Quick Poll: If you could improve 1 thing…

I’ve been thinking about being a positive influence in my dance scene this past year. Quite honestly, it keeps me up at night and I wake up with all these ideas stirring in my head. So now my question to you guys/gals is:

If you could improve one thing in your respective dance scene to make it better, what would it be? Let’s not worry about the actual “how can you change it” but simply, what would you like to see different.


  1. In terms of Toronto, I would love to rid of some of the negative vibes coming off the whole scene. There’s a lot of politics and general negativity in the scene. Everyone should just dance and g’damn enjoy themselves and with the people around them. Introduce yourselves to new folks, get away from the bar (unless you are buying a drink), dance, and smile.

    For Vancouver, I would love to have the scene open up and encourage new dancers. I have not seen strong promotion or encouragement from staple dancers in the scene to bring in friends or new folks who would love to dance. Toronto is much better at being a scene where new folks are always coming in (they always seem a bit older for my tastes). Vancouver is a closed off scene, or at least seems like it. It should take a bite from the Abby scene which seems to be good for that.

  2. Two things, equally important:
    1) No more politics and selfish behaviour. Everyone working towards promoting dancing the way it was meant to be experienced; not as a studio or business, not as just a taste of the spirit of the times, but progressing into better dancers who can truly enjoy the dance. Having actual dances that have good music because the goal is to have a great dance, not to make money or promote something else. For that matter, more dances, no exclusion or denial of new venues and events – I want choices, especially affordable ones.
    2) Trying new things. I’ve found Toronto dancers extremely reluctant to try new things. They like their established schools, dance styles, and scene leaders and don’t seem to get out there and try new things. Try a different dance – see how it relates to what you already like. Experience your body in a new way. Very few people in the scene travel. Get out there! Try something new to change your dance, to improve it.

  3. I second both Alcina and Tien’s comments about negativity. I admit it’s hard not to get involved in it especially when it gets personal but the best thing you can do at that point is just to counter it with the truth and positive energy!

    Alicat 🙂

  4. I want people to not focus on the bullshit and drama and remember that the dance is about joy and expression and fun.

  5. One thing I want to continue to increase, which is growing here in Vancouver, is awareness and excitement that dancers have for the bands.

  6. I would also have Randy follow me around, giving flowers to every follow I dance with. He would be allowed to playfully steal the follows once in a while as long as he promptly returned with the flowers after I’d stolen her back. If I was dancing with another male, he would give them a hearty handshake and ‘congratulations!’ instead.

  7. Interesting question Randy. To be perfectly honest, if there’s one thing I’d like to change about the Toronto lindy scene it’s this – I wish people would stop dumping on the Toronto scene. I know crapping on Toronto is a national pastime and all (and is therefore embedded into our psyches perhaps) but seriously, it’s ridiculous. I’m not saying Toronto is perfect by any stretch but as someone that has traveled a great deal and lived in several other scenes I would easily rank Toronto with the best of them. No, I’m not kidding. Think about it; Toronto has dance options 7 nights a week, a wealth of live music in and out of the scene, DJ dance options, multiple schools, top quality teachers that teach locally and on a regular basis (i.e. Caitlin, Chachi, Arthur, Dan, Mandi, etc.), a good mix of venues, a thriving university club and on and on and on. When you step back and look at Toronto in that light I think it’s easy to see just how good we actually have it. I mean, who else has all that?

    I think the trap a lot of people fall into (especially once they get more experienced and travel) is that they take away the best pieces of all the scenes they experience, mash them up into some imaginary best case scenario and then try to stack their local scene against that. Obviously nothing (or nowhere) is going to live up to that standard. It’s a great goal to look to of course to see where some improvements can be made but it has to be done realistically and not against that backdrop. Otherwise people will start getting down on things because they feel nothing is living up to that unattainable ideal.

    Frankly, I think that’s what we’ve been seeing a lot of in Toronto lately, this notion that because we don’t do this and we don’t do that we must therefore totally effin’ suck. That gets very dangerous because when people start projecting that negativity on the local scene it turns people off of dancing completely. As soon as people are told they aren’t trying hard enough, dancing enough, their tastes in dance/music/tempo/etc. is bad, people in scene X are oh so much better at whatever, etc. then those people start giving up. End of story. No matter how well intentioned and genuine (and even if you’re right) if you try to change things from such a negative viewpoint it will fall on deaf ears. The last thing people want when they go out to dance (or do anything really) is to feel obligated or have to to adhere to someone else’s beliefs about how things “should” be.

    So really, I think the key for Toronto is to approach things from a positive perspective and to acknowledge all of the amazing things that we already have going for us. If we start there then once there are new oppourtunities and options to further one’s dancing people will take it, I have no doubt about it. We need to stop beating up on ourselves all the time and start enjoying the great things we have. Other than trying to grow the scene as best we can I can’t think of anything else we can do.

