by Loui Tucker

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This article first appeared in the July 2001 issue of Let's Dance! magazine.


"The only way to have a friend is to be a friend"
Ralph Waldo Emerson

        I have visited a fair number of dance classes and clubs in the Bay Area in my first year as president. I would like to visit more, but I teach two classes a week and, well, strange as it may seem, there are other things I like to do besides dance.
        I have tried to encourage dancers I meet to visit other dance classes, and attend dance workshops and other events outside of their immediate area. And I have heard a lot of different excuses why people don't:

        It's that last comment that I heard recently that got me thinking. I heard it in conjunction with a planned dance workshop and one of the people involved with the workshop was lamenting the fact that, despite extensive advertising, dancers rarely came to workshops they sponsor from outside the immediate geographic area. When I asked, "Well, did you go to the Blah-De-Blah Festival?" that's when I got that last response.
        In contrast, I attended another local party and noticed Dancer A, someone I knew had traveled well over an hour, was on the dance floor. When I asked, "Gee, I'm surprised you came all this way!," I got the response, "Well, Dancer B (who was hosting this dance event) has been driving over to dance with us lately, so I thought I'd return the favor."
        Which brings me to my point: if we want other dancers to visit our clubs and classes, if we want people from outside of our immediate area to attend our workshops and events, if we expect others to make the effort and get in their cars and travel, then perhaps the first big step is to get it our own cars and travel to their events.
         You all know people who say they never get together with family members. "Oh, my brother and I - we've never been close." "I haven't had contact with my father in years." We dancers are becoming like a dysfunctional family that gathers only for weddings and funerals but don't have much to do with each other besides that. And that makes me very sad.
         Here's the prescription for better "family" relationships. Get some of your dancing friends together and plan a Road Trip. Make it a big deal and include dinner. If the event is on a Friday or Saturday, consider booking a local motel/hotel if you don't want to drive home late at night. While you're there, make a point to invite the local dancers to visit you. You know what a nice surprise it is to have some unexpected guest come to your local group. Be that same surprise for some other group!
         These Road Trips don't have to be every week, or even every month – just a couple of Out-Of-Local-Area trips a year can make a difference for all concerned. They say "what goes around, comes around." If we reach out to other dancers FIRST, rather than expecting them to make the first move, I believe we will all benefit.


Other tips:
Get a group together to share the fun and the cost of the gas. Save on overnight housing: use the Federation's yahoo group to connect with dancers who live where you're going who might offer you their guest room for the night.

The details are sketchy. A dance class got started about a year ago. Their teacher met some another dance teacher at a workshop and discovered she had a group that had been dancing together for about two years and was about an hour away. The two teachers found they had a lot in common and quickly developed a camaraderie. They also found that their repertoires were very similar.

Neither of them thought they could convince their local dancers to travel an hour or more to dance at another location. Would they drive 30 minutes? Probably. The two teachers found a dance hall that was roughly half way between them and organized their first joint event. They called it The Dance Exchange.

Each group selected two favorite dances. During the evening they danced the many dances they had in common but scheduled time to teach each other the two dances that had been chosen. They all loved dancing with a larger group of dancers, they learned two new dances, and they made some new friends, One of the participants commented that her sister lived in the other community and now, knowing that a dance group met there, she planned to visit more often and would make sure her visit included a night or two when the local class met. Another saw a visit to the other community as an opportunity to possibly expand his business, and he'd be able to dance there too!

The two groups plan to repeat their Dance Exchange a few times a year and hope to find other local groups willing to join in the fun.