COMMUNITY SWING FORUM
Hosted by Rusty Frank
February 1, 2004
Rebekah Lodge - El Segundo CA
On February 1, 2004, Rusty Frank hosted the first Los Angeles Swing Community Forum at Rebekah Hall in El Segundo, CA. Thirty-eight people attended, including Los Angeles-based dancers, about six Orange County dancers, Alan & Rudy from Minnesota, Maxwell DeMille representing his club (Maxwell's at the Argyle), and Wolf Fengler representing the music side from the Fabulous Esquires.
First, we went around the room and had each person introduce themselves by telling their name, how long they've been dancing, and where they dance locally.
After the introductions, Rusty presented a brief overview of what she perceived to be the situation: Five venues closed last year (Suzy Qs, Satin Ballroom, Retroglide Dance, Swing Pit, and Juke Joint). The remaing clubs are holding. However, the major problem seems to be the smaller number of beginners entering the scene.
Rusty then opened up the discussion to ideas of what could be done to bring in more people to the swing scene, and the ideas below were contributed (as well as emails sent in to Rusty).
Please feel free (and encouraged!) to step forward and offer to take charge of any of these ideas. Rusty would be happy to work with you (310 606 5606 or email: email@example.com)
- Swing Dinner Cafe
- Outdoor venues -- bring swing dancing to the people by dancing outdoors
- Use any contacts we may have to get "Hollywood" to do something (commercial, tv, movies)
- Go into schools, colleges, and universities
- Go to dance schools such as Debbie Allen and Jasmine Guy studios to reach out to the African American community
- Outreach to retro-stores such as Restoration Hardware
- Outreach to communities that have interest in retro culture (Rockabilly, Art Deco, Car Clubs, etc.)
- Approach Huell Houswer to do "On The Road with Swing" program
- Relationship Building -- have one event a month for the current dancers to get to know one another off the dance floor, fun events such as dinner, vintage clothes shopping. (Please join the Swing Shift Rhythm Club -- this group has offered to take on this idea!: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ssrhythmclub/
- Get the "top level" dancers to mingle more with beginners
- Coordinate with Jazz festivals
- Leisure World and other senior facilities
- Get a film student to make a short piece on Swing Dancing for local cable stations
- Central Avenue Jazz Festival here in Los Angeles (outreach to African American community)
- Outreach to Asian community
- Swing Dancing in public places (Lindy Bombs)
- Outreach with "addictive" types, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (people who would like a "clean" activity)
- Study programs for schools
- Swing Arobics
- Word of Mouth
- House Parties
- Approach radio stations that already play swing music and have them do some sort of tie in.
Here is my two cents. Go to Jr. and High schools and give (Free?), one- time performances and workshops. These are the people who will keep the dance form growing in the future. I really think that when teen boys see how athletic the form is, and how much chicks dig it, they will go for it. I noticed some guys at the Derby who empitomized this. The dance lets you not only get close to girls but also to be in complete charge of the girl. Maybe someone has an idea of how to target the guys who are on the athletic teams.
P.S. Or go to Physical Education Teachers Conferences and give a workshop there. Teachers are always looking for lesson plans that are already packaged and planned. They want to see and experience how to execute the plans. My phys. ed. professor said that dance is very big in the schools where the weather is bad. It is an indoor activity. I found it a great way to integrate the sexes in an activity and get everybody instantly involved. ( you don't have to wait in line for your turn to shoot the basket)
I completly agree with you. LA is the only one place where we can dance every night on swing rythms in different places. (It was like this when I came for 6 months in 1999). Don't loose this chance.
For us, in Paris, we don't have any more some places to dance (Just 1 or 2 old clubs with live music). Since 5 or 6 months, some thinking group of dancers are talking about the way to preserve swingin place in Paris. I don't know if there is a solution but I hope so. It would be so damaged not to have club where to listen and dance on good music.
This summer, I will come with friends in California, from San Francisco to LA, to show us and make us discover your country and the wonderfull places where we can dance on good swing music. We will finish by LA and, may be, we will meet for 1 or 2 dances.
