The Collapse of World Lindy Hop Day

It is with deep regret that I’ve shared the information of the collapse of World Lindy Hop Day 2015 in Rome.

http://worldlindyhopday.com/romecancelled/

Many people have been let down by what has happened. Many people are looking for answers, and frankly deserve them. I swear by diplomacy and do not want to perpetuate drama, but for the people who have been wronged by what has happened I will share what I can of this debacle.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Since Mabel Lee’s accident in June, this has been a terrible year for the world of Lindy Hop. It’s been a series of bad news, and World Lindy Hop Day in Rome is another terrible scandal.

The WLHD concept was originally my friend and fellow event organizer, Sing Lim’s idea. It was meant as a follow up to Frankie 100. The event was intended to continue for years to come as a way to honour Frankie by turning his birthday into something beyond just celebrations within the Lindy Hop community. It was meant to grow and travel around the world and become something bigger, much like World Tap Day is celebrated on Bill Robinson’s birthday.

Sing and I were both part of the global selection committee that awarded WLHD to Rome at the end of the summer of 2014. The committee included dancers and instructors from around the world and she and I were the co-chairs.

The strongest application was put in by Ryan Francois and Silvia Palazzolo. It was a very close race between Rome and one other city, but after a lot of difficult deliberation, Rome received the bid. While the other city also had a great deal of organizational experience like Silvia’s, a large part of that final decision was made because of Ryan Francois’ involvement.

Based on the information we had, the application, Palazzolo’s track record as an event organizer, and Ryan Francois’ involvement at the time of the application process, this was not only a reasonable choice, but the best one. There was no way to predict this implosion.

Unfortunately, shortly after the decision was announced, I began to receive messages from people who had a lot of information about Silvia’s event organizing that I wish I’d been made aware of before the selection process. I began to learn that Silvia had a long track record of not paying instructors or bands.  Most of these instructors were too embarrassed to say or do much about it, so other instructors did not receive warning and continued to fall under the same scam, not only being denied payment but also losing money out of pocket for their own flights which they were supposed to be paid back for. This extended not only to the younger generation of dancers and bands, but also to senior citizens from our dance world who should be have been honoured and treated with deep respect and grace.

I received an anonymous tip through the WLHD website from someone in Italy who described this history. I was later contacted Meschiya Lake herself who let me know that she and her band had never been paid for one of their previous gigs. This was of course more than troubling, but I didn’t know what to do. Silvia had put on a lot of events, and we could only giver her the benefit of the doubt… Particularly with Ryan involved, we were sure it would be ok.

When we created the WLHD idea, we thought we would be able to award the bid to a different city each year and that after a rigorous application process, we would be able to find trustworthy and reliable event organizers who would run an event. We never had the capacity to micro-manage (or even macro-manage) an event remotely. Myself and Sing were the most involved of all the selection committee, but we had already given up our lives last year to run Frankie 100. We never anticipated that we’d have to step into someone make sense of the drama that was about to unfold.

In January, after Snowball in Stockholm, the problems really became apparent. Ryan Francois reached out to Sing and me to tell us about his struggles over many months with an increasing amount of drama, lies, and confusion working with Silvia. He was embarrassed because he realized the responsibility he had taken on in teaming with Silvia for such an important event, but working with Silvia was ruining his life. I still can’t even begin to understand the complexities of what went on, and that’s Ryan’s story to tell, not my own. But I will say that I saw enough confusing correspondence and strange emails that Ryan shared with me to know that there was something really unhealthy going on and that it was being directed by Silvia.

Ryan made the difficult decision to leave the event. This was a very hard choice for him, but there was no way that they could work together. It did not make sense for him to run an event in Italy on his own, so if the event were to go on it would have to continue being run by Silvia.

To be clear, Ryan Francois ended his involvement with WLHD Rome officially in January as he felt that he could not work with Silvia Palazzolo. He is not responsible for what has happened.

I now very much regret that the event wasn’t cancelled at that time. I take responsibility for being a big part in encouraging the event to still take place. I kept thinking about the people who had bought non-refundable plane tickets and booked hotels. I’ve run Lindy Hop events of all sizes and I thought that surely Silvia could hold a 200 person event on her own, with her Italian committee, even without Ryan.

Everything seemed to settle down and I didn’t hear anything for a long time. No news should have been good news, or so I thought. I trusted that the event organizer would be doing what event organizers do – rallying her team and getting the job done.

