If You Want To Have Cities, You’ve Got To Build Roads

Let’s talk politics today. We won’t get into the crazy things going on at the national level as all sorts of races heat up heading toward November. Instead, I want to talk about a different election that’s coming up, one that coincidentally will also happen this coming November, and also has a bunch of crazy stuff going on behind the scenes that may make the results interesting.

If you have been a ballroom dancer for a long enough period of time, you have probably heard about the two major ballroom dancing organizations that have footing in this country. Heck, you may even be a member of one (or both) of them. I was a member of both for a long time, but I let the membership of one of them lapse and just couldn’t see a reason to renew it, so at the moment I only remain a member in one of them. Both of these groups combined run the majority of the major ballroom competitions in the country, and require you to join them if you want to compete in any of their events. If you’re a competitor, you probably know exactly which groups I’m talking about… but we’ll leave their names out of the discussion to avoid anyone on their payrolls from looking at this post.

One of these two groups was originally put together as a volunteer-based organization to support dancing, and the people who run the group at the national level are supposed to be elected democratically from among the membership. The next election to choose the leadership at the national level for this organization is supposed to happen this year in November. I’m guessing that the actual process of getting all the members to vote in the election is going to be the same as it was last time this happened, which was a fairly simple online ballot, so there’s no worry about giving all the members a chance to vote during a pandemic. I’m sure there will be a lot of people that don’t like technology that will complain about the lack of paper ballots being available, but that’s not the point of this post, so we’ll avoid that topic.

There have been a lot of discussions that started up recently regarding the elections, and from the sound of things there may be some shifty business going on behind the scenes with the committee that validates the candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring to be placed on the ballot. A number of people have come forth and disclosed that they have submitted their names to be considered for various positions at the national level of this organization, and all of these people have stunning qualifications to prove that they would be suited to take over the role they wanted to be elected to, but for some reason they were not going to be allowed to be on the ballot.

Some of the candidates were informed that they were not going to be eligible, though the person from the committee that told them they would not be on the ballot did not give them a reason why they were rejected even when asked. A couple candidates said that they didn’t even find out from the committee that they were rejected. The names of all the candidates who were going to appear on the ballot were released and a few people who submitted their names were surprised to find that they were not on the list. When they tried to contact someone to see if they could find out why they weren’t listed, they were also not able to get a reason from anyone on the committee. All they received was a confirmation that they weren’t going to be added.

As you can imagine, once the first candidate got angry enough and came forward to let the general membership of the organization know that they had been left off the ballot with no reason given, a number of other candidates stepped forward and did the same. With so many candidates, who all seemed to be good people perfectly capable of filling these roles, reporting that they were rejected with no explanation, a lot of anger was stirred up. Some members were demanding that the committee that was reviewing candidates release all their notes so that their decision-making process was more transparent. Others wanted the committee to be thrown out. A few stopped just short of demanding their heads put up on pikes at the top of the city walls as a warning. So much anger!

The big complaints that showed up over and over again was that this process for choosing which candidates were allowed to be on the ballot was A) not transparent, and B) not democratic. A shadowy sub-organization within the organization was going through and choosing which people they wanted to be on the ballot. There is no complete list of who is in this sub-organization publicly available, so no one really knows how large that committee is or how to get a hold of anyone other than the designated spokesperson to ask questions. Conspiracies about backroom deals and limiting the choices to just a single candidate that the committee preferred to be elected abounded.

Many members who heard the rejected candidates stories were furious that they were not given an opportunity to make the choice themselves. If a person was willing to go through all the effort to fulfill the requirements listed to be considered for addition to the ballot, why not just add their name to the ballot and let the voters decide? Why weed out the candidates at all? Theoretically, if a candidate is truly unfit for office, the membership would vote for someone else to hold that position. That’s how democracy is supposed to work, right? Quite a few people even threatened to cancel or not to renew their membership in the organization because of these shenanigans as well.

I guess that the anger of the vocal members managed to seep through to the current leadership of the organization. After a couple long days since the first disclosure by one of the rejected candidates, the current leadership released a statement that said they were working on writing up a process that would allow the nominees to receive the reasoning behind why they were left off the ballot as a first step. Once that is done, they said they will create a process that will allow any candidates that do not agree with the decisions a way to appeal and seek reconsideration. The deadline for finalizing the list of candidates was also extended to later this month to provide enough time for this all to happen.

