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"Boston's host of fine Swing Dancing since 1994"

Concerning the Conflicting Dances of June 1, 2013

A local blogger wrote the following this week:

May 26, 2013
From the corner booth...

This is a stupid dance weekend: both the Boston Swing Dance Network and Swing City are holding dances on the same night within a mile or two of each other. Each is presenting a band and more or less target the same audience. (There's a third swing dance that night in Brookline but they serve a different audience.)

It's unfortunate that the two venues could not negotiate a solution that would allow their customers to attend both events. I know that the BSDN could not get their preferred date and had to pick another. I would imagine that Swing City probably has the same issue with getting another date (otherwise, they'd probably be open very week). Still, I've seen some of the email from Swing City refusing to negotiate except on their terms so I'm not going to feel sorry for them.

I'll be at the BSDN dance on Saturday where I've been going every month since April of 1991. I think I've missed no more than 10 dances there since I started going there. I was stuck in California on 9/11 and I still managed to make it home in time for the dance that Saturday.

Normally, we find these sort of jabs to be unworthy of a response, but the fact is people do read this stuff and end up--accurately or not--seeing Swing City in the poor light that is thus shed upon us. Therefore, we do need to publish a rebuttal, especially since this is not the first time this has happened.

A few critical facts were either disregarded, or said writer wasn't aware of them. Namely:

  • The organizer of the other dance this weekend in fact declared that he would be having his dance on the date that Swing City is normally open and had published a good six months prior. This was not done with any sort of "negotiation", and especially not with any sort negotiation involving terms that we had anything to do with, as insinuated in the blog. The choices we thusly faced were: a) move our date which was already scheduled for well prior to the rise of this conflict, b) cancel our dance, or c) open our doors as usual, scheduled, and advertised.
  • Swing City has had a long standing policy of accommodating other dances that faced schedule conflicts and did so many times, usually to our own detriment (i.e. low turnout, confusion amongst our patrons, etc.). However, in the one or two cases last year where Swing City was faced with conflicts of its own (an extremely rare occurrence), other organizers--including the organizer of the conflicting dance this weekend--steadfastly declined to reciprocate. Moreover, these same organizers also informed us in an internal discussion last year that they would generally decline to do so in the future as well. As one might imagine, all this prompted a policy change on our part last fall, namely to publish our regular/consistent dates well in advance and be done with it.
  • In this case when we learned of the conflict, we reiterated our willingness to cohost a joint dance, or to even organize a special night, something we have also offered at least three dance organizers in past when schedule conflicts arose. That too has been steadfastly declined each time over the past few years, including this time.

One can wonder why this sort of behavior exists in this supposedly harmonious dance community where everyone purportedly "plays nice in the sandbox". Swing City has earnestly tried, but the fact is the sandbox is a fascade when it comes right down to business. Make no mistake, every organizer in this region, even the "nonprofit" that exists, is running a business with real world concerns like profit and loss, competition, strategic partnerships, barriers to entry, marketing gimmicks, etc. etc. Some people even depend on the income, or their dances are part of a larger, integral dance program they offer. That said, it is important to note that the business nature of organizing dances doesn't make the endeavor mutually exclusive of other factors, such as personal enjoyment or a sense of community service. However, it still is business when it is all boiled down.

Also, how long a dance has been operating and who should be"entitled" to what nights is irrelevant. (Note: Swing City incidentally has been operating since 1994, only a few years less than BSDN, not that it matters.) It comes down to "business decisions". In this case the organizer made the business decision to run his dance head-to-head with Swing City. He certainly is entitled to do so.

More generally though, my theory on the bigger picture is this:

Organizers don't want to change their schedules because, a) patrons depend on consistency and changes cause confusion and disappointment, b) it takes a lot of work to change dates in the media and in other marketing outlets, c) the resulting typically lower turnout hurts the dance, not just because of profit and loss, but moreover because the patrons who do attend have a less than great experience on account of the lower turnout and are therefore less likely to return. The only upside to the organizer is that they get to make egalitarian claims, but that hardly makes up for the downside, or so has been our much repeated experience.

Organizers also don't want to host joint dances because this exposes their hard earned, loyal patrons directly to other dances that they might jump ship for. That is certainly understandable. It takes a lot of money and effort to bring in patrons, especially new ones, and thus from a purely business standpoint organizers don't want to lose them to another dance.

There is however another expression: "The rising tide raises all boats." This is something we at Swing City embrace, but some people don't see it quite so simply. Nothing says they need to.

Happy dancing to all, regardless of which dance(s) you attend, and thank you for your patronage.

-the Swing City Crew

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