The World’s Largest Steppers Contest is BS!!!

Before reading this article….KNOW ONE THING….this is not an attempt to get you or anyone else not to support the World’s Largest event. But it is a call to action & pondering!!! I support Pete Frazier, and we have a cool relationship, except when we’re trying to out-dress each other. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an opinion,…and that opinion does not mean that I don’t like him. All too often we talk about what needs to be, but refuse to accept the change we ask for, or we blame someone else when the change didn’t work like we thought. Steppin is a beautiful art that deserves to be seen AS IT IS….It don’t need no flavor, no extra, no proppin’ up, no special….It already is Special. Besides…If it wasn’t all that to begin with, it wouldn’t have gotten you hooked like a new addict in the first place!!! You may claim that you know, but do more that just Look & Listen….Pay Attention!!! You might learn somethin in the most unlikely of places….even when you think, you know……Can Ya Dig It!!!

Lately, one of the more regular questions that I’ve been getting is….”Am I going to see you at the World’s Largest, or Are you competing this year?” And to both the answer is a resounding, NO!!!

Like many people who have attended the last few years, the lure & luster of the contest is gone for me because its gotten too far away from what it came to be & symbolize for a lot of people…..The Best of the Best pulling out all the stops to lay it on the line……A Battle Royale, that was sho’ nuff gon’ get cha hollerin!!!….BUT at the end of the night…it was OVER!!! Yes! Those who carried off the trophies got special attention for a while, but it didn’t put them above the dance, and they really didn’t expect it to. The REAL reward was that their efforts & skill were documented and recognized by their peers & fans of this dance. And they got a lil’ pocket change, in addition to getting into some parties free.

The focus was not,…Let me get in this here so I can be a star, start a class, have everybody know me, etc…In most cases, you were already “known”. It was the challenge of putting yourself & your skill level on the line to be judged,.…even if it meant you took a whoopin or were criticized. It was a chance just to compete against the BEST!!! Now did that mean that people didn’t expect to win, or care about winning, or that they didn’t have passion or get angry when they lost??….NO, it doesn’t mean that at all! But if nothing else they realized that it was just a dance at the end of the day….and that quiet as its kept,…THEY ALL LOVED THE DANCE…..NOT WHAT IT COULD DO FOR THEM, THEIR EGO, OR STATUS!!! These competitors got down for the same reason that guys go to the basketball court & fight like hungry dogs to win, but then have a beer TOGETHER when its done….and no one is getting paid! For years the stories roll along, “Remember that day when he was so hot that nobody could stick’em….”….but they are all inspired by the Love of The Game…..AND THAT IS NOT WHAT THIS CONTEST IS BECOMING!!!!

With all that being said, “Who’s to blame for this???”…..Grandmama said…..”Be careful who you point at,…Cause every time you do,…you’re”…Uh Oh…Does that mean its Me, You, Us, Those Who Talk & Do Nothing, Those Who Talk But Roll With the Crowd Anyway…..Hhhhmmm…

NOT because “Pete is Shady”…..

The “Customer is always right”….the ever-popular words that good customer service is supposedly built on….but does it always work?

I can’t say that Pete Frazier is any more “shady” than the rest of us…and whether you wanna admit it or not, we ALL have a shady side…It just depends on how much you play to it. But in this case we’re talking about the World’s Largest, and I really don’t think that Pete is shady in this effort. Actually, I would call it more “overwhelmed” than anything. It’s very difficult to be the center of an event like this….because people offer to help and don’t follow through, or only want to help the way they want, but don’t wanna do what you need help doing. You end up depending most on yourself and at the end, you get the reward of walking into the event where everyone is calling your name, has a question, can’t remember what they were suppose to do.…and everyone else wants to get in Free…all while you don’t make as much money as people think!!!

