We have learned this morning that Peter Pover, National Past President of USA Dance has just passed away. Peter served as President of USA Dance no less than three times – in late 1980 to early 1990, in 2008-2009, and again in 2016. He was one of the pivotal voices in USA Dance, also serving as First Vice President and President of the WDSF (IDSF) where he played a key role in earning IOC and USOC recognition for DanceSport. I am sure there will be many tributes for Peter to come as he was a larger than life figure in the world of dance and DanceSport. I greatly respected Peter and was privileged to call him a friend. His intelligence, knowledge and sound advice will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
There is a national election coming up in USA Dance this fall, but two national past presidents, Ken Richards and Esther Freeman have been denied a place on the ballot because they have refused to sign a questionable confidentiality agreement upon the advice of their respective attorneys. They have, however, signed modified confidentiality agreements with their attorneys’ approval. Apparently this isn’t good enough, and both have been informed by the Chair of the National Nominations and Elections Committee that their names will not appear on the ballot. In the case of Esther Freeman, over 100 current members have signed a petition of support for Esther’s candidacy, but this too is being ignored by USA Dance.
Setting aside why anyone should sign a confidentiality agreement prior to even being elected, there is this over-riding question: Is the USA Dance Governing Council attempting to keep eminently qualified candidates off the ballot so that incumbents will win in an uncontested election?
You will find no discussion of this issue on any official USA Dance, Inc. Facebook page, but an independent Facebook page that hundreds have joined is discussing this and other USA Dance actions. So if you want an unadulterated look at the issues that are of concern to a growing number of dancers, go to:
Since the 1980’s the USA Dance bylaws have stated that chapter officials have the right to participate in Governing Council meetings, and with the chair’s approval, may speak during the meeting. Also under the bylaws national past presidents have the right to attend and participate in GC meetings as well. In most years there were at least several of the above individuals participating in the meetings and taking part in the discussions,
This changed in January of 2017, when the newly-elected National President, Glenn Weiss decided not to follow the language in the bylaws, effectively removing the rights of chapter officials and national past presidents to attend and participate in GC meetings. Several months later the GC voted to amend the bylaws, removing the long-standing right of attendance and participation without notice or input from the 150 USA Dance chapters, the national past presidents or a vote of the membership.
When a notice was recently sent to USA Dance chapters and national past presidents informing them of an upcoming face-to-face GC meeting that would occur on a Friday through Sunday, rather than being invited to attend the entire three-day meeting, invitations were only issued to a small informational portion of the meeting taking place on one of the three days. No invitations were issued to the business portions of the GC meeting, which would be conducted behind closed doors.
USA Dance is a National Sport Organization recognized by the USOC, and is required to conduct its business in a transparent fashion. While closed sessions may be in order for those parts of a meeting that deal with either employee matters or matters of litigation, all other parts of a GC meeting as well as any votes taken should be done in open session.
Under current leadership, USA Dance is heading down a road of secrecy, non-adherence to existing bylaws, and major revision of said bylaws without input or approval of the membership. While other dance organizations may behave in this way, USA Dance must hold to a higher standard mandated by the U.S. Amateur Sports Act and the USOC Constitution.
In the last few months no less than five national officials elected by the membership have resigned from the Governing Council because they were not in agreement with the direction in which Mr. Weiss was taking the organization. Surely it is time to reconsider that direction and chart a new course where transparency, adherence to bylaws, and respect for members’ right of participation become the order of the day.
Several years ago I wrote on this site that the Governing Council of USA Dance was heavily weighted toward the East Coast, with little representation from the Western U.S. Now things are reversed. At this time there are no less than five Governing Council members from Southern California: President, Vice President of DanceSport, Vice President of the Professional Division, Director of Membership and Director of K-12 Student Programs. These five individuals constitute close to a third of the voting members of the Governing Council.
Yet USA Dance is a national organization, with the majority of members residing in the New York/Boston corridor and in such member-rich states as Florida, with somewhat smaller, but still significant numbers in the middle of the country. While efforts are made to expand USA Dance in the Western U.S. (which is certainly a laudable goal), it is important not to forget that the other parts of the country need significant representation on the Governing Council too.
As of today there are four vacancies: Senior Vice President, Secretary, Vice President of Social Dance and DanceSport Delegate. This in itself is troubling as I have never in my more than 30 years of membership in USA Dance seen such a turnover of elected positions at the top of the organization within a period of just several weeks.
However, that will be the topic of another post. Regardless of how that issue is resolved, it is important that these vacancies be filled with individuals that come from other parts of the country, as Southern California is overly represented on the Governing Council already and this gives the impression that the National President has little support outside his home base.