Rusty, the only input I can offer is the places out on the outskirts of our metropolis are nearly impossible to be a regular part of, as the distance before with traffic is intense and the distance home afterward with exhaustion set in is dumb. Middle of the week on the outside perimeter is almost impossible but put the middle of the week venues in the middle of the city (in a safe community) and I think people will make the travel. But what do I know I dance conveniently within 25 minutes of my couch three nights a week! Miss you,
I have been thinking on this issue for some time now; I'm glad you're calling this meeting. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it, however I did want to send you my comments/opinions:
This is basically a math problem: The rate at which bodies are leaving (regular) swing dancing is greater than the rate at which new bodies are entering swing dancing. Currently, there is no one in Swing that is getting enough new bodies into the system. Rusty, you were doing the best job at adding bodies when you were at 705. I know that there were problems with them, and I'm not saying to get back with them. But, the answer is in a venue similair to what you had there at 705, which had these key points:
1. It had walk-by traffic.
2. It had walk-by traffic.
3. It had walk-by traffic.
The only other venue that has this is 3rd Street, however it is not a regular event that folks can count on being there and everyone looks at the "acts" on that street with an ounce of skeptisism. Hermosa Beach was ideal, because of the walk through traffic, the percieved 'hip-ness" of the place, and because the folks walking by typically have money and the time to invest. The answer (my opinion) is that someone needs to open a cool venue where mass walk-by traffic is available. I can think of dozens of places in the LA area: Hermosa Beach, Grove, etc. It can't be on a side street, it has to be in view of the general public and they have to know that they are welcome.
The problem with these venues, is that they can command high-dollars. Swing dancers simply don't drink-and-swing so the door cover is the only money available. This is the problem, both the venue and the Host want the door money. Obviously, the Host doesn't want to spend mass amounts of time at a venue for nothing. However, maybe there is a solution.
What if all the current venues/hosts shared in a club? The door cover would go to the club to keep it open, while each of the swing teaching groups & swing clubs would take tearns hosting this new venue (for free). Keeping in mind that everyone benifits by adding bodies to the system. There will be more students to teach, and more dancers to go to venues. I could see a club where the Host only had to spend one night a month at the venue, where they would get plenty of advertising time by hosting it. Again, the rate at which bodies enter the swing system must be equal to or greater than the rate at which they leave, or else venues will close.
Think of it like paying to be on Margie's email list. We need another 705-type venue. Rusty, my opinion is that the last swing "boom" was due to your hard work in Hermosa Beach. Can you generate another swing-boom?
I know I won't be able to make it to the forum, so I thought I'd send an idea or two via e-mail. Los Angeles is always on one health kick or another -- you could try adding the health and exercise benefits of Swing dancing to your marketing strategy. Make Swing dancing the next new exercise craze to hit town (especially with dances like Collegiate Shag and Charleston Variations), and it's even more appealing because you don't have to go to the gym! It's social, etc. It can be marketed to parents with teens as a way to get their kids off of their chairs/butts, out from behind the computer, and into a social situation.
If I think of anything more specific on how to achieve the above suggestions, I'll send them along.
For now, I hope all is well with you, and I look forward to seeing you on the dance floor soon!
Rusty, I won't be able to attend the event because of work, but Otis College is right around the corner from the Elks Lodge, could I help facilitate a meeting with the Student Affairs office and maybe there could be some kind of lunchtime demonstration to get more dancers. . . . just a thought. -
I try to do my part for the Swing scene, I hope my photos encourage folks to come out and join the fun! I think the posting of photos for free viewing by the venues would help in general
Thanks for you emails and info on swing dancing. You
are doing a terrific job. I may not be able to be
there at your swing forum, but I had a couple of
thoughts I thought I'd share while I was thinking
1. You always have good ideas about things. You had a
great idea on having a swing class/group/presentation
at USC. Why not also do that at LMU (and maybe other
colleges like UCLA or Santa Monica College or
somewhere else close by so it is convienient for you)
or have another group closer to a college farther away
to go there. Like Chandler's, or Sylvia's group in
the valley have a class at Pasadena college. or other
schools (even high schools).
2. I like things you do at the Rythem Club. I wish
more places would do fun things in the middle of a
dance (like 9:30pm or so) to stop the dancing and for
a couple 2-3 songs do things like
Freeze dances, (or something fun like that)
Find a partner with the same color of clothes as you,
switch partners and try a move you've never done
before (just for fun) for 15 seconds and then switch
again. Many new dancers are very intimidated about
getting out on the dance floor and this might be a fun
way to do it to get started (you don't have to look
perfect - just have fun and the improvement will
Or have you or a very good dancer like you (or a good
guy and good girl) do a single song dance and dance
with less experienced people (maybe like a birthday
dance, but with Rusty and Gio switchin with partners).