For a lot of Steppers, especially those that have been around since the 90’s era, when there were very few classes or videos…no websites, and Steppin pretty much only existed in Chicago & the memories of those who had moved away…. “THE CONTEST” was a really big deal and was a source of entertainment that you looked forward to at the end of summer. Imagine 3,000-5,000 people all dressed in their Sunday’s best, going to not only a big dance contest, but a concert with major artists like the Isleys & Gerald Levert. You would dance, then sit down and watch the festivities…cheer, laugh & scream for more…then dance again, all for $25 and then off to all the After-parties. It was CRAZY FUN!!!…..But then in a moment, it was gone!!!

For those who “actually” KNOW Pete, you know that he’s an okay guy & family man. (You can’t speak on rumors, or what somebody told you, cause you were not there or intricately involved, so you don’t know. There are several sides to every story. So, if you speak on it as truth, and you really don’t know, well then who’s shady now! And I don’t care who your source is…) Anyway, if you know Pete, you know that he makes things happen,…He’s a real promoter, but that does not mean that he has all the answers. Forget for a minute if it was a good business move or not. When we lost the World’s Largest, Pete stepped up to bring the event back to life when no one else did, because not having it took something away from Steppin & that was no easy task. Because now he had to play to an audience and consumer base that was changing….and what they hoped to gain from Steppin & the Competition was changing. Pete being a business man, then did what several people would have done…. “Give the people what they want”, because of course, “the customer is always right”…..RIGHT!!!

NO!!!!!!!……Not Right!!!

One of the biggest mistakes in creating and developing the “NEW” Contest was making changes to it AT THE REQUEST OF CONTESTANTS & ALLOWING RULES & STANDARDS TO BE BROKEN IN THE NAME OF PROGRESS……So What, if it was a Great performance….So What, if the audience loved it….So What, if those dancers are a good draw, or have a lot of fans, friends & students who will pay just to cheer. The Contest was at a critical stage when it was resurrected. Following the 2000 Contest, where 10 years later I’m still trying to figure out what contest the judges were looking at. And couple that with there being a three year lay-off, because everybody couldn’t be made happy. The thing that needed to be done was to adhere to the format & rules that made the event work!!! Not to be considerate of new feelings or be willing to change. Those people wanted to dance, so they should have been forced to comply with the contest being presented or sit down and wait for a contest that they thought suited them, or that they could win on their terms. But believe you me, they were not going to walk away from the chance to dance in the World’s Largest, especially if they thought that they were that good!

Why would people ask for rules or format changes? Do we ask for rules to be changed in other activities, sports, or games to make them more advantageous? Or, do you learn to compete by actually WORKING on your skills over time so that you can COMPETE. As a kid, I played basketball on a 7ft rim…and it was off to the races. I was MJ & it was big fun! But it wasn’t real….It wasn’t until I could do it down at the regulation court that it meant something. Wow!…REGULATION……RULES…..FORMAT.

The reality is that the New Contestant was more interested in participating in an event that was crafted for them & their goals, as opposed to learning how to function in the event as it existed. In my opinion, creating an easier path to victory, popularity and “my chance to get in the spotlight”!!!

Now many people will say, “Well that’s just a few people….”. In actuality it was not….The post 2000, New Era of Steppin is a network of students, fans, & followers based on what area you are from, or on pseudo-friendships (till you do or say something I don’t like or that doesn’t benefit me). So in actuality,…1+1+agree with 1+1+ agree with 1+1 etc. Now, catering to this logic would work for some types of events like parties and 3-day weekends where you want the popular people there because “they have a following”, people want to see them dance & dance with them, and their friends and students are coming, etc. But that may not work for a contest….

Let’s take a closer look at some of the common changes & problems…..

“The Contest is too long!!!”……

1…Well if it started on time, and stopped waiting for contestants & late judges to get there, that would solve some of that issue….it may make a few people mad, BUT, they really couldn’t argue with it…..neither could their fan-base…And quiet as its kept, the audience takes their time getting there too. But would it really make the contest itself shorter?…Maybe

2…Contestants complained…”I need to be on-stage by myself so that the judges don’t miss my performance & my crowd-pleasing moves”…”And you gotta make sure that you play my music, just my music”…. THIS is what takes forever!!!

