Taking USA Dance into the Next Half Century?

Perhaps some of you have seen the list of promises the individuals who are running to unseat me, Bill Rose and Esther Freeman and take over USA Dance have made if they are elected, and which they say will take USA Dance into the next half century.  Let’s take a closer look at these promises and determine if there is something new here or if it is already being done by the current national volunteers.

1.  “Reinvigorate charitable mission of USA Dance to increase fundraising potential.”  Actually, USA Dance has been engaged in fundraising on a continuous basis, and such sponsorships as we have had with Sworovski Elements and the Borel Watch Company are but two examples.  We also periodically conduct fundraising campaigns via our own members.  “Reinvigorate” is a fine word, but the team that wants to take over the USA Dance corporate officer positions seems to be short on specifics.

2. “Engage in strategic planning to redefine USA Dance mission and vision.”  Why exactly does the “takeover team” believe USA Dance needs to redefine its mission and vision?  The USA Dance mission is to improve the quality and quantity of ballroom dancing in the U.S.  USA Dance has been doing so locally through the work of its chapters in their efforts to promote dancing in local communities, and nationally by increasing the number and quality of DanceSport competitions.  Most recently USA Dance has successfully worked with the WDSF to bring those international competitions back to America, and in fact to make them part of a new Pan American circuit.  “Strategic planning” is another excellent word which simply means defining an organization’s direction and how it will get there.  This is an on-going process for USA Dance, not something new that the “takeover team” has just come up with.

3.  “Review and revise the bylaws for better, more democratic governance.”  The bylaws are reviewed on a regular basis and amended as required.  This year they are also being brought to the membership for approval, which most certainly is a part of democratic governance.  It would seem that the very thing the “takeover team” wants to do is already being done.

4.  “Employ  modern technology to facilitate operations and improve the flow of communication with chapters and members.”  USA Dance communicates with its members via the American Dancer Magazine and frequent notices to chapters and members via Constant Contact.  USA Dance has developed an upgraded national website and has provided a means for chapters to improve their websites as well to help drive members of the community to USA Dance events.  USA Dance also maintains an active presence on Facebook and Youtube, and this year employed live streaming of its National Championships, allowing not only its members but all members of the public in this country and around the world to see this event live.  Additionally, USA Dance has employed an upgraded membership system which has a social media component that can be used by individuals and chapters to connect with one another.  All of this is being done under the current Governing Council.

5.  “Continue chapter conference and explore ways to provide training and sharing of knowledge and best practices beyond the conference.”  It is gratifying to know that the “takeover team” finds value in the chapter conference, but I wonder why the challenger running for National President has never attended a chapter conference himself?  In fact, the chapter conferences have been running for a number of years.  The current GC works to upgrade the conference every year and provides opportunities for an increasing number of chapters to participate.

6.  “Collaborate with regional and chapter leaders to continue and expand efforts to promote physical, social and health benefits of social dancing.”  Again, this is being done in USA Dance already.  Most recently, we have encouraged chapters to tie their promotional dance activities into the annual Olympic Day celebration, which promotes physical fitness throughout a person’s life.  By tying in to the larger Olympic Movement, USA Dance can better promote its own activities to an ever increasing audience.  Additionally, USA Dance continues its work to expand ballroom dancing into the schools via its K-12 Student Program.

7.  “Support research and education initiatives on health benefits of ballroom dancing as a social and competitive activity.”  This is certainly a noble effort, but the truth is that it is an on-going activity engaged in by a world-wide dance community, not just USA Dance.  The “takeover team” again seems to lack specificity in its goal.  How will research and education initiatives be supported?  With USA Dance funds, with volunteer time?  How will this be accomplished?

8.  “Continue USOC training camps for junior DanceSport athletes while exploring ways to expand or replicate concept to include other DanceSport athletes.”  I usually prefer giving credit to others when a new initiative is started, but in this case I must say that the USOC Olympic Training Camp for our Junior World Team athletes would never have come into being had I not advocated for it and recommended it to the Governing Council and initiated discussions with the USOC to make the first Camp this year a reality.  This is probably the program of which I am most proud in my four years as National President of USA Dance.  Discussions are already occurring regarding future Olympic camps, including available mechanisms for expanding them.  While I appreciate the “takeover team” wanting to continue this effort should they succeed in defeating the current corporate officers, the fact remains that the individuals who know how to organize this camp and have established an excellent relationship with the USOC are already in office.

9.  “Build collegiate program to make it a more vibrant and integral part of USA Dance, such as by creating a national circuit of collegiate competitions that culminate in the National Collegiate Championships.”  Nothing has precluded the individual on the “takeover team” who presently serves as the collegiate competition chair on the DanceSport Council and previously served on the GC for a number of years as the Vice President of the Youth College Network from accomplishing this activity, as he has had plenty of time to meet  this goal.  Unfortunately, little if any progress has been made, although many ideas were floated, never to materialize.

So what do we have with this 9-point plan?  It seems there are a lot of promises to do what the current members of the Governing Council are already doing.  Is this why the “takeover team” is running for office – to replace current corporate officers just so that they can do the same thing?  It would seem to me that our membership would be better off keeping the same national officers in place who are doing the necessary work already.

Our members need to decide this important issue, and I encourage all voting members to vote to retain the incumbents.

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