It is really fun & motivating to dance with such a
good dancer like you or (or Ron or Gio for ladies )
for even a short time and then switch around. It
might help keep people's interest and may promote your
I don't know if all of these ideas would work. Just a
couple of thoughts.
If you look at the
problem from a business point of view the more places
you have offering swing night the less people you will
have to fill those places. Just because swing is a
thing that you like and fell it, the general
population will go and swing once in the while but
will not become adepts. This said the more swing
venues we have for the same number of swingers the
less people you will see in swing nights, and since
the amount of dollar to be spend is the same (because
the # of swinger does not increase as quick as the
swing venues) clubs will have problems to survive.
Therefore some club will have to close or just cancel
their swing night to be able to attract different
customer and stay in business.
I think the number of venues we have right now are
good, not too many; therefore, there is enough too get
some eventual curiosity and get new people.
Here some suggestion to make it even more attractive
to swingers and get friends to come with them. I
would say that at least half of the people who like
swing donÕt just look for dancing event, so maybe if
we mix a few other things into a dancing event we
could keep it alive better and longer.
1. What about a retro fashion show twice a year (one
in the summer and one in the winter) before a swing
night or in the middle of a swing with a good priced
to win for the best retro outfit (lets say from the
late 30Õs to the early 60Õs outfit). Or we could do a
fashion show every quarter.
2. What about an outside event to go once a month from
April to October to a drive in movie and have an old
movie first. People should come with their old
classic car if they have one and then after the movie
have people dancing into the drive you could include a
live band. There is a few drives in movie left
around LA and I am pretty sure the rent is not too
3. Since we are in California we have the sea and the
beach, during the weekend when the weather is nice
beaches are crowded. You could get a lot of people
interested and became new members. I say again once a
month to have a dancing event at the Santa Monica
peer, or the Redondo Beach pear, or to Venice beach.
The fashion show could take place during my # 2 or 3
proposition. Another idea will be this maybe to have
a radio station or TV studio once in the while for all
the ideas I gave you above.
You do not want too do those events too often, you
want people to look forward to have those events and
cannot wait to go to it. Do not forget the more of it
you have the less people will come, because people
will not worry about it , and will wait for the next
event. But if you do it once or twice at the most a
month people will go. That was my input.
Business cards will be great for some people - for me, the current format works because it doesn't get lost in my purse.
For some reason we tend to find it easier to get to things on the westside. We'd love a Friday or Saturday venue - but just haven't gotten to Whittier and rarely get to Pasadena.
Suzi-Q's definitely had problems - many times the doors were simply closed when one arrived at the advertised 8 pm. The scheduled lesson often started 30 - 40 minutes late. Plus there was an "attitude" - you would not have thought either of us had ever been there. The pro-type dancers congregated at the front. We always look forward to having Hillary on stage - the music there was great - nice floor. Despite the flaws, we would still be supporting that venue and are sorry it closed.
The thing I'd pass along is that it is great to dance with other dancers - especially the ones whom you think are not as good as you are. Sometimes one is surprised. I've really appreciated the times when a "loftier" dancer asks me to dance - and try to make a point to ask the newer dancers to dance. Seems like most people do this - it's sort of a Rusty attitude that makes your club and classes splendid.
Listing what's available when and where is great - definitely will bookmark laswinginfo.com
Sorry this is so last minute Š but thatÕs usually the way I work! Your discussion is of vital importance as well as being a great idea. I have three of points IÕd like to draw to your attention:
An immediate one: has anyone checked on the full US picture? Possibly whilst some areas are in retreat, and some static others might still be expanding? If so the reasons for that could be instructive.
A wider referencing point concerns international comparisons: Eric BarrandonÕs comments are especially interesting as the current UK experience is different. Despite many attempts here to hype up the US 1990s enthusiasm for Ņswing danceÓ as if it were about to sweep the UK, it never happened. Instead the scene kept evolving at its usual, some would argue Ņlethargic,Ó rate and although there has been some set backs, the long-established regular venues are holding their numbers and the major events are well attended, if not selling out. A discussion on international comparisons and influences could be quite illuminating, especially if it is remembered that this is how the new scene got underway in the early 1980s. The New York Swing Dance Society, was copied from the Swedish Swing Society. The UKÕs Jiving Lindy Hoppers was the first of the new-scene performing companies, and others followed. The NYSDS and the JLH collaborated in pioneering the first international get together of the new Lindy Hop enthusiasts in New York in Easter 1986 etc. We were also learning from those who had gone before, and in some cases we didnÕt get it right - especially in the failure to establish a primary Lindy Hop competition that could have played the same role in the new context that the Lindy division of the NY Harvest Moon Ball used to serve for the NE USA. In other words we need a more precise understanding of the implications of how the current scene was put together.
