website building tools, from blogging tools (eg wordpress), as well as building my own from scratch (and hosting on my own server at home), but I think that for the time and energy, squarespace gives you something beautiful that’s quick and easy to administer. And because you can create multiple accounts for the one site, you don’t get that ‘webmaster bottleneck’ that has plagued the dance world. It also handles all that domain purchasing stuff, which is SO important.
There are cheaper options (eg Square’s simple website option), but Squarespace also has some nice analytics in the basic package, so you can see which page is getting the most traffic, etc.

– Email. You must have a proper email tool (you can’t just create a list in your apple Mail or Outlook Express; that way lies horrific privacy and security dramas). Email and website are the two most important things you must have as a small business. So people can find you, and then you can reach out to them directly.

Mailchimp is still the big email player. It’s recently gotten more expensive (ie your basic account gives you a smaller number of email addresses in your basic list), but it has wonderful features. You can see who’s opening your emails, and which links are getting clicked in your analytics. The template building tool is lovely, and the emails come out looking really slick. It has some lovely automated features (eg a series of automated emails to help customers; a series of automated steps that create lists of people who open emails quickly for you).
But if you’re not doing any of this email marketing stuff, it’s probably overkill for you. And it’s expensive once you get past X number of email addresses.

Squarespace does have an email option, but it’s limited in terms of analytics. And it gets expensive when you add heaps of email addresses. And you WANT to have a zillion people on your email list. That’s the gold.

Personally, I go with Mailchimp, as I have had an account for years, and it’s been grandfathered in. And because I’m super interested in learning about email marketing. ie more than just spamming your audience with ‘buy! buy!’ emails. I’m interested in sending the right message to the right audience. eg sending links to the new beginner course rego page to the people who registered in the last beginner course of 2022.

Social media strategies and chillaxing the sales energy

Reading through a few different style guides by different brands, I came across the Mailchimp style guide.

One of the most interesting bits is the discussion of what they post on which social media channel:

Mailchimp has a presence on most major social media platforms. Here are our most active accounts and what we usually post on each:

Twitter: Product news, brand marketing, events, media mentions, evergreen content, “we’re hiring!” posts

Facebook: Product news, brand marketing, events, media mentions, evergreen content, “we’re hiring!” posts

LinkedIn: Product news, recruiting content, media mentions, evergreen content

Instagram: Design outtakes, cool office visitors, life at Mailchimp, cool stuff we made

This caught my eye for the way each channel has a specific job, and the brand has a specific type of content on each channel. So Linkedin mailchimp is all serious business time, and instagram mailchimp is fun and visual. Comparing facebook and instagram is especially interesting. Instagram reads as a ‘cool’ channel for mailchimp, whereas facebook is more serious. The biggest difference between the two is the way facebook works as an avenue for sales (product news), and instagram does _not_ do sales (it’s essentially about brand identity).

This caught my eye because I’ve been thinking about the way we need to develop an audience before we start to sell them things. Or rather, we create a relationship with people, and when they’re ready, they go looking for our products. This is a more long term strategy, but it’s also a less didactic, less aggressive relationship. Particularly in the dance world, where brands are often dance schools speaking to their students. We don’t see a whole lot of different brands using social media in a cohesive way in the dance world. There’re usually just bands, dance schools, events, teachers, apparel and footware brands, and perhaps DJs. There a couple of social enterprise brands (largely based on antiracism goals), and a couple of other odds and ends. But the discourse is largely dominated by pedagogy. Which brings with it a very… top down power dynamic and mode of address.

There’s also a degree of panic or anxiety about ‘time running out’ from the brand itself, as they fight to improve numbers for class enrolments or event registrations. Both have fixed due dates, and both tend to work with the assumption that more is better. I suspect this impetus is largely the result of a bigger narrative in the dance world: that we must ‘grow’ the scene. ‘Share’ the dance. It’s a powerful ideology, particularly when it’s coopted by businesses selling a product that can be attached to this discourse (classes in particular). And it of course brings a worrying blend of cultural appropriation, capitalism, and colonialism.

So if we are developing a brand or public profile for a business or entity (a dance school, a social enterprise, a band), how can we use social media to be economically sustainable _and_ socially sustainable? In other words, how can we not be pushing salesperson jerks when we speak to people via our social media.

