Help us out here. We’ve been brainstorming some various ways that the Dance First Association could expand and evolve and be a more valuable resource and service for folks in the conscious dance community, both for active movement facilitators and modality founders as well as participants in the field at large.
As you probably know, Dance First began as a pivot from the original Conscious Dancer Magazine project. From 2007 to 2013 we published some 23 print editions of a full-color magazine plus several online guides and supplements. In those years we touched upon pretty much every major modality and conducted interviews with many of the pioneers in the movement including Gabrielle Roth, Vincent Arjuna Martí, and Anna Halprin.
We’d never done it before and we learned a number of lessons about the business model of publishing along the way. The magazine industry looks a lot different from the inside than it does to outsiders. Friendly folks would offer glib advice. “You guys should be at the check stands at Whole Foods!” without understanding that those slots are auctioned off to the highest bidders by the distribution companies and are mainly utilized by publishers willing and able to operate at a loss until they reach market saturation.
“Why don’t you have Lululemon (or any large apparel or footwear corporation) on your back cover?” Well, in those years as publisher I had many conversations with the marketing executives of said corporations only to realize that we we’re in the middle of a Catch-22. It would go like this. “How many copies are you distributing?” “Currently 25,000.” Well, call us back when you’re at 500,000.” How does a scrappy start-up magazine reach those numbers without the revenue from large ad contracts or deep-pocketed backers? There’s the rub.
As neophyte publishers launching an ambitious project in the midst of a big recession and during the early boom years of the internet while the industry was in upheaval, we blithely attempted to have it both (or several) ways. Full-color glossy publication with world-class art direction like the national newsstand magazines out of New York? Check. Free distribution supported by ads like the local arts monthlies you read in cafés? Check. International readership supported by subscribers around the world? Check.
As time went by we learned that all of these ideas wouldn’t fit in one bucket. Our advertisers were often workshop-promoting facilitators who needed to get the word out well in advance. Subscriptions barely covered the postage. And piling up issues in coffee shops meant most of our efforts went straight into the recycling bins.
The one piece of our strategy that was a huge success however, was the idea that sprinkling bundles of magazines to the known hot-spots for conscious movement around the world would put our name out there and establish the brand. We sent magazines to places like Esalen, The Omega Institute, Kripalu, and Rancho La Puerta. Lo and behold, within a year or two people around the world were adopting the term ‘conscious dance’ as an umbrella term for the field.
Various personal and professional ups and downs led to a shakeup around 2012 and that’s when I encountered a smart entrepreneur who asked me a blunt question. “What kind of magazine are you?” In other words, were we playing the big, mass-market consumer game? If so, we needed major backing and our editorial would be more about promoting the field at large to the mainstream.
Or were we to be a ‘trade magazine’? Meaning we would be speaking directly to the leaders and facilitators in the field, focusing on content that would help them succeed. This model could be bootstrapped and scaled from the ground up, and lended itself to a membership-based organization.
What I quickly realized was that I much preferred serving the movement facilitator community directly by helping them promote more effectively and hone their offerings than I did spending my time on the phone with shoe company executives trying to convince them that conscious dance was the next big thing and selling them on the idea that ‘our readership’ would be a ‘great marketing opportunity’ for their products.
So, the Dance First Association was formed as an umbrella organization that included Conscious Dancer magazine, and I went to work developing our online MoveMap service along with the Monday Love newsletter that you are now reading. Which, with a few years in between, brings you up to date.
With that, I circle back to my initial request. What are some of the ways you could see a membership association such as ours serving this community more effectively? As we explore our various paths forward, a number of ideas have emerged, so take this as a preview of what may soon be coming down the pike. Your .02 cents on the topic is more than welcome.
More community connection and support? That could take the form of members-only conference calls or Zoom meetings focusing on various challenges that facilitators face as well as simply building a stronger community among members.
Tools and techniques for more effective marketing, practice-building, and promotions? Members could have access to a collection of specific add-ons that would drill down into the different types of use-cases encountered in various communities.
In-person gatherings, conferences, or symposiums? Once the pandemic is safely in the rear-view mirror the potential to host such events once again becomes a possibility.
Done-For-You event promotions? Similar to an advertising package, but designed around the various touchpoints of social media, email, and physical/print collateral.
A certification program? Dance First could offer credentials and certifications to facilitators who complete certain programs or meet specific requirements.
CEU’s? (Continuing Education Credits). A requirement for professionals in many fields, Dance First could offer programs, retreats, or workshops that would provide these valuable credits.
Specialized trainings? A curriculum of professional development opportunities designed to enhance and advance the capabilities and value of facilitators in the field.
A member’s magazine? Yes, Conscious Dancer could ideally see a printed annual edition featuring photos and profiles of all current members as well as the latest trends and updates in the field.
Anyway, you get the idea. These are a few of the ideas we are kicking around as the next evolution of Conscious Dancer and the Dance First Association takes form. As the founder, it’s my job to articulate ideas like this and hold the vision. Putting these ideas into action is a team effort, and that’s why we’re working on a new structure for the organization that will enable these ideas to bloom.
We’d love your input if you feel like speaking up, (just hit reply!), or simply keep your eye on our work as things progress. Belief in the benefits of conscious dance and intentional movement is why we’re dedicated to serving you, and putting our collected efforts into ‘movement for a better world’ is our mission.
Much love and gratitude to you and all you do! Till next Monday, take care!
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine