Attending the 2014 USA Dance Chapter Conference

I have received some inquiries from several chapter officials wanting my opinion on whether it is worth their while to attend the 2014 USA Dance Chapter Conference, which will be held in Irvine, CA on March 6-9, 2014.  My response is that it is extremely worth while.  The annual Chapter Conference brings together officials from chapters all over the country where they can obtain useful information on growing their chapter, retaining members and volunteers and learning new techniques to improve their chapter over-all, in an environment meant to facilitate friendly interaction interspersed with lots of social dancing.

This year’s Chapter Conference will have some new elements because several of the past key presenters will not be there.  Chapter officials will not see the previous corporate officers Esther Freeman and Bill Rose, nor have the opportunity to attend their popular sessions because they have left office and will not be in attendance.  But chapter officials will get to hear from their replacements and begin to evaluate whether this new team is living up to their campaign promises.

In reviewing the list of topics and presenters this year, my recommendation is to make a special effort to attend the sessions presented by Stan Andrews and Angela Prince.    Attendees should also plan to schedule some time with Ben Moseley, who will be there throughout the conference in order to discuss the Website and Marketing Promotion Program for chapters.  I have attended presentations by these individuals on several occasions in the past and can attest to their high quality.

I have always believed that it is important when inviting presenters to identify those who can best engage the attendees as well as provide them with accurate information in a clear fashion.  It is also extremely important for the integrity of USA Dance that presenters who are also members of the organization be upstanding individuals who understand and support USA Dance’s role as a National Governing Body of DanceSport first and foremost, and the key activities provided by social dancers in support of that mission.  Individuals who do not meet these high standards should be screened out as presenters.

I note that there is no presentation this year regarding USA Dance’s K-12 program, which has as a key element the role that chapters can play in expanding dance opportunities in the schools.  This is an omission that needs to be corrected for next year’s conference, because the encouragement of dancing in the schools is part of USA Dance’s mission and fully aligns with the educational activities of the organization.*

This year’s conference hosts will be the Orange County, Los Angeles and Inland Chapters.  These host chapters have wonderful volunteers and I am sure they will perform their host functions in the gracious manner for which they are known, particularly in welcoming the many chapter officials from around the country to Southern California and ensuring that they have an excellent conference experience and many enjoyable dance activities during their stay.  So chapter leaders should go and enjoy the conference, and take away some useful information as well.

The link to the Chapter Conference site is:

*January 31, 2014 Update Regarding K-12 Program:  I have been informed that a K-12 presentation has been added to the Chapter Conference, although it has not yet appeared on the published schedule.  Attendees should make a point to attend this presentation and pick up the literature that will be available in order to assist chapters to start their own K-12 Student Program.

Olympic Day 2014

USA Dance is a member of the Multisport Organizations Council of the USOC, and as such, helps promote Olympic Day celebrations and their message of physical fitness for people of all ages.  This is a natural fit for USA Dance, and what better way than dancing to promote physical fitness!

Olympic Day is celebrated on or around June 23rd of each year.   The USOC provides informational materials and a template to all who sign up to host an Olympic Day celebration.  In past years USA Dance chapters have organized successful Olympic Day events at shopping malls that have included presentations by Olympians and dance demonstrations by chapter members.  Chapters have also held Olympic-themed social dances.  Anyone interested in hosting an Olympic Day event in their community should visit the following site for further information.

Artistry, Sport or Both?

A New Year and new challenges await us all.  I’ll start off by discussing a concern I’ve had for a while now.  I am hearing a lot of talk these days from supporters of the World Dance Council (WDC) to the effect that those who choose to participate in WDC competitions are the “true artists”, while the World DanceSport Federation’s (WDSF) emphasis on dance as a “sport” places the artistic element in a subservient position.  I find this argument to be without merit, and any coaches who push their students to go the WDC route exclusively are doing those students a great disservice as well as revealing a bias that harms the development of DanceSport over-all.

Anyone who has seen a recent WDSF competitive event in either live or broadcast form knows that artistry is not only alive and well in DanceSport, but that those athletes who choose to compete in WDSF events are continually coming up with new and artistically inventive choreographic elements as well as pushing the envelope in terms of the strength, agility and stamina needed to compete at the world class level in WDSF competitions.

DanceSport is not something that is frozen in time, but is a continually evolving artistic and athletic endeavor.  Nor do DanceSport athletes who compete in WDSF events have to contend with the same couples winning all the major events year after year after year.  This is because the much larger pool of competitors that can be found in WDSF competitions than in the WDC means that all of them are constantly having to push themselves artistically and athletically in order to get ahead of the pack.

And in the WDSF, judges are required to continue taking adjudicator congresses in order to refresh their judging skills and become aware of new and developing trends in DanceSport.  The WDSF presently has within it over 90 participating countries, and because WDSF judges come from such a large variety of countries, their perspectives are more varied and they bring these perspectives to their judging assignments.

Also in the WDSF, the judging system is always under review and development as it should be and as it is in many sports, in an effort to make it fairer for competitors and more understandable for the general public.  This is part of the WDSF’s goal to bring DanceSport ever closer to becoming an Olympic Sport.  DanceSport is already accepted into the IOC-affiliated Games on several continents as well as the World Games; and the Pan American Games are on the horizon.

This evolutionary track on which the WDSF has placed competitive dance is good for athletes, officials and organizers as it will ultimately attract a growing fan and spectator base that will enjoy and appreciate the artistry and athleticism that is DanceSport.