The First 100 Days
BY AMERICAN DANCER STAFF
Image created by Alessandro Scalora
With this issue, we are highlighting the work accomplished by your volunteer team of elected officials and appointees in their first 100 days. Ken Richards, President of USA Dance, leads off the report. Following that, you can either continue to scroll through the reports or use the carousel below to jump directly to a report.
Dear Members – Thank you for electing me as your National President, circa 2021-2024. I would like to give you an inside view on what has been happening, while working to deliver on my campaign promises. Nothing is ever as easy as the optimists want it to be – and while for some, a hundred-plus-days seems like the milestone that should have cured all they thought was wrong with USA Dance, the reality is – this dancing machine needs a lot more wax to polish the dancefloor.
In a recent interview I was asked about the first 100 days – and what popped into my head, was how important it was to get to 101, 102, and so on… USA Dance has over a fifty-year history. I have had the pleasure of serving on the governing council (now Board of Directors) under five different presidents, everyone leaving their own unique mark on the Line-Of-Dance we have been moving through.
Since taking over the Presidency, I have had the pleasure of Chairing approximately 12 Board and Executive Committee Meetings… participated in another 20-or-so DanceSport and Professional Council Meetings… a couple of the Collegiate meetings, 4-5 transition meetings… 4-5 Talley Management and contract review meetings… 7-8 meetings with the World DanceSport Federation… 4-5 meetings with the United States Olympics Planning Committee and our National Governing Body (NGB) Task Force… exchanged dozens of emails and multi-paged applications with three different insurance brokers… passed the first application stage for NGB status which has led to a the next phase of 57 detailed questions… taken daily phone calls from different committee chairs as they learn their roles… planned and hosted several NY Chapter reorganization meetings, fielded a number of calls from the media regarding Breakdancing… worked to build an all-new Nominations and Elections Committee and Ethics/Judicial Committee… held a few meetings with potential sponsors for the Breakdancing initiatives… Commenced a Town-Hall meeting initiative with chapter officers by district all geared toward social dancing and rebuilding membership; and — drumroll please – put out a LOT of fires.
How is this possible? First, my wife Roseanna gets how important helping the dance community is to me… second – Verra Kirrane, Todd’s wife, who also knows how much USA Dance (and I) need him in his role as the Senior Vice President. Plus, the countless hours of work put in by a great village of non-elected people, who have taken ownership of their new functions inside the organization and keep solving issues – before they become problems… Margot, Myra, Ruslan, Ronen, David, Dean, Daniel, Patti, Mike, Rose-Ann, Ann, Renata, Donovan, Alessandro, and Mark… you know who you are!
The shadow of the COVID pandemic has closed many ballroom doors and postponed many events, but it also has given us the opportunity to set this amazing team in place! Now we need to move forward as a united front.
USA Dance has so many arms: collegiate and educational components, sports from the amateur and professional fronts, and of course the social dance aspects. They all need to come together to make this work. It’s about what happens next and how the first 100 days set the ball in motion to bring USA Dance back and build all our programs in a stronger way. We need to make athletes and social dancers more active and interested in the future, so we can create World Champions on one end and the greatest social dance community on the other end.
It’s time to come together as an organization of dancers, with a better understanding of what is required to accomplish the mission. We need to applaud initiatives and move past setbacks. It is time to support and take pride in USA Dance. I am confident that we are moving in the right direction. And your membership support is most appreciated!
For an in-depth interview with Ken regarding the First 100 Days conducted by Alessandro Scalora see https://youtu.be/tV7YnW56P9E.
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They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. For those entering new governance roles in an organization, people normally view your first 100 days as your first impression. Because of this, every incoming administration, whether in the White House, the State House, or the USA Dance ‘house’, has grand plans for their first 100 days, and ours was no different. From starting partnerships to reviving old initiatives to building a strong team of dedicated volunteers, the Board of Directors (both new and old) have worked together over the last 100+ days to strengthen the USA Dance foundation. We must make sure we are strategically positioned for success as we enter the next five years. While I could go on and on about the many great initiatives, our wise editors have limited my word count. So, for this issue, I plan to highlight the great strides we have made toward the educational initiatives meant to fulfill our core mission, to “improve the quantity and quality of dance in the United States”.
One of the programs that we have revived is the return of our Youth K-12 Committee to work with chapters and likeminded organizations to introduce and support school-based dance programs. The new USA Dance Kidz program, led by Dean Abraham, includes a core group of national volunteers with experience in various school-based programs. These include the old USA Dance Kidz structure, Dancing Classrooms, and the YMCA. In March, the Board of Directors entered into a strategic partnership with Dancing Classrooms, a national organization that partners with schools and community-based organizations to cultivate essential life skills in children through the joyful art and practice of social dance. Over the next year, our national Youth K-12 Committee will work with our local chapters to either strengthen current programs or build new ones. These programs create a love for dance at an early age and will act as a feeder system for new members as the kids grow into adults.
