The New Venue at the USDSC

The New Venue at the USDSC

This year’s 2003 United States Dance Sport Championships are concluded and it should not go unnoticed by any aficionados of dance, and dancesport that the move to a new venue should be a giant step forward.  It is only natural for those of us that look at dance and dancesport in this country to look at the United States Dance Sport Championships and September as either the beginning of the new season or the culmination of a previous year.  After all depending upon your disposition, you have either spent all year getting to this point to see how you now will be positioned or you will be saddled with or celebrate the position or placement you receive for the entire next year.  As such, the way everybody approaches the event from year to year is watched, and considered as indicative of what is to come or has been.  The way the organizers do so is also being watched.

By moving to this larger venue, the organizers have been able to increase the seating capacity to over 3,200 seats although the majority of seats are plastic stadium seats that remained largely empty this year.  To prove that dance is a sport, the organizers, not unlike other sporting events, provide a variety of seating options.  Their own version of the skybox, which in a normal sporting event would be reserved for the patrons, and truly big spenders, the front rows or sections where spectators can be close to the action and the cheap seats for the regular folk.  Unfortunately, like too many sports the cheap seats aren’t cheap.

Dancesport skyboxes include the roped off and often guarded seating on tables upon risers in front of the rostrum.  These seats are conspicuously placed behind the awards podium to insure the pictures of all the elite are included in any future historical displays.  Cocktail waiters are abundant to provide the necessary libations and comforts.  Whether this is a satisfactory dancesport version of the skybox is questionable, but added to the many other cocktail parties and special dinners it will have to do until better accommodations can be arranged.  What is entertaining to see is that dancesport skyboxes include all the referees and umpires of the sport, as well as other officials and their spouses, friends, neighbors, dogs, etc.  The result is this is the most prominent and most congested section of the ballroom leaving the audience at large to wonder just who is important.  The patrons, without whom this sport would never have achieved any fame or prominence, are lost in the crowd, and barely even noticed.

The floor level ringside table seating available for the many package holders and guests who have spent big bucks to get here were great.  At least until one of the myriad of judges parked themselves directly in front with the obvious understanding that their view is more important than yours.  With luck, a Judge would move allowing one to see at least part of the competition until another moved into his place.  Some of the Judges are always friendly and keep their audience entertained and feeling special by remembering their names and moving about.  Others appear uncomfortable in having to block the audience’s view, and a few just don’t care.  In other sports care is taken to insure the front row seats can see the playing field.  Players including the officials are placed to be part of the game and not just a barrier to it.  I say this knowing full well that there is no easy solution, but hope that the leaders in the field will look to find one.

There will continue to be an ongoing dilemma of whether to promote such an event as a sporting event, or an artistic show because the contradictions are many.  Of course the participants are dressed to impress.  Looks are a part of the sport as they are in so many sports today.  Style points are important, and continue to be so in ours as it is in skating and other sports.  Whereas we understand the participants, the real style show may be with the officials.  They offer enough styles of hair, clothes, fashion and jewelry to keep Joan Rivers and her daughter busy for several more episodes of Entertainment Tonight or whatever show it is they do.  Judges by the mere nature of their conferred position are celebrities, and it was obvious that many enjoyed the status conferred upon them by the organizers.

How the regular spectators are handled is another matter.  If someone has to sit on a plastic stadium seat then I would expect to see someone hawking hot dogs from a tray and slinging nuts across the seats, and sending beer in from the aisles.  Such was not the case, but to the credit of the organizers refreshments were to be found outside the ballroom.  It is not the position of the seating, but rather the style that will encourage a more casual audience.  Black tie may go with a Broadway show or fine opera, but then so do upholstered movie or theater style seats.  Either the price will come down to fill the seats, and those people will not spend more to rent the tux than to get the seat, or the seats will remain largely empty.  Either way the organizers must be applauded for their optimism.

The bleacher seating did lend itself to the excitement and noise generated by the various contingencies.  Having enough room to congregate in groups the Italian, US, and British factions made their presence known, and they provided a much-needed lift to the entire evening’s activities.  Watching young men run across and around the floor with flags waving is exhilarating and exciting.  Round after round of the same event just isn’t exciting to the average spectator.  Just as tennis and other championships do the quarterfinal rounds during the week and end up with the finals on the weekend, dancesport must look to ways to build up to the finals weekend.

This would provide another way to command the higher ticket prices and still fill the arena.  In fairness to the organizers, the last evening’s other finals included the Junior Latin and Ballroom, and the “Goldie Goldon” World Exhibition Championships, but the vast majority of the evening’s time is round after round of one event.  At any rate, congratulations must go to the American Ballroom Company for taking the next step, and moving to the larger venue.  Studios, dancers, and dancesport enthusiasts need to provide much more support in order to make this work.  Hopefully prices and accommodations will fall into place and help to fill the venue, at least on the last few nights.  If anyone can take the sport to the next level, it is probably the American Ballroom Company, and I as well as most of the dancesport community thank them and wish them the best.

Michael S. Reichenbach

Sent to DW 00-10-2003

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