Supposedly, once all the candidates have had a chance to get the reasons and possibly appeal them and the ballot list has been finalized, with the candidates approval they will also publish all the documentation regarding the initial decision and any appeal so that all members of the organization who are interested can review everything if they desire. This is the first time that documentation of this nature will ever be released to the public, and it may be interesting to go through to figure out what their line of thinking is when reviewing candidates for the national offices.

Whew. Still with me here?
Did you really think that it was only politics at the national level of our country that were contentious? Dance politics seem to be just as rife with shady things going on as national politics, as you can see. Does this make you excited about voting in November? I mean for this dance election, not for the other election…

Hopefully the world of dance politics quiets down a bit now that this issue was yanked into the light where people could see what is happening. It seems to be working its way toward a resolution at this time. It will be interesting to see if any of the formerly rejected candidates speak up about how the appeal process is working for them, and if it is being handled fairly by the election committee. I wonder how many candidates will actually be on the ballot by the time the election in November rolls around.

We’ll have to see what happens as we keep getting closer to election day.

As a side note before I finish… It has been weird to me to find out that I have actually met a lot of these candidates who are running for these national offices. Some of them I’ve met several times, and I know we would recognize each other if we passed while walking down the street. I’ve met them in the past while I was serving on the Royal Dance Court, or I’ve taken private lessons from them after one competition or another I went to, or I happened to be in the right place at the right time and someone introduced us, etc..

I didn’t really realize how connected I was to the world of dance politics until I saw all these names and could easily put faces to them. I’m not usually good at knowing people’s names unless I’ve met them a few times, so that’s saying something. So weird.

Put Your Helping Hands Together, Rockin’ On For Survival

Not much in the way of dance news crossed my plate this week. Which is sad, because a friend was sending me updates this morning about all the terrible news going on in the world. I stopped paying attention to the news months ago to help keep my sanity, so seeing all kinds of sad or frustrating headlines in such a short period of time is not good for my outlook on life. Having dance-related things to think about would have been a nice distraction from how much it sounds like the world is on fire.

Rather than make some social commentary, I’m going to mention two happier things. Earlier this week, Sparkledancer was all excited to send me a message. You see, she keeps up with what I write here, and she was jealous of all the turtles that I got to meet and help out recently. Well, earlier this week while she was out for a walk in the morning, she got to meet a turtle friend of her own! This one happened to be in the street, like two of the turtles that I helped out, so to be a good friend she helped this turtle get across the street safely:
Look at how much happier it is in the brush!
Then this morning, she sent me another message along the same vein. She was out for a walk again, and noticed a different little guy out in the street. At first she thought it was dead, because it was just laying there, and when she poked it the thing just flipped over onto its back. That made her sad. But then it wiggled a little bit, so she picked it up for closer inspection:
Once it was on her hand for a little while and warmed up a bit, this little lizard became much more active. Hooray! So she helped it find a nice place out in a field of grass far away from the street so that it could stay safe and not have to worry about oncoming traffic. Good job Sparkledancer!

Small animals shouldn’t be in the street. I know that traffic hasn’t picked up completely to the level it was before the virus hit, but there are more cars out on the road than there were even a month ago. Drivers in those cars can’t see these little friends!

OK, I’m done now. Maybe there will be some interesting dance news to discuss next week. Until that time, keep an eye out for friends in the road, and be sure to help any that you see to cross safely. 🙂

Bye, Bye World, Or Will Our Hope Still Hold On?

I’ve gotten a lot of update emails this week from various competitions. Some of them I got updates from because I’ve been to those competitions in the past, a few of them I have no idea why I’m on their mailing lists… I’ve never been to those events, and I don’t know the organizers, plus I’m not the type to sign up for mailing lists, so how they got my email address is a mystery to me. If the emails weren’t vaguely interesting to me because of what I am writing right now, I would have deleted them without even opening, possibly even flagged them as spam, but because of this post I ended up looking at them a little.

The updates I’ve gotten this week are about 50/50 on whether the competitions are still going on. Several events have now confirmed that they are officially cancelling their competition for the rest of the year with the hope that they can come back and run the competition again at their normal dates in 2021. Several more, based on these latest updates, are still planning on holding their competitions later this year. The soonest one that still plans to go forward that I got an update from is a Pro/Am event that is about a month out from today, happening in a state far to the north of where I live. The others still on track to go forward are all planned for September or later.

There are just a few competitions that have said that they still haven’t made a final decision about whether they are still happening in 2020 or not. One of those is a competition in my state that normally happens in October. They sent everyone an email saying that they are waiting until sometime in early August, holding out just in case our governor makes any changes to our reopening plans (those plans have already been changed a few times) before making their final decision, and will let everyone on their mailing list know once that decision is made.

