Many of you have already heard that as of December 31, 2014, I am stepping down as president of Toronto Lindy Hop.
We’ve achieved quite a lot since I joined the Board in December 2011, and even since I became president in July 2012. Over the last three years – and it’s hard to believe it’s only been three years – we introduced the Lindyworks workshop, Winterstock and the Anti-Comp; made Theme Nights into a monthly event; brought the Homegrown Workshop back to Toronto after a five-year hiatus; introduced a pilot project for monthly practice sessions at the Dovercourt House; and kicked off our TLH Road Trips and our World of Floorcraft campaign.
What’s more, in between all of those new events and programs, we also found the time to keep up old favourites like Lindystock and the Cabaret, Dance Ambassadors and Imperial Swing & Blues. It’s been a busy few years, and the scene has been richer for it.
But the volume of TLH’s activities has never been my point of pride. I’ve always believed in quality over quantity. So, although TLH runs many wonderful events and programs and has developed a reputation for doing so very, very well, I have a different list of the accomplishments that I am the most proud of over the last three years.
1. Internal Organization: Most people who read this will never see one of the accomplishments I am proudest of: the behind-the-scenes systems and structures that make Toronto Lindy Hop click. Over the last three years, we’ve developed an internal organization that’s streamlined, flexible and powerful, and that’s how an 11-member board is able to run 4 to 6 major events a year in addition to several monthly and weekly programs. It’s one thing to run a lot of events and programs; what I am truly proud of is that because of the structures we have in place, I can be confident that they’re all sustainable.
2. Uniting the Scene: It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when the Toronto lindy hop scene was deeply divided, and many blamed those divisions for the scene’s failure to reach its full potential.
Although it’s still a work in progress, I can’t tell you how proud I am of the efforts TLH has made to bridge those divides. We pride ourselves on running events that the entire scene can feel comfortable attending, and on inviting groups that might otherwise feel excluded. One of the most gratifying moments of my entire presidency was a TLH event in 2013 when I saw the leaders of several Toronto dance studios in the same room at the same time – the first time that had happened in many years. Subsequently, we held a very successful scene leaders’ meeting in January 2014, and helped get several teachers who had once been excluded to be reintegrated into the regular teaching rotation at Dovercourt by inviting them to teach at our Theme Nights first. And speaking of Theme Nights …
3. Theme Nights: Yes, out of everything Toronto Lindy Hop has done over the last three years, few make me prouder than our monthly Theme Nights at the Dovercourt House. Not only have they become great dances, with great attendance and high energy, they have become opportunities to make positive changes in the scene. The Switching Roles night, in particular, was a watershed moment: having two men teach the beginner lessons together, introducing Lead and Follow buttons and encouraging dancers to dance all roles with all partners, the night demonstrated the potential that a simple event could have in promoting inclusiveness within our community.
4. The Toronto Lindy Hop Team: Overall, though, there is nothing of which I am prouder than the people in Toronto Lindy Hop, the team that we were able to build.
To each and every person who served on the Board during the last three years, thank you. I could not have done it without you; we could not have done it without you. You gave us your all because of your love for the dance, your commitment to TLH, and your faith in me as your leader. Thank you for your confidence in me, thank you for your friendship, thank you for inspiring me. I am so grateful to know, as I step down as your president, that the organization I love is in such wonderful hands.
Of course, the TLH team goes well beyond the Board. From standing committees like the Education and Competition committees, to event committees like Cabaret, Lindystock/Winterstock and World Lindy Hop Day, to the volunteers we rely upon to make our events and programs happen, a staggering number of Toronto swing dancers have contributed to TLH’s success over the years. Thank you all so much for your efforts. I would also be remiss if I did not give a special mention to TLH’s largest group of volunteers, the Dance Ambassadors, who work week in and week out to make our community more open and welcoming.
As of January 1, 2015, Miranda Brunton will be your president. I could wish her luck, but she really doesn’t need it; she already has the dedication, the skills and talents, and the sensitivity that will make her an excellent leader. The main advice I would give to her is to make sure that TLH continues to unite the scene, to bring people together. We are, above all, a community … and it’s a community I will always be proud to call home.