A historical consideration: Although Lindy Hoppers and Jitterbugs (meaning swing music enthusiasts) rode a tidal wave of enthusiasm in the late 1930Õs, the resultant New York scene didnÕt Ņjust happen.Ó If that had been the case, the Harlem scene would have been replicated across the USA. And let me make clear I am not doubting the importance of the other local Ņswing danceÓ scenes in the USA at that time, however there was something special about Harlem that has been widely acknowledged. There is evidence that the founders and managers of the Savoy Ballroom looked carefully at previous attempts to run large dance establishments and drew lessons, which they incorporated, into the way they ran the Savoy. They radically changed the way dance and music were programmed at the Savoy several times to sustain its popularity, during its 32 year run. All the different parts of the US have their own Swing histories as well as being influenced by New YorkÕs, and thus a more precise understanding of both these dimensions could help in the careful evaluation of the kind of initiatives we launch to promote and facilitate swing dance.
Director of the Jiving Lindy Hoppers, United Kingdom
A NOTE FROM HILARY ALEXANDER
(PROMOTER OF CAMP HOLLYWOOD AND FORMER OWNER OF SUZY Q's)
Hey Rusty -
I read with interest the comments made by people about the swing scene. I think someone who's been in the trenches needs to represent - we always hear complaints about venues as to why the scene isn't where it should be; I just had to write this to maybe make people understand what it's like to run a venue these days. If you like, please post it.
As someone who has been a dancer on the scene longer than most and has done just about every swing activity there is apart from teaching (running a large camp, running contests, being in a band and running a weekly venue), I have a few comments I'd like to make about the current state of the LA swing scene. We always hear what's wrong with venues as to why everything is closing, but rarely do we hear from those who have been in charge of these venues and what we have to go through to keep them going every week.
Here's what it's like to run a swing venue. Make no mistake, I love you guys. I wouldn't continue to run Camp Hollywood if I didn't. But running a weekly venue is no walk in the park. When you're in the situation I was in with Suzy Q's, you're in an empty hall that needs to be completely set up and broken down every week. Often there's no storage, so you're required to haul heavy equipment back and forth to your house as well. In my case, I didn't have a team of people helping me, so it was me all alone at 2 AM hauling 50 pound speakers up three flights of stairs to my house every Friday night.
Then you have to get people to help you run the evening (door people, teachers, etc) and these people have to be paid, and you have to worry if they're going to be available or will show up on time, or at all. Then there's the complaints - you turn on the air conditioning and everyone complains that it's too cold - you turn it off, and everyone's too hot, and then it's too late to cool the room down again. Then they open the back doors because it's too hot, and the noise makes the neighbors complain and gets you in trouble with the landlord. And tons of people sneak in the back door and don't pay every week no matter how much you ask them not to or explain to them that you can't stay open if everyone gets in free. There's the people that insist on putting powder on the floor no matter how many times you've asked them not to and explained you will be kicked out of the venue if they continue. They don't care, they just have to have a slick dance floor. I once spent a night until 3 AM mopping up piles of baby powder on Suzy Q's floor with a towel and a mic stand so that I wouldn't get yelled at again by the landlords, or kicked out entirely.
You try to start lessons on time but none of the students ever show up on time, so you have to either start with three people and then start all over again a half hour later when the rest of the people start trickling in, or you wait and start all at once so you don't have to repeat yourself and then everything runs late.
Then there's the bands - they play too fast, they play too slow, they don't play the kind of music some people like. The bands that draw the most people are so expensive that you barely break even, even with 200 people in the place. Because of course, nobody wants to pay more than $10, even for a live band on a weekend night. A similar night in a real nightclub would probably cost about $80 between cover, parking, drinks - but when it's a swing dance venue suddenly nobody has any money. And most people there are there on a discount anyway - student discounts, free passes, groups, etc. There are the people who show up and expect to be let in free just because. Hardly anyone pays full price and your full price is your break-even price to begin with.