Of course, a couple of the competitions that say they are still planning on happening in 2020 are in states where things are… not looking too good. With their infection rates looking more on the out-of-control side of the equation, who’s to say that any competitors will actually sign up to attend those competitions? It might be an alluring prospect if you already live in that state. I mean, if you’re already there, dancing in the event might not increase your risk of infection all that much, right? But if you live in a state that isn’t so bad, is traveling to a state that is riskier than yours really worth it to dance?

I’m sure some people will go. After all, I know that there is a contingent of people who are long-time members of the dance community around me that are actually traveling out-of-state almost every weekend to go out dancing in a state just to the south of mine. That state still allows dance studios to hold social parties, while my state does not. Dancers willing to go to that length to dance during a pandemic are obviously super serious. If these people were also competitors (they are not), I imagine they would be the type to sign up for a competition as soon as one is available. I feel a mix of admiration for the lengths they are willing to go through to fill their dance needs, and also bewilderment at the fact that they are willing to put their bodies at risk like they are.

Note: Based on the address I could find, the studio they go to that holds these parties is a two-hour drive from my house. That gives you an idea of how much driving there and back on a Friday night is a real commitment to undertake for dancing. Even if you opted to get a hotel that night and drive back on Saturday morning, that’s still a lot of windshield time to go through for a dance party.

One of the more interesting updates that I got from a competition this week was actually from the competition that I had been helping out with earlier this year. Ever since the organizers decided to postpone the event all those months ago, I haven’t heard anything from them. I didn’t expect to, since there isn’t much that I could help with while the event was postponed. Well, they sent out one of the update emails that I got saying that they had decided to cancel the competition for 2020, and hoped to see all the competitors come back when the event returned in 2021. I guess this was my official notification that I don’t have any more volunteer work to worry about for the rest of this year?

What made this notification that the organizers sent out interesting to me was the blurb they put at the end of the notice. Since the competition was so close to actually happening when the initial shutdown orders were issued, we had lots of competitors sign up and pay their fees already when the event had to be shuttered unexpectedly. The initial notice about the postponement that was sent out months ago said that any competitors could ask for a refund if desired, but otherwise the organizers would just hold on to their payments and registration for the time when the competition was rescheduled. At the time when this went out, that sounded like a reasonable thing to do.

Now that the competition is officially cancelled for 2020, the organizers asked in the notice they sent everyone if any of the competitors who have already paid would be willing to donate their entry fees to the competition rather than have them refunded. There were a lot of financial outlays that had been made in the run-up to the original date of the competition, and even though the event had to be shut down due to completely unforeseen circumstances, the organizers were not able to recoup all of those financial outlays. Now they are asking for help to cover those costs. I suspect that some of the competitors will be willing to donate their entry fees to help out, but without knowing how much money the organizers are in the hole, I can’t even begin to estimate whether that will cover the debt they have incurred by having to cancel the competition.

The other thing I just can’t figure out is what they spent money on that they weren’t able to get refunded. I know that when the original postponing happened, they were fairly confident that the terms of the contract with the venues would allow them to cancel because of a pandemic and get a full refund. There were some airline tickets that had to be cancelled for the judges they were planning to fly in for the event, but those should have been able to be refunded as well. Those two items were the major expenses that I know the organizers had already paid into at the time the original postponement occurred.

I can’t really think of what else they had already spent money on that would have been a loss for them. Other things they bought can be kept and used the next time the competition happens, so those shouldn’t be counted as a financial loss. For example, the ribbons and medals for the winners – I know they weren’t planning on getting ribbons or medals with the dates on them, so one of the organizers can just put them in their closet and use them again next time easily enough. If they spent a bunch of money that they are looking for donations to cover, I would be really interested in seeing the expense reports for this event to know what they spent it all on. I doubt I will ever get to, but right now it seems intriguing.

Art!

Anyway, that’s the dance stuff I’ve been thinking about this week. How about you? Anything interesting happening in the world of dance where you live?

I’m Staring At The Asphalt Wondering What’s Buried Underneath

Even though I haven’t gone out to any dance events in what feels like forever ever since the world shut down, I still hear about what is going on with people in the dance community directly and indirectly from various sources. There have been a couple of concerning updates that I have heard this past week from my contacts within the local Royal Dance Court that have really emphasized the point that, even though a lot of studios in the area are starting to open back up and offer dance opportunities again (some in disregard to the continuing lockdown orders in place), it’s still not necessarily safe for people to be going out to dance in large groups.

