The Germans Meet

The Germans Meet

I was recently fortunate enough to be able to attend the German Dance Teacher’s Association’s convention.  I know many people think the only reason anyone ever goes to a convention is to have an excuse to visit some far off romantic city and drink and party heavily.  I just want to make it clear that I was there on business reasons only (in case the big guys or government suits are watching), and the convention was held in Mainz.  Even though the Chief Mayor was there to welcome all to his fair city, this place is not exactly Cancun or Monte Carlo.  He did however make the claim that the wine from that region is the best, and if I ever remember what happened after trying all of them I will let you know just how good they were.  Their Budweiser is also a lot better than ours, come to think of it.  Germans being a nationality known for drinking, it was only natural for me to have the bar as my base of operations.  From this strategic spot, I was able to discuss the finer points of teaching with numerous instructors from all over the country.

After having attended numerous conventions in this country where people are purportedly working to make teachers’ and operators’ jobs easier and more successful, I have a better understanding of why schools there have so many more students than studios here.  My primary goal in attending was to be able to meet and discuss with various studio operators the differences between operating their studios, and operating studios in this country, and to do other (really important) research.  The difference is not so much in the operators.  There as much as here, studio operators and owners are largely conservative people who look suspiciously at change, and long for the days gone by, when things were done the old way.  In fact most of the operators I spoke with lamented the good old days.  The difference is they at least accept the opportunities offered, and are willing to cash in on them.  Here, people and organizations in the dance business will cut off their nose to spite their face, and remain in the early 20th century, if not in the 19th century, and still believe they are progressive.

It appears that their Association is working hard to bring newer, and marketable dances and ideas to their studios.  Before I forget, I certainly want to thank the ADTV, and particularly Michael Meiners, their Press Spokesman for facilitating my visit, and allowing me the free access to observe, participate and be part of the entire experience.  I have never seen as much excitement as was evident with the teaching of new choreography to hundreds of young teachers looking to teach the young kids and young adults the dancing they want to do.  This whole genre of dance is being lost in the states to gymnastic, ballet or jazz teachers, and nobody even recognizes it.  The fact that Europe has a class system has long been espoused as the reason European schools have so many students.  The fact that American studios don’t has more to do with the average teacher or studio’s arrogance as to what and how we should teach, than anything else.  If compared to the auto business, it would be the same as telling the world, the Edsel is best and get used to it.  We just need to find a better way to sell the Edsel, and all companies will find new ways of convincing you the Edsel is here to stay.

This is not to say, that studios abroad have abandoned the traditional dances.  On the contrary, studios are discovering, albeit slowly, that once exposed to various forms of dance, people will want to learn the “classics” as well.  Yes, the older teachers look forward to teaching the old fashion way.  The younger teachers look at the older teachers as old, and the generation’s fight or at least argue.

In fact all the mundane and necessary activities normally associated with business exist there as well, and in many cases, due to government regulations, are exacerbated.  The meetings certainly covered those as well.  Government regulations regarding business practices and requirements have never been offered at a convention in an exciting way in the 30+ years I have attended.  Starting off with them was either an attempt to get it over with, or a clever realization that if left further down on the agenda, so many people would have been at the bar and ignoring it, as to make the meeting topic unheard.  Considering Germans love for accuracy, their interpretation of law and regulation require much explanation, and much explanation was given, and given, and ……

I look forward to expanding on some of the ideas, observations and thoughts of the various people to whom I spoke.  They were by and large typical of any group.  Some were certainly caught up in themselves, and some held court in the bar with their own seat and entourage, and seemed bemused or amused over the whole thing.  Others were lost, and wanting desperately to find someone they knew or recognized, and many wanted to accomplish something, but were not sure what it was they could accomplish.  They went from place to place, and checked out all the vendors, all the sessions and speeches, and knew their time would come, when they too would be stars.

All together the attendees would have to go away impressed.  Stars and sponsors were there to greet them and lead them and give away prizes.  Cheering crowds were there to applaud the work of the various teams from the various schools.  Ample and generous spaces were available in which to work, mingle, socialize, purchase wares and there was even a small fair outside along the river to relax and enjoy on your free time.  It was refreshing to see so many people working, playing, and striving to improve.  It was exhilarating to see the young dancers expressing, competing, and cheering so hard on the first night.  It was comforting to see the seasoned professionals being part of the experience, and it was inspiring to see their use of outside professionals and experts that have actually studied the facts before they espouse them.

More?  Yes, much more, but not now.

Michael S. Reichenbach

Published in:

Dance Week Magazine

2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534

Vol. XXVIII No. 21

May 23, 2003

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