Then there's the public criticism - on internet boards, people coming up to you when you're just trying to enjoy yourself at someone else's venue, etc. Everyone has complaints but nobody has any practical solutions - like people not sneaking in, being willing to pay full price, not putting powder on the floor or bringing in their own water (in the case of a bar venue), and actually showing up more than once every six months. Naturally there are always the supportive people who thank you profusely for what you're doing, and that's always great to hear. But for every one of these people there's someone complaining that it's too hot or putting powder on the floor.
My favorite complaint is the one that the "good dancers" stay in their group and won't dance with anyone else. I've never understood why so many people are so bothered by this. When I was learning how to dance nobody from the "good dancers" ever danced with me, either, and I was fine with that. It was because they didn't know me, and they were out to hang out with their friends and enjoy themselves, not help me learn to be a better dancer and feel included. It was my job to meet people - and I did this by taking classes and going to camps, and then going out in groups with those people so we could all learn together. I think it's ridiculous to ask that everyone who goes out dancing should be a missionary for the good of swing and spend all night dancing with everyone in the place - it's a nice idea, but completely contrary to human nature. We're all there to have a good time. Aren't we?
Now, I love dancers because I believe they are truly the nicest group of people you could ever wish to hang out with. But let's admit it, we're a picky bunch. If a place doesn't have a perfect floor, everyone stops going. If it's more than 10 miles from your house you don't go. If there's no parking, if you can't bring in extra shoes and T shirts and water, you don't go. If it's not a safe, clean, centrally-located area (and how many of those are there in LA?), you don't go. I, for one, will put up with any inconvenience if I know the music is good and I'll have a good time (I used to dance at the Viper Room, for crying out loud). All I need is one person I truly enjoy dancing with, and one or two people I can talk to and hang out with, and I'm set. But it does seem that for the majority of people this isn't enough.
And yes, everybody works and is tired and has another life. But for the first three years I danced, I worked full time and went out EVERY NIGHT. And I was no kid, and I had another life. And everyone did this, it wasn't just me. There was just so much excitement and enthusiasm that you couldn't NOT go out - I'd be tired, sick, have a big meeting at 9 AM the next morning, and I'll still be at some smoky little dive with a concrete floor, dancing my heart out until 2 AM, paying my $15 parking and my $15 entry fee. And now I hardly go anywhere, and I miss dancing more than I can tell you. But it's because the excitement is gone - and not in me, personally, because I'm still excited about dancing. But something is missing in the scene now. I see the way it used to be in brief glimpses now and again, and it helps to remind me how much I love dancing. But overall I'd say most people stopped going out because it just isn't fun anymore - at least, not enough to make you want to come out every week or even every month. When the energy goes, the scene goes, and I think that's what we're dealing with here.
What's the solution? I think there may be a period of dying down before people decide they miss it and want to come out again - or new people don't realize it's "so 1998" and discover it anew. This could be two years from now, it could be thirty years from now. I hope what we have left in our local scene continues to thrive and people continue to have the gumption to start new things, even if in the long run they don't work out. I could talk about all the political nonsense that goes on, but that happens in every group so it's a moot point. But I do think everyone has to look at their own behavior and ask themselves how really supportive they've been of the local scene over the last few years - this is a group effort, it's not just all on the people who run things. Thank you, that's my two cents.
wow! Thoughtful comments from Hilary, Fons, Jon Moody, and the UK.
In my humble opinion, do like Steve Jobs did. Give the product to the young, and they will grow up with a need for it. Next, use the Imagination Company model. (It's easier to take three actors to 300 kids than vice versa. ) Take your show to a central location at a convenient, dependable time.
Don't oversaturate the market. Don't make it too easy for people to get what they want, any time. They will take it for granted.
I also think that offering dance as an exercize option at a "Y" or Health club might be successful.
Hilary's experience was a real eye opener. You almost need an MBA to come up with a business plan.
Community swing! Great idea! I loved it when I thought of it four years ago! (Five dollars, please). I floated it a few times, but no one bit and my follow-through is poor, so it got dropped.
As usual, Hilary and I see eye to eye. Her last two paragraphs touched on something we had discussed in the past. The excitement and energy were gone. I have not been to a public swing event since the end of September, the longest lay-off I have ever had. I will be going to The Derby Sunday night. What a treat to see Mora there again.
My problem with the scene is that much of the music grew dull and was way over played. As good as it might be, I just lost interest in hearing the same material over and over again. I needed more and since I knew so much more was out there, it was even more dismaying.