    Ok, this turned into more of a rant than an answer to your question. Sheesh, sorry about that.. I hope it helped a bit though. Either way, I have to say the contributions you’ve been making in Toronto have been great imho so keep it up! That’s exactly the kind of “oppourtunities and options” I referred to above.

    Finally, I recognize that me crapping on Toronto for crapping on itself is also crapping on Toronto. It’s a bit of a paradox I suppose. 🙂

  8. In Kingston, I’d like to see people dancing for longer. People leave dances early, they don’t spend enough time out on the dance floor. After about half an hour of a dance, everyone is gone. I wish they would stick around, have some more dances, chat with other dancers, and then maybe come out for drinks afterwards.

  9. It would be really nice if there were more dances earlier in the night. Dovercourt is a perfect example: you can come at 7pm, dance until 10-11pm, and still get enough sleep and rest before the next business day 🙂

  10. Well… I could give some preferences I have for music/atmosphere/energy/style in a dance scene… but I now think it’s not worth mentioning.

    I think what I would like is to change the question in people’s minds from “how can the dance scene in Toronto change to suit me” into “what can I do to improve the dance scene”… and then _do it_.

    Recently there has been a lot of positive effort put towards organizing events by various people and it’s getting better. So to those people I say keep up the good work.

  11. For Toronto: I would like to see the positive energy and openness I experienced as a beginner at U of T swing everywhere I go! I loved that experienced dancers made a concerted effort especially early in the evening not to dance with each other but with the newbies. I think we could use a little more of that positive energy, and enthusiasm for sharing a love of dance. You guys make me want to dance!

    And for Randy not to move to Montreal. 😉

  12. I agree with Steve!
    Well-articulated! It so true that when you see other scenes you only see it from a very external position and it’s too easy to idealize the way it appears to be, when honestly there is no perfect scene and with any group of people there’s bound to be drama.

  13. So back to the original question – what do you think can be improved?

  14. I’d like to see the number of hardcore keener dancers in Ottawa double, at the very least. We already have a huge amount of awesome, dedicated dancers in Ottawa, but you can never have too many. I’m a very competitive person, and I want to take on Montreal in dance scene skill, and the only way to do that is more people.

    Other than that, Ottawa is pretty much the bawss. Our events rock.

  15. I’m from Toronto. I know this is more of a personal wish but I’ll also like to see more dancers stay after midnight at the Dovercourt. Besides workshop weekends, there seems to be a mass exodus at midnight where 2/3 of the dancers just leave and the dance floor is almost deserted. Having to move your car is not really an excuse as you can park on Bloor for free the whole night after 9 pm, and the subways run until 1:45 am. I understand if people have plans early on the Sunday, but I’m sure there are more night owls like me in our scene. I went swing dancing in Montreal and the party was still going well past 1:30..

    Also, it’d be great if there are more lessons/social dances out in the suburbs, particularly in the west end (Mississauga) where I live. But this is more of a pipe dream as it’s essentially starting a scene in another city and therefore alot of work…

  16. @Steve I hear what you are saying, and I can agree that Toronto has the potential to be a top ranked scene, but I don’t think it’s reached there yet. I’ll elaborate on my point of view on this, and sprinkle suggestions when I can.

    On live music: I have always said that Toronto is blessed with the amount of live music that the city has. Some of the bands don’t swing who says they do, but there’s enough music out there that dancers can pick and choose from. Too bad there’s no list of recommended bands to keep an eye out for. Dancers will have to do the leg work themselves to even find out what band exists in Toronto, no less when and where they play.

    DJ’ed dance options: Toronto is blessed with all the live music, that the DJ’ed option really gets the shaft. I will say this now, Toronto does not have a strong DJ’ed dance culture. Things are changing slowly, but compared to the scenes where live music is not dominant, Toronto is no where near any other scenes. But it’s okay, the dancers don’t appreciate the DJ’ed dances anyways (except for UofT Swing).

    Venues: The venues in Toronto are top-notch. Dovercourt House is one of the best places for dancing that I have been to. Too bad there’s no stage for the bands, but that’s just nit-picking.

    UofT Swing: I have nothing but praise to say for the university club here in Toronto. They draw so many young and inspiring dancers to their club are the most enthusiastic group of dancers in the scene… but they tend not to be a part of the scene except for a small percentage of the dancers. The untapped potential of the UofT swing group fizzles due to the lack of community support in the scene. The folks organizing UofT swing do promote and become involved in the scene, but where is the scene when it comes to UofT events and dances? Imagine what it would be like if a group of dancers greater in numbers were to go to one of the UofT dances one night and showed them what the greater dance scene is like… in fact that greatest moment is TUX but all momentum is lost shortly thereafter.

