The Dance Gypsy has a long history, made possible through the dedicated work of several individuals. Hard to believe, but it all started over 22 years ago: in 1983 Ann Pearce and Ruby Ackert-Herzig started its forerunner, a regional dance newsletter called Vermont Folk Arts Network, delivered on a single sheet of legal-size paper. It was basically a calendar, with a very short news items/opinions/special event descriptions offered by Ann from time to time. By 1987 Ann had assumed the entire editorship, and moved her base of operations to Massachusetts, renaming the publication the Patchwork Music Dance Calendar (somehow “Vermont” just no longer seemed appropriate as part of the name). When she eventually returned to Vermont, the PatchWork also came home.
In 1990, after a total of seven years of publishing, Ann passed the Patchwork to Tom and Val Medve, who renamed it the Dance Gypsy, publishing Volume 1, Number 1 in April of that year. Soon after they added the slogun or subtitle “... for dancers with wanderlust” which has continued through the present day. That first issue was a single tabloid but very much recognizable as the same publication as the most recent Dance Gypsy newsletters and even the current web site: the Dance Gypsy. It contained the monthly calendar, a short list of special events and festivals, contact information and just two articles — one on the Lamprey River Band (who are still playing in NH) and the other on the history of our name ““the Dance Gypsy”.
The Gypsy grew rapidly, from its original 4 sides in April to 5 sides in September with the first Special Event “supplement” (yes, for those of you who ever wondered why one particular page of the Gypsy was called a “supplement,” heres the answer: the original supplement as actually folded and inserted independently from the rest of The Gypsy). Within another 6 months, 6 pages were the norm. The April 1991, first anniversary, issue, contained a full 8 sides — with some of them looking suspiciously like the as yet unborn “Summer Planner”, complete with dance camp and festival subsections. By 1993 the Gypsy had pretty much settled into a standard 8 sided-format with occasional inserts. In 1994 Tom and Val initiated the Summer Planner as a separate publication within the same organization. The Summer Planner was free, supported by proceeds from the monthly newsletter.
In June 2000, after a full ten years of dedicated service, Tom and Val stepped down, passing the Dance Gypsy to the current editor and publisher, Greg Scragg.
The Electronic Dance Gypsy
The Dance Gypsy started as a subscription services delivered on on paper, but is now all electronic — and free. How did that transition occur? In a word: “ gradually.”
In the beginning there was nothing: the Dance Gypsy didn’t even have an Email address until December 1995, and didn’t have one with “Dance Gypsy” in its name until February 1996.
First web pages: In June 1996 the Dance Gypsy first published an electronic supplement in the form of web pages, created by then editor Tom Medve. It didn’t even have its own domain name, just a Dance Gypsy page on Prodigy.com.
In February 1999, the Dance Gypsy moved its web pages (still created by Tom Medve) to a site generously donated by Chris Booth, who had owned the domain name “DanceGypsy.com” for almost a year (for use with an unrelated enterprise). This arrangement provided an interesting trade: Chris obtained publicity for his “Dance Gypsy Email forwarding service” and the Dance Gypsy got the use of a very nice sounding domain name.
In June 2000, the new publisher, Greg Scragg, took over construction of the Dance Gypsy — including the web pages, which he expanded and redesigned.
Our own domain name: In February 2001, the Dance Gypsy obtained its own internet domain name, (www.thedanceGypsy.com, where you presumably are seeing this page) and moved its web pages and other operations there the next month. Ownership of its own domain name (rather than using the borrowed name) had several advantages. Most importantly, it greatly reduced the time required to post or update listings and other information electronically and gave the Dance Gypsy more freedom to publish what it needed when it needed. It also consolidated all Dance Gypsy electronic operations under a single roof (prior to that time, most Dance Gypsy work — Email (including the electronic newsletter) and construction of web pages was constructed on the Dance Gypsy’s computer — but the web pages needed to be delivered to Chris Booth for posting on his domain. Since March 2001, all Dance Gypsy electronic publication and communication has been through the domain “www.thedanceGypsy.com”.
First electronic newsletter: In September 2000, the Dance Gypsy created the first electronic version of the Dance Gypsy newsletter — an exact copy of the paper newsletter, but available on line, cheaper, and at an earlier date.
Going all electronic!: In April 2001, the paper version of the Dance Gypsy newsletter fell victim to the success of the web in general — and its own electronic version in particular. Subscriptions to the paper newsletter, started to fall around 1998 — not coincidentally, that was shortly after the web exploded on the public scene. The first electronic version of the Dance Gypsy was partly in answer to this decline. While the electronic version slowed the decline in subscriptions, the larger impact was the conversion from paper to (cheaper) electronic subscriptions.
By 2002, it simply was no longer economically feasible to print the paper edition for the ever-dwindling number of paper subscribers (by that point, down by well over 50%). The Dance Gypsy went “all electronic,” and the paper version of the newsletter was discontinued — but the Dance Gypsy electronic version continued with more information than ever. Without the constraints of a paper format, the Dance Gypsy format evolved to reflect this new freedom: adding more dance forms, and projecting further into the future.
We hoped that the reduced expenses (we no longer had large mailing and printing bills) would enable us to provide the services through voluntary donations. We still hope that comes to fruition. Alas, so far, these dreams have not materialized.
Conversions: Using the web offered an opportunity to provide much more information, avoid the problematic aspects of formatting paper publications, update more frequently and provide news-alerts. But the web does not lend itself to subscriptions or newsletter-like formats. Eventually it was decided to enhance and convert the newsletter to a purely web-format (eliminating event the attempt at paper formatting), incorporating all items from both the Dance Gypsy and the Summer Planner, plus additional information in a single location. At least for the present, it seemed more feasible to make the Dance Gypsy available for everyone, not just the paid subscribers. So the Dance Gypsy, with all of its previous services became free to all (with the hope of support through voluntary donations).
Expansions: Without a fixed publication date, it was possible to expand the Dance Gypsy considerably. For example, the Summer Planner grew to cover the entire year and was renamed “the Festival Planner,” and it was possible to add the performer listings and the alternative or generic listing formats). Today, the Dance Gypsy may well be the premier dance information source on the web.
Query driven: By 2004, the Dance Gypsy had become a query–driven data base with information delivered not in pre-packed forms but entirely in response to use requests.
(Thanks for help on this article to Tom and Val Medve, Paula Kelley, Ann Pearce and many old issues of the Dance Gypsy and Summer Planner.)