If you must dance alone so that the judges will not miss your special moves….Maybe you are not as good as you want to appear to be…You should have several moves available that will catch the judge’s eye, not just a couple….And it should not be a routine!!!

The World’s Largest has always been like gladiator school,…If you are really all that, “Get on stage with these other people and Take the Spotlight! Make the Judge look at you, and Make the audience cheer for you!” Isn’t that what happens in the clubs…If you are burning up the floor, then people take notice…You don’t have to make an announcement….Attention comes when the good get goin!!! You don’t need to dance alone or two at a time….So how good did you say you were again?

I need my mix!!!….Well, what if the DJ didn’t play your cd??? Most new contestants would freak, or claim an unfair advantage. But if you’re really World’s Largest quality aren’t you SUPPOSE to be able to adapt or simply admit that YOU “just couldn’t get it going today”. Last time I checked, Old School danced to whatever played. Besides, ain’t that what we do in the club. Or, when Contestants did pull music they got to hear just a minute or two of their song then it was the other two or three songs that they had to dance too where they didn’t know what song was coming…..Is it that you need your mix because you need to do your routine? That reminds me of the kid who ONLY wanted to play on the 7ft basket….

In any Original category (Beginner, 39 & under/New Skool, 40 & over/Old School, Out of Towner, Walking)…If you need a routine to compete, or better yet, if you need someone to create a routine for you to compete – Guess What!!! You already know….You’re not as good as you may desire to be & NOT ready for this competition. The challenge of competing on the World’s Largest Level is to do things that are NORMAL, in a UNIQUE way to make it look new & different…it’s the spice of excitement. Rehearsing, scheduling, choreographing a couple of moves to invoke synchronized movements part-way through a performance, or to insure proper execution of a difficult turn is one thing…But EVERY move pre-determined! That doesn’t prove that you can dance this style with the Best of the Best….It means you can do choreography. Because what do you do if they call for another dance, and to music you didn’t practice to?….Do the routine again?

If three or four couples are dancing & “Working the floor” the way it’s suppose to be done, then there would be a new group on the floor every 5 minutes. Now I’m all for picking a song to get some inspiration, but all the extra bells and whistles needed is not what’s up…. And all the extra time could be used for everybody getting the chance to dance, party & celebrate or leave and go to the after-parties that used to be around….

NOT because “It’s Fixed”…..

I do not believe that the Contest is “fixed” the way that many people refer to it….And although there have been some rather unique & questionable situations…It would take waaaay too much effort to do successfully without it being told. Judges should not be something that a promoter can always control . But I do believe that better care should be taken to put judges in place who actually know the dance…not who are divided on the whole new/old school non-sense…but who actually know Steppin & Walkin…and not hybrid forms of either.

I have to acknowledge that many times, judges vote how they feel about someone rather than how the person actually performed…and I think that that problem increases when you pick people based more on their popularity than on their experience and understanding of the dance, or their willingness to tell a friend that they didn’t do well so “I didn’t give you good scores”. Judges scores need to be posted throughout the contest to keep them accountable, not held till the end. By the same token, Contestants should respect the decision of the judges. Not winning does not mean that you can’t dance, or are not good at this. It means you were not the one tonight.

Being on the stage is about submitting to, being vulnerable, and being judged by the standards of others. If the only people saying that you should have won are your friends, fans, students or instructor – Guess what?!? And No, Er’body ain’t gonna like your outfit….Er’body ain’t gonna think that “weird” thing you do is cool….Er’body ain’t gonna cut you some slack!!! This is a competition where you are supposed to be ready to BRING IT, not beg for it!!!

NOT because “Its the Same People Winning”…..

The Champion should be the champion until someone else can win…..I’m sorry, but if the Lakers keep winning championships…even if you don’t like Kobe, How can you be mad? They prepared the best! The goal is to knock off whoever is at the top of the hill…not, ask him/her to leave so that you can climb up too.

Do I think that there’s a time to get out of the way, YES! I feel that you should move over after you win, because what do you prove by winning again? But I also respect the notion that to be the Champion, you have to beat the Champion.

