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.