Similarly, our administration has brought about the return of the USA Dance Academy and asked Renata Shvarts to once again put her talents to good use and rebuild this once-thriving initiative. The USA Dance Academy, originally created in 2016 to provide a structured DanceSport Athlete training program, ensures that our athletes (of all ages) receive top training and are able to compete at the International level within the WDSF system. The Academy has already held its first-of-four planned 2021 USA Dance Junior National Training Camps in Atlanta, Georgia. Over 50 junior athletes (ages eight to 21) took part in workshops and seminars in Latin, Standard, Fitness, and Breaking. This successful camp not only covered 100% of its costs, but also provided over $1500 in profit that will be used to support future development programs and scholarships. Additionally, the Academy, which is managed by the Education Committee, will provide continuing education for our officials, and work to develop a coach certification program with our new strategic partner: TrueSport (truesport.org). TrueSport is an organization that collaborates with other Olympic-based national bodies to “change the culture of youth sport by providing powerful educational tools to equip young athletes with the resources to build life skills and core values for success on and off the field.”
Along with the USA Dance Academy, we have built upon and strengthened our Dancing Universities and Collegiate Network. Together with the Collegiate Network Committee, Collegiate Network Director Patti Panebianco has spent the last semester supporting collegiate clubs and dance teams with a series of workshops taught by top professionals from throughout the country. Each professional member filmed 30-to-45-minute seminars, with two focused on competitive DanceSport and one on social dancing. The entire program was funded by a private donor. The great thing about all of these seminars is that following the end of the collegiate semester, they will be loaded onto our organization’s YouTube channel for our chapters and social dance members to use, free of charge, for instructional purposes.
These three programs, when combined, demonstrate our commitment to providing high-level dance instruction within the United States for both social and competitive purposes, and should help to attract new members to our organization. I encourage all members to engage with these three great volunteer committees to offer your support, propose new ideas, and grow the organization together. If you need help connecting with them or have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com. Thank you for your support of USA Dance and keep dancing!
There are many plans on the social dance front for USA Dance and its chapters. Many, perhaps most chapters, are not currently dancing due to social distancing from a year of pandemic. This makes it quite challenging to move forward with plans and recover our membership numbers. Currently, our social membership is at approximately 3,100, about half of what it was 18 months ago. Here are some plans for progress on the social dancing front, though it seems likely we will have to wait another three to six months to get these in full swing.
Our organization is divided into 11 geographic districts. We have a Director for each district to track chapter progress and problems. They, along with the Social Dance Vice President and Director of Chapter Relations, make up the core of the Social Dance Council. We recently have lost a few of these directors after many years of service and replacing them is the first step in reactivating the Social Dance Council. New directors include Lolita Brawner (District #9, Florida) and Phil Sisk (Chapter Relations), both replacing long-time volunteer Don Davenport.
We are still recruiting for District #10 (Carolinas), and possibly some other districts. If you are interested in this role, please drop me an email.
A major goal of the Dance Council is to organize and conduct a Nationwide Chapter Conference. This will include many training courses to help improve chapter performance, including Website Do’s and Don’ts, Recognition & Recruitment Programs (board members, volunteers, membership), Public Service and Relations, and Retaining Exempt Tax Status. In the past, this meeting included a large social dance and team building activities (in person). The coming National Chapter Conference, perhaps this fall, is likely to be an on-line event to be more economical while our organization is facing shortfalls.
Other topics currently on the table for discussion in the National Board Meetings include chapter minimum size, membership dues, a discounted membership rate, and seeking financial support (donations, scholarships, estate benevolences), both locally and nationally. Currently, the National Office has suspended the requirement of chapters to have at least 25 members. Chapters are being encouraged to be as active as local guidelines allow and put themselves in a position to blossom when in-person dancing becomes common. Many chapters are planning energizing “return-to-dance” events; significant pent-up demand is expected everywhere.
This coverage in American Dancer gives me the chance to say a heart-felt thanks to all chapter leaders for their continuing volunteer efforts. We all appreciate what you do to keep dancing an active and fun hobby for us all. I feel the future of dance is quite bright as the pandemic is finally coming to a close.