Anyway, no use in my rambling on. The 'scene' has multiple situations that need correction. And some gears are just spinning w/o interlocking with other gears.
Hope you are well. Happy New year and Happy Birthday to come.
February 2, 2004
Some apr¸s-meeting additional thoughts.
Do not feel bad that there is not now, and never has been a daddy-rabbit Lindy organization which would act on the behalf of all Lindy in the L.A. area. Further, I think it would be futile to try to organize one. To my knowledge, there has never been such a central organization in any city for any kind of swing dance which lasted very long. Oh! Occasionally one will arise in leadership vacuum, and then grow exponentially, but then, the dreaded 400 and 4 rule kicks in. After the membership reaches about 400 members and/or the organization reaches about 4 years of age, these central organizations tends tend to disintegrate with ideological schisms.
I have no interest in any dance but Lindy Hop. Long ago, I made my peace with narrowness. LH is a special problem in social dance, as I believe it to be the most physically demanding social pairs dance. This is not mere chauvinism, as I agree that mastering the style techniques in some pairs dances is almost as difficult, but LH is a dance which is not just style difficult, but in addition, it is challenging because of the bright tempos it is danced to, much of it is in open position, and to do Lindy correctly requires difficult counterbalance and speed dynamics both of which are seldom limiting factors in other pairs dances. Sure! All LHers think the rest of the world should do Lindy too, but the sad reality is that it is just too taxing for some people, and for others, who want instant gratification, almost impossible. As a result, scattergun promotion seldom results in lasting increases in dancers. All that said, I really have no idea about how to rifle target a susceptible population. I was struck by the comment that those who persist in LH may be compulsive to a fault. BTW, I do no entirely discount 6 count swing as a social dance, but, in fact, I do consider it the training wheels for Lindy.
I was encouraged to hear that most of the suggestions were of a promotional nature. I believe the answer to the waning in numbers in LH is promotion, promotion and more promotion, even if you canÕt be sure that any thrust will result in attracting new dancers or holding the ones you have. Hey! anything is worth a try; funny hats contests, Jell-O-wrestling dances, blindfolded Jack and Jill contests, and ANYTHING which can promote mixing in social dance, as that is the bedrock of swing dance, and without it, I believe we will either suffer a slow decay in Lindy to itÕs pre-revival numbers, or worse, a domestic Europeanization of LH where (even today) it is mainly a competitive dance.
Fortunately, LH has some built-in resistance to a precipitous down-side. Lindy Hoppers are, by and large, intelligent, and as such, they are astute enough to realize that LH is an exceedingly difficult dance to master, one which is boredom-proofed by almost endless challenge. Further, it is fortunate that a dedicated LHer usually has so much time, money and emotional energy in the dance, they seldom just walk away from it. We have seen waves of scenesters and trendoids, but they seldom linger en-mass long enough to be numbered among us.
Sorry for the mental meanderings,
Here's my suggestion for stopping the decline of the swing scene here in LA.
In any business, there's a phenomenon called 'churn' which simply means that there is a continuous flow of customers in and out of a given business. Apparently, the dance business has a high negative churn factor. The last few years have shown that there are far fewer people joining the dance scene than there are people leaving.
So, the problem is not how to stop that trend, rather, it is how to reverse that trend.
As I see it, there are two prime markets for recruiting new dancers to swing: seniors and college students. These two demographic groups are precisely the audience that the to two local radio stations that broadcast a 'swing' oriented format -- KSURF and KLAC -- are interested in pursuing.
In the four years that I've been involved with the swing scene, no one has ever has ever utilized broadcast media to reach a wider audience. Clearly, buying advertising space is an expensive proposition; too expensive for most dance venue operators. Yet it's the most efficient medium for reaching the widest audience in the 50+ year old demographic.
However, the dance community does have something to trade -- a ready-made audience.
I propose that you and the other venue operators join together in an organization and approach the radio stations with the 'opportunity' to sponsor, on a rotating basis, each of the venue's in the organization. In exchange for promoting each venue on air and at the dances (banners, announcements) the venue operators provide promotional opportunities like public appearances for DJ's, direct marketing for radio station advertisers, etc. Broadcasters are always looking for promotional tie-ins that will increase their measured audience. The dance community provides an existing platform for those tie-ins.
In this way, both the dance community and the radio stations' can increase their respective markets.