A Community Blooms
Over the course of 2019, the size of AMC’s community has grown and become more engaged! Perhaps it’s having a larger space, perhaps it’s special events, Asheville’s growth – the factors are undoubtedly many.
AMC’s dance attendance overall is 25% larger than it has averaged over the past six years, with Sunday second waves averaging 13% larger than in the past, and Friday nights more than doubling in attendance. Special events have become a notable focus only in recent years, but their regularity and increase in size are significant contributors to this community growth!
However, not all waves have grown. Sunday first wave attendance is down by over 25% compared to years past. As with nature, so too do organizations ebb and flow, grow and shrink.
AMC’s attendance reflects not just seasonal changes, but also trends over the years. What leads to these trends? When new community members arrive, what makes the difference between new community members simply coming and going with the rest of the transient Asheville population, versus sticking around to engage, build and enrich our community?
AMC’s Buds and Blossoms
A Stable Space
Undoubtedly, a primary contributing factor of AMC’s growth is our stable larger venue. Since relocating to Evergreen’s 7,000 sq. ft. space and establishing a regular annual contract, AMC dances have literally been able to fit more people than ever before. Moving from the intimate Friday night Terpsicorps venue to Evergreen’s spacious dance floor has completely shifted the Friday evening dance experience. However, Evergreen’s distance and moderate firmness (and coldness) of the floor, especially compared to the traditional wood floor we used to enjoy at the Masonic Temple, has also likely impacted our dancers’ experience, and may be the reason for the decline of first wave attendance.
Special events, such as our largest-ever single event this year, have also assuredly been a significant component. AMC in 2019 created a record number of over twenty one outdoor and indoor special events, achieving roughly twice the overall attendance of 2018’s special events. While this was made possible due to sizable new participant energy, it also diverted limited organizer energy from regular organizational and community maintenance, and it exposed and stressed significant bottlenecks. Still, our vision is sharing our dance practice as a way to practice authentic self expression and build community.
We are glad to have been able to share the practice with the greater Asheville community more than ever before this year! Special events like our downtown OurVOICE Fundraiser have been able not only to share our mission, but also to increase awareness of other aligned nonprofit organizations. This year we raised over $700 for OurVoice and talked with countless passersby who were drawn by the spectacle of free expression, and who stopped to hear about what we were dancing for that day.
The impact of new participant energy is also certainly a factor. In addition to the new attendance from Asheville’s growth and the flow of transient Asheville visitors, the AMC community has enjoyed the added energy of a few highly experienced transplants from other dance communities, and over the course of 2019 AMC organizers have made significant efforts to welcome what has been a sudden and surprising influx of new energy. Integrating this energy while maintaining AMC’s vision and integrity has been a significant challenge, but also has been a great boon in terms of developing community capacity, recognizing the potential of AMC, and engaging the community at large. To be sure, free form dance communities are gaining momentum all over the world!
What fruits would you like to see this community yield?
If you share our vision of creating harmony and empowered authentic expression through dance, then we are excited to join in collaboration! Marta Martin, AMC’s Events Coordinator & Executive Director maintains the facilitator pathway, schedules guests and special events, and cultivates collaborative relationships with nonprofits and other organizations.
If you work with an aligned organization or are interested in co-creating special events, get in touch with Marta!
If you are excited about helping make any of our events happen on the ground, or with getting to know our community by greeting them at the dances, talk to our Volunteer Coordinator Victoria Keil!
Tending the Community Garden
Culture & Context: What Sets the Tone of the AMC Vibration?
AMC’s growth certainly shows that by and large people are enjoying something; however, AMC’s primary concern is not attendance or income. AMC is committed to a vision of a world that moves in harmony where all are free to be their authentic selves. This calls for a balance of expression of personal freedoms with community awareness and understanding.
AMC has always valued this balance, and our dance guidelines, including the opening circle and other elements such as being a substance free space have been present to help maintain that balance. However, now, in the wake of the #metoo & #blacklivesmatter swells, and in a political climate that’s been marked by bigotry and sexism that has shaken the foundations of what might have once seemed to be solid frameworks for social progress, many oppressed identities are both feeling more empowered and capable of speaking, while the evidence of their oppression has become increasingly apparent.
The AMC community is no exception. We have received community feedback about a number of ways that AMC’s systems and structures prove problematic, confusing, or otherwise do not support our vision of welcoming everyone to harmoniously be their authentic selves in loving community. Specifically this has included women, LGBTQ+ identified community members, and people of color. The feedback we received was largely addressing issues which were occurring by community members outside of the dance floor, but has also included perennial issues around sexual expression, physical touch, energetic presence, sound, etc.
It’s clear that with AMC’s vision in mind that community relationships off the dancefloor also impact the dance floor and whether the AMC community is a welcoming place for everyone. More understanding of systemic oppression among the AMC community, and in Asheville in general, and in English language literature at large has created more capacity of recognizing the systemic inequities that are present within our organization.
As we responded to address specific issues as they arose, it became apparent that some of hte issues couldn’t be solved by a one-time response. Rather, larger scale change was needed. Specifically, training for staff and community, and having clearer and better informed policies on how to deal with certain issues. As a step toward effectively addressing the systemic issues that this feedback has brought to light, AMC has developed a medium term plan for improving AMC’s space holding.