And to newer Contestants,….You are not going to beat veteran contestants in this competition with moves that they taught you in some workshop or private. And re-hashing “So n’ So’s’ move from 2004, 5, or 6 is not going to be impressive. Because just like you saw it, we saw it live & the youtube video that you saw too. Not only that, its probably something that the judges watched that person do for years in the club, so its not gonna get the points that you’re looking for. Just like they put time and effort into coming up with that stuff, or they got if from someone else and put their own spin on it to make it look at least a little different….That’s what you have to do to really come up the competition ladder.

So, let’s create another REMEDY to make people feel better…..We can just do a Beginners category. Now here we go messin with the “Quality” of the Contest & the perception that it’s the Best of the Best competing.

When the concept of a “New” dance category came up in the late 90’s, Steppin had not seen the growth that exists now, & there was no draw from other cities. The “New-Comers” category was created, to get dancers who were never really interested in competing to compete, because others were getting tired of doing it, so the requirement was to have never danced in the WLSC. That developed into the Beginners category of today….and that category should not be called Beginners according to its rules because it has so many people in it lying that it’s ridiculous! It was never suppose to be a “minor-league’ to hang out in because you didn’t think you could beat better dancers. How have some of you been going to events or even say “Oh yeah, I remember that” from two & three years ago, but claim you only been dancing for 6 months to a year. Or you’ve been in two or three contests already…Quit Playin! And if I know that you been around for a while, its really major cause I don’t come out that often,.…And you claim to want things to be fair!!! And that’s not to say everybody is doing that, but it is the norm. The category is not built on your perception of where your talent is or who you feel comfy dancing against.…It’s based on how long you’ve been dancing. And Yes, I understand the desire to showcase what one has learned in class, but that is so far removed from what that category as become. If nothing else, it’s become the springboard for starting a class or being the next “great” dancer….But how do you go from “self-proclaimed” Beginner to starting a class 30 days later. Is that where this has gone??? Where’s the respect for the event? If you are not ready to go at it with the Best that the dance has to offer, including your instructor who may be in the contest too, then its not time to run up on stage. Its time to learn the game!!

There are a lot of people who play sports, but if I told you that the Chicago Bulls (or whatever pro team) heard that you play and said they want you to come suit up tomorrow (for free) to play against the Lakers on T.V…..You ain’t goin, not for that level of embarrassment….UNLESS…You have prepared & practiced for that moment!!! You respected the game!!! How many major contests have you observed & studied – Not looked at on video…Before, you got in the Contest? Better yet, how many smaller contests did you get into to learn how to “contest” dance better? That is the Real Beginner’s category….

I would love to see the Master’s category be the “required” category with no age limits, if you have ever won the WLSC one time, or placed 2nd or 3rd at least twice, therefore disqualifying you from the regular categories; I think that you should not have to qualify because you’ve won before, and that it should not be revealed until the night of the contest who is dancing. And participants should have to Step & Walk with the DJ picking the music….sorry, but Trio is not a standard skill in Steppin. It would give dancers something more to strive for and create an annual Battle Royale that would be a draw for both new & older Steppers.

People may complain about who’s winning, but in the end, they still wanna see a good show, and if the people who have learned how to put a good show on are not on the stage, then people will not be there…not the other way around. The next era of Contest dancer needs to learn how to keep the show & the tradition going. To be a Champion, you have to learn and earn the right to say it!!!

How many people have seen their friends dance, and in your mind knew that they really shouldn’t be getting on that stage, or that they had no chance at winning….but were a team player and didn’t say anything and cheered for them because you didn’t want them to be mad or to have an attitude with you????? It sounds like those pseudo-friendships where you say and do to keep that “friend”. And wow, I thought friends told each other the truth….

NOT because “They Don’t Pay Out”……

The only response I have to this is…..If you get in a contest and earn something, and let someone take it from you or not give you what you deserve & earned, especially when you invested time and money, then that’s on you….Be Quiet and never tell anyone that you got punked!!! And you really shouldn’t say anything if you keep getting in that competition, or ever pay to go view that event. I’m not advocating fighting and all that, but there are ways to get paid when you have earned it. If you let someone get away with that then….well, what can I say, That’s on you!