    Toronto schools and Instructors: There is a lot that can be learned from Toronto by the sheer amount of schools and instructors in the scene. But I have to ask, where are they where it matters most? I could go to a dance and not see an instructor dancing that night, or even dance with them. I doubt that the majority of the UofT know the names of some of the top-instructors in the city, and don’t really have a reason to go learn from them. Take a verbal survey, ask the dancers, who from the scene would they want their dancing to look like.

    I know the instructors in Toronto are strong dancers. I know from reading their bios, where they have taught and danced, who they have performed with and trained. But where am I being showed? Where can I really see that if I take classes from X instructor will I will be able to dance like that? And I’m just going to avoid the politics surrounding this topic.


    I know it sounds negative, but this is because I really care about what goes on in Toronto or any scene I will and have been involved with. While the is a lot going on for Toronto to make it a high-ranking scene, THERE IS SO MUCH POTENTIAL LOST that negates this factor. There is no energy and momentum as a driving force in the scene, and when there is, it is quickly snuffed out. My time in Toronto let me see all the frustrations coming from the point of view as a dancer in the scene, and organizer, a promoter, and formerly as a newcomer to the Toronto scene.

    Right now, there is a lot of new blood coming in, while the old is stepping back. This is Toronto’s best chance for change and for new risks to be made for the better. Hopefully, enough folks will realize this and keep the momentum going. 🙂

    PS. Sorry for the lengthy rant.

  17. I think Steve’s 4th paragraph sums it up for me. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Personally I’m coming up on 12 years of dancing. I LOVE LOVE LOVE dancing more than ever but it has to be in balance with the rest of my life. The majority of the people posting are the hardcore. You guys are the blood of the scene. You are the freaks that your non-dance friends don’t understand. 🙂

    There are others who after 10+ years don’t come out as much. They’re in a different place, and have different needs. But they still love dancing and everything it’s brought to their life.

  18. @Tien I get the sense you and I could talk about this at length. 🙂 I don’t want to hijack this thread away from Randy’s original question but I do want to touch on a couple of the things you raised.

    First of all, I think we agree on a majority of things re: Toronto – i.e. the live music, venues, U of T, etc. As for DJs, I’m mostly with you. Thing is, I don’t think Toronto lacks for good DJs necessarily but it does for people’s appreciation of them. The good news is that I think it’s finally changing for the better now with things like Randy’s blues dance, U of T, The Imperial, the DJ talks/summits that have been happening lately, etc.

    Second, I want to address your points about Toronto lost potential and such. I keep hearing people say there’s a lot of politics in Toronto and that positive energy keeps getting “snuffed out” as you say, but the thing is I just don’t see it. Call me naïve but I really don’t. Maybe I’m too entrenched in Toronto having been organizing things for like 7 or 8 years now and have rose coloured glasses on but am I missing something? Who or what is holding anyone back?

    (Ok, fine. I know we had an issue last year with a certain someone and that turned into a bit of a fiasco. I think once that came to a head though it was dealt with by most involved and just about everyone has since moved on. Admittedly it was unfortunate and a bit messy but hey, it happens, but at least it was dealt with.)

    So, not to harp on this, but for “lost potential” I think you’re falling into the trap I referred to in my previous post. Again, I don’t think Toronto is by any means perfect but the thing is nowhere is. So to your view that Toronto has a long ways to go I have to ask – “Compared to where exactly”? There are a couple places I can think of that have great overall scenes like Montreal and Seattle but beyond that I’m hard pressed to think of anywhere else that is as lucky as we are. And besides, the Montreals and Seattles of the world have their issues too and even lack in certain areas where we in Toronto excel.

    Third, as for the experienced teachers (and all dancers really) not dancing locally there are very good reasons for that too. Just ask them sometime and I think you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn. I think the big thing that happens with people that have been around a while is that it becomes more and more challenging to keep an interest up in the dance when it’s generally the same venues, music, people, and so on, no matter how good that all may be. Hence the typical trend of experienced folks dancing on the road much more than in their hometown.

    What really compounds the problem though is when the newer generations start coming into the scene and they fail to recognize this because they are caught up in all the energy and their love of the dance is so fresh. Inevitably some of the newer folks start pointing their fingers at the old timers and question why they don’t dance as much, why aren’t they doing more for the scene, suggest their way of doings things is wrong, etc. As I said yesterday, nothing turns a dancer off more then having people put obligations on them or telling them how they “should” be. I’ve lost count of the amazingly talented dancers we’ve outright lost in Toronto because of this. I mean, in your post you went from noting the old guard aren’t there “when it matters most” and then turn around and say Toronto’s best change for positive change is for the old blood to “step back”. Aside from the conflicting message that sends it doesn’t exactly make an experienced dancer feel welcome.