Unfortunately, all the event planning that should have been taking place did not come to fruition. Despite all of the problems we’d heard about, we still wanted to give Silvia Palazzolo the benefit of the doubt. We see now that we were unrealistic about the goals of having World Lindy Hop Day travel around the world. I understand the folly in that now. So much can go wrong when you rely on external forces, particularly when we were putting it under the banner of an “official” event. We are not the Olympics. We don’t have dedicated resources to pull that sort of thing off. We’ve learned that the hard way now and have since disbanded the WLHD bid.

We did try to help Silvia. We reached out to her to see if we could support her in some way like publishing the schedule if there was one. Instead, she kept saying that she would update everything herself but every time we checked with her, it still hadn’t changed. The truth of the matter is that she has dug herself into a hole. She had been trying to pretend that there is an event to save, but there was nothing there. Silvia is upset with me and Sing for “convincing her to cancel the event” but it is more accurate to say that we finally persuaded her to come to terms with the fact that there was no event that can be salvaged.

I’ve been speaking with Chazz Young this week. When he learned about the event being cancelled he was so sad and disappointed that he turned down other opportunities as an honoured guest at other events marking his father’s birthday. He hadn’t heard anything from Silvia for months and had hoped the event would still happen. He has always had somewhere to go for his father’s birthday weekend so it would be a first for him to have no place to go. I’m so proud and grateful that my dance community, Toronto, was able to arrange for a last minute place for him at our local event.

I’m thankful that Norma Miller had the keen sense to see that something was amiss a few months ago and drop out herself. I feel terrible for the other instructors who were also left in the dark, along with the registrants.

My heart is broken by what I’ve seen. It’s not fair for people, particularly the paid registrants, to be left in the dark about what’s going on. I have never witnessed this level of disregard in our community. Though this was not my event, as someone who helped intimately with the WLHD selection process, I feel terrible for what has happened.

I am so sorry for the inconvenience and monetary loss that this is going to cause a lot of people. The dance community in Rome is very upset by what is happening. They are not involved and as a community, we should not think poorly of Rome. There are people on the ground there who are trying to pull together some dances for the people who will be there over the May 22-24th weekend.

*May 13th, 8:31pm. At this time, many people have reached out to me privately to tell me their personal stories and experiences. I believe that Silvia is extremely unwell and needs to seek some serious help for what what is surely pathological lying. I am not here to re-share stories that are not mine to tell, but I understand that a lot of people have been seriously wronged over the years. I only wish that I’d known this sooner. A lot of drama and damage could have been avoided.

**Many people are reaching out to me privately to tell me their stories of wrongdoing. The damage has been long and extreme. Because this is proving to be so extensive including cases of real fraud, I am going to help by collecting testimonials from whoever would like to add their voice to the list of what’s been done. If you have been one of the many victims, you can email me your statement: mandi@mandigould.com. I ask that you do not send it to me by FB message and email me instead, or you can leave a post here on the blog.

***May 17th Important Update: There is an update to the World Lindy Hop Day in Rome cancellation situation. Here are 3 statements made by Ryan Francois, Marcus Koch, and Katerina, a member of the Italian team: https://zootman43.wordpress.com/

****Statement from the Frankie Manning Foundation: http://www.frankiemanningfoundation.org/statement-by-the-frankie-manning-foundation-concerning-world-lindy-hop-day-2015/

Other dance options from the Roman dance community for people who will still go to Rome will be listed here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/romanlindyhoppers/ and updates to the schedule listed here: https://www.facebook.com/bunny.donowitz/media_set?set=a.851158161644729.1073741834.100002516581581&type=3&__mref=message_bubble

28 thoughts on “The Collapse of World Lindy Hop Day

  1. Hi Mandi, what you explained here doesnt match with what Silvia posted. And now my concern, or to be exact, worry, is if our money will be surely refunded and how long it would take, with all the reputation shes got abt payment. Pls can you help us ensure that? Thanks

    1. Huyen, I absolutely understand your concern. Silvia has made a public guarantee that she will process the refunds. While I believe that Silvia does have a great deal of personal problems that I hope she seeks help for, that deep down inside she is not a bad person and that she will proceed with refunds as publicly stated.

