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The people and places that hold us together

As venues close, mentors retire, and legends pass away, what will bring us together?

What is the “glue” of our dance world?

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This was professionally transcribed, but it probably still has some errors. If you catch any, drop me a line at I’d love to hear from you!

This week I went to my grandmother’s funeral, and my sister, who got up to speak shared something that my grandma told her once. And that was, in our family, we show up. It’s what we do. And my grandmother, she was glue between the children, sons and daughters in law, grandkids, great-grandkids. There were 40 people in our family living in six cities. But we would always get together because of my grandmother. It started off with holidays at her basement rec room, and then after she moved to a retirement home and we were all doing our individual holidays, we would all still make a point of getting together, whether it was to go bowling or go to the trampoline park, or just pile into somebody’s living room and catch up with each other. And I wanted to talk about that now because the dance world also had a loss this month, and that was the passing of Fred Elias.

Now, if you’re not familiar with him, he was one of the world class musicians. He was Lebanese American, his parents were born in Lebanon, and he was a tremendous violin player. He recorded multiple albums of his own, played classical music. I hear he even played Carnegie hall once, and he was also featured on some of George Abdul’s records, and when he passed I didn’t really feel like making that same public Facebook statement that I was seeing going around, largely because I didn’t know what to say. What do you say at the passing of someone who’s meant a lot to you, but that you were not personally close to? And I knew him. I danced with him for 15 years, I talked to him ,but I didn’t have that same personal relationship that he had say with some of the really old timer dancers, or some of his band mates, and so I didn’t quite feel comfortable making that statement.

Well I did realize today what to say, and that’s that Freddie was also glue. By providing us with the opportunity to dance to world class music. He got us together over and over again. And just his shear joy at making music and watching dancers, even before we were very good. Brought us together over and over again, and after he retired we would still get together for his birthday party. Freddy was glue. In the last couple of years, I’m seeing less and less glue. I’m watching venues close that have been open for decades and offering live music and dancing. I’ve seen great musicians pass away. Not just Freddie but John Bilezikjian, Harry Saroyan, and others. And I’ve seen the dancers of my teacher’s generation retiring, and even some older ones passing away. And this makes me sad, not just because we’re losing great artists, and we’re losing friends, mentors, colleagues and people that we look up to, but also because it makes me afraid.

Because so much of life, not just in the dance world, but everywhere is moving more and more into the digital realm. Instead of getting together to dance we’re spending more time curating airbrushed pictures and sharing perfectly shot videos that don’t capture the specialness of the moment that they happened in. I’m seeing more competition and less joy, and I’m not the first one to say this. The elders in our community have been talking about this for years, and I absolutely saw what they were talking about, but it didn’t worry me because I also saw a lot of glue. I saw venues with live music, I saw dancers showing up and enjoying just watching other people’s performances rather than worrying about their own performance opportunities. And we had mentors and other people keeping us together. But as I see less and less of that I’m getting afraid.

As some other folks in my generation have said, we’re kind of afraid that we’re not ready to carry to torch, and a big piece of that is that we don’t have the same resources to offer our students that our teacher’s generation did. All of those opportunities that allowed us to learn how to dance to live music, even before we were very good. To dance to world class music, to get together into a venue and line dance with the patrons. All of those things are what made us the dancers that we are. Helped us understand not just how to dance, but the music, and the culture, and how it fits into this niche of celebration. And without those resources to offer our students, looking ahead to the future is scary.

So usually at this point in one of these podcasts I try and offer you some concrete steps to take. Some nice “how-to” to help you apply what you’ve learned. But instead I want to ask you guys. I want you to tell me about your glue. Who are the people, the dancers, musicians, what are the venues that have been the glue in your dance world? What is it that made them glue? What made them create that environment where everybody could get together just for the joy of the experience? What are you doing to create glue, or what are you seeing people around you do?


Your Turn

What has been your glue? What people or places have held your dance world together?

What are you doing to create glue in your dance community? What have you seen others do?

Share your own stories of glue, and I’ll collect and share them in a future episode.

You can:

1) Leaveme a voice message.

2) Post a comment below

3) Send me an email at

By submitting your story, you are giving me permission to share them in whole or in part. (That’s the whole point!)


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