Tampa 2011 Update #7

Sheesh! Lot of goings-on these past four days.

It’s clear the “issue” (I am not sneezing) was ill-timed and mishandled. Judges who should have been consulted weren’t;  judges on the first panel weren’t aware of the second panel; the meeting with competitors was called without prior notice to the judges involved; none of the following judges were used: not Benji, Parker, Jessica, Barry, or Patty Vo – even though all of these are champion showcase competitors, all have judged NASDE events throughout the year, and none were competing at Tampa. And yet not one of them knew a thing about the deed till after it was done. And all of these missteps occurring just two weeks before the Open!  All in all a big untimely clumsily handled mess.

We’re not a community of tax auditors hence the resulting response was as you can imagine … colorful.

In an odd way, though, the upset resulted in bringing the community closer together.  Felt that way to me anyway. Maybe because things were handled so obviously wrong-headedly most everyone I spoke to agreed a mistake was made.  In any case, by Sunday morning the mood at Tampa had changed, felt like people had “rallied,” come together, reassured each other, that there was an outpouring of support for the dancers involved. Parker organized a second meeting late Sunday following Awards for Showcase competitors and past Showcase champions ( those who didn’t have flights to catch, anyway.)  And this meeting, from what I hear tell, was cheerful, bright, hopeful, supportive and reassuring. Just right! But that’s Parker. I won’t nauseate you again by going on about how much we respect Parker.

In these intervening four days Phil Adams, Competition Director at the Open, has responded calmly and graciously to worries that judges at the Open might be influenced by events in Tampa. The fact is that only two of the Tampa judges (Jim Minty is one) will also judge for the Open, and, as Phil has explained, assignments for who is judging what are not made until the weekend itself and judges themselves know neither who the other judges are nor which divisions they will be judging. Phil has been reassuring that dancers in all divisions need not worry.

I’m sure that no surprises about swing content or anything else will be sprung at the Open. NASDE rules as written and as applied all year will be carefully followed – there’s no question about this not only because of Tampa but because the issue is on everyone’s mind. No preconceived biases or agendas will be played out – it just won’t happen. Not this year, anyway.  Open judges represent decades of experience,  fairness and ethics at the top of the list, and in the end on the side of the dancers.

Sounds cheesy but it has been heartwarming to see is the passionate love of this dance emanating from all corners, the love for and ownership of the community, and the overwhelming support for wcs dancers everywhere.

The only two people who haven’t been included in this love-fest (at least not publicly) are Phil and Beata which is sad, really, because, of all people involved in this mess these two may feel the worst. I haven’t spoken with them but I don’t doubt they of course were trying to do the right thing. Nobody but a sociopath is ever trying to do the *wrong* thing.  I’m guessing Phil and Beata saw what they felt was a looming problem for the Showcase dancers and, knowing the Open was only two weeks away, thought they might help by alerting them in time to change their choreography if they chose. I’m making this up based on nothing but my imagination and what I know of these two people. And by the way if you don’t know Beata you should because she is quite something. She’s been dancing all her life and in the west coast community since the early 90’s, winning titles at the Open and every other important event around the country. Feather awards, NASDE awards, champion routines in Showcase and Classic.  Beata was considered one of – if not *the* – top female dancer in the country for many years. Poise, balance, stunning lines, quads of steel (she can do more consecutive pot-stir spins, lower to the ground, than anyone in history), coaching, running workshops, years of judging and head-judging, and a famous roar which for many of us was the sound of the 90’s.  Beata is an icon of the community. She and Phil made a mistake (in my opinion – they may disagree) but of course they were doing what they thought was best. For the dancers! It’s always about the dancers.

I wrote what was known to me after speaking with twelve of the eighteen Showcase dancers as they walked out of the meeting. If you’re going to hold a closed meeting which everyone knows about and which will be controversial then you’ve got to expect that the story will come out in pieces unless you “release a statement to the press”‘ so to speak. Beata and Phil certainly did not employ good PR. So I pieced the story together from the indignant, emotional outbursts I heard immediately afterwards, thinking that people who weren’t in Tampa would probably want to know what was going on.  When I read now what I wrote then about what Beata purportedly said in that meeting I can’t conceive that Beata would have defined swing content based solely on where one’s weight is located.  That’s a little crazy. She wouldn’t have said that, or said it that way, or whatevah …

Cause of all of the components which comprise West Coast Swing “swing content” is the most difficult to define as it is an abstract concept. Not just about a triple, an anchor, where your weight is, or how many six or eight count patterns. Nor is it just a feel. It’s a complex mix of these and a multitude of other subtle characteristics. What “swing content” is and where West Coast Swing is going always has been the most discussed topic in the community and as another US Open approaches the subject is thrashed around yet again.  And debated, over the past four days since Tampa, again … but this time on Facebook.  In a collection of intersecting heated, emotional threads. One doesn’t argue about something if one doesn’t care deeply about it and judging from the amount of impassioned argument there is a lot of caring about our dance.

This is an explosive, exciting time in our history – our dance has become hugely popular around the world. We have vibrant communities in how many countries now? Australia, France, England, Brazil, Hungary, Turkey, Iceland, Poland, Sweden, Russia, Singapore, Canada. With events! Routine couples who travel across the world to compete! YouTube and Facebook have made what we do accessible to people around the globe. And as we all know –  once you see WCS your life is changed forever.  And because of the new communities and interpretations our dance is changing, evolving, like the street dance that it is.

I have found myself repeating – maybe ten times in the past months – something Mario said years ago which got stuck in my head: “West Coast Swing is not standardized. This is its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.”

Even with all the hubbub and upset we had SUCH fun at Tampa this year. How could we not? We were with 1,000 dear friends! Dancing! All day and all night for four days and nights! Who gets to do that? How lucky are we, really? The beach out the back door! Sand, waves, seagulls, a full moon, laughing, telling stories, and West Coast Swing? We are lucky! We are very lucky.

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