Interview with Jason Haynes of SocialDanceCommunity.com

Haynes Photo 8I was so honored by your message to me a few years ago, reaching out to see if I would be interested in being part of collaboration project between a group of other writers of Dance.  What made you decide to create a site with this kind of collaboration in mind, and with writers from all over the world?

I love being part of the social dance community, and I’m a journalist at heart.  These two personal interests are the fuel that keeps the fire burning.  Around 2013 I started seeking out Latin dance themed sites that I could hopefully join and contribute to.  I was interest in learning more about the culture and influential dancers within the Latin dance community, and I wanted to share my findings with others.  I found a few sites that contained interviews and blog posts.   I was looking for a site that felt more like an online magazine and wasn’t aligned with any particular organization.  I didn’t find one.  I did, however, find one writer named Tasleem (smiles), who had produced wonderful, in-depth interviews with several influential dancers.

That is very sweet. Thank you so much. It really meant a lot to me. Sometimes, especially as a solo writer, I never really know who, if anyone, my pieces are actually reaching or resonate with. So your message to me helped to encourage me and remind me that what I am doing actually has a purpose.  

Well, what you were doing was exactly what I wanted to do! I read several of your interviews, and during this time, I had a lightbulb moment:  I got the idea to build my own website.  So, I brushed up on my WordPress skills and started a site called DancePlanetDaily.com.  My goal was to produce an online magazine catering to the interests of the Latin dance community.  The site had a magazine style feel, but the content was from a single source (me) and lacked the community feel that I wanted.

Haynes Photo 5Yes, I could tell, even from your initial message to me, that you are definitely a people person. I loved the way you obviously enjoy bringing people together, and I imagine you contributing greatly to the welcoming  and friendly atmosphere to dance communities around you.

Thank you.  Well, I knew that if I ever wanted to create a site with global appeal, that I would have to collaborate with others.  I simply couldn’t do it all myself and accomplish my greater goal.  This was the inspiration that led to SocialDanceCommunity.com (formerly LatinDanceCommunity.com).

I think that is amazing that you went from being a solo writer to reaching out to many writers like myself, whom you hadn’t even met yet. I think that takes a lot of trust and a bit of risk, to take a chance on working together with a bunch of strangers, really.   How did you go about finding the team of writers that you did?

In June or July of 2014, my assistant- Google (smiles) – and I teamed up and I scoured the internet for blogs maintained by dancers.  My criteria for potential writers was that content on their site was current, coherent, and entertaining or educational.  At the time, my focus was the Latin dance community, and I found a few willing souls who thought my idea of a collaborative site was a good idea.  We had about eight contributors to start, and we hit the ground running in October 2014.  After a few months, I started getting periodic requests from readers asking if they could become contributors.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The staff has fluctuated significantly over the years, but, thankfully, we still have a team of eight regular contributors.

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Jason Haynes with his wife Elizabeth

That is great to hear. I love how you have kept the site continuously going and growing, from day one.  

I have to say that although I created the vision and direction for the site in 2014, it absolutely would not have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for the important efforts of the following dancers:

Chilly Alisar (Cape Town, South Africa), Rachel Cassandra (Stuttgart, Germany), Rob Castellucci (California, USA), Richie Kirwan (Barcelona, Spain), Toan Hoang (London, England), Sorrel Holliday (London, England), Tasleem Laila (Vancouver, Canada), Paul Stepowski (Brisbane, Australia), Takeshi Young (California, USA)

They provided the educational, entertaining, and informative content that attracted visitors, and they helped spread the word that the site was live and a place dancers should visit.

Awww. That is another thing I really like about you- how you always seem to appreciate and acknowledge the others around you. And I am so honoured to be included in that list.  Even though I was a contributor for a short time, I have to say that I learned a lot from you and the other writers. It was great to be ‘surrounded’ by other writers of dance. I had never experience that before.

How do you manage the balance between the writing of dance and the dancing itself?  I find this tricky myself.

