In this column I would like to address a question that frequently is asked of the National Officers of USA Dance, and that is to clarify the value of a USA Dance membership to social dance chapters and their members. While competitive members and their chapters understand that USA Dance is the National Governing Body for DanceSport, sanctioning National Qualifying Events and organizing the annual National DanceSport Championships at which top athletes are chosen to represent the U.S. in the World Championships, the benefits of membership for social dance chapters and members appear less clear to some. I would like to address that here.
USA Dance serves multiple functions. Yes, it manages DanceSport activities in the U.S., but it also works to increase the quality and quantity of ballroom dancing for all ages and skill levels. The vehicle for bringing ballroom dancing to communities across America is the local USA Dance chapter, and many of our chapters are made up almost entirely of social dancers for whom ballroom dancing is a recreational activity and not a competitive sport. These chapters, as their primary focus, bring members together to enjoy each other’s company and obtain beneficial physical exercise through regular social dances, dance workshops and special dance events.
All USA Dance members pay annual dues to USA Dance, and the national organization uses these funds to provide services to its members and chapters. These services include help and guidance to individuals in a community who wish to start a USA Dance chapter, assistance through every element of the chapter formation process, and financial support to a newly formed chapter.
The national organization also purchases a liability insurance policy for the entire organization, which covers such activities as chapter dances, workshops, special events and competitions. Certificates of insurance are provided to all chapters that need them. Insurance is an expensive item, and if chapters individually attempted to obtain liability coverage for their events, many would not have the financial resources to be able to do so, but by pooling membership dollars, the national organization is able to purchase a policy covering all its chapters.
In addition to insurance, USA Dance also pays BMI licensing fees so that all chapters may play BMI-licensed music at their dances and other events, and provides a listing of available music for chapters.
USA Dance also maintains a national website, and offers all chapters a chapter website where the chapter can advertise its activities and events and attract new potential members. Upgrades are available for chapters that wish to have a more interactive website. All chapter websites are linked to Access Dance, a nation-wide service that allows individuals around the country to find places to dance and take lessons or attend dance workshops.
Another benefit of membership is the opportunity for chapter officers to attend the annual Chapter Conference, which is held in a different part of the country each year in order to provide easier access to chapters. USA Dance offers financial support to chapter officers wishing to attend the conference but who may not have the financial resources in their chapter treasuries to do so. At the conference, chapter officers have the opportunity to attend workshops on a variety of topics that are geared toward helping them improve their services to their members. Workshops are led by USA Dance national officials, and this allows chapter officials to meet and interact with the Governing Council members of USA Dance. Workshops have covered such topics as chapter financial management, social media opportunities, complaint resolution, and finding and using volunteers effectively. Social activities are also part of the Chapter Conference package, including visits to the dances of nearby chapters.
Last but not least, is the publication of this magazine, the AMERICAN DANCER, which is mailed to members’ homes and which also has articles which members can read on-line on the national website. The AMERICAN DANCER magazine attempts to fill its pages with a variety of articles and information that will be of interest to both social dancers and competitors, reflecting the diversity of interests found within the membership base of USA Dance.
While this is not an exhaustive list of the benefits of a USA Dance membership, I hope it has provided useful information on how USA Dance uses membership dollars to provide services to its members and their chapters.