    (Btw, I’m by no means suggesting this is the ONLY reason experienced folks stop coming out/dancing but it is an major factor from what I’ve gleaned so far.)

    I guess what I’m trying to say overall is don’t be so quick to dismiss what the Toronto scene already has and certainly don’t take for granted what the experienced teachers and others still have to offer. Most of the problems that yourself and others have identified here and elsewhere are by no means new. As a quick example, the DJ problem in Toronto has been around forever. But did you know Shawn and I tried a DJ only dance at The Winchester in Cabbagetown (now a Tim’s – *sigh*) about 5 years ago for that very reason? Probably not, right? And that’s the thing; a lot of people have, and still are, trying to improve things in their own way. So I think the best thing for all of us to do is work with them and not be so quick to judge, dismiss and reinvent the wheel without them.

    Finally Tien, I hope you don’t think I’m ranting at you in particular or anything. Like I said I think you and I are basically in sync, especially on the more logistical issues. But the truth is Toronto is very near and dear to my heart as well and I too used to have similar thoughts and attitudes about the scene. I just don’t want to see Toronto go through the same cycle again and again. As the Battlestar nerd in me would say – “All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again”. I’m just trying to not be so fatalistic about the whole damn thing. 😛

    Aaaaaaaand I guess that brings me back to what Randy is trying to get at here – what specific things do we see that could use improvement? I have ideas (other than the esoteric rambling rants I’ve offered up already) but I think I’ll post those separately.

  19. Damn, having seen my last post up there I just realized how long it was. Apologies all. Sheesh…

  20. @Randy An area of improvement I’d like to see in Toronto is I’d like to have one key night where everyone goes out dancing again. Back in the heyday we use to dance at Barcode (bar on College under Ted’s Wrecking Yard) every Wednesday night and it was “the night” to go out. The energy was absolutely amazing every single week! I think that is something we now lack in Toronto.

    Of course, that’s a bit of a catch-22 now that we have so many great options for dancing in Toronto. The splintering of the crowd across so many nights means it’s a bigger challenge to get that energy level up.

    That said, I think it is doable. Personally I think Dovercourt offers the best opportunity to get something like that back being the biggest night of the week. I think the key is to work with Simon and see where things can improve there. I’ve been talking to him quite a bit lately and he’s been incredibly receptive to any ideas people have. For example, he knows we’re getting tired of a lot of the bands so he’s been working hard lately getting new bands into the rotation so that’s a good step.

    I’m curious to know what others would like to see at DH (or elsewhere)? Thoughts?

  21. @Steve: Regarding tension between new generations and the “olde skoole” dancers. There are many reasons older generations of dancers have for not coming out as often or not dancing as often.
    However, there are a number of drawbacks when the leaders and organizers of a scene are watching from the edge of the dance floor.
    1. It is hard for new dancers to be inspired by the older generations and to connect with them. They lose their place as role models in the dance community (eager dancers do not pick role models who they have never met or who are sitting on a chair) and as friendly faces. I am not saying it is the experienced dancers jobs to carry the weight of the scene on their shoulders, but if they do enjoy the scene and want to remain connected with its newer members, they do have the option of making their presence felt on the dance floor.
    2. People who don’t dance as much become detached from the people who are dancing. This is especially problematic when these people are the scene organizers. When you aren’t dancing as much the quality of dancing, bands, DJs and events might not be as noticeable. When you want to dance every song, a couple bad songs in a row or one particularly bad song can seem devastating, but when you are only dancing a handful of times a night it might not be as apparent. The ones that are dancing can feel alienated from the organizers and can lose faith in the organizers ability to cater to their interests.

    Maybe the current troublemakers who are unsatisfied with the scene are a lost generation, but I am seeing a little bit more back-and-forth in the community and it is a good thing. Also, sorry for further thread derailment.

  22. @Steve I appreciate the BSG reference and yes, we could very well talk at lengths about this topic. Too bad I’m not in Toronto anymore. 🙁

    There’s a lot of change going on with Toronto right now, and I don’t know how this has played out in the past, but I feel like the circumstances and the direction of the scene is very strong.

    As for my contradiction about the older members stepping back and then not being “where it matters most”, was more of a mention that some organizers have stepped back a bit from the Toronto scene allowing for others newcomers onto the organizing stage. I had not meant tell the ‘old timers’ to step back.

    From an objective point of view, I think that the Randy and Kevin/NaYoung partnership is an ideal example of where things are going right. On one side, you have someone who is new to the scene, well travelled, has a ton of ambition and ideas in which he wants to realize. The other, you have a couple who have been long standing members in the scene and have seen it go through the paces, vocal with strong opinions about the scene, still loves the dance but has a bit of love lost for dancing in it as well.