NOT because “Its a Revolt Against OOT’s”….

Starting back in 2001 I began traveling all over the country building stepper’s communities from the ground up, on my own dollar…when a lot of people weren’t even really sure what the dance was. I did it for several years, then brought almost 300 people to Chicago to dance in the “mecca” of Steppin. After that several other instructors began traveling and then the internet caught on as a tool to broaden the dance and now just about every week there is someone from Chicago in another city “helping” and teaching people this dance outside of Chicago.

For people to question whether or not Chicago has love for other cities is ridiculous, because we’ve proven ourselves time and again with this dance. We welcome people here with open arms and spend more money on your events and traveling there than many spend here. We acknowledge and “praise” those who have studied and worked hard to be good at this dance.

So what now….its customarily stated that you can’t win the World’s Largest unless you are from Chicago…I remember a couple of people from other cities walking away with WLSC hardware. I can’t remember the year that the D.C. couple won 2nd or 3rd…and Daryl in ATL won with Margaret in 1999. But the difference is that they came and WON! They didn’t come and cry about it. Let’s put it out there,……In 2005, Dre & Margaret should not have won after throwing the confetti…but…it was allowed and its over and done. The rule stated that in the Original category, which is also tradition,….props & effects are illegal. By the same token, in my opinion, James Pacely was the only out of town dancer than deserved to win something that year and didn’t….The man brought it! But to get hard feelings and say, “We ain’t comin down there no more cause y’all ain’t fair was overkill”. The truth is that we were proud to have you guys in the contest. But there should not have been immediate expectations by entering the contest either. Yes, the dancers from Detroit that year were decent dancers, but had yet to develop to the level of those who were still showing them the dance. And what also needed to be realized is that the “judges” saw it the way that it was handed down & we must respect that.

The right answer was not to appease with another Category, but to encourage those dancers to keep pressing forward….and some did!!! Today, some of the best dancers are out of Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta, and Milwaukee…and Chicago more than respects them. We greet them with open arms & respect the talent because they put in the work to deserve that. So why is there an Out of Town category??

Stop saying & claiming…..We don’t get to dance as much as people in Chicago! Most people here dance once or twice a week except the hard-cores, and they generally don’t compete. And I have yet to go to any city where people say, “We don’t dance well here, so don’t dance with me”. Neither do I see Instructors claiming to be inadequate or claiming ignorance when it comes to what they are doing because they are unexposed and need a crutch to be considered equal.

If you are teaching, claiming to be an “Up & Coming” or “I don’t take classes & workshops anymore”….and then you wanna be in a “special” category at Contest time, you are “faking the funk and lowering the hurdle”. Its time to step up the game!

Is this a Old school Contest or a New School Contest???…..

That is like, the craziest question to even need to be asked in this situation. The question SHOULD be…Is this a Steppin Contest, or is it a contest where you do what YOU wanna do and call it Steppin cause you did a couple of basics in between everything else you did!!! The first litmus test for that would be…if you would never ever do it in the club or be able to walk up to someone else and do it or lead them through it, then you should not be doing it in the contest….the competition is “based on club dancing” with some embellishment, not on how many tricks you can do. People claim that winning means that you are the best….and it really doesn’t…it actually means that you were either the best that day, or the most fortunate that day. And if you won based on how many tricks you did or how great your choreography was…then in the club, you could very well be considered a mediocre dancer…And that IS NOT what a World’s Largest winner is suppose to represent!!!

People ask & talk about how the Old School feels, or claim to want the Old School experience – But generally don’t wanna take the time to learn it because it ain’t easy or quick…but the good things never are. That’s what they mean when they say “Pay your dues”. They mean to put in the time to learn the dance! We’ve rejected the Contest that churned out Dancers like Dimples, Marzette, Daryl Davis, Cynthia Shanks, George Macaroni, Angie Faine, Keith Hubbard, Tina Moore, Casper, Cleo, Darlinda, Tony Dow, Fish Dog, Janiece, Ty Skippy, Patina, Magic Mike and the list goes on & on. I’ve heard all year about standards, but people don’t even realize that the standard already exists….but its been violated by so many shortcuts that its been missed resulting in an anything goes concept. As much as I enjoy some of the entertaining & exciting things going on at some of these contests – It Ain’t Steppin!!!….It’s Entertainment and Contest Steppin is about finding ways to obey the format & standard and still entertain!!!

