academie: Fwd: Re: dance scheduling at events (fwd)

Edvard Gayer scavard at
Wed Oct 4 06:54:44 PDT 2000

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 24 Feb 1999 15:44:57 EST
From: Vanessa Layne <dagoura at MIT.EDU>
To: sca-dance at
Subject: Re: dance scheduling at events

Mara writes much wonderful stuff, regarding dancer-autocrat

I would throw in a few random comments:

First, I cannot express in mere words the utility I have gotten from a
particular puisant metaphor: comparing dance to fighting.

When I'm trying to communicate with an autocrat who Is Just Not
Getting It, I have found that comparing dancing to fighting gives
them a grasp of the situation:

    * You wouldn't promise fighting at your event (i.e. in the event
announcement) without making sure there would be at least marshals
there.  The marshals are people who make it happen.  People who make
dance happen are called dancemasters, and if you're gonna promise
dance at your event, you should probably make a point of finding at
least one and getting them committed to making dance happen at your

    * If you not only promised fighting, but wanted a whole big
tourney, you would get yourself a minister of lists, waterbearers,
maybe some heralds, a chirurgeon, etc.  If you want a whole Ball, then
you need other people: a band to play, waterbearers, maybe some
heralds, a chirurgeon, etc...

    * Just as fighters are much more likely to travel when an event
announcement had lots of information about the plans for the tourney
and it sounds really cool, so dancers are much more likely to travel
when an event announcement had lots of information about the plans for
the ball and it sounds really cool.  If an announcement says "there
will be room outside if anyone wants to fight", fighters will not go
out of their way to show up at your event and fight.  Similarly, if an
announcement says "there will be a room for dancing", dancers will not
go out of their way to show up at your event and dance -- especially
if your event is head-to-head with an event with better
planned/promoted dance.

    * An annual event which has lousy accomodations for fighting will
find that the fighters stop showing up, especially if a competing
event offers better accomodations.  There are groups in the East which
are notorious for putting "there will be dancing" in their event
announcements, and then failing to arrange for dancemasters or music
to be there, or putting the dance in the same hall as a competing
activity, e.g. an on-going auction (really truly).  These
events/groups tend not to get repeat dancers.

    * Fighters need a level surface on which to fight which will not
(a) injure them (free of obstructions to trip over) nor (b) get them
into trouble (not have a delicate floor that fighting on will damage).
Similarly, dancers need a....  you can fill this one out yourself.

    * Fighters get grumpy if constantly interrupted, or if them have to
stand around a lot, not-fighting.  Fighters want to fight.  Dancers
get grumpy....

    * Fighters tend to have fighter-groupies, those non-fighters who
like to hang out and watch the fighting and schmooze with fighters.
These people need places to sit and to congregate which neither
obstructs the fighting nor obstructs fire-exits, etc.  This means
fighting takes more space than just the lists.  Similarly, dancers
tend to have....

    * There's a difference between a fighting class/workshop and
fighting.  There's a difference....

    * While the fighters will do their thing pretty much regardless of
the superficial trappings of the list, for spectators, the atmosphere
of an event is enhanced by decoration, pomp and pagentry.  While
dancers will do their...

    * Fighting makes fighters hungry and thirsty.  Dancing...

Secondly, I have run into autocrats who took the attitude that they
were doing dance/dancers/the dancemistress/someone an enourmous favor
by *allowing* dance to happen.  The idea that dance was contributing
to their event either hadn't occurred to them or they had discarded
it.  So they certainly weren't going to support it in any way (say, by
promoting dance in the event announcement, getting a dancemaster in
advance, or >gasp< considering the physical space issues of dance when
searching for a site.)

Generally, we don't play for such gigs.  I've developed a policy which
serves as a filter for those kinds of autocrats: my band now charges
for out-barony gigs.  Autocrats who don't actively want to support
dance don't want to pay for it; they leave us alone.  And we don't
wind up driving 6 hours to play a half hour of music in a stairwell.

We used to play for free. :( We certainly still play for free in our
home group where we generally don't have this problem (though we seem
to be developing it in one of the local cantons >sigh<).

Third: I learned an important lesson doing Mara's Birthday Revel at
KWAS (which I will do a write up of my own for someday RSN):
communicating a New Idea takes truly voluminous communications.  I
seriously underestimated just how much explanation I had to do.  I
wound up having to write pages upon pages upon pages of email to try
to evoke for my volunteers my vision, so they would understand what I
was asking of them, I had to talk with people at very great length,
with lots and lots of description, heaps of adjectives, imaginary
narratives, word painting, etc.  Getting my idea into other people's
heads was *work*!

Since them I have seen other people who came up with novel ideas learn
this themselves.  Communicating one's vision is a lot more work than
any of us expected.  The clutch is really sticky on paradigm shifts. :)

And its not just a matter of accuracy of communication, or clarity.
Some of it is just plain volume and repetition.

If one is in an area where dancing is considered a marginal activity,
getting it to be a central activity is very much a matter of a New
Idea.  To change how people conceive of dance would probably involve
much more communication than you might at first presume!

And of course it is more profitable, when dealing with autocrats, to
take the tack "I want to do something new" rather than, "I want to fix
something that's broken". :}

Part of what would be necessary is to make explicitly clear what you
expect/want from the autocrat.  You can go to an autocrat and say "I
want to do this cool thing, blahblahblah..." and the autocrat might
well then blink and say "yeah, sure, go for it" and wander off.  After
the initial pitch has been given (the "What I can do for you/your
event"), the requirements need to be spelled out (the "What I want
from you") such as "If I'm going to do all this, of course, I want
this to be promoted in the event announcements, and for it to be a
main focus of the event and not scheduled against other activities,
and to start on time....".  While it would be nice if when we said "I
want dance to be a major part of this event" for autocrats to say "Oh,
YES, and we'll make special fliers for the ball and feature the name
of the band, and we'll get a dessert board...." (and yes, that *does*
sometimes happen!), not all autocrats will successfully extrapolate all
those things from the word "major".  You do have to spell it out.

And it has to be spelled out *before* the autocrat decides whether or
not to include it in their event.  No autocrat likes to be nailed by
"hidden costs" later on.

-- Tibicen (who really must go write to some autocrats....)
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