  2. Thank you Mandi for your explanation. However, the whole Lindy Hop community was let down. It will be very very difficult if future to convince young dancers to go abroad to learn from well-known and internationally acclaimed dancers in order to become better. People will think twice before they book their tickets. This is not any more about Silvia, Ryan, Frankie’s Foundation or World Lindy Hop Day Committee. I am sad that I wasn’t told that Ryan left in January. That kind of news should have been announced long long time ago. In addition, there were names of at least 12 to 15 other well know dancers/instructors on the website! People will be very hesitant to book workshops with them after all that happened. After first couple of paragraphs of your post, it’s obvious that you were withholding very important information. If names of those teachers and organisers that were on the website were incorrect than they should have been taken off the website immediately and a proper announcement should have been made. I am hoping that we all going to be refunded in full and I am also hoping that it will happen soon as 90 days is inacceptable. See you to those coming to Rome next week.

    1. I understand and agree with much of this. Ryan did announce his departure but I didn’t know that the news hadn’t been spread. And there is no excuse for Silvia leaving all those names on the website and no updates for all those months. She had no right to continue to list and advertise names of people who had dropped out, or been cancelled.

      1. Sorry Mandi, but how is even possible that you didn’t know anything about an event that you originally created?
        I don’t understand why you’re telling us all this informations just now. Even in the roman group on fb, many days ago people were talking about the disorganization of the event and the possibility of a cancellation.
        Mandi, you had just one job: design the right person to organize this international event.

    2. Marcin, what exactly do you mean by “People will be very hesitant to book workshops with them after all that happened”?
      What can teachers be blamed for? They are victims here as well as participants. They have no control over any kind of public information provided by the organisers. Being one of those teachers, I can witness: when we decided smth’s seriously wrong with the event and pulled out, we announced that we’re going to teach elsewhere on those dates. We informed Silvia we are pulling out. What else is there to do from our side, I wonder? Forgive me if I got you wrong, but this had to be said.

  3. after this bad experience, does not make sense to create a kind of “blacklist” of swing event organizers ? so dancers can be informed in advance on the real professionality of the people behind an event; if we would know all the stories that now are emerging in advance, we could avoid this disaster and save a local scene from the embarrassment in front of the world; we have to look forward and avoid that things like that can happen again

    1. A similar thing happened in our scene, albeit not as big an event as WLHD in Rome. A small group of dancers who had never organized a dance weekend before decided to run our city’s first exchange but didn’t bother telling anyone (not even the existing organizers in the scene) that they were doing this until after they booked the event. It caused a huge rift in our scene (and discord with a neighboring scene) and many problems ensued – some which have still not been fully resolved. As a result, we felt forced to bring in structural guidelines (implemented by our committee) for event organizing so that anyone could organize events but so that they had specific guidelines they had to follow to prevent these problems from occurring again. If any future events are planned that do not adhere to these guidelines, the event will not receive any support from our scene including but not limited to advertising opportunities or funding. Perhaps other scenes should consider doing something similar? Don’t get me wrong, it seems that most scenes utilize a common courtesy approach, ie being honest and transparent and striving to work in a harmonious way with others when it comes to organizing events but there are obviously instances where that is not always happening. It does sound like there is maybe just a lack of structure in what was otherwise a cottage industry but is now growing too big for just a free-for-all approach. So Avlas, I understand where you are coming from but you would have to be careful with the “blacklist” concept because it is not necessarily a whole scene/city that is at fault if an event fails or does not live up to standards but could simply be down to a few misguided individuals and it might get a bit murky trying to firmly pin all fault on a specific individual(s). That’s why we went with the guidelines concept instead because we feel prevention is better when possible

  4. Honestly, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before. It sounds similar to what happened at the HJDF in 2003, but they pulled SOMETHING out in the end.

    Both Frankie 95 and Frankie 100 had plenty of issues and came close to “not happening” (and behind the scenes stuff that maybe should have been shared…) but at the end of the day someone stepped up and did what needed to be done.

    People don’t realize how much responsibility falls on how FEW shoulders for stuff like this. Those who bear that weight alone are under tremendous stress and obviously aren’t always able/willing to make correct choices. I believe they and ALL of us would benefit from more honesty and transparency.

    Some events, you have to cross your fingers and hope for the best. (Basie centennial ball, Harlem jazz dance festival, Frankie 95, Frankie 100.) These sometimes end up being the BEST events.

    World Lindy Hop Day isn’t cancelled. That holiday belongs to all of us. Frankie belongs to all of us.

    In Rome, an everywhere else, I’ll still be dancing and remembering Frankie and telling his stories.

    Keep Swinging.

  5. Mandi,

    This is unfortunate.