I think that it’s most useful to remember a few key rules:
Build the audience before you start to sell.
There will be a lead time from when you start posting to when you should expect people to come looking to buy what you’re selling. So don’t try to sell your product right up front.
This holds true for brands that are doing things like anti-racist activism work as well. Speak to your audience, to your community before you start selling or asking for donations.

Devote an entire channel to the ‘other stuff’.
Offer stuff that you enjoy about dance, or that is central to your dance community (or community of people who also dance), and then create clear pathways to your product from there. Don’t push people to buy; let them come looking when they’re ready.

Don’t panic sell.
There’s a tendency in dance event social media in particular to suddenly ramp up the number of posts, and the urgency of the tone, the closer we get to the event date. Particularly if there’s a perceived ‘lack’ of sales. Guilt-selling is not a successful strategy.
Again, this brings us back to the idea that we devote our attention to nurturing the broader profile of the brand, rather than just focussing on sales.

And of course, this all brings us back to the point of the mailchimp style guide: plan ahead.

  • Plan your social media strategies well in advance.
  • Think carefully about your ‘brand identity’.
  • Make clear decisions about what role each social media channel plays in your overall strategy.
  • Let your content do its job; don’t force every post to sell sell sell.

All this will make your social media work much less stressful, and make engaging with your channels a lot more enjoyable for your audiences.

And if you are working with a social enterprise brand, then you’ll find your social media strategies fit more comfortably with your ethics and values. In particular, you’ll see your relationship with the people in your local community not as a series of chances to raise money or recruit volunteers, but as a network of relationships that build and sustain a community.

No. Don’t run your dance event.

Everybody knows that a big international lindy hop event is the definition of a perfect pandemic super-spreading event?

– You get a heap of people together from different regions
– They do a heap of exercise, and they generate lots of saliva and snot and then they rub it all over their faces and and hands…
– And then they touch a zillion different other people, and they touch a zillion more, and then you have eleventy zillion people covered in goobs
– Oh, and everyone is shouting and laughing and coughing and sneezing and blowing respiratory droplets everywhere, including all over nondancing audience
– Then there’s a band full of people on a raised platform, blowing respiratory droplets out of canons and all over the crowd and each other.

That’s pretty shitty, right. But it gets worse.

The virus has an incubation period of 1-14 days. That means:
– You could get the virus, leave your home, fly to the event, attend the week long event, and fly home. All before you showed symptoms.
– You could be contagious during this period. And not know it.
– Even if you only dance with 2 people the entire week, they may then go on to dance with 10 people and 20 people respectively. Who dance with anywhere from 2-50 people. And then they dance with 50 people… and so on.
– But you’re also coughing and touching elevator buttons and eating at the buffet breakfast.
– And you’re standing in line at registration. You’re toting about a bag and sweat towel and drink bottle. All covered in germs.
– All inside an air conditioned hotel with a closed air circulation.

Even if you think you’ll wash your hands and wear a mask, do you have the hygiene skills of an experienced surgeon who never makes mistakes and never gets fatigued?
No. You do not.

And that’s if only _one_ attendee is infected with the virus. Can you be sure that _all_ of the attendees are clear?

Even before we look at the health costs, what are the financial costs?
– Flights are far more expensive, and more likely to be cancelled with no notice. Can you handle a cancelled teacher at the last minute?
– What teacher would work at the event without a massive cancellation policy and huge pay rate? An idiot or a less-good teacher.
– Could your budget handle a smaller ticket sale?
– Insurance rates and policies have changed; are you properly insured?
– All staff will need additional hygiene and safety training. We can’t get organisers to do this to prevent rapes at events.
– You will need to provide masks and gloves, and know how to dispose of them all safely. And so will all your staff. If they’re prepared to take that risk.
– You won’t be able to use wristbands (because they need to be removed for proper hygiene), which means you’ll need a new rego system;
– You’ll have to clean all the class and workshops spaces to a much higher than usual level.

And what are the social costs?
– Your staff are going to be doing lots more work. And it’s stressful, skilled work.
– Your

….look, it’s not going to work. And it’s irresponsible to try.

Speculation:
We know that sexual harassment and assault tend to happen within a spectrum of exploitative behaviours. If we see an event where workers are routinely underpaid, overworked, asked to do things they don’t want to or that are unsafe, then we are likely to see sexual harassment as well.

So if we see a dance even being run at the current moment, then can we assume that an event taking risks with the virus is also risking the safety of workers and attendees in other ways? ie are they ok with hiring sexual offenders and with putting attendees and workers in positions where sexual harassment and assault happen?