And as you look at these few reasons for why the Contest is BS! I’m sorry I missed the biggest one… you didn’t win because they was hatin on you…RIGHT! I can’t say that the promoter thought up any of that stuff on his own……I think he gave us (Contestants & Consumer) what we asked for….. And who were those other three fingers pointing at, Grandma???

I think the biggest question is… Are we willing to pull the bootstraps tight, and forget the egos and how good we thought we were to make it right and move toward a better event….HELPING rather than hurting???

5 Responses to The World’s Largest Steppers Contest is BS!!!
  1. Chi- Gal
    September 8, 2010 | 5:06

    Maxx you have written the truth. Your words were choosen so very Well. So well put that anyone who reads this shouldn’t get offended. But like the saying goes for some the truth hurts. Wow im so glad that you kept it real from the first word you typed to the very last word. 2 thumbs up for speaking on a real topic with serious issues..

  2. atlmel
    September 9, 2010 | 5:06

    Dance Doctor! Your piece is interesting, entertaining and thought provoking. I, like you, have lots of opinions and found myself agreeing with some points and disagree with others. But that’s how we do, and I love that about’cha! One point that we share is that there is room for change/improvement(?). However I will continue to attend (support)the contest to help en$ure it survives through its evolution because of “my love” for this dance!
    It’s my sincere hope all this “BS” doesn’t kill it first…..?

  3. Dave Maxx
    September 9, 2010 | 5:06

    @Chi-Gal…I just try to call it how I see it, and based off the experience that I’ve had. People may not agree, but i don’t speak out for people to like me or blindly agree. Take a real look, and if you see if different, thats cool too. My goal with this is not to pour salt, but to provoke thought & action. Not just complaining about an event. And I gotta Keep It Real!!! Thanks Again!!!

  4. Dave Maxx
    September 9, 2010 | 5:06

    @Mel…I too hope that the Contest isn’t “killed” due to the mess…but what a lot of people may not thought about is that the Contest actually reflects the state of Steppin. And if we don’t like the Contest then maybe we really need to reassess our approach to the dance as a whole. The Contest is a great tradition, but if the tradition is being watered down, then is it what we signed up for, or do we need to make demands of ourselves and others to push for real change, and addressing the actual issues that will make it the “pinnacle’ event in Steppin, and not just a front for popularity driven exhibitions. As you know, I don’t expect people to always agree with my perspective, and I’m glad that you took the time to comment.

  5. Jbxperience
    September 27, 2010 | 5:06

    Well Dave, I have to agree with your blog. As usual you speak the truth when it comes to Steppin. I’ve learned from those who I consider to be some of the very best (Tyk Myn, Monique Salter, Donnie Davis, Dominique Robinson, Ricky “Tall Rick” Wetherspoon and yourself)…I can’t recall a single time when I saw any one of your doing “Ball Room” dips and tricks with a person crawling through your legs. I thought the dance was supposed to be improvised. I was taught (by you) that if you lead a turn properly you should be able to do it with anyone who can truly Step. I didn’t see that this weekend. I saw a couple win a category when the basis for their entire dance was ball room dips and tricks. They barely did any Steppin and the Steppin they did do was subpar at best. My question is this: What would motivate any true stepper to enter a “Steppin contest” if they can’t win it with Steppin alone? If you have to resort to dips and tricks to win I don’t see how you can feel like you’ve accomplished anything. How can you feel like you’ve won if you were out danced by just about every couple in your category, but did rehearsed tricks to pull out the victory. I’ve never been interested in being in the contest myself, and after what I just witness this weekend I doubt I ever would be. The WLSC is definitely still broken, but will any of us be around to see it fixed?

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