"Dot-com Dance": The very phrase rings melancholic, as if we Web weasels can't be trusted, left to our own devices, to hustle our collective two left feet onto a dance floor where we might encounter (Shriek!) ordinary civilians. What could be sadder than a dance packed with wallflowers too shy, too awkward and too attached to their monitors to go dancing unless they see the phrase "dot-com" in the invite?
But Evan Margolin, the ebullient mastermind behind a new dance advocacy group called Dot-com Dance, assures me that my gloomy sentiments are misplaced. You see, Margolin believes there's a John Travolta in all of us, waiting to bust out, and it's his quixotic dream to rouse all those workaholic start-up creatures from their ergonomically correct Aeron chairs and onto the dance floor. Get on up!
Margolin describes his plans to spread dancing with the zeal of a convert. Just five years ago, he was one of them, one of the founders of a start-up called Cyclone Studios, where he worked 12- to 16-hour days, seven days a week. (The company has since been purchased by 3DO.) "Although I was having a great time doing the work, I had no social outlet," he admits. On the Web site, he confides: "Up to five years ago, I'd never danced a step! In fact, I was adamantly opposed to it, thinking I didn't look good or that I was uncoordinated. Well, that all turned out to be untrue (OK, some of it was true), but it didn't matter."
Then, he discovered ballroom and salsa. "There was this entire world out there that I was completely unaware of, working seven days a week," he marvels. Now, in addition to his job as the producer of a San Francisco Web site, he runs a Bay Area salsa site -- in between dancing salsa, tango and swing, of course.
On the Web site, he appeals to the overworked and under-socialized. "Tired of sitting in the coffee shop alone? Tired of your 14-hour days at work? Lacking direction? Purpose? A life outside of work?"
But isn't the problem with start-up drones that work sucks up all available time? Not so, says Margolin: "Everyone can find time to do this! This could take as little as one single hour. If you're in a start-up, and you're working all the time, and you don't have a life, this is hopefully a way to get out and have a good time and not be married to your work."
This dance evangelist is most enthusiastic about dancing as a social lubricant: "There is no better way to socialize and meet people. A man and a woman can be in each other's arms within four minutes of meeting each other and it's totally acceptable." But he also says that it has "many benefits that are not readily apparent." It will "CHANGE YOUR LIFE!" brays the site announcing the group. One hidden benefit, according to Margolin, is the thesis that dancing "will make you better at your job."
Oh, really? "How confident can you be at your job if you're not confident in the way that you move and carry yourself?" he challenges. Are you listening, micro-managers? Flush your flunkies out of their cubes. Sock-hop now! Up the stock price later!
Margolin hatched his plan to bring rhythm to the router-bound just last weekend. Less than 24 hours after he'd put up the Web page about the group, he'd received more than 50 e-mails from wannabe dancers in the Bay Area, and signed up 15 people on his mailing list. The first actual event hasn't been scheduled, but he says that it will be in October and will involve taking a dance class or going to a club. He hopes that the idea will spread to other centers of high-tech obsession: Seattle, New York or Austin. And he even has plans to start a nonprofit, Danceout.org, geared toward getting more people dancing. Today, swinging in SoMa; tomorrow, the world!
But right now, his big concern is that non-dot-commers will be turned off by the name "Dot-com Dance." He wants "everybody" to come to the event, not just the techies: "artists, jugglers, circus performers, everyone who wants to try something new and find something exciting in their lives!" Given how high tensions are running in San Francisco between dot-communists and artists at the moment, a dance bringing them to one place could end up looking more like "West Side Story" than "Free to Be ... You and Me."