I’d like to see the Australian Ballet do THIS

Dance people! Argh! You’re home, you can’t dance or see your mates, you are going nuts. What can you do?

If only we had a pool of highly motivated, experienced volunteers and managerial types with time on their hands. If only we had an extensive network of local, national, and international people who liked doing community stuff. If only we had fb groups and email lists and instagram accounts! IF ONLY.

Wait. We DO.
The international lindy hop community is fully sick on the whole organisation thing.

Need a group of tired and confused people sorted into groups quickly and efficiently? Have I got the class-levels-audition judge or competitor marshall for YOU.

Need someone who can organise food and beds for hundreds of people? Have I got the housing coordinator or catering team for YOU.

Need someone who can balance a tight budget, weedle cash out of reluctant individuals, or write a shit-hot grant application? I have the event organisers for YOU.

I haven’t had a chance to think about this properly, yet, but I do know there are a lot of worried, disheartened people in my immediate community looking for something to _do_ to help. Why not put your big brains to work?

Here are a couple of things I’ve come up with:

Hassle our MPs:
– If the dole (newstart, pension, etc) is increased to a liveable wage, we’ll all be better off when we lose a lot more jobs. People with an income spend money, and that means they feed money into the economy. Which is good for all of us, not just those of us who sell bread or run restaurants.

-> So we want to hassle our members of parliament about this. Write letters. Send emails. Get tapping, folk.

Support our local charities:
– Local charities like The Exodus Foundation and Addison Road Community Centre have had a huge increase of people coming in for help in the past month. They need food, basic health stuff (TP, pads, etc), and they need volunteers.
– Lots of us are going to be needing these services soon.

-> So we need to take our extra groceries down there in person. This will give us a chance to scope out the place, and get familiar. Which will make it easier to…
-> Volunteer at places like Exodus or Addison Road. They always need people to do jobs like making food, cleaning up, driving cars, washing things, and so on.

It kind of sucks at the moment, but things will probably get worse. BUT there are things we can do. And the international dance community is kind of crazily competent. I mean, we operate huge cultural events with virtually no government funding. I’d like to see the Australian Ballet pull off the shit _we’re_ capable of!

How to plan an event cancellation

How to go about responding to COVID-19 in Australia?

A good starting point would be to collate:

  • number of cases per state/australia
  • sources for daily updates from gov
  • legal recommendations from gov (eg we still allowed gathering in groups atm).

  • Then each organisation should develop a long term plan and a short term. Even if it’s as simple as ‘we won’t close anything now, but we will reassess in (x) days. When we get to (x) we will decide.’ Then make a rough outline of jobs to be done for either closing or not closing.

    Another issue: is your insurance up to date, and does it cover loss profits, health care, etc etc?
    I’d also have a look at finances: do you have any bills to pay, any money owed to you.
    And just go over your refund policies for classes and events and things.
    -> basically get your affairs in order, so you can make informed decisions.

    I’m getting a few queries about our events this year, so you will soon, too, I guess.
    I personally feel I have a responsibility to present and promote a sense of calm capable professionalism, so I’m planning my responses carefully:

    • I do my usual ‘hello, thanks for your email, i will reply by [DATE]’ (usually a week) reply to emails if I don’t have a comment ready.
    • I am developing a task calendar of what we’ll do when
    • I’m planning out what we’ll say in our public comments, and in our correspondence to various contractors, staff, and volunteers.

    Luckily, we have an extensive and useful safe space policy (more than just a code of conduct), and I’m just rolling our hygiene and response-to-pandemic issues into that. We already have a developed tone (a way of speaking to people about this stuff), and we have developed a good sense of mutual trust, so I feel local dancers trust us to make sensible decisions.

    I don’t want to create a sense of panic, so I’m being very careful with tone (light, but also knowledgeable), I’m using solid resources (eg WHO, Dept of Health, etc, _not_ newspaper or mass media articles), and I’m planning ahead.

    I’m also thinking long term. What will we need to do to redevelop our local scene _after_ this, what will we need to do to support local bands and DJs, and what can we do to support local venues (our scene is rooted in a few key commercial spaces: Ruby’s, a dancer-run dance hall, but also a lot of live music venues).