    I’ve seen this relationship grow and foster which is what makes me excited for Toronto. Randy is able to channel his ideas and ambition and starts to realize some of it with the help of Kevin/NaYoung who has a much better understanding of the scene. What they have gained from Randy is a new excitement, where that love lost is gone, and that pessimistic side has started to fade away.

    That being said, this doesn’t always work out. i.e. Dan and myself. I think that the greatest problem with this partnership was the heavy-handness from the ‘old-timer’ when it came to running these events. I by no means mean to point fingers—although that last statement does—I had many ideas and ambitions but found it stifling working in that particular partnership. In the end, some of that love-lost was rubbed off on myself.

    But I believe this is where the change will come from. I believe that the ‘old-timers’ in Toronto need to get involved with the younger, greener, more ambitious, and upcoming organizers. This younger force needs the experience from the old-timers for their knowledge, influence, opportunities and some grounding. The newcomers should become the face for the scene while the ‘old-timers’ can help them see these ideas into fruition. That’s not to say they you should be obscured or in the background. Be a part of it, but let them take more of the credit.

    You know, I couldn’t have become the dancer I am today without the guidance and opportunities that Mandi presented to me when I started to hit the scene. Being able to take classes every other day, than teaching with her and soon after Erin was undeniably a blessing. Now I see the same opportunities for Shannon and Jasper.

    There are so many ambitious members in the UofT swing crowd who want to do more and learn more. Steve, you can’t tell me that there is not some love-lost for you as an organizer and long term member of the scene. These are the folks who will re-energize you 🙂 Go to them. Constantly.

    Last, when I talk about the potential for the scene, I’m not making a comparison, I’m projecting (like a cylon!) where I could see Toronto in the next 2-5-10 years. Every aspect you have mentioned are key to make Toronto to become one of THE places to dance in North America but I’m always asking, why is it not?

  23. As an “olde skoole” dancer, I’ve seen this conversation happen multiple times over the years. A bunch of dancers, very enthusiastic about the dance, wanting to make changes to the scene to hopefully benefit everyone (although, IMO, its really to benefit themselves as they often are the same group that comments on the “mediocre” dancers and how those dancers are hampering the community (aka the keener dancers) growth. I rarely see the mediocre dancers complaining.). Anyway, these dancers go forward and put some work behind it and makes some contributions to the scene. However, these changes require constant work and the hopes that of the community rallying together and sharing this work normally never happens. Eventually, these enthusiastic dancers get tired or caught in other aspect of life and they slow down or stop in their active contributions and the scene settles down again.

    This is not to discourage people in contributing to the scene but to warn you the amount of work and energy required and that the community will rarely rally to pick up what you might have started. So I’d suggest take on small projects in which you and your group can maintain over a long duration on your own. And hopefully, it will blossom into something great.

    And ditto to what Steve said and to “Barcode”. We need a new “Barcode” night… However, in lieu of a “barcode”, just go out to as many dance events that you can to show your support. For example, I don’t see many folks from the various groups in the community come out to a Sunday Imperial pub night.

    Just an old man’s rant…

  24. @Kevin – There’s tension between new generation and old skoole??? Really??? That’s news to me.

    I also don’t see evidence of the two points you made. New dancers go out to dance and have fun, not to find role models. There’s plenty of inspiration on the dance floor. It could be Mandi or Chachi, or it could be Randy, Phil, Kathleen, or Chelsea. They aren’t worrying about who’s not dancing.

  25. @Kevin I agree completely. The only caveat is that it’s important that the scene doesn’t make the experienced folks feel obligated to dance for all the reasons I’ve stated previously. (I’m not suggesting you are btw)

    Come to think of it, that’s the other area for improvement for Toronto in my opinion – we need more dancers across the board and especially at the mid to higher levels. That way there are always people for newbies to look up to PLUS the pressure is off anyone that can’t or just doesn’t feel like dancing.

    @Tien Thanks for the clarification and I’m with you 100% too. From what I’ve seen over the past year or so the new and old are definitely engaging with each another finally (myself included) and this is a great thing. To be honest, I think the UT scene caused some growing pains for Toronto on the whole because we’ve never had a real student scene pop up like that before (in my memory anyway). I think there was a misconception on both sides where UT felt alienated from the larger scene and the “outside” scene felt like UT wanted very little to do with them. I know that was never actually the case but there was that perception nonetheless. No matter now as that’s all long behind us and everyone is working together. Whoo!