I returned yesterday from the USOC Olympic and Paralympic Assembly held in Colorado Springs. It was nice to be back after a two year hiatus and to reconnect with old colleagues and make new connections with members of the Multi Sport Organizations Council, Olympians and USOC officials. This was especially helpful to me in my role as a member of the WDSF Sport for All Commission.
From 2007 through 2013 it was my honor to attend the annual Assembly as the official USA Dance representative. This year that honor fell to USA Dance President, Ken Richards, and I attended at Ken’s request in order to provide continuity and offer historical perspective in meetings we had with USOC officials on continuing issues and on-going initiatives.
It is always a humbling experience to attend the USOC Assembly and to be reminded of the USOC’s outstanding efforts in supporting the thousands of superlative athletes that represent the U.S. at the Olympic and Pan American Games. But that support does not only come during an Olympic year, but every year, in the form of training opportunities at the USOC Training Centers, financial support to each National Governing Body of sports in the Olympic and Pan American Games, and the resources offered in the fields of sports medicine, nutrition, injury prevention, sport performance and sport psychology. Because the U.S. government does not provide financial support to the USOC, all of its resources come from sponsors and donors who make generous contributions on behalf of Team USA, as well as from television contracts and royalties that allow for the world-wide viewing of Olympic and Paralympic events.
At this year’s Assembly the emphasis of course was on the recently completed Games in Rio, and the outstanding performances of Team USA. At the Awards banquet, with Master of Ceremonies Lewis Johnson of NBC which capped the Assembly, inspiring videos were shown of the top performances, and awards were also made in a variety of areas both on and off the field of play. For instance, USA Synchro Swimming received an award for the biggest growth this year among NGB’s in the field of Diversity and Inclusion.
Of particular interest to USA Dance this year was the opportunity for greater interaction with the NGB’s of Olympic program and Pan American sports. The Recognized Sport Organizations on the Multi Sport Council, including USA Dance, were also brought together as a group to meet with USOC officials in order to be able to discuss areas of common interest in our various organizations. At this time the Recognized Sport Organizations on the Multi Sport Council are: US Polo Association, USA Football, Orienteering USA, USA Dance, USA Ultimate, and the Underwater Society of America. This group of sports will have future opportunities to meet together via on-line exchanges, conference calls and at the next Assembly in order to form a closer alliance.
While USA Dance, as the USOC-recognized NGB of DanceSport is not yet a Pan American sport, we continue to move forward in that effort. Attending the annual USOC Assembly allows for the closer forging of bonds between USA Dance and the other sports recognized by the USOC. This building of an ever-stronger relationship pays dividends for USA Dance and its athletes in the form of opportunities to access the many services that the USOC provides, and allows for the continuing evolutionary development of USA Dance as a stronger and more effective National Governing Body.
The USA Dance national election season is upon us. At this time the nomination process has not yet closed so we do not yet know who will officially be on the ballot. Therefore, the following comments are being made for general purposes only, and should not be construed as being for or against any particular candidate. All candidates who wish to volunteer their services in order to make USA Dance a better organization are to be commended.
It is safe to assume that this will be a contested election with many people running for office. Here are some suggestions that may be helpful to USA Dance members as they consider which candidates they wish to vote for and begin to evaluate each candidate’s fitness for office.
- First of all, campaign promises are cheap, but those who make big promises can rarely keep them. The members of USA Dance should be wary of any candidate who promises too much.
- USA Dance is a volunteer-driven organization. People volunteer because they want to help the organization. But there are those who may want to use USA Dance to further their careers. Members should be skeptical of a candidate whenever they suspect that such motives are in play.
- Members should also be skeptical whenever a group of candidates attempts a take-over of all the officer positions as happened in the last election. Such ploys rarely end well. In the case of the Vote United We Dance team that won the election in 2013, the candidates consisted of individuals who had little or no experience on the Governing Council of USA Dance or the necessary institutional knowledge of the national organization. Yet these individuals thought that they could simply take over our complex national organization and run things better than their predecessors who had significant experience at all levels of the organization. This did not work, and in under two years all were gone, and the Governing Council called in Past National Presidents to serve in interim positions or perform necessary assignments in order to help get the organization back on track. The other problem with a take-over team is that the members of such a team have all too frequently not properly vetted each other. They are running as a team simply to have a better chance at unseating incumbents, and may not even know each other well or have experience working together enough to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. So USA Dance members should be wary of coalitions that form in order to “get rid” of incumbents.
What Happens when Only Few Members Vote: During the last election the incumbents warned the membership of the pitfalls of electing an inexperienced team to take the helm of USA Dance. But the Vote United We Dance team was able to convince 700 out of the organization’s 14,000 members that they could do a better job. They were elected because so many other members decided that voting was too much of an effort, they hadn’t bothered to educate themselves on the election and the candidates’ backgrounds, or they simply did not care enough to cast a ballot.
