a small but enthusiastic crowd ‘dances as they are’ to the DJ music on opening night

Soundtrack in my head: Saint Etienne, “Join Our Club”

My Dance As You Are event made its debut last Saturday night.  It was a small crowd, not quite enough to meet the expenses of the event, but it was illuminating nevertheless.  The most important thing was that everybody had a good time there, and that was a huge accomplishment in and of itself.  I felt an enthusiasm among attendees that I hadn’t felt in the waning days of the previous event for which I’d served as a volunteer DJ.  And, as I expected, the very act of going out and doing it gave me insights and ideas that I would not have had otherwise had I held out for the “perfect time” and the “perfect opportunity.”

A few positive things I discovered:

  • The smallness of the event lent itself to an informality that I was able to take advantage of in a few ways.  I surprised myself at how often I stepped out from behind the DJ booth to just go out and talk to people.  The “middle circle” I used was much more informal and conversational.  And rather than getting frustrated and self-critical about the times people were dancing, I sometimes just stepped out and engaged people in conversation and found out a little bit about their musical interests.  Sometimes it’s not possible to just “read the dance floor”–sometimes you actually have to talk with it.

  • Seeing other people get excited for the event and promoting it.  Huge kudos go to one co-worker of mine who put the word out and put out maximum effort to get his “posse” out to the event.  And hearing a couple people say, “Yeah, we really need to get the word out about this.”

  • My little 100-watt sound system that I bought on sale and on impulse on New Year’s Day 2011 created better sound than the 1200-watt monstrosity the previous event had used. (One person described the old system as “overpowering.”)  I took a chance with this, because as a DJ I wanted to use as few of the former event’s resources as possible.  The only thing I used from the old event was a power strip and the strings of lights–I used my own mixer and speakers.

  • Seeing parents out on the dance floor with their (approximately) four-year old child–and enjoying themselves.  As one who shares a co-op house with parents and their children myself, I am well aware of how isolating parenthood can be for many people, and I’ve seen instances with the old event how much parents enjoyed bringing their children to the event.  Some ground rules have to be set to ensure that children screaming and yelling don’t diminish the experience for other dancers, but that wasn’t a problem in this case.  The previous event called itself “family-friendly” but the starting time kept moving later and later, which made it prohibitive for families.  I must make it clear that this isn’t a “children’s program” by any stretch of the imagination, but there is potential under the right circumstances for parents and children to get tremendous enjoyment out of the event.

  • So much of how things turn out is dependent not so much on what happens but how one reacts to it.  I realized a couple of weeks ago that I needed to let go of attachment to the results and respond to the present moment–a very Baha’i concept, which also is sage advice for a DJ.  That allowed me to think on my feet more and respond a little bit more creatively to the situation.

A few more lessons learned:

  • You can’t advertise too much.  I developed but never put up posters.  Won’t make the same mistake again.  I’m also going to convert the posters into little cards which can serve as both “mini-posters” and calling cards.  I mentioned this to some of the participants, and I think a few will be willing to also hand them out.

  • I got couple of more DJ marketing ideas from participants that I will seriously consider.

  • Spend a few extra dollars on renting a car rather than relying on the cab companies.  It wasn’t difficult to get the DJ equipment there–especially with the freight elevator that I’d heretofore not known to have existed–but for going home, that particular Saturday night was a busy one for the cab companies.  I waited six minutes on hold with Union Cab (a worker own cooperative that consistently has the best taxi service in Madison) just to order a taxi, and spent some twenty minutes freezing my butt off sitting on a loading dock in single-digit Fahrenheit weather waiting for a cab to get me and equipment home.

  • There seems to be an enormous difference between a three-hour and four-hour DJ shift.  Next time I work a four-hour shift, I’ll give myself two breaks.

I came home and collapsed on my bed almost right away and felt sore for much of the next day.  I’m a bit out of shape, and also was probably doing a lot more dancing while DJing than I expected.  Despite the positive feelings at the meeting, I found myself asking myself whether all this effort was really worth it.  I woke up the next morning knowing that the clear answer was “definitely yes.”

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