Katrina Volgina, the newly appointed DanceSport Vice President, focused her efforts on forming a well-functioning DanceSport Council to effectively manage all aspects of competitive dancing within the USA Dance community. Among the Council’s committees are the Junior, Senior, and Elite Athlete Committees that represent the interests of the competitive dancers; the Rules Committee that is working on establishing athlete rules for moving up the competitive levels and accumulating ranking points; and the Competition Sanctioning Committee that considers new competition applications. These committees are staffed by volunteers who are putting in a lot of work to improve the quality of competitive dancing and the number of competitive events within USA Dance.
Together with the DanceSport Council, Volgina worked on arranging the 2021 USA Dance National Championships. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the decision was made to split this year’s events between four different competitions, later in the year. This will make it easier for the organizers. Junior-2 through Youth dancers will have their Nationals at the Oklahoma Dreamcatcher, while all other Preteen through Youth syllabus through championships events will be held at the Carolina Fall Classic. Adult, under 21, and professional categories will compete for their national titles at the American DanceSport Festival, and the national title events for the Senior categories will be held at the Chicago DanceSport Challenge. Full details about Nationals are at https://usadance.org/page/Nationals.
Volgina decided, at the beginning of her term, to have DanceSport Council meetings open to the Board of Directors in order to increase transparency surrounding decisions pertaining to competitive dancing. She also worked closely with Ronen Zinshtein, the World DanceSprt Federation (WDSF) advisor, on all aspects of hosting WDSF events and communicating with the WDSF.
Taking on the job of Membership Director has required a very steep learning curve to get up to speed, but also has been a wonderful opportunity. Much of my work is behind the scenes, managing the membership database and assisting and coordinating with various councils and committees, such as the Senior DanceSport Committee, DanceSport Council, Professional DanceSport Committee, and the Marketing Committee. We have provided needed membership reports, as well as updated members’ and officials’ information and credentials. I also have worked to help individual members with their questions or concerns about their memberships.
During the first 100 days, I have focused on improving membership outreach and communication to expiring members, as well as trying to improve services for chapters and members. The renewal reminder mailer had not been updated in many years. I found a volunteer gracious enough to donate her graphic design experience to create a new, modernized mailer which expiring members may start seeing in their mailboxes very soon, if not already.
Additionally, in conjunction with the Marketing Committee, we are working to update and clarify some of the automated emails. These emails include reminding members that their membership will expire soon or letting them know that their renewal has been received and processed, among other things.
The site, on which many chapters host their websites and run chapter member lists, originally had been intended as a short-term solution; however, it has since become a longer-term fixture for many chapters. I am currently working with another volunteer to update and modernize this site to allow greater access and ease for the chapter boards.
For many college programs around the country, a second term of COVID shutdowns has hit especially hard. To help, the Collegiate Committee has been hard at work continuing to assist teams. In our first 100 days, we opted to continue Dancing Universities to provide instruction to college teams. Once we wrap up this second run, the 30 hours from this term’s instruction will be made available to all members of USA Dance. We also ran a successful virtual National Collegiate DanceSport Championships, providing those still able to dance an opportunity to keep growing. In addition to numeric placements, this year’s competitors were able to get critiques about their dancing, thanks to the assistance of an anonymous donor.
In our next 100 days, we’re excited to work on projects that will help us all get back to normal. This includes everything from collegiate club manuals to working with chapters and their nearby colleges to help rebuild the dance scenes in major metropolitan areas.
The Pandemic limited our USA Dance chapters during the first part of 2021. We are making progress addressing requests from chapters dealing with stresses of low membership. With the vaccine widely available and using basic COVID protocols, more studios and other dance venues are reopening and welcoming our events. See the “Social Dance News” article about protocols we use at the Richmond Chapter. Due to the pandemic, overall membership in USA Dance is down and social memberships are WAY down. Together we can find ways to help each chapter recover their momentum and chapter identity, attract new dancers and members, and return to the dance floor in conjunction with each chapter’s unique situation.
Your District Directors and I have many years of experience in chapter operations and are resources for you to approach with your challenges and concerns. We also want to hear your recommendations and any lessons learned that can assist other chapters as we get back to our “new normal” operation. This will be a team effort and I look forward to being a coach and working with our leaders and their chapters.
The first 100 days have been busy for the K-12 Committee. Since my appointment in January, I’ve been lucky to enlist the help of a great team of volunteers, all of whom have a wealth of expertise and experience in teaching and offering K-12 classes.
We were delighted and excited to be able to announce the recent K-12 – Dancing Classrooms Agreement. Negotiations with Dancing Classrooms began soon after my appointment, with the purpose of cross promoting our organizations, and for us to advertise their online classes. Dancing Classrooms Executive Director Nancy Kleaver has also joined our USA Dance K-12 Committee to help us in our mission to develop a USA Dance Middle and High School Introductory Program. Work is already underway to develop our own USA Dance courses, which will be aimed at Middle and High Schools nationally. The mission of USA Dance has always been to make dance available to as many as possible, and that is what we shall endeavor do achieve.
