WEST COAST SWINGWhere Do We Dance Now?

by Michael A. Harvey

The recent demise of Two Steps West in Atlanta has brought the dance community to its knees with more questions than answers. Where do we dance now? How could such a great dance club bite the dust? On it’s final night the huge dance floor was packed solid and so many people were socializing off the floor it was hard to move around. Obviously the numbers are there. Will anyone step up next? Why can’t dance clubs survive?

Our investigations have shown that this same is simple: money. The solution is difficuproblem exists throughout the country. The answer lt: dancer’s must pay to dance. When you walk into a place like Carey’s Corner, pay nothing, and drink water all night, exactly how do you expect them to stay in business? When you walk into Two Steps West, pay a $3 Cover, and buy a Coke, exactly how long do you expect them to sustain your dance habit? How much longer can dancers expect to do what they love most for under $10 per night? The answer is: no longer.

Let’s face it, we just don’t drink. Dance clubs nationwide that consistently maintain dance nights at various venues end up spending $10 per person or more either in cover charges or inflated drink prices or both. When dance clubs strike deals for less than this amount, history shows their days are numbered. Currently their are three "Newborns" that need the support of dancers. Bikini Beach is charging a $5 Cover. Jon Marcs Bar and Bellas are charging no Cover. If you walk into one of these places and spend less than $10 it’s likely you may be the cause of it’s eventual suffocation. $10 is the magic number. If we all had spent this amount at Carey’s Corner or Two Steps West those great dance places might still be around.

You can buy a CD for $12, take it home and dance with yourself. You can go to a movie, buy popcorn and a small drink, spend $11, and be walking out the door two hours later. The cost of a nose-bleed ticket alone costs $14 to a Braves or Hawks game. Do you want to talk concert tickets, or the price of a tank of gas? Many promoters are scrambling to "take advantage" of the closing of Two Steps West. Be thankful they are scrambling, they are scrambling for you! No one is going to get rich on a $6, $8, $10 cover charge. It’s a labor of love. The higher the number you pay, the greater the chance of longevity.

Budget your money to dance if you must. "Support" to those of us at WCSA means coming out to our Friday night "Swing at the Beach" parties at least twice per month. The same goes for Carter Butler’s Country Night and the dance nights scheduled at Knights of Columbus. Promoters find the dance floors, collect the music, and bring in the dancers. Whatever "spending money" they earn is well deserved in relation to the time it takes to secure a venue. Don’t begrudge them their small profit, your profit is large fun!

"Free" places to dance can only occur at odd days and times, and often in odd places. One California joint has maintained its longevity because as a "Biker’s Hangout" the local clientel drink plenty of beer, they love the swing dance blues, and the "sights" are entertaining. In Washington D.C. a well know Instructor charges $10 and gives you a drink of your choice. Sunday afternoon appears to be a popular day and time for dancers. But in all these cases dancers turn out and spend money. To dance in a nice place on a Friday night is something we just have to be willing to pay for. Although dancers notoriously don’t drink alcohol, bar owners do want "the traffic." Facing "big numbers" at the end of every month we can impact their "bottom line" and be the cause of their survival. Is $10 too much to dance? Spending it will secure a venue’s success. So spend it and be happy!