WEST COAST SWINGGive Thanks! Why Fight Over The Music

by Michael A. Harvey

In a perfect dance world you have three things: plenty of accomplished dancers, a large, smooth dance floor, and great music. Ah, but this isn’t a perfect world. If you have two out of three you have much to be thankful for.

I often hear dancers say, "I just can’t get into this music." Believe me, I understand completely what they mean, but this isn’t a perfect world. What’s the alternative, sitting at home watching Melrose Place? Giving thanks for what you have will put you in your "sweet spot," and that sweet spot is on the dance floor.

On a recent trip out west I was stunned to observe a fabulous swing club with a great venue and plentiful dancers involving themselves in petty arguments over music. Why get mad over who the DJ is when you are so blessed with the important things?

When I go to Two Steps West and I wait through four Two-Steps, three Line Dances, and two Waltzes, do you think I care if I like the West Coast Swing song the DJ plays? Heck no. If it’s just the sound of a typewriter key drumming out 110 beats per minute, I’ll dance to it because the dancers are there and the floor is great! I’m thankful for what I can get. I’ve danced to East Coast Swing songs that I never thought West Coast Swing could be danced to and had plenty of satisfaction.

Two well intentioned local enterprises, a Roswell restaurant and a midtown nightclub, played "perfect" West Coast Swing music. In the former case the floor was poor and in the latter case the venue was a little too "organic" for our refined members. In both cases if you didn’t bring your own partner you might find yourself S.O.L. There is no longer any West Coast Swing dancing at either place in spite of the "perfect" music.

At a convention last winter the DJ showed up thirty minutes late. Twenty eager dancers waited until one brave couple got up and started showing another couple a move. In no time eight couples were on the floor dancing West Coast Swing to NO MUSIC AT ALL! Boy was that DJ shocked when he finally arrived to see people dancing, without his music, to tempos of their own creation. Obviously music makes dancing zillions of times more fun, but the point is that if you have the floor and you have the dancers then you have the most important ingredients. And that’s something always to be thankful for.

People’s taste in music will never be 100% identical. When I went to California and asked where the "heavy blues" music was, most people said, "we got tired of it." When I brought home this new music from California people here said, "Where’s the blues music?" Two years from now the same people who asked that question will be dancing to (and loving) the music I just brought home with me.

I’ve been to conventions where the organizers lay out big bucks for several great DJ’s and some people still complain about the music! So, if the music ain’t quite right at your little get-together, put it in it’s proper place...on the back burner. In New York they play a funky sound. In Florida they play a Latino sound. In Carolina they play beach music. If it’s the right tempo, be thankful for the dancing space and willing partners. Why qualify your dancing pleasure over music? It’s not a perfect world.

In my travels and discussions with swing club members it’s become crystal clear that having an appropriate venue for dancing is critical. Studios are inexpensive and willing, but they never seem to contain the ambiance. Restaurants and bars are the desired venues but dancers don’t make it financially reasonable for owners to accommodate them. So people please, when you’ve got the venue and you’ve got the dancers, don’t be quibbling over the music.

Whether I’m at a convention, workshop, studio, or night club I will partake in discussions over music. I enjoy learning what turns other people on and sharing what turns me on. When the discussion turns into complaints I’m always thinking that if music is the only thing people have to complain about then the event is a success!

Recently West Coast SwingAtlanta overran Atlanta Live in Buckhead. What a blast everyone had! This is THE BEST PLACE for us to dance West Coast Swing. They’ve given us three hours on a Friday night, EVERY Friday night. Be thankful. The DJ’s there need to be "massaged" (and messaged). They have a format just like the DJ’s at Two Steps West have a format. They WANT US THERE. They have a "Techo-Disco-Jungle-Music" frame of mind. But they ARE trainable. Whether this training process takes seven days or seven months remains to be seen. In the meantime...we have two of the three most important ingredients and have a lot to be thankful for. Afterall, we could be sitting home watching Melrose