Now I don’t want readers to misconstrue my comments. I am not saying that incumbents are always better than challengers. Clearly any organization needs a certain amount of turnover in order to stay healthy and bring in fresh ideas and a different perspective. All candidates who are running because they see a way that their skills can help USA Dance are to be commended, and it is the duty of the members of USA Dance to determine which candidates are running for office to help the organization rather than enhance their own careers.
But because so few members vote in USA Dance national elections, it is relatively easy for a takeover team to do just that – take over. The only way to stop such future attempts by inexperienced individuals or individuals who do not have USA Dance’s best interests at heart is for members to vote.
Final Comments: During a national USA Dance election, members should read all candidates’ statements carefully to determine their breadth of experience in the organization, especially at the national level. If members are not sure of a candidate’s motivations in running for office, they should ask the candidate specific questions on the Candidate Forum and evaluate the responses with a critical eye toward any obfuscation. And then members should take the time to vote, because they hold the key to whether or not qualified people are elected to national office. By voting, members do their share to ensure that experienced individuals are at the helm of USA Dance so that the difficulties experienced by the organization in 2014 and 2015 are not repeated.
The USOC has just released its final report on Olympic Day 2015. This year’s celebrations were the biggest yet, with 1,820 Olympic Day events reaching 630,000 Americans around the country. Four of those events were held by USA Dance chapters. The full USOC report may be found at: https://olympicday.fusesport.com/_uploads/res/2245_8582.PDF
From time to time I visit a variety of internet DanceSport sites. There is presently a debate taking place on some of these sites regarding whether or not international and national organizations may restrict athletes and officials from full participation in the events of their choice.
In the U.S. participation in sport by athletes as well as officials, including judges, is protected by the U.S. Amateur Sports Act. This is the piece of legislation that created the USOC and established the rules under which the USOC operates. Under those rules American athletes and officials must have the right to full participation in the athletic events of their choice, and USA Dance, as the National Governing Body of DanceSport recognized by the USOC, must adhere to those rules.
However, the USOC is not empowered to direct the actions of the sport organizations of other nations, nor is the IOC empowered to mandate that individual nations change their laws to conform to IOC standards. Conseqently, while American athletes and officials enjoy full rights to participate in sport, other nations may choose to abridge the rights of athletes and officials in a manner that is allowed under those nations’ laws.
For this reason, the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF), which is the international body recognized by the IOC to oversee DanceSport world-wide, leaves to each member federation the right to manage DanceSport according to the laws of that member’s nation. In fact, the WDSF can do nothing else but that, since it, just like the IOC, cannot mandate that individual countries change their laws to suit the WDSF.
Unfortunately, there are some misguided individuals in the dance community who do not understand this point, but continue to argue that the USOC, IOC, USA Dance and WDSF police the entire DanceSport world and make it one where all dancers the world over have complete freedom to participate in all DanceSport events. This is entirely unrealistic.
These same misguided individuals, while demanding full freedom for athletes, are quite happy to deny that same freedom to officials, including judges, and argue that judges, but not athletes, must adhere to whatever rules are in place in their national organization. The fact is that there may be some restrictions placed on the participation of athletes as well as officials based on their nation and its laws.
As stated previously, in America both athletes and officials have freedom to participate in the athletic events of their choice under the U.S. Amateur Sports Act. USA Dance adheres to the provisions of this Act. Unfortunately some other dance organizations in America do not, and limit judges from judging events organized by USA Dance and the WDSF contrary to the U.S. Amateur Sports Act. This is problematic and should be investigated.
USA Dance is supposed to be a national organization, representing and serving DanceSport athletes in all regions of the country. But during the last few years representation for athletes in the Western United States has disappeared.
The DanceSport Council has no DanceSport Delegates from the Western U.S. at all, nor any committee chair positions filled by athletes from western states. While a quarter of all athletes in the country are from California alone, there are no voting representatives from California or any other western state on the DSC whatsoever, while the East Coast, the Midwest and the South all have representation which meets or exceeds the percentage of athlete members residing in those regions of the country. It appears that USA Dance simply has given up representing athletes west of the Mississippi.
And this lack of regional representation is reflected in the recent policies promulgated by the DSC, which not only ignore Western U.S. concerns but even at times appear hostile to them.
For example, most American WDSF and USA Dance-registered judges live on the East Coast, yet the DSC mandates that National Qualifying Events (NQE’s) in the west have as many WDSF judges as those back east, being seemingly oblivious to the additional cost to organizers of flying these judges across the country. To make matters worse, rather than expediting the registration of new USA Dance judges in the West, the DSC person responsible for judge certification throws up roadblocks, requiring judges to submit their original credentials for this person’s review when the judges’ own examining organizations have already certified their credentials and their levels of certification, making this information publically available.
