The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
We Need a Commercial!
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The scene is a picnic on a sunny beach. Two women are unpacking picnic baskets, while another woman is smearing sun screen on the face of a little girl. Two men are standing near a grill. A group of children squeal when they and the sand castles they are building are swamped by a wave. A woman sleeps in a lounge chair, a magazine open across her face. A man wipes mustard from around the mouth of a grinning boy. Two people walk holding hands towards the horizon lit with a sunset.
In every scene there is a conspicuous can of popular soft drink on a table, in someone's hand, cradled in a mound of sand. I don't know about you, but this kind of commercial never makes me want to go to the store to buy that popular soft drink. It makes me want to invite a bunch of my friends to have a picnic with me on the beach!
My point is this: International Folk Dancing needs a commercial. It needs a commercial like the one for that soft drink. It needs a commercial that will make the viewer want to invite a bunch of their friends to attend a local folk dance class. It needs a commercial so eye-catching and entertaining it will be digitized and copied and sent as an attachment to hundreds of email addresses with the subject line: "Watch this!" and "Doesn't this look like fun?" It will be so popular it will show up on websites that specialize in frequently-watched commercials.
When producers set about to make anything visual, they start with a storyboard, like an outline for a novel. The commercial I'm envisioning would be snippets of action that would run something like this:
Start with a darkened hall. A few people enter the room as the lights come on. You see a sound system being hooked up, turned on, and tested, while more people arrive. Then there is music and the dancers form a circle.
Then a mixer, and you see swirling couples, smiling faces, some flirtatious glances. On the side, an older man show a younger man an intricate step. A woman coaches a young couple on position of hands in a couple dance.
The pace quickens. There is a sudden whirl of action with flashes of some fast dances, hands reaching, arms on shoulders, feet stamping, brows being wiped.
A father dances with his daughter, a mother dances with her son, two children copy a dance behind a line of adults. It would end with a slow dance, couples leaning in, children nodding off in a corner on a pile of jackets. You'd hear: "Who wants to join us for a nightcap?" and there would be hugs goodbye, as the lights go out. Then a black screen with: "Dancers hold hands with the nicest people. Join our circle. www.xxxxxxxxxxxxx.org."
And who's going to make this commercial? I don't see anyone else taking up the task, so I think its going to have to be us!
We can make it an amateur production and get a few people to take some video footage of their dance classes. We would have to establish a gathering point, so videographers could send their raw footage to someone for processing and editing. Then it would be a matter of hiring a professional videographer to assemble and edit and smooth out the edges to tell our story. Or we could make it a completely professional production, hiring someone from the beginning to go to various locations and shoot the raw footage. [Or even hiring a bunch of "young" dancers. ed.] I have a fantasy that somewhere someone is reading this and saying to themselves, "You know, I bet my son/daughter/friend/neighbor would be interested in this kind of project."
Of course, this is going to cost money, and we may have to get creative. One option is to ask each of the dozens of dance venues in California to take up a collection and pitch in a few hundred dollars each. Perhaps there are grants available for the promotion of the arts that could help us with this project.
Then there's the distribution issue. I can't foresee paying for airtime on any major television network, even late at night. I do see our exciting artistic, thought-provoking commercial being forwarded around the world via the Internet, and uploaded to web pages. Every dance instructor with a website, every dance class with a website they could all have this commercial available at the click of a mouse button.
Oh, and that web address at the end of the commercial would have to be developed, beginning with a listing of places to dance in California and expanding as other locations join our efforts. The web page could be as simple as a static document listing dance locations alphabetically by city, with a contact phone number and/or email address. Frankly, if the commercial is ever produced, the web page will be the easy part!
Used with permission of the author.
Printed in Folk Dance Scene, February 2007.
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