    Great things are a’comin’ for Toronto, I can feel it! 🙂

  26. @Dave Thanks for plug for the Imperial! By all means let’s make this the next Barcode! 😀

  27. @Kevin – I re-read your post and I think I understand your “tension” comment a little better in reference to what Steve wrote.

    I really think Toronto is in a good place right now with contributions from “old” and “new” dancers. I really like what Steve wrote about improving things from a positive viewpoint. It really makes a big difference.

    I hope people don’t get too caught up in being a top ranked scene. Personally I just want people to be dancing and smiling. The rest will take care of itself.

  28. Steve took the words right out of my mouth (er, the ones about having a “this is THE night to go dancing” night) — when I knew that ‘everybody’ would be at Barcode/Courthouse/Rez, then I was more likely to go out and dance. And just having lots of people go out and dance with lots of people improves the energy. Right now it seems like we have a splintered scene and it’s hard to get the groups to integrate.

    I’m one of those who is in this for the social dance part of it. I’m quite shy, so it’s not a lot of fun showing up at a dance where I know very few people — and it can be downright scary at times (like it’s about to be, tonight, for me, in a faraway land where I know nobody). There was a comfort in having a ‘regular’ night — your classmates went and somebody would know someone in another group, and gradually you got to meet a lot of people in the scene.

  29. @Steve – I think the Imperial floor is the same as Barcode. 😉
    My new improvement will be to to make me dance more on Sunday nights at the Imperial.

  30. I totally agree with what Arthur said about having the people be dancing and smiling and that the rest will take care of itself. That’s what Lindy Hop is all about; the spirit.

    I also think it’s really great that everyone is sharing their great ideas on these issues.

    I really think that in most cases when people in the scene get upset with other people in the scene it’s mostly due to misunderstandings. I mean, no one goes out thinking, “I’m going to go out tonight, not dance with anybody and see how many people I’ll piss off” and no one goes out thinking “I’m going to dance as much as possible to prove something and to show everyone how cocky I am.” Everyone who goes out goes for their own reasons and whatever those reasons are the fact that they come out (no matter how frequent or how much they dance) makes them a part of scene.

  31. I’d like to point out that, ideally, experienced dancers come out everynight, dance to almost every song, dance with new dancers… because they *want to*.

    If they’re doing in out of obligation then it defeats the point, since they won’t be dancing as well, and they won’t be as pleasant to dance with; not very inspiring and in fact possibly damaging to the scene.

    And as Steve has pointed out, nothing makes someone want to dance less than being told they have to.

    So next time you think to say “the old dancers should…”, stop and consider whether you’d rather have a bunch of grumpy uninspired “scene leaders” (and fewer of them) than the status quo.

  32. So back to the original question – what do you think can be improved? 😉

  33. Further to what John just said, if you want to dance with some of the ‘old school’ dancers, ask them to dance.

  34. As for Randy’s question, coming from a smaller scene, I’d like to see more travelling (it’s just a 1 hour drive to Toronto), and especially a better spread in skill levels. You always need beginners, but right now Waterloo has a double hump distribution. I’d like to see that middle section fill in more. We’re getting there, though.

    It would also be nice to have more cohesion between groups. The above helps this, as well as having plenty of social time (not just dancing). Again, I’m seeing improvement in this area.

  35. Sorry Randy, your question took more thought.

  36. @Randy I think a bunch of things have already been suggested.

    Scanning back through this I see the following “areas of improvement”. Note that I’m certainly paraphrasing some people here:

    – Getting people to stay later at dances (particularly DH in Toronto’s case)
    – Having early dance options
    – Finding or making a dance that is “the dance” of the week
    – Related to the above: getting the overall energy up on social floors
    – Helping people appreciate good DJ music (again, more a Toronto thing)
    – Encourage new dancers (Vancouver)
    – Opening up to new ideas/dance forms
    – More skilled dancers in the scene, especially ones that dance on a regular basis
    – More traveling outside your scene
    – Stop poo-pooing your local scene, appreciate what you got and just go with it (my apparent issue du jour)
    – Finally, Toronto peeps need to go to The Imperial. Ha! (What, me self-serving? Never. 🙂

    I’m sure I missed a few..

    But I get the sense you’re looking for areas of improvement that are more concrete or tangible? Or maybe from a more individual or personal level? Maybe you’re just egging on the discussion to get more ideas. That certainly works for me cuz this has been a great discussion so far so yeah, let’s keep it coming..

  37. @Arthur I think you’re right, the Imp has the same floors. Also has the same dive bar feel about it too.

  38. Love this discussion. A lot.

    @John’s 1st post: bingo. Experienced dancers ideally come out because they want to. Which leads to my answer to Randy’s question:


    What Toronto lacked when I was there was an intangible. There were lots of places to dance and lots of great teachers to learn from and what was missing often was just that energy, excitement, thrill in the air.

