Dancing May Return to Carr Mill Mall

Many have expressed concern about a recent action by Carr Mill Mall to ban dancing by free-form dancer Bruce Thomas (even the CH Herald today opined "Let the dancing guy keep on dancing.").

Thomas has been enlivening the Carr Mill lawn for the last few years with his spontaneous, gracefully spiritual dancing. Other times, Bruce can be seen sitting in quiet meditation on one of the nearby benches. And, yes, he is a regular customer of Weaver Street Market.

The ban apparently results from a Carr Mill policy that states that only mall tenants and those attending their events can use the lawn space (thus, Bruce may dance during a WSM event but not otherwise).

To me, Bruce Thomas is much like the mime Robert Shields who became nationally renowned and synonymous with San Francisco's Union Square in the early 1970s (see the opening sequence of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation for a taste of Shields). With Bruce there is the added dimension of his life story, the difficulties he has overcome, and the role model he offers to others (for background ).

Artistic expression contributes to the culture of downtown and also to the vibrancy of the downtown economy. Individuals like Thomas and hoop artist and instructor Vivian Spiral (also threatened by the ban) become the visible representation of a freedom of spirit and creativity that is identified with Carrboro.

Many people have wanted to take action in support of Bruce. However, a process is underway to review the Carr Mill policy with hopes of rectifying the situation. Weaver Street Market general manager Ruffin Slater will be meeting with mall manager Nathan Milian for a thorough review of the mall's policy. This discussion will begin after Milian returns from a vacation on August 7.

I am optimistic and hopeful that a win-win solution can be found that serves the commercial interests of the mall while opening the way to the continued use of the lawn area by people like Thomas and Spiral as well as the many children (and parents) who enjoy the space.




You don't seem to understand the spirit of my comment. I wasn't offering any suggestions, realistic or otherwise. I was stating reality: I will not shop at Carr Mill until I feel welcome there. And because I care about others, I will not shop at Carr Mill until Bruce (Bruce the dancer, the free spirit, the embodiment of our own need to express ourselves openly, without fear of persecution) and other non-violent people like Bruce are welcome there.

I'm shopping somewhere else. It's a simple decision that I have chosen to announce to the OP readers. It is what David Marshall is going to do.

I'm not trying to be ugly about it, or angry, or vituperative. I, in fact, doubt very seriously that anyone's mind will be changed because one meek individual has squeaked out a "No!".

But I, little guy on the street I, am uncomfortable with even being near a place that will not respect my need for expression in a place that has for so long served as just that kind of place.

It's a betrayal of sorts, and I am saddened beyond my ability to adequately express it, just how this small erosion of my freedom has affected me. Weaver Street Market is my way of life, it's my safe place from a world that has disappointed me beyond numbness, and now... Now I have one less place to go to socialize with those likeminded people who care about things like respect for individual expression.

Apparently there's a phone number to call to voice any concerns about this issue. If I get a chance I'll go copy it & add it here.

David, you could not have said it better. "It's a betrayal of sorts, and I am saddened beyond my ability to adequately express it, just how this small erosion of my freedom has affected me. Weaver Street Market is my way of life, it's my safe place from a world that has disappointed me beyond numbness, and now… Now I have one less place to go to socialize with those likeminded people who care about things like respect for individual expression."

As a long time resident of Carrboro, I've spent some of my best years on that lawn soaking in all of the WSM experience. I have been a daily customer there, sometimes even morning, noon, and night. Now the whole thing leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and has spoiled my illusion of Carrboro being an almost perfect community.

Until recently, I was truely lamenting the fact that soon I will have to leave my favorite spot (with so many special memories!) for a new job in Illinois. I wish I had left before that bubble was burst. Even if Bruce's dancing, hooping, and impromptu jam sessions are allowed again, it will never be the same for me.

Ok, I have read all most of this forum and quite frankly there is nothing more I could say here that hasn't been said, hence avoiding redundancy.

One question here- What do the bums and drunks/pan handlers have to do with the dancers and hula- hoopers? I fail to see a connection here.

Also, I've never had a problem with bums/drunks at Weaver St. I thought they all chilled on Franklin St.

Why doesn't Nathan just make a more general rule and just band all musicians, atheists, artists, and intellectuals from the Weaver St lawn?

Better yet, sell the lawn to a developer so we can have another 605 built in its place. It would be a much more beautiful and grander entrance as one descends onto downtown Carrboro and much better than seeing people gathering together and for food and drink to forget about this ever falling apart world.

The number I mentioned above (to call to voice opinions on the situation being discussed here, mostly re: Bruce/Dancing) is: 919-619-2816.

I was at WSM last night, and saw Bruce there. It was sad to see him not dancing--he's one of the main reasons I head over every Thursday and Sunday. Also, it seemed like there were fewer people there than normal. I wonder if some regulars are staying away because of this controversy?

