Sunday, November 25, 2007

No Case for the Showcase

I’m dancing with B and she says, “Are you coming to the showcase next Sunday?” I say, “Yeah, I’m dancing in it.” It’s what L and I have revised our old tango routine for. Everyone involved knows we are in the showcase.

B says, “Maybe.”

I say, “What do you mean ‘maybe’?”

She says there’s an entry fee. $150.00.

The showcase is a week and a half away, and this is the first I’ve heard of an entry fee.

Dance showcases are kind of like piano recitals in that dance students perform for other students and friends and family. Showcases are usually held by studios that have several instructors and lots of students, and on the docket of performances are student/student pairings, student/instructor pairings, and a few instructor/instructor pairings just to show off and spice things up.

Showcases are very much unlike piano recitals in that they charge big bucks to any performing couple where one or both partners is a student. (Since I am not a professional or an instructor, I qualify as a student as L's partner.) In other words, the students have to pay to perform. They are paying for this after having already paid for many private lessons to get their routine ready in the first place. So, while piano recitals are viewed by piano instructors as chance for students to show what they can do, dance showcases are viewed by instructors as a chance to gouge their students for more money.

One studio in our area charges $90.00 to perform in a showcase, and $35.00 just for a ticket for a spectator! Remember, spectators are paying this to see mostly amateurs perform -- not to see a wholly professional show.

In the past B has performed in such showcases, and so have her friends M and H. These three women have paid $90.00 to perform and have had nearly no friends or family come to watch because the spectators’ tickets were so expensive. So, the three of them decided to organize this upcoming showcase and run things differently. Their own instructor, D, who is not affiliated with a studio, was involved from the beginning. So was my dance partner L, who is also an unaffiliated instructor.

L got several of her student couples to prepare routines for it, and she asked me to do the tango routine with revisions with her and I agreed, and we’ve been working pretty hard on it.

So now, in this somewhat circumspect way, B is telling me that “Maybe” I would perform because, at some point, an entry fee was tacked on for performers. It is up to L and me to decide whether we will pay it -- but B is presuming that, because of the entry fee, we will only be “Maybe” performing.

She is right to think that the entry fee would be prohibitive. But it’s not her business to presume.

I say, “I never knew of an entry fee.”

She says most showcases have entry fees.

I say “But this showcase was supposed to be populist. You weren’t going to charge exorbitant entry fees like the studios do.”

She says “Well, we are trying to get away from [what another studio owner in our area does]. She charges $90.00 per performance.”

“But you are charging more!” All this time, we’re trying to do samba, but all I can think to do is the most basic step because of this ridiculous conversation we’re having.

B says, “We have to pay for the [venue at the local university].”

I don’t think to ask why they are only now realizing how much that venue costs.

“It was miscommunication,” B says. “People playing phone tag.”

The dance is over and we’re going back to her seat. “But anyone could have sent an email explaining about the entry fee at any time,” I say.

“Well, eventually that’s what happened,” she says.

It’s like talking to Bush’s Press Secretary.

All this happens at L’s dance party last night. At its end, as we’re taking down decorations, I talk to L about it. She says she’s sorry she hadn't told me about the entry fee. She had only heard about it two days before, and there was Thanksgiving.

“We are boycotting it,” she says. She doesn’t want her students to have to pay like this. So we’re not doing the routine.

She says she’ll have her own little showcase at one of her parties. She’ll just have the students do their routines for each other that way.

I think that in the end, what L is describing is what this whole showcase was supposed to be in the first place. Just folks getting together and dancing for each other. Lots of mutual support there. And she and I will do our routine there, so all this prep will not be for nothing.

A third instructor, T, had been brought into the showcase mix later in the planning. He may have been the one to bring up the entry fee idea. L has written to D and T asking who will get all this entry fee money which, for the expected 20 performances, will come to $3000.00. No one has responded. The fact that they had told her about it as an afterthought means that she probably was not going to see any of the money.

Nobody puts Baby in the corner. This dirty dealing is like in Dirty Dancing, where misunderstanding and politics edged Johnny Castle out of performing the finale in the season talent show.

Now, it’s not that L and I were going to be the hit that Castle and Baby were when he came back to fight the power and perform. And it’s not like we would make a stand for populism the way Castle did when he involved the audience members in dancing at the end. But it IS about the common good being suppressed in the name of some personal gain -- in this case, greed. This independent showcase has become what it set out to counteract.

As she was leaving L’s party, B told me that she hoped I would come to the showcase. I said it depends on how much I have to pay. B said spectator’s tickets were only $10.00. So, in this respect I guess, it is cheaper than the typical dance studio showcase. I said “maybe,” using her word from our first conversation. But I’m not going. They changed the deal on us, then told us about it without the slightest sympathy for our position. So I’ll put my energy into L’s little improvised showcase whenever that happens. And you know what? I bet L won’t put up any restrictions or obstacles to who can perform (one reason being that there won’t be that many entries anyway). So probably B, M, and H can perform there if they want to. For free, and with their instructor D. Already, they regularly come to L’s parties, and don’t they feel welcome? As a single guy and capable dancer, don’t I make sure they get some dances in? Again, it’s not that I set world on fire. It’s that most of the men at L’s dances are pretty much beginners and have come with their wives and don’t feel comfortable dancing with anyone else. I’m usually one of about three men that do. So I make sure that B, M, and H get some dances.

Maybe its time I start charging a little “entry fee.”

Part 2 of this saga is here.

1 comment:

Stew said...

Uh, that's f'uhd up.