    From what I have heard Toronto has taken several big steps forward in this area in the ~8 months since I left with Dedicated Dancers, STATurdays, and Randy’s blues stuff topping the list. So congratulations but there’s always more to be done.

    I have lots more I could say about this and maybe later I will, but for now, just to respond to an earlier comment about how to improve Dovercourt and make it “the place to go.” From the point of view of Inspiration. My suggestion is an expanded role for the Dance Ambassadors to not only be dancing with beginners, but be party pumpers, start jam circles (and bring beginners into them), and on a more intangible level, see themselves as trying to establish a culture where asking people you don’t already know to dance is what all the cool kids do. Essentially, create role models.

    And the beauty of it is that Dance Ambassadors is a completely volunteer organization, so nobody’s telling another dancer what he/she should be doing. Presumably these people have already volunteered because they actually want to do this sort of thing.

    One more point (geez this is getting long despite my best efforts) is that anything that improves the music quality will improve inspiration because one of the most inspiring things in swing dancing is hearing that song that you just have to dance to.

  39. What’s lacking in Toronto from the Barcode days is the public face of swing dancing. Pedestrians passing through Little Italy could look in the windows and see all this crazy lindy hop action going on inside. Now the only place that works that way is the much smaller Reservoir Lounge floor.

    So while I love Dovercourt for its sheer ability to draw crowds, what needs improving in Toronto is finding a place that also inherently welcomes newbies right off the street. That was quite possibly the most distinctive characteristic of Barcode compared to all other venues Toronto has seen. The Res can still do it to some degree, but the Imperial can’t if dancing is tucked away in a back room.

    Unfortunately, I raise this issue with absolutely no suggestions as to what would be a suitable venue for this purpose. *sigh* Sorry ’bout that ….

  40. IMHO, to answer the original question
    1) Better DJs. (a lot of people can’t afford to pay Simon’s cover every Saturday – primarily because he has a live band)
    2) Instructors who come out often and dance with everybody. There are a handful of people like Randy, Phil, Arthur and Chelsea (sorry if I didn’t mention your name here – this isn’t an all inclusive list).
    3) Going back to #1, cheaper dances. A new grad (or UT student) saddled with debt (who is probably going to be your most ideal Lindy Hop/Charleston/Balboa/whatever dancer) isn’t going to come out or get better if they can’t do it regularly. The reason I and many others were able to get better was because we were able to go out very often.
    4) A desire to aspire to other great dancers – and doing something about it to get there. This kind of inspiration shows through when you step out onto the dance floor… if you ever get off the bar.
    5) Dealing with the creeps heavyhandedly. No names named.

    My top 5,
    Kevin Sue from Toronto

  41. By the way, my picture is at the top of this topic. Are you trying to tell me something Randy? :-/

  42. @Kevin

    I loves me some cheap dances. Dovercourt can get pricey for those of us with student incomes, but there are options available.

    1) volunteers — I did this the SVU weekend, and Alyssa used to do it every week a while back for that reason.
    2) Res — $5 cover (but costs more for drinks)
    3) Imperial is free from what I’ve heard.

    re: creeps… Absolutely!

  43. So
    I would just like to put in a plug for UT-Swing because people have mentioned DJ’d music and inexpensive dances.

    UT-Swing is
    1) $30 for the ENTIRE semester
    2) DJd
    3) Filled with impressionable beginners/intermediates that would love to dance with more experienced dancers
    4) Decent venues (usually)
    5) EARLY 8pm-11pm ish

    And yet hardly anyone from the greater toronto scene goes to them. I’m not criticizing… just informing. We’d LOVE to have a bunch of experienced dancers out to UT-Swing. It would not only help our club, it would help hook these young dancers and get them into the Toronto swing scene and: take classes from outside schools, go to Dovercourt, etc.

  44. Yeah, I was going to say that I assume the U of T events are like that, filling an important gap. In fact, one of the biggest improvements in Toronto now over the old days is that U of T has become a hub of its own and a great feeder system to the community in general.

    That said, though, I’ve never once seen a promo for a UT-Swing event. I’ve been swing dancing in Toronto for more than 10 years and I have absolutely NO idea when and where they take place! Any way to tie them in with other announcements?

  45. @Peter (and this relates to something @Steve wrote here too) that is an interesting point and as an old UT-Swing guy, I know we were deliberately insular in the early days. There are lots of reasons for it that I won’t go into here, some were good reasons and some weren’t. In any event, I feel like as UT-Swing got more established and more self-confident it has started to open up more to the broader community and I expect that to continue and to be a good thing for both the club and the community. But at the same time I think it’ll always be student focused as its primary mandate and I think that’s a good thing.