    I personally think, you need about two people, who are paid by WLHD or WLHW (weekend) to professionally manage and oversee any event anywhere in the world. I know it goes a little against convention, but just like instructors and bands, the managers bring a lot of value to the table in which they should be remunerated. Keep the management in the family… this should ensure this doesn’t happen again. I wouldn’t give up on this concept. It is a good one. Lindy, in Rome… how amazing!

  6. Why were steps not taken to protect the participants who paid to come to this event from the beginning? If you were going to a major international music festival and this happened no organizer would be pointing fingers on personal blogs and Facebook posts… it’s business and the people running the business are ultimately responsible. I have no doubt that Silvia is the root problem here, but it sure feels like FMF and WLHD committee did not have solid business practice in place to protect their assets and interests, specifically the interests of the people paying to come to this event. I hate to say it but running a global “community” dance scene as if it’s a family picnic doesn’t work. This is people’s money and time we are talking about and proper measures and transparency should have been in place all along. To me, the WLHD committee is also responsible for this complete oversight of protecting the interests of the paying customers who bought an event that never really existed to begin with. refund for the event pass? what about refund for plain tickets? time off work… the money to change airplane tickets last minute, to buy new hotels and more meals, etc. etc. ???

  7. I understand that people are angry. I can’t blame you. I also understand if you want to direct any of the anger at me, particularly since I’m actually actively trying to fix things while Silvia, the actual culprit, is remaining silent.

    I do want to clarify that though the FMF was involved at the time when the WLHD project was announced, earlier in the winter there was clarification made about WLHD not being an FMF project. (The FMF is a very small group of 6 volunteer board members, and I happen to be one of them so I understand it’s confusing, and a few additional volunteers. That’s it. Here’s the February statement: http://worldlindyhopday.com/feb-27-update/)

    Lindy Hop events are run all over the world by completely trustworthy and reliable people all the time. This is a horrific anomaly. All agreements for the Rome event were made by and between the registrants with Silvia and her organization, Snakhips Inc. Yep, it was a very naive idea that we had to help to move the event around the world. We didn’t have resources other than a selection committee that read applications and put in a vote by email. Then we linked to the awarded event and all transactions were made on their website, by and with them directly. It could have been a nice idea, but everything that could have gone wrong did. And there will never be something like that selection process again. At least if it was going to fail (miserably) it happened the first year and that will be the end – not of a day that people can celebrate at home – but of any kind of official selection process.

    Also, in terms of Frankie 100, I want to clarify one point Jason made. Frankie 100, once set in motion, was never close to “not happening”. Before anyone stepped up to organize it there was some question as to whether or not it would happen. The world wanted it to happen, but for a long time there wasn’t anyone to organize it. However, once that person stepped up, it was full steam ahead, with inevitable bumps, but there were no possible interruptions. 🙂

    ***

    As to the matter at hand, many people are reaching out to me privately to tell me their stories of wrongdoing. The damage has been long and extreme. Because this is proving to be so extensive including cases of real fraud, I am going to help by collecting testimonials from whoever would like to add their voice to the list of what’s been done. If you have been one of the many victims, you can email me your statement: mandi@mandigould.com. I ask that you do not send it to me by FB message and email me instead, or you can leave a post here on the blog.

    Please see also Dave Madison’s post: http://worldlindyhopday.com/thoughts-on-the-wlhd-rome-cancellation/

  8. From the web site I read: “Based on the information we had, the application, Silvia Palazzolo’s track record as an event organizer, and Ryan Francois’ involvement at the time of the application process, this was not only a reasonable choice, but the best one. There was no way to predict this implosion.”
    Well, honestly and obviously it’s a loss for the italian and european lindy community and we all hope there’ll be another chance soon, but i daresay there have been several signals in the last two years showing and predicting the opposite way.
    I wrote down, on my fb’s profile, on last September that I didn’t agree with the “snake” to be associated with Swing; there was more than one reason why…

  9. Mandi, you tried and for that you should be commended. No events just happen without people like you making them magically appear in peoples calendars. You have been let down by your suppliers and whilst that is unfortunate, attendees should also be responsible for their own travel insurance. Please continue in your endeavours, the worldwide swing dance community is nothing without organisers.

  10. Thank you Mandi (and Sing) for all the efforts you have made to promote lindy and help the community grow. Sometimes despite our best efforts unfortunate incidents still occur. I just wanted to let you know that I would (personally) never blame you or Sing for the fact that this event was cancelled. All I have is appreciation and gratitude for everything you have already achieved. I hope that some alternate way of honouring Frankie’s birthday will be found so that we can continue to celebrate in the future.

