Swing Dance Bristol Survey 2013
I sent out a link to a survey over the summer to help guide what i do over the next 12-18 months. I had a great response with more than 85 people giving really detailed feedback. See below for a summary of what you said, and for details of what i'm planning to do.
Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to fill it in.
Best wishes, David
Weekly dance night
Overwhelming response, almost 100%, that this is essential to the scene, with people very keen that it continue on a weekly basis, and a large majority happy with Southbank as the venue. Several people commented on the importance of seating/social space and ideally some social time after the dancing. A few people commented on the number of collisions on the dance floor, and suggested more classes focusing on or involving these skills. A few people very keen on the mixed tempos including some faster music during the night. (See also some of the comments under Community below)
I will continue the weekly dance night until December. If numbers remain high enough over the next few months then the night will continue after that, if not I will review and look at alternatives. I would love to increase social space and/or social time but could only do that at the expense of dance space/time, so that's unlikely to change significantly. I'll continue the recent trend to ensuring some faster swing every week between 10-11pm. I'll also consider how we can incorporate floorcraft even more into classes (many of those most frequently involved in collisions are those who don't attend classes, so i'll also consider if there are any ways to reduce collisions among those who only attend the dancing).
Southville: Most people preferred these combined on the same night as the dancing (as started at the beginning of September). For the 7pm Improver classes, people about evenly split between preferring courses vs drop-in classes. For the 8pm Intermediate classes, people strongly preferred drop in classes, and several commented that the level of these classes has been lower over the past few months and would like it to be at a higher level. In terms of topics, several people expressed an interest in classes that concentrate on core skills.
Easton: Of those who specifically commented on the Easton classes, clear majority in favour of these remaining drop-in. A few commented that greater continuity/themes between classes would be good if possible while retaining drop-in nature.
Southville: The 7pm Improvers will continue as 4 week courses, and will be clearly structured as progressive courses which review material from previous weeks. For people who can't commit to a 4 week course, drop-in is often possible but please check first as it depends on the specific course. The 8pm Intermediates will work on a specific coherent theme for 4 weeks, but will continue as drop-in classes, with the option of signing up for a 4 week block to save time on the night and for a slightly reduced price. The level of the Intermediate class will be higher than earlier this year, and at the beginning of each month and the beginning of each class, we'll make clear what you need to know to be able to participate in the class. To reflect the interest in core skills, the October Intermediate classes will be reverse roles classes where everyone will spend most of the class dancing the opposite role to their usual one.
Easton: l'll discuss all the general class comments and Easton-specific ideas with Giles & Tashi.
Monthly weekend dance
Most people very keen for this to start, although no clear preference about whether or not there is a bar. Several people expressed concern about this being for better or more experienced dancers only, and whether or not they would be of the appropriate standard. Several people suggested something to differentiate these month by month (e.g. theme, competition, live band), and from the weekly dance.
First of all an apology as I phrased this section of the questionnaire carelessly - everyone is welcome, not just more experienced dancers. But... many of the more experienced dancers felt that other parts of the scene are not so much tailored to their needs, and so the idea was for something that specifically aimed to meet what the more experienced dancers are asking for in terms of floor surface, space, music styles, tempos, amount of dance time, etc., and i plan to take their comments into account with this night. I will start a weekend monthly dance at the end of September and i'm likely to try out a number of venues & formats over the coming months, so feedback would be very welcome. (There will probably be no weekend dance in a month where we have a weekend festival with it's own evening dances.)
Overall lots of interest - well over 50% - but massive variation in exactly what/when, reflecting people's level of experience, availability, financial situation, etc. Many helpful comments and suggestions.
There will be various weekend workshops over the next 12-18 months.
This wasn't a specific section, but several people commented that information about events, especially weekend workshops, needs to be available further in advance for people to be able to plan what they want to attend. Also, several people said they'd like to know more about what will be taught at weekend workshops and weekly courses, to enable them to decide what would be most useful for them.
I'll aim to get information about events out more in advance and with more detail for workshops/classes, although the amount of advance info that can be given for purely drop-in classes is limited.
Major Bristol Dance Festivals
Almost all felt that we have about the right number of festivals, with the right sort of balance between them (even if not all of the festivals appealed to them personally), and all with a distinctly Bristol flavour. A few people asked about the possibility of a Bristol Lindy Exchange, most of those seemed not to be aware that there was an exchange in 2010.