  46. Wow! What an AMAZING string of comments…quite varied and I appreciate that the tone is neither too deferential or too whiny.
    A few things that struck me:
    – the public face of swing dancing: the positive thing about this is that this can be changed by literally anyone: if you can get a crowd out, even better, but two couples can be quite visible, esp if you are doing smth in sync. You don’t have to necessarily pick a particular venue – pick events, festivals, parking lots, Tim Hortons (except their floors are often wet so be careful)…go dance there and have flyers with you – whether you are affiliated with a school or not.
    – on negativity…and I’d like to respond esp to Steve, who makes excellent points about what TO has to offer. Generally when there has been negativity circulating, the kind I’ve heard, anyway, it has not had to do with dancing or the level of dancing TO has or doesn’t have. It’s had to do with particular people’s attitudes and how people have been treated and/or how they have dealt with how they have been treated.
    Unfortunately, the bad attitudes and poor behaviour I’ve seen has come from people who are supposed to be in leader/mentor roles – they’ve either failed to deal with problems or they’ve dealt poorly with them, sometimes being downright unkind, and then when confronted about that, they hide or do nothing. Frankly, I lose respect for people who deal with problems that way.
    Solution to this: you can either try to come to some kind of understanding with those with whom you have an “Issue”; however, you can only do this to the degree someone will actually engage your efforts. So, if they don’t, it’s best not to bother with them. I, for one, am not going to continue to chase after someone to make friends who can’t even return/extend some basic common courtesies.

    (For the record, I also agree that experienced dancers/teachers should not dance solely out of obligation. I will say though, it’s going to affect the way you are perceived if you are a more experienced dancer who is frequently at dances but not dancing or not even *talking* to anyone new!)

    – atmosphere: completely agree with the idea of having ambassadors as party pumpers, leading jams etc…I suggest checking out Tipping Swing Dancing for ideas (on FB) or Lindy Leaders – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=331091279316&ref=ts
    – I’m also all for cheaper dances, though I have no problem paying more if the band is good.
    – having more medium-experienced level dancers at dances…the thing is, dancers have to be grown and encouraged. You will never get these level of dancers if you don’t encourage them at the beginning (except for the very self motivated and tough) which goes back to good attitudes among leaders.

    Finally – I like what I’ve seen of Randy’s efforts and I am a big fan of the U of T crowd: they are fun, and moreover, what I have seen from them is not only kind, but classy 😉

  47. @Alisha
    Re: “the public face of swing dancing…”
    UT-Swing had a group last summer called “UT-Swing Lindy Bombers”. The idea being that there were a bunch of dancers in a facebook group who were “on call” for dancing at random public events. We had flyers and everything. We just needed more people with ears to the ground searching for events to dance at.

    I won’t be here this summer, but perhaps someone could start up a city-wide “Toronto Lindy Bombers” who when given a date and time would try to make it out for a few dances to raise public awareness of Lindy in Toronto…

  48. I feel like a jerk for missing this conversation but I have to say I enjoyed reading through all your thoughts, perspectives and experiences. I love the Toronto scene though have found it a bit sad that it is different than it was two years ago. One improvement for myself – stop living in the past and make the most of today when it comes to the dance scene. Get out there, have fun and mingle!

    As a suggestion – Those with the drive and enthusiasm should consider preparing some showcase type moments. This may increase the excitement, expose new people to how much there is learn and enjoy. Things that bring everyone together – some mob dances, snowballs, jams, and performances. They are inspiring and build great memories/moments.

  49. Like Terra, I really enjoyed reading through all of these comments and I’m sorry to be chiming in so late like this. Personally, I really love the Toronto scene! I’ve done some dancing in scenes outside of Toronto/Canada and it’s really opened my eyes to what a great gift we have here in Toronto; great music, a fairly large number of people out every week and great instructors. I also really like how many new faces I’m seeing lately, both at classes and at dances!

    Improvements for the Toronto scene for me would include:
    -more Lindy Bombing – what a great idea! It would be fantastic for us Lindy Hoppers to get out to public events and get more people interested. It’s something I’d definitely sign up for.
    -dealing with the creeps…as a female and one of the younger dancers out there, there are definitely a few guys that zap the fun out dancing by being inappropriate (I’m sure there are women too..but I haven’t danced with them.) Not to be harsh, but personally, I’d like to see them gone altogether (there’s really only 2 people I can think of to go so far with.) If it were my first time out dancing and I ran into these people on the floor, I’d seriously consider ever returning.
    -I’d like to see more of a bridge between the UT dancers and the rest of Toronto’s dancers. I tried a few UT events in the past and kind of felt like an outsider and haven’t since returned (albeit, that was a few years ago and maybe it’s a more inclusive bunch of people now.) It would be great if we could get more young people out dancing!

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