The Path to Improving AMC Space Holding Summary
Over the next 3 months
- Make Changes to the Guidelines and Opening Circle
- Make Changes to Feedback Systems & Response to Incidents
Over the next 6 months
- Develop a written and publicized policy on harassment and abuse
- Develop community resources including training and education
- Improve Facilitator support and training
Over the next 12 months
- Support education and awareness of related issues for the AMC community
- Improve systems for internal organizational accountability
You can read the full Path to Improving AMC Space Holding here. It was passed during the Oct 27th, 2019 AMC Joint Circle Meeting.
It’s clear that AMC’s vision of a world where all are free to be either authentic selves seems more important than ever before. Much more is needed to work toward our vision of a world that moves in harmony where all are free to be their authentic selves, even if we are only trying to accomplish that on our dance floor and in our immediate community.
AMC’s Inclusivity Ambassador, Tikva Wolf, is a great contact if you have ideas, feedback, or energy to help create this kind of change in our community!
Empowering a Community: Co-Creating Our Vision
AMC makes decisions via consent from specialized circles of community representatives, including coordinators and officers who are elected by the circles. This Dynamic Governance model (AKA Sociocracy) aims for efficient and human friendly non-hierarchical management. As one of few models for non-hierarchical management, it can sometimes seem a bit counter-intuitive. This way of working is certainly different from almost all business and governmental systems in our society.
One of the primary assets of Dynamic Governance is its flexibility. AMC continues to respond to the ebb and flow of community members and participation. We look forward to staying dynamic by:
- Making more accessible pathways to build pre-requisite skills to participate in mission critical roles within AMC such as Facilitator, Coordinator and Officer
- Supporting community understanding of AMC’s decision making and working processes
- Making it easier for the community to track changes and decisions AMC is making
- Making it easier for people who may not have extra resources and time to participate in AMC organizing, especially those who may not have economic privilege but do have important insight, experience and skills to share.
Over the course of the last few years, much change has already been made to improve pathways for involvement and capacity developing within the AMC community.
We currently have a strong group of Room Coordinators that constitute a well qualified pool to draw on for Volunteer Coordinator Elections.
We have established a developing internship program to cultivate administrative capacity within our organization that has yielded two Administrative Assistants who both relieve our organizer capacity bottleneck, and are learning and sharing important skills within our organization and community.
The three individuals who participated in AMC’s 2019 Mix-Making Internship have gone on to pursue the Facilitator Pathway.
We are continuing to develop our community’s capacity for organizing in the hopes that we will one day be able to take on the significant task of managing a permanent home for our community.
Seed Fund Update: Building Soil
In December 2018 AMC did an amazing thing! In our first ever significant fundraising campaign we raised over $10,000 toward our “Build a Home” Seed Fund. It was a testament to our community’s shared vision and willingness to show up! It was also challenging and quite a bumpy ride!
Over the course of 2019, development on the seed fund was hampered by limited organizational capacity. As work toward creating a realistic vision of a home for AMC progressed, it became clear that if AMC were to take on the management and financial commitment of a full time space, we would need a stronger organization with deeper roots. The community growth, special events, and challenges AMC has weathered in 2019 yield significant insight and many lessons, but revealed our limited capacity for growth.
The “Dancing a New Narrative” Year End Fundraising campaign is a clear step towards building the soil for our future vision. Developing more organizational capacity, stability, and collaborative relationships that allow us to grow beyond our past aims is necessary before uprooting us to survive a transplant into the ecosystem of leases, mortgages, and full time space management.
Read the entire 2019 Q3 Seed Fund Report here.
Seed Fund Financials
The AMC Seed Fund balance is kept in a separate bank account from our operational funds.
$11,905 Raised for Seed Fund
$2,100 Spent on Seed Fund Fundraising Expenses
$1,000 Spend in 2018 toward “Build A Home” Activities including space search
$1,520 Spent in 2019 toward “Build A Home” activities include space search and
$200 Other expenses, Fees and Payroll Tax
Intergenerational Community: Full Cycle Life
Since the AMC childcare program was founded thanks to the significant effort and care of Andy Weatherly, AMC has been offering some level of free childcare during second wave to support AMC parents attending dance. In 2018, as attendance grew, the childcare program was over-burdened and not able to handle the level of interest. Since moving to Evergreen, AMC has been working to establish a high quality of care and reliable system of providers. In 2020, we aim to continue to grow and improve the childcare program. Our vision is to be able to provide an excellent level of care that meets the needs of our community’s parents. We aspire to be able to provide activities for children that goes beyond basic childcare and meets the needs of the children.
We are excited to have a reliable and inspired Childcare Coordinator, Jonny Rhum. Stay tuned for more childcare updatdaes in 2020! Sign up for the childcare newsletter AMC’s Childcare page: https://www.ashevillemovementcollective.org/childcare/
Seeds of the Future
The passion of our community is AMC’s fertile soil. Since the end of 2016, when AMC was faced with a challenging space search, found itself with almost no savings, reserves or operational funds, and was in the hands of new leadership, the organization and community have only grown in passion, vigor and stability. It has taken much dancing, as well as much dedication and perseverance, to tread this path! We have needed a healthy dose of luck, plus support from the great Asheville Community (thank you Evergreen!), and a combination of frugal, prudent and insightful management, but AMC is better positioned than ever to reach for new horizons – all thanks to you – to us! We are the Asheville Movement Collective.