One dance group that I am a member of that you might also be a member of has various local chapters throughout the country. The district manager of my area, who is the lead person for all the local chapters within this district, was apparently holding regular social dances in defiance of the orders to not have events like that. I guess this person thought they were being safe-ish by flying under the radar, and only allowing up to ten couples to register for the event, and then not allow partner switching during the party. Safe-ish, as I’m sure you know, is not completely safe, but there was a demand for this type of event so this district leader was filling that demand as best they could.

That is, until they contracted the virus…

Lucky for them, they managed to survive, but apparently it laid them out in the hospital for a long time, and now they are going home and still not feeling ready to get back up and about quite yet. Because we are terrible about doing contact tracing in this country, there is no way to know if this person got the virus from all the dance parties they were hosting, or if they transmitted the virus to anyone at those parties during the time between when they were infected and when they had to go to the hospital. I hope someone let all the people that had contact with this person know once they were hospitalized so that they could go get tested themselves.

I’ve met this person, talked with them. In my world, this isn’t a story about a stranger. This is a person whose face I can put with the name. That’s weird to think about, right? This was actually the first confirmed case I know of someone whom I’ve met who has contracted this virus. A dance person was the first in my world.

OK, so that’s one kind of scary story about social dancing during a pandemic that’s pretty close to home for me. Want to hear another one?

There was a lady that used to live in this area who was a regular at dance events. In fact, I used to see her all the time at parties at the Electric Dance Hall, and we’ve danced together quite a bit at those parties. She moved away earlier this year to another state off to the west. This was early on when this whole situation started. I haven’t talked to her since the last dance party we were both at (which I think was New Year’s Eve), but I still occasionally saw things from her on social media on the rare occasions when I would log in there.

She works in a quasi-medical-related field, so when the numbers of people sick in this country started to get out of control, she would post things all the time trying to get people to take care of each other by wearing masks, washing their hands, not going out unless necessary, etc.. You know, all the things that the various agencies who deal with infectious diseases have also been telling everyone to do in order to limit the spread of this virus.

Then she, and also her son, somehow managed to catch the virus. Based on her online posts we all saw, her case made her feel like she wanted to die, but luckily neither her nor her son’s case were bad enough that they had to go to the hospital. They just had the fun opportunity to deal with the misery while at home. They both managed to get through the sickness and come out the other side.

The scary part? As soon as she had met the letter of the recommended time for keeping herself quarantined (which is, as I’ve read, if you can go 72-hours without having a fever while also not taking medication to reduce the fever), she had to get out of the house. And can you guess what she did the very night that she was “released” from her house? Yeah, you’re probably smart enough to see where I’m going with this… she went out to a social dance that very night. The state she moved to did not shut things down as much as other states have, so there was an option for a dance party near where she lived and she went.

Now, supposedly she only danced with two people during that party, and she made sure to wear a mask the whole time and wash her hands a lot, but still… from what I looked up, there has not been enough cases studied to see how long a person can remain contagious after the symptoms of the virus have passed. According to one thing I read, genetic material from the virus is still detectable up to two weeks after the infection has run its course, but they don’t know for sure if the infectious version of the virus is still present or not. So who knows if this was a good choice for her to do or not. Maybe it was fine, but then again maybe those two people she danced with need to go get tested?

This one was even closer to home than the last one. I’ve actually danced with this person, not just met and talked with them. The second confirmed person to be infected in the circle of names that I know also happens to be a dance person. Weird. Either that means that I really only know dance people, or all the non-dance people I know have gotten lucky and have avoided getting sick somehow.

I don’t know if I have a point for telling these stories this week. I’m not telling them to convince anyone to not go out social dancing if that’s what they want to do. Adults can choose what to do with their own lives. These are just the interesting dance-related notes I have this week. Unfortunately, these are interesting in kind of a sad way, because people were sick.

Let’s end things on a lighter note… this is related to what I wrote about last week. I made another friend! This very morning in fact! On my way to work this morning, I turned onto the second street after leaving the one I live on. A couple blocks down from my street, this little friend was just chilling in the road:
Adorable, right?

They were willing to cross the street on their own without needing to be picked up, though I was using my foot to direct them to cross the street in a straight line in an effort to get them across slightly faster. They kept trying to veer off to the right for some reason… silly turtle! Lucky for both of us, only one car went down this road while the turtle was making the trek across and into the brush on the other side, We had managed to get to the opposite shoulder by that time, so the turtle wasn’t in danger of getting hit by the car by then. Hooray!

Are you jealous of all the turtle friends I’ve been making lately?