    Afterwards
    So I’m looking at what we might need to do to restart local parties, and how we might promote our events in a post-pandemic community where people are afraid of gathering in groups. I’ve learnt a lot from talking to Christchurch organisers about how they dealt with fear after the earthquakes.
    This is changing so quickly, and the panicked tone of a lot of online talk from the US and European dance world is making me feel a bit antsy, and I can see it affecting the Australian dancers, too, so I’m also limiting what and how much I read online. Official, reliable sources only for me.
    Whatever you plan to do, it’s worth planning those public responses before you have to give them, so you’re not emailing and FB commenting in real time (ie in stress time).

    Sharon and I met last Wednesday (9 March) to discuss this issue. We decided to cancel Jazz BANG. We also discussed things we could do to foster the local scene.
    Today I put our plan to cancel into motion, sending off emails, etc.

    I noticed that some of the content in our email copy had to be rewritten because things had changed so much in the past week. Last week we thought we could continue to run local dances each week. This week we have no classes or parties running in our businesses for the foreseeable future.

    To actually put the cancellation into action, we had quite a long to-do list. It’s taken us a week of hard work (including international phone calls with teachers) to get to this point. But so much has changed in a week, we’ve had to rework some of the plans we made a few days ago. And it has been stressful, miserable work. Sending out these emails today has made me cry. And I’m not a big cryer. All our hard work, all the things we had planned, all the new stuff we were going to do.

    But then, the thought of contributing to the spread of the disease is what decided us: I can’t bear the thought of making this situation worse. Of sending friends and loved ones home sick, to spread the illness through their own families and communities.

    So please start looking at your cancellation plans now. If the international example is anything to go by, we will be locked down for many months. China is still locked down after two months, and their response has been better than Australia’s.
    I’m finding this stressful and just heart breaking. All that hard work gone. All those artists out of work. Our businesses imperilled. Please reach out to your friends for a bit of hand holding and affection before you think you need it.

Our poor old industry

So many event organisers, musicians, dance teachers, sound engineers losing thousands of dollars canceling events in the dance world. People in this industry really do live gig to gig.

I had thought it was a bit on the nose for organisers to ask before, but if an event you’re registered for is cancelled, please consider not accepting a refund.
Your couple of hundred dollars is a drop in the bucket for events that have already paid for flights, accommodation, visas, venue hire… not to mention still having to pay teachers a cancellation fee. A small Australian event has a budget of about $20 000, and most organisers are paying the bills from their own savings, before the registrations come in.

If you can, please do consider giving what you can from your registration refund.

Carers’ passes!

Topic: Carers’ Passes
or
Getting parents and carers into workshop weekends

We’ve had a Carers’ Pass at Jazz BANG in Sydney forever, and before that at The Little Big Weekend …basically forever. It’s become almost a staple at all Australian events now.

http://jazzbang.com.au/registration.html#carers

Each time I run a weekend event, I ask for comments and advice from the attending carers.

I use ‘carer’ instead of ‘parent’, because I want this to apply to anyone who’s looking after a dependant person – a baby, a child, an elder, a disabled family member, etc.
The primary goal was to retain dancers who’d gotten on with their lives and had babies after years of dancing. We didn’t want to lose them, their experience, or their $$ :D And a diverse dancing cohort is a healthy dancing cohort.

Hannah Anderson asked in another thread
“Love the carers pass- hadn’t noticed a need for it until I became a carer. Im interested in how you make it work- do the dancers sharing the pass need to dance the same role?”

