Cable Access: A Targeted Method to Increase Interest in Danc

Hello all,

I had the following article published in the March/April edition of Amatuer Dancers, the USABDA (United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association) magazine. The details are specific for the United States, but could be applicable to other locations as well.

I thought some of you might find it useful as well.



Cable Access: A Targeted Method to Increase Interest in Dancing

I’m fairly certain that most people reading this article will agree that having more people dancing would be a good thing. What is often hard to find, though, is ways to attract new people. The best way to attract people to dancing is for them to see other people dancing and having a great time. Except at weddings, relatively few non-dancers ever see people dancing together, so what can we do to expose the general public to people dancing? In the summer of 2003 two pieces of information came together and led me to what I feel has been a very good idea. I learned that national dance competitions were no longer being broadcast by public television because they were too expensive to produce, and I learned about Cable Access. I decided that perhaps I could produce my own dance-related television programs through Cable Access, and have done so with great success.

Cable television is a monopoly, and as part of that monopoly most communities require that the cable companies supply a cable access station that anyone living in the area can use to transmit anything (within certain legal limits) to the cable-viewing public. There is no direct cost to individuals to produce or transmit these programs because the costs are paid for by the cable company, and passed on to all cable subscribers.

Producing Cable Access Programs:
Part of the mission of most cable access stations is to train producers in the use of video and editing equipment. If available, cable access stations will lend equipment to tape programs and there may be in-station studios where you can tape shows. Although some stations require the "producer" to be a cable subscriber, depending on your local stations guidelines you might not need to have cable, you might only need to live in the area serviced by the station.

Airing Cable Access Programs:
Once you've produced a program you submit it for airing, and assuming it meets technical (no major glitches on the tapes), and "non-commercial" guidelines it will be aired. It might not be aired during primetime, but your program will be shown, and anyone who gets cable can see it. One of the added benefits is that once you have a program you can send it to other nearby cable access stations and they will often also run it, although you'll have to check their submission guidelines.

Live-To-Tape In-Studio Program:
OK, so once you’ve learned how to produce a Cable Access Show, what is the easiest kind of program to produce? The Live-To-Tape In-Studio Program is usually the easiest because the cameras and lights are already set up, and there should be someone at the studio to help with any technical difficulties. I’ve produced the first seven episodes of a program titled “Care to Dance?” that teaches new dancers how to dance in front of the camera. Each 30-minute program covers a different dance, and by including several other local dance teachers the program showcases each of their different teaching talents. If your chapter can convince each of your teachers to do one or two 30-minute introductory lessons (use the same teachers who teach before your dances), you could easily end up with 10-15 episodes.

Live-to-Tape Remote Program:
The second easiest program would be to tape an entire event, perhaps add some screen titles on top of the action, and run the program as it happened. Does your chapter hold competitions or special events? Record just the action by pausing the cameras while new dancers are coming on stage, and resume as they are being introduced. This will be slightly more challenging because you won’t necessarily have any technical support, but the program would give a great overview of the proceedings. To make this kind of program better (but more challenging), you might want to try to include a trained (but not involved with the event) judge to give a running commentary.

Tape-and-Edit Program:
The most challenging, but also most rewarding, program would be one that included taped interviews and dancing that would be woven together to make a cohesive story. Your program might focus on one competitive couples’ growth over the course of a year. Or it might focus on all the events that your chapter does during the year. Or perhaps it might focus on a single event. Last year during NBDW I interviewed lots of local dancers, teachers, and USABDA board members, and taped them dancing. On the finished program, each “scene” began with people speaking, but then the talking heads faded out and were replaced with the same people dancing, while their voices continued to extol the virtues of dance. I think it was a very effective way to promote dancing locally.

Technical Considerations:
It is best to use the highest quality digital video cameras and editing equipment for any project that will be broadcast. A VHS videocamera does not record enough information to allow a clean signal to be broadcast. Since video signal quality degrades at almost every step in the process if you want the program that reaches homes in your area to be attractive you have to start with the best images possible. As long as you are putting the time and effort into the project, you should try to get the highest quality end product.

Keep the original footage, and any finished project, for archive purposes. Maybe in ten or fifteen years someone will want do a retrospective and they might include your footage.

Be certain that you get people to sign releases saying that you can use their voice and image before including them on any program that you produce. If they later change their mind you should still respect their wishes, even if you have a signed release, it’s the right thing to do.

Program for the Largest Impact:
Whatever program you produce, plan for the largest impact possible. Always try to show as large a cross-section of dancers as possible. I would suggest focusing on social dancers because that is where most adults start, but always include some competitive dancers to balance the picture and show what can be accomplished with hard work. Include youth and college students as much as possible to encourage young people to start dancing, but don’t ignore the seasoned dancers. As you are producing your programs, make two versions, one for broadcast locally with local contact information, and another without any contact information at all (but black screens) that you can send to USABDA National for their use. Imagine how fast a new chapter might grow if the best teachers in the nation showed up on the local television just as the chapter was starting!

Note: This is the article I submitted, I didn't notice any editorial changes, so I think it was run as submitted.


Well-Known Member
An interesting and useful read Kevin. Definitely helpful to all of us who want to popularize dance, but sometimes are not sure how to go about doing so. :)

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