The three major festivals - Bristol Rhythm & Roots, Bristol Swing Festival, New Year Swing n Blues - will continue as they are and i have no plans for adding any others into the calender in the next 12-18 months.
I took the lead role in organising a Bristol Lindy Exchange in 2010, although many other people contributed to making it happen. After that event, I said that I wouldn't take the lead on a continuing annual Bristol Lindy Exchange, but that i'd be happy to support anyone else who wanted to take it on. A few people said they'd be interested in doing that but nothing materialised and i did nothing as i didn't want to lead it. I feel strongly that a Lindy Exchange is a non-profit event that is organised by a dance community, rather than by an individual promoter/organiser, so this is something that i'm not planning to do anything about, but i'd be supportive if others wanted to do something.
Public events, vintage events, non-dancer organised club nights, etc.
There was very little interest in these types of events, and many people didn't feel that i should be spending time on these for the dance community, but only if they are useful to me in terms of promotion. The one notable exception was the Bristol Harbour Festival, which many people valued. A few people expressed a willingness to help overall with swing dance, but few were interested in these types of events.
I will mostly stop doing these types of events, or stop spending time in arranging/negotiating swing dancer guest lists, reduced entries, etc. The exception will be the Harbour Festival which i'll aim to continue doing, and anything that seems to be a significant promotion opportunity. For events that i'm approached about, if i can easily do so without getting too involved, i will mostly just post the details on facebook for people to self-select and to arrange directly with organisers.
Almost 100% felt this was an important and valuable part of the scene, and many commented positively on what i have done to create it. Almost no-one had any requests/suggestions/ideas as to what they wanted going forward, either from Swing Dance Bristol or more widely, other than that it was important issue.
Having said that, one of the themes that came up in the question on the Weekly Dance seemed to me to be directly related to the idea of community so i have included it here instead. Almost everyone who dances on a weekly basis, regardless of their level, found the Bristol scene to be extremely welcoming and friendly; and those who have danced in other cities commented that Bristol's scene is the friendliest and most welcoming. In contrast, among those who dance only once or twice per month, about 50% described the scene and especially the weekly dance as being rather cliquey, and a few made suggestions for things that could be done to address this. This group were also particularly keen on weekend events of some kind, as personal circumstances were often to blame for difficulty in attending weekday evening events more often.
Obviously its hard to disentangle the chicken & egg elements of this - it's harder to feel very strongly a part of something you come to less often - but as a general principle I'm really keen that the scene and the weekly dance feel as welcoming as possible for everyone. I'm going to take account of the suggestions and try some things that may make the weekly dance feel more welcoming. I'll also consider some of the suggestions for for activities that are less dance-focused, but i'm not certain yet whether i'm the appropriate person to organise these.
Other dance styles
A fair amount of interest in Balboa, Shag, and Blues across all levels, and to a lesser extent Airsteps/Aerials and Performance. Several people commented that they'd love to learn all of it, but that time constraints meant that they needed to concentrate on only 1 or 2 of the dance forms. Several people also suggested that if i tried to do all of it then it would spread the scene too thin, but many expressed an interest in me doing just the one that they themselves were most interested in. Most of those who expressed an interest in one of these styles also said that one-offs were less useful and that being able to do it several weeks running was essential.
Given the risk of spreading too thin, i have decided to concentrate on just one of these in the coming months. In November Mithi and I will teach a month of Balboa classes in the 8pm Intermediate class slot on Wednesdays. While we will obviously spend some time concentrating on getting the fundamentals of Balboa technique right, we will assume that everyone attending has done the Balboa basic step before, and so we will fit in a class for Balboa beginners before then. The Movember Wednesday Balboa classes will be pitched for dancers who are already confident in basic Lindy Hop repetoire. I'll ensure that there are several songs of faster music suitable for Balboa played sometime during the 10-11pm period at the weekly dance.
For the time being, I'm not planning to do anything else on Blues, other than the New Year Swing n Blues festival which is 50/50 between the two styles. There is an opportunity to dance Blues on a weekly basis at Blue Mondays (not run by Swing Dance Bristol).