First off: Diversity matters. And diversity at a management level is so important. People with different lived experiences bring a wider range of skills, knowledge, and priority to your event. Bless. <3 We just tell them to email us when they register. This way we know who's coming as a caring team, and what their particular needs are (they may also need advice about accommodation, contacts for borrowing cots, places for nursing babies, etc). I also find that talking to a real person makes a carer more confident about coming. Then we usually get about 2 or 3 couples max attend. They register for a 'carers' pass' which is the same as one workshop pass (either one day or two days). They then buy tickets to parties individually. We have two streams, and about 50 people in each stream. Part of our branding is that we keep classes small, and offer a 'boutique' experience that's community-minded, and emphasises really good music and really good international teachers. Sort of like an event from the early days (1990s and 2000s), but with really good music, organisational experience, and dancing. :D Our teachers are also prepped with info about these sorts of situations. When the couples talk to us (they may be two parents of the one child, or two mums sharing care of two babbies, or whatever - we've had all sorts and we encourage all combinations), we make sure they realise that only one of them can be in the class at a time (the other is caring for the kids). From here, we let them divide up the day how they like. - Some take alternating classes (the other one walking about with the bab, getting a coffee nearby, or in the class watching*) - Some take half a day each - Some drop in and out as needed (eg if the babby needs breastfeeding, then the nursing parent steps out) When it comes down to the actual day, we let them manage the time as they like. We don't police it. The lead/follow ratio really depends on what role the two carers dance. Most are so keen to dance (and so keen to be out with other humans) they'll do anything. Our workshops and teachers are flexible teachers, so it doesn't end up making a difference who does what. We also find that people swap themselves around in class depending on their feels. eg they may lead a class, then follow a class. We just keep our eyes on things and step in to sort things out if the ratio gets really skewed. The most popular option for single mums has been to take one class in the morning each day, while their child plays with their adult friend at the door. And then they go home for naps. I usually let them have this for free. Shhh. Don't tell anyone. We've also had teachers who are breastfeeding teaching the workshops, and we realised that you can't stick to a tight schedule when a babby needs a feed! So we actually put that in our teachers' contract, and we make it clear to all teachers: we have this many hours, we require you take regular breaks, but you can divide up the hours as you like. eg 15 min warm up session, then 1 hour exercise, then 30 min game, then lunch etc etc. In this situation, two people caring for a child may just take a block of hours between feeds, or the morning, or some other combination dictated by their child's needs. The most adamant feedback we've had is a request for a proper creche: childcare + child-safe space. I'm not sure how to do this, yet. There are insurance issues. And cost issues. Ideally, we'd spread the cost around, increasing pass prices a bit so everyone pays for this. And because we offer deals for lower income earners, we can mitigate the effects of higher ticket prices. *babbies and children are allowed in our class spaces, but they must be supervised at all times by an adult (ie the adult can't be dancing too)

Ways climate change is affecting lindy hop in Australia

– We don’t run events in January and February as it’s too physically hot, and December is on the way out.
This means that we’ll lose a quarter of the calendar year for big weekend events;

– Musicians can’t make gigs because they’ve lost their homes in bushfires.
This means that our world standard jazz scene is losing talent and experience, and dancers are losing potential bands and musicians;

– Bushfire smoke reduces air quality to the point where it’s dangerous to dance in unfiltered air.
This means that regular classes are cancelled, and dancers must reduce practice schedules and venues;

– Classes are cancelled during heat waves.
This means that interruptions to the class program loses students, and reduces the number (and diversity) of people in the scene;

– Public transport (ferries) is cancelled due to smoke haze.
This means that people need to drive to class, or find other modes of transport;

– We can no longer use spaces that don’t have air conditioning.
This means that we have to move into more expensive venues, often ones working within Clubs Australia with gambling and precarious hire arrangements, and we lose our smaller local venue relationships.

– Flights are cancelled because of extreme storms or reduced visibility.
This means that dancers and musicians have their flights rescheduled so they miss events. This in turn reduces numbers at events, band cancellations, and costs attendees in lost registration fees and missed competitions.

– Bushfires and dust storms decrease the lifespan of sound equipment.
This means that gear needs to be stored in safer (more expensive) storage, and needs to be replaced more often, draining the coffers of organisers and societies.

I need some help paying my bills

In which I uncomfortably ask for your help… https://www.gofundme.com/AustralianSafeSpacelegalFund

As you may or may not know, in addition to ranting about stuff on facebook, I also do a bunch of practical things about sexual harassment and assault in the swing dance world. These include:
– developing policies and processes for my own events,
– consulting with and responding to questions from people in other scenes about issues in their own scenes,
– intervening in actual situations where I see women being harassed,
– etcetera.

All this can be risky. There are plenty of physical threats and intimidation, but also legal threats. It seems angry men don’t like being told they can’t assault women and girls by a woman.

I like to do all this work properly. So I have a law firm that specialises in defamation law give me advice on:
– how to write guidelines for our events,
– how to notify people that they’re not welcome at our events,
– how to enforce our codes of conduct.

This protects me, my partners, my contractors and employees, and my volunteers from law suits.

And it costs a bit of money. A whole bunch of money.

I’m at the point now where I need _your_ help. I don’t feel comfortable asking, but I figure, if half this work is reminding us we can ask for help when we need it, then I should learn that lesson too.

If you have a few bucks to donate, you can contribute to my gofundme. All this money will cover ongoing legal fees. I’m happy to talk about and give details of these fees (as far as I’m legally able).

[photo of dancers by Dave from WW photography.]