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Jason and Elizabeth Haynes

Three words: Plan, plan, plan.  I will admit to being an excessive planner.  I maintain a spreadsheet in which I plan and track my tasks for each day; the sheet contains tasks related to my wife, work, hobbies, friends, lunch, etc.  I don’t mind occasional disorder and randomness to my day, as long as its organized disorder (smiles).   I don’t go dancing nearly as much as I used to during my ‘social dancing prime’, but I’m still heavily connected to the scene through websites and photography. And I’m fine with that.

Plus, my current role for SocialDanceCommunity.com is more of a facilitator, manager, and administrator rather than contributing writer, but I still do post content related to affiliate advertising from time to time.

Has the experience of writing about dance impacted your dancing in any way?  

Being more knowledgeable about Latin dance has made me more appreciative of it.  My perspective on dance festivals has changed in that I have a much more critical eye on how they are organized.

Writing about dance has also certainly impacted my dancing, particularly bachata.  I now feel more connected to the dance simply because I know more about the roots of bachata dance and culture.  I try to incorporate more traditional bachata steps and movement in my dancing.  Adam Taub, Carlos Cinta, and Edwin Ferreras have been huge influences in my bachata dance style, and I follow their lead due to their encyclopedic knowledge of bachata.

So your main dance is bachata? 

I primarily dance bachata, salsa, and merengue.  I know how to dance kizomba, cumbia, and west coast swing, but I’m not very proficient with those styles.  My favorite dance style is bachata.  I think the music inspires me to dance more than the mechanics and feeling of the dance.  I love traditional Dominican bachata music because I enjoy the instrumentation, and I just feel an emotional attachment to it.

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Have any of the articles by other writers on your team prompted you to try out new dance styles?

We’ve had a few articles on Zouk, and I definitely want to try it sometime soon.

It has been awhile since I contributed to the site. What kinds of changes have taken place since then?

The major change was the transition of the domain fromLatinDanceCommunity.com to SocialDanceCommunity.com.  This change was made so we could embrace other styles of partner dance in hopes that the site will continue to grow and evolve. This change not only allows for contributors to cover topics that span the broader partner dance world, but it also enables me to recruit contributors outside of the Latin dance community.

Is there anyone in the dancing world who you would love to interview or even just meet that you haven’t already?

There are plenty of dancers I’d love to meet, feature, and/or interview, but the duo at the top of the list is Laurent and Larry Nicholas Bourgeois (aka Les Twins).  They’re in the hip-hop genre and not in the partner dance world, but they’re absolutely incredible dancers.   Their choreography and body isolation skills are incredibly precise and artistic.

If I had to choose someone that I haven’t met inside the social dance community, it would be Dom Ramark.  Dom lives in France and he’s primarily known for Salsa dancing.  I’m a huge fan of his choreography, particularly the timing, pace, and unique style.  I enjoy watching him dance socially because he dances to the music and not through the music, and his partners always seem like they’re having a good time.

Haynes Photo 1

It’s great that you appreciate so many different styles of dance.  Makes sense then that you would open up your site to articles that are not just among the Latin dance styles.   

Are there any pieces on your site, by other writers on your team, that really stand out to you?

There are several – but the piece currently resonating with me was posted last November by Richie “The Dancing Irishman” Kirwan and is entitled, “When You Lose Your (Dance) Mojo.”   I think this is something most, if not all, dancers experience at some point in their dance lives.  Richie has a very entertaining and casual writing style, and he does a great job of comparing dance to a romantic relationship.  I’m currently in a rough patch with my dance mojo and, as Richie prescribes, we might need to see Dr. Phil (smiles).

Haha! That is great. I can’t wait to read that article now.  I really admire when writers can say something prolific and insightful, but also incorporate humor in the telling. I would like to work on that more in my own writing. So I am looking forward to reading this article by Richie, as well as others you have posted. 

Thanks very much. It was an honour to be featured.

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