The effect of the pandemic on everyone has been awful, dance has been affected more than many activities, forcing us to use technology in creative and innovative ways to help keep people dancing. Over the coming months we will work to develop and hopefully offer a K-12 National Online Dance Championship. The purpose will be to offer all school students, who participate in schools dance programs, the opportunity to compete against each other at a national level. The foundations are being laid, but lots of work still lies ahead.
Let’s hope that we can all return to our normal dancing activities soon and let’s encourage as many as possible to join us.
The Examination Committee is comprised at the moment of 4 people who are trying to meet regularly every Monday. We have been tasked with changing the Appendix rule 9 as it pertains to USA Examining Committee. Appendix 9 talks about what are the responsibilities of Examining Committee, Chair and Examination Director and how it is formed. We have been given 3 months. We have clarified, improved and removed unnecessary and cumbersome language and are getting the document ready to be sent to Board of Directors 2 months ahead of deadline. We are also discussing and preparing the Adjudicator exam for all the new incoming USA Dance adjudicators. We are looking to include Code of Ethics of USA Dance so that every incoming judge will be familiar with USA Dance guidelines. We have decided which teaching organization credentials will be acceptable to become a USA Dance adjudicator and whether an assessment formerly known as conversion exam will be necessary. We strongly feel that USA teaching organizations have a rigorous exam structure that will be acceptable to USA Dance without the need to reexamine. We are also working on guidelines for eligibility of new USA Dance examiners. We would like to have all the regions of USA Dance covered so it is easier to examine when necessary. The process is a lot more open than it used to be. We are planning to work closely with the Education Department to provide different levels of examinations for anybody who desires to become proficient in different dance disciplines.
The Nominations and Elections Committee (N&EC) is an administrative committee whose members are appointed to manage the election process and assess applicant qualifications for national office. As the Committee Chair, I have been meeting regularly with the other two members, Esther Freeman (Oregon) and Jim DiCecca (Massachusetts), since February. (Note: We are seeking two additional volunteers, one from the Midwest and one from the Rocky Mountain region, to fulfill the required committee membership of five members.)
The N&EC’s focus is the USA Dance National Elections to be held in November 2022, when we will elect the following positions for terms beginning January 1, 2023:
- Senior Vice President
- Vice President for DanceSport
- DanceSport Delegate 3
- DanceSport Delegate 4
In preparation for that election cycle, the N&EC is conducting a review of the “Policy Governing Elections”. We plan to recommend needed procedural changes, while keeping what makes sense. The N&EC spent a portion of the first 100 days reaching out to past members of the committee to incorporate their lessons learned, as well as to clarify any contentious issues from prior elections. Our recommendations will be submitted to the Board of Directors for review. The goal is to publish an updated USA Dance Policy Governing Elections by October 2021.
The N&EC is also currently working with the Ethics & Judicial Committee, as required by the USA Dance Bylaws, to source volunteers to serve as Independent Directors on its committee. These volunteers are sourced outside of the USA Dance Membership.
Of the over 3,800 registered USA Dance Members today, 619 are competitors, and of those, over 420 are seniors. This means that our senior athletes, 35 years old and above, are a significant part of this organization. They dance in competitions here in the United States and represent our country at the championship-level all over the World. For this reason, it is important that the Seniors are well represented in our organization.
The first 100 days for the Senior DanceSport Athletes Committee have been interesting. Since my appointment in February, I have been working to bring together a committee of volunteers who represent the many competitors of our organization by age group, dance style, level, and location across our country. Our committee is small, but we represent many. I’ve asked committee members to be smart on organization rules, and alert to the questions and concerns of those we represent. As we hear of issues, they are then brought forward to the DanceSport Council.
As the Senior Athlete Committee Chair, I promise to continue to be the voice for this great group of dancers and friends. I am here for all of you, but I also need your help. I would like to extend three “calls to action” to USA Dance’s Senior Athletes: 1. We have lost many of our fellow senior competitors in recent years. Some have ventured away, some have stopped competing, and some have stopped dancing altogether. I ask you all to reach out to those you know and invite them back to our competition floor. There is no organization in the United States with a more welcoming spirit and competitive senior amateur ballroom offering. 2. Reach out to the dancers in your communities and local ballrooms and invite them to come experience USA Dance as spectators and/or competitors. Help mentor the young and encourage the elderly. Dancing is for everyone and we should share it. 3. Be proactive. Sign up early for your competitions and encourage others to do the same. Dancers go where other dancers are.
Through the years, Mike and I have done our best to encourage others to “Come dance with us.” I am hoping you will join in this effort.
In our first 100 days, the Education Committee has focused on increasing access for our member athletes to high level professional coaching using USA Dance Academy camps. There is now a program in place for private organizers to apply for sanctioning and to organize dance camps under the USA Dance Academy umbrella. The Education Committee’s next step will be to advertise this new program to dancers, coaches, studios, and competition owners. The goal is to roll out a series of USA Dance Academy camps for the later part of 2021 and 2022, and to encourage as many of our athletes to participate as possible. We believe this will provide more preparation for our members competing at high level national and international events. This should result in more satisfaction and reward for the athletes working so hard to improve. With a more structured plan in place, we believe solicitation of funding for scholarships to these camps will be more successful.
American Dancer had the opportunity to chat with Irina Trebunskaya regarding her position as chair of a new committee created by the Professional Dance Council (PDC) called the “Officials Committee”. The committee, made up of six members from around the country, represent the interests of USA Dance officials including adjudicators, scrutineers, invigilators, etc. As such, the committee is responsible for conveying issues and suggestions to the PDC who are then empowered to work with the Board of Directors to enable changes. For example, they have been suggesting to the PDC how the contracts that were made with officials for the 2020 nationals should be handled. They are going through the procedures that must be followed in order to become a USA Dance adjudicator and are forming suggestions for change that would enable the number of judges to grow. The committee is paying close attention that the Code of Ethics are strongly followed by all Officials. In order to make things easier for organizers and to give officials more visibility to the dance community, the committee is working with the USA Dance webmaster to create a web presence listing the officials and their credentials. In short, Irina and the committee are doing all they can to help the organization grow and help the competitions to be more organized.
The Communications and Marketing Committee has responsibility for USA Dance’s internal and external communications, and organizational marketing.
USA Dance communicates with our members through our website, email, social media and the American Dancer magazine. These are all an important part of our communication to our members, with the magazine being especially important to our social members. These outlets give us a chance to make announcements from various officers and committees, and allow us to share “knowledge,” such as the USA Dance University’s Zoom classes which provide great value to our college members. We also share announcements of social activities from the chapters all over the country, so that any members who are traveling can take part in dancing wherever they go. These are some of the ways we are trying to improve communication with our members, and although things can always be done better, we feel we are on the right track. We will continue to improve communications with the members so that they are staying in touch with the national organization as much as possible and are able to be involved with it.
The marketing component also has the responsibility to advertise our organization to potentially new members, or old members who left the organization and maybe would like to rejoin. This is often based on the value that we, as an organization, can provide to them now and going forward.
There are a number of goals that have been accomplished in the first 100 days of the new administration. The first is bringing back American Dancer, which has been undertaken by a team of volunteers led by David Getchell. This is especially important, as it provides value and entertainment to our members, and has been missing for a few years. I am very grateful to the American Dancer staff for being able to produce content on a quarterly basis for our members. Currently this is an online offering, but hopefully in the future a printed version will be available.
The USADance.org website is another important area that has received a lot of attention. Under the expertise of Myra Coffield, many improvements have been made, and she hopes to improve the user experience, allowing members to quickly find needed information.
We have restarted the Social and DanceSport Digest emails, replacing the Weekly Digest emails that were being sent to the entire membership. The Digests will be published periodically (monthly for now) and will feature separate announcements and news for the Social and DanceSport Communities respectively. We encourage everyone to share your news with us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can add it to the appropriate Digest.
Many members use social media now as their primary form of communications. We have also increased membership contact through social media, which gives us the opportunity to be more interactive and timelier, conveying information in minutes instead of hours or even days. An example is the recent announcement regarding National Titles for Student/Teacher events, which was released within hours of the decision being made by the Board of Directors.
Additional improvements have been made to our email system to present needed information to appropriate groups. In doing so, we avoid spamming members with irrelevant emails, which can lead to them unsubscribing from our mailings.
Along with continuing all the great work described above, we want to bring new life to the USA Dance YouTube Channel by offering videos from our chapters, competitions, interviews, and perhaps even lessons. We want this to become a resource that the members can enjoy watching.
Overall, we will continue to improve communications to increase efficiency, relevance, and timeliness.
I would like to thank all the members of the Communications and Marketing Committee, Myra Coffield (Website), Margot Garnick (Membership), David Getchell (American Dancer), Daniel O’Connell (Collegiate), and last but certainly not least, Fiorenza Todaro (Social Media). All of these volunteers put in a huge amount of energy on a daily basis and all our success and progress is due to them.