Too often it appears these days that the DSC fabricates rules without giving proper thought to the negative impact they will have on organizers, especially in the West. Such rules are often finalized and implemented without even a prior review and comment period for discussion with organizers or consideration of their legitimate concerns. While the Vice President of DanceSport has repeatedly encouraged DSC members to take these regional issues seriously, they appear to be ignoring his advice just as they have been ignoring the concerns which West Coast organizers have been bringing to them. Is it any wonder that while there used to be three NQE’s on the West Coast now there is only one? The reality is that staging competitions that meet all of the DSC’s growing list of mandates is simply becoming too expensive for West Coast organizers.
Most NQE’s are organized by USA Dance chapters on a non-profit volunteer basis, and these USA Dance chapters are forced to pay a hefty sanction fee to the DSC for the privilege of hosting a sanctioned event. The initial justification for that sanction fee was to cover the cost of the DSC sending an official to monitor each competition. Starting this year however, USA Dance chapter organizers must now assume the full travel and lodging cost of bringing an official of the DSC’s choice to the NQE, yet sanction fees have not been reduced accordingly. This is especially burdensome for the West Coast as there are no longer any DSC officials in the Western U.S. and therefore officials must be flown across the country at the USA Dance chapter’s expense.
Article VII B. 2. of the USA Dance bylaws states that there shall be four DanceSport Delegates and that they shall be “drawn from different areas of the country to the extent possible”. Two of the four Delegates presently reside in the New York area, with the other two coming from Florida and Indiana. Due to a recent resignation by one of the East Coast DanceSport Delegates, an opportunity existed to appoint a Delegate from the West Coast, yet this opportunity was ignored and another Delegate from the East Coast was appointed instead. The proper action in my opinion would have been to first make a public announcement to all athlete members that a Delegate position was open and that all qualified athletes, especially those in the Western U.S. were invited to apply. Then, if no qualified Western U.S. athletes came forward, an appointment of another East Coast Delegate would have been appropriate. But to my knowledge no such outreach took place.
While the DSC states that it is sensitive to Western U.S. concerns, this has not been evident by its actions, resulting in western athletes beginning to question the value of a USA Dance membership. This is a particularly serious problem for syllabus dancers who do not generally travel to East Coast NQE’s or to the USA Dance National Championships that are also held on the East Coast. With only one NQE remaining on the West Coast, the value of a USA Dance membership is shrinking rapidly for these dancers.
The situation is not much better on the Governing Council either. While the GC is supposed to represent the membership as a whole, the farthest west that any current GC member resides is in the South Central U.S., and the GC has become a body heavily dominated by East Coast concerns. The current geographic representation on the GC stands as follows:
Eastern U.S.: 12 GC Members
Central U.S.: 3 GC Members
Western U.S.: 0 GC Members
The only national council within USA Dance where true regional representation remains is the Social Dance Council, where area representatives are selected by geographic districts, thereby guaranteeing that the western region of the country has two representatives.
Geographic representation used to be the norm on all three national councils, where Regional Vice Presidents were elected by their regions to sit on the GC, and DanceSport Delegates were elected by the athletes in their regions to sit on the DSC and GC in order to insure athlete representation on these bodies.
USA Dance reorganized itself some years ago in order to go to what was perceived at the time as a more efficient structure of appointed national directors with specific duties for individual programs such as development, K-12 or college programs, rather than elected generalist Regional Vice Presidents. At that same time DanceSport Delegates began to be elected by athletes nationally rather than by athletes in each specific region. While there is no question that some benefits derived from this new structure, it has degenerated into a system that now largely ignores the Western U.S.
If USA Dance is to remain a viable national organization, consideration must be given to reinstituting a system that guarantees at least some minimum amount of representation from important geographic regions such as the Western U.S. on both the DanceSport Council and the Governing Council. Without representation, Western U.S. membership numbers, especially among athletes will slide further as these dancers see the reduction of USA Dance competitions in their area and view the national organization growing ever more remote and out of touch with their day-to-day dance concerns.
USA Dance will again be celebrating Olympic Day this year. So far four USA Dance chapters have registered with the USOC to host events – the Nor Cal and Orange County chapters in California, the Bremerton chapter in Washington state and the Orlando chapter in Florida. There is still time to register an event. Just go to: https://olympicday.fusesport.com/registration/205/May2/ and follow the instructions.
USA Dance chapters will be holding events at shopping malls and other facilities where the public will get a chance to see and experience the healthful benefits of ballroom dancing as a recreational activity and competitive sport. Chapters will also be celebrating USA Dance’s close relationship with the USOC and the Olympic Movement by welcoming Olympians to the events. So join in the fun by registering your event today.