  11. I suppose some people want to vent their rage at Mandi, despite her bravely taking some responsibility for this mess (whether that’s justified or not). But keep in mind, she is the individual who spent over a year of her own time organizing Frankie 100. Nobody in the swing dance community has worked harder and put forward more of her time than her. I can say that because as her husband, I’ve witnessed her tears and stress over the years trying to make things happen.

    But micro-managing an event in Rome run by another individual was never her job. We, as a couple, are still trying to make a living and Mandi works a minimum 10 hours a day on her own business. If anything, the failure of this event speaks to the challenges of trying to achieve the same thing Mandi and a fantastic team of volunteers did in New York.

    It’s unfortunate that the individual who was actually responsible for this event has not stepped forward and admitted their culpability in it’s failure. i sincerely doubt that will happen. But in the meantime, please bear in mind where most of the fault lays. And treat Mandi with the respect she deserves.

    Special thanks to all those who have written to her and expressed their support. Mandi was devastated by the failure of this event and needs to know that people still care for and support her.

  12. Dear Mandi, The three previous posts make many important points. Please know how much I appreciate all you have done for swing dancing, from working like crazy for a year to give us Frankie 100, to all the energy and hard work you put into being on the board of the Frankie Manning Foundation, to working tirelessly with Sing to help communicate and manage this unpleasant situation. I know you do it because you loved Frankie, love the dancing/music, and care so much about swing dancers. Do know that many, many others feel the same way about you. Thank you!

  13. One of the registrants sent me some very helpful information for people who paid by Paypal:

    “Hi Mandi,

    yes, I called the customer service a while ago, and maybe there’s hope for pariticipants who paid with Paypal! : )

    It seems that if you convert your Dispute into a CLAIM, then Paypal will be in charge to contact the seller, and to get the money back.
    And they have TEN DAYS to do that.
    If the seller doesn’t answer in those terms, Paypal will refund the full amount to the customer WITH THEIR OWN MONEY, and they’ll collect them later with their channels (debt collection agencies).

    I checked the Paypal forums, and I found this:

    https://www.paypal-community.com/t5/Disputes-and-claims/Attn-Paypal-Lucy-11-days-after-non-responded-claim-still-no/td-p/464893

    Lucy (a paypal employee) answers seems to confirm that!
    I opened a Claim on may 13th, the very day the event was cancelled, so the organizers have time until Saturday, then Paypal should refund me on the eleventh day (or at least Monday).

    I’ll let you know if everything goes well, in the meantime, if you want to inform the other participants feel free to send them all the infos!
    To speed things up tell them to CALL the Customer Service via this page

    https://www.paypal.com/it/webapps/helpcenter/helphub/home/

    They have to select the CALL options and follow the instructions (may vary from one country to another).
    And, most important thing, tell them to open a CLAIM, not just a Dispute.

    If every registered participant does that, I think Paypal will be able to solve everything!

    I’ll post all the infos in the Roman Lindy Hopper FB group as soon as I’ll have access to Facebook!
    And I hope evertything will end well!”

  14. It was cancelled. It’s a shame. Give people an apology and a refund, and deal with the ‘why’s and wherefores’ internally.

    Then move on.

    Public histrionics, naming, shaming and blaming, are not helpful – Aside from looking highly unprofessional which reflects badly on the scene, it’s potentially libellous.

    1. here, here. Blacklisting organizers is preposterous. One never knows the struggles to hold events for 5 or 10 or 15 years while never breaking even and having bands or teachers break contracts and then bad mouth you. Organizers who are true professionals don’t out these people who call themselves professionals and are well known in the community. So, why should they be allowed to blacklist or talk smack and still be allowed to keep their reputation and fan base?

  15. Hopefully this remarkable implosion doesn’t mark the end of WLD, which is a laudable idea. In theory, the same selection process will work the other 99% of the time – to build confidence the selection committee could add in some verification steps to ensure things are done on schedule. If people are truly skittish, insist on payments being made in trust.

    And despite the obvious disappointment and anger that most must be feeling, I hope everyone in Rome is able to still enjoy their time there. It is, after all, Rome, which I’ve heard is a city filled with Lindy Hoppers, and therefore certainly worth a visit.

  16. Thank you Mandi and Sing for all your efforts on behalf of WLHD in Rome, and for your continued efforts and scrambling after the event was cancelled. What would we do without you?

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