1-12-2015 Steppers Beat

The Steppers Beat - Some News - Some Opinion - Some Dish
By Markie Bee The Steppers Beat

Some Solutions - They Will Help

Written by Markie Bee on January 12, 2015.

I could have broken this into three more columns but I'd just find even more to add. The success of steppin' nationwide depends completely on how many people are steppin' -- we need to increase that number but can't do it if the people in the genre are constantly at odds with each other over childish disagreements and a unwillingness to work out those disagreements. There's a lot to cover so let's get to work!

I see these disagreements happening in cities across the country and these situations do nothing positive for the dance by any means whatsoever. Our steppers dance is a collaborative effort based on the contribution of many different styles and I'm sure disagreements which were eventually settled creating the dance we see today. Solve your disputes and start working for everyone's mutual prosperity.

As students and customers you should demand the petty bickering end by the judicial use of your pocketbooks. You should not attend events or classes where instructors or promoters are behaving this way as it only detracts from your experience. They will either straighten out their situations or be forced out of business. In other words, settle your business or be out of business. Quit trying to "get" each other as it serves no good purpose.

There is no "big fish" in steppin', success is always fleeting. Someone or one group may have a great string of successes but sooner or later someone else will have a greater success. Steppers need to work with instead of against each other so all can profit (and that includes from the dancer on the floor to the event promoter, to the venue owner to the hotel and its management).

We all need to focus on the customer and what the want and need. That's first and foremost always. Paying your employees (contractors) and spaces should also be on the top of your list (a paid employee is a happy employee) and those venues and hotels will do more for you when you create a great track record with them. All of these should happen before trying to count profit.

The promoter should have the money together to pay for the event well in advance. Every event should have a drop dead date by which enough money is gathered to pay the bills or cancel the event. Everyone should be paid by the time the event commences. The days of waiting for the receipts to pay the Deejay are over. Contracts should be drawn up ands adhered to. If you promise a room to a contractor pay for it before they get there.

Don't breach your contracts because it can cost you big time. Remember the promoter you hire doesn't have the same responsibility to the customers and contractors you ultimately have so keep an eye on the numbers as well as their actions. We've all seen promoters go off the reservation by getting greedy, cutting corners, skimming funds and so on. I've seen family members do it to other family members so keep an eye on what's happening with your event.

The Instructors Role is Vital

When a new to instructor comes to work in your area, you should embrace them because you know knowledge of the dance will be spread even farther than it would without them. If you are a new instructor in the area remember there is much you can learn from an instructor who has been in the area (and possibly the dance) longer than you. Create a teaching brotherhood (sisterhood) for the community. Visit each others classes regularly and learn from each other -- create collaborations.

There is never a shortage of students or potential steppers only a shortage of will power and effort to find and teach new students. One instructor isn't a perfect fit for all students. Students will shop around for the fit that suits them. They do not belong to you they have free will and will attend the class they choose to attend when they choose. It has to do with how they feel they can learn not if they like you. Remember they are only your students from the time they pay to be in the class until the class ends.

You will have students who may want to start their own classes. Help and encourage them on the path to creating their own classes. Teach them as much as you can during the time you have with them. Encourage them to learn as much as possible from you and every other instructor in the area. Encourage them to make the journey to Chicago to watch and learn from steppers who have been stepping since they were teenagers. Do what you can to help the new instructor get established in a new area in your city or territory...

Remember no single instructor owns a city. There's no way a single (or even five instructors) can teach every possible student in an area where more than 100,000 people live. More instructors need to be raised and trained. All will profit from the experience and growth.

Instructors Are Promoters

Many instructors are promoters too. Many times it's through necessity of the situation rather than choice. The instructor teaches a class and the class needs to dance to improve their technique and style. Many instructors start a regular "after the class set" either in the location where the class is held or at a local night spot. The better promoter/instructor visits other classes and invites the instructor and the class to come to the set to dance with their students.

A good promoter will check to see what other events are taking place at the time they are considering creating a set to insure there is no conflict with other events. This is especially important in underdeveloped markets where the number of steppers may be severely limited. With will power and effort more people can be taught and the community can grow so when there is a conflict on dates neither event would suffer.

To help with that particular problem I created the Facebook group named the steppers event planning group where we encourage promoters to post their events that are at least two months or more in the future. (facebook.com/groups/steppersepg). It's use has grown so I suggest all join and use it.

Creative marketing can find new potential steppers if there are classes readily available and liberally advertised on social media and on SteppersUSA with up to date listings. An instructor who is willing to travel within their area (say for example, a 100 mile radius) to create new classes and to train new students will come out ahead of those who will not.

In the 21st century there is a thing we call transparency which goes right down to the class level. It's no longer uncommon to see videos coming out of classes. Modern smart phones are everywhere shooting photos and videos. You should not be afraid of their use because there is nothing secret about the dance or the moves or the styles of dance. You may have your own way of teaching but I promise you if you've been effective for more than a year; everyone already knows your method. People do learn from what they see on social media (that includes YouTube) despite your vested interest in classroom instruction.

Teaching smaller classes will always result in a better learning experience for the student. As an instructor you should encourage your students to do private group instruction or personal private instruction (both are generally more profitable than regular cattle-call class instruction). The sooner you get people stepping well; the sooner you will expand your market. As a promoter; when you have a larger market to promote to the greater your chances for success with your events.

Adding the Promoter

At some point an instructor/promoter will see the need to expand by adding a "media person/promoter" to do the promotion work for their classes, sets and events. Usually once an instructor/promoter has reached the point they have to hire someone to do this work means they have been doing something right. There is sort of a "catch 22" situation when you reach this point. You want to focus on what got you to this point in the first place (teaching steppin') but you want to stay successful in the promoting game too.

You have to watch and closely instruct your new media/promotion person to not only continue doing things the way you did to become successful but review every step with them until you feel comfortable with what they are doing. You should have a running dialogue with the promoter and listen to new ideas because you just never know what people may like.

From initial idea to campaign planning to contractor hiring (like instructors, DJ's photographers, musical artists, security and catering to name a few) to finding host hotels and arranging for halls for the event. You should know how the money is spent and what you are getting for that money. Don't be afraid to call out that promoter when necessary. After all you're their boss.

Remember a dance event is always more than just a dance (especially when you are attempting to draw people from all over the country) If you want a dance only event I suggest renting a school gymnasium for a few hours, hire a DJ and have a "sock hop". You won't need a promoter for that -- just enough students to pay for the expenses.

SteppersUSA is  looking for people who can tell the story to the nation...
I'm looking for staff from Chicago, the East coast (Atlanta, Central Florida, North Carolina), the mid west beyond & including Chicago (Detroit), the west and  on the west coast (San Francisco/Oakland and Seattle). If you take photos -- that's great but it's not necessary (perhaps you know someone who takes photos at the set -- even with a camera phone) we are looking to keep the country informed about the world of steppin in your area.  Shoot me an email!

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