I also saw a man painting a rather lovely portrait of a rather lovely woman. So some people are still being permitted to express themselves on the lawn.

Weaver Street Market and the yard are in many ways a kind of Town Commons. The prospect of having this place go the way of the dodo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodo) is not a happy one. Yet this prospect is just what the issue of banning the dancer and the hula folks brings to everyone's mind. What kind of decisions are the owners likely to make next? They might say to heck with the whole thing and close it down one day.

It seems to me that this issue points to a need for the Town of Carrboro to begin the process of developing an alternative. A nice public park area could be set up adjacent to a new venue for Weaver Street Market, for example. Perhaps this could be over at or near the Farmer's Market, for example. It could take years to do this, so how about getting started now?!

I second Barnes B.'s suggestion that "the Town of Carrboro [needs] to begin the process of developing an alternative" to Weaver Street Lawn. [Don't get me wrong I love that place.]

The citizens of Carrboro, and their gracious & loving Chapel Hill neighbors, would enjoy a space owned and manged by the People and their elected representatives. Not distant corporate landlords who live out of state!

As our communities grow we will see many more disputes over space and how it should be used. Lets plan for the future.

Idea #1:Organizing a daily coffee bar at the Town Commons might enourage people to hang out there. Maybe a few picnic tables too. I'm just brainstorming here ya'll.

What's your idea to create popular commuity spaces?

Thanks for the second, Brian R. The coffee bar idea is good...are there trees for shade?

I hope someone will get this idea before the Carrboro Town Council, so they can engage a steering committee to start this up, figure out what people want, find a place, etc.

There is also a Plan B alternative:

That is: get the owners of Carr Mill Mall to donate the Weaver St. Lawn to the Town, in perpetuity. This can be arranged through the Nature Conservancy or similar group.
The advantages to the owners include a hefty tax break, along with removing their liability for the lawn, and creating good will.

The advantages to the Town are many; disadvantages to the Town include having to take up maintenance, insurance, etc. Still, the Town would have to do that for Plan A (an alternate location) anyway, so getting started on the thinking for both plans seems like the way to go....

"That is: get the owners of Carr Mill Mall to donate the Weaver St. Lawn to the Town, in perpetuity. This can be arranged through the Nature Conservancy or similar group.
The advantages to the owners include a hefty tax break, along with removing their liability for the lawn, and creating good will."

Does Carrboro really want to reduce it's property tax base even further?

Perhaps Ms Gist WAS serious with her "emininet domain" quip...


eminent domain

I miss the preview function...

Sunday Jazz Brunch.

This Sunday we went, as almost always, to the Jazz Brunch. We brought the crazy 1970s quilt my nutty aunt Maude made and spread it out right down front. We got drinks, food, coffee, band-aids ; ), toothbrushes, toothpase and more from the store (as long as we were there...).

No Bruce.

Maybe he was watching from the sides, but no dancing Bruce. But, you know what, everyone was talking about it while sipping their paid-for coffees, eating their paid-for brunch, or lounging on the ridiculously expensive seats the outdoors store sells. Customers, paying customers, wanting to see Bruce.

Not only that, but the crowd was huge. The number of people hoola-hooping was astounding, I haven't seen that many people out and about for Sunday Jazz Brunch in a long time. We had to retrieve the kids hoola-hoops from the sample area a few times lest they get resold and someone's heart broken because there were dozens and dozens of kids hoola-hooping and dancing and having a real good time.

But, no Bruce.

I second plan B too. (or something like that) I made a similar suggestion earlier in the comments here.

I think the Town of Carrboro should offer to purchase the piece of land infront of weaver street market from its present owners.

I'm not trying to say I thought of it first. Just that I agree. :) BTW I think this is a good idea because the disagreements about this space is inevitable. We all love it and feel a since of ownership. I fear that further battles over the values of Carrboro will be waged on Weaver St. lawn.

If the town, or a nonprofit, owned Weaver Street lawn the citizens could have a more democratic say in its future. Right now it can become what ever the owners want it to be.

I have had very informal discussions with a couple of my colleagues about the possibility of recreating both the events and the "town square effect" now at WSM at the Town Commons should the necessity arise. This is certainly a possibility and one that I believe could be successfully undertaken. The town has several successful community events at the Town Commons. Notably, the July 4 event moves from WSM to the Commons with a big turn out at both locations.

That said, I believe that WSM's sponsorship of its events and the lawn's role as a de facto public space creates a magnet and a vital center for our downtown. It is of great value to both economy and community in Carrboro. I hope we will not lose it and am optimistic we will not have to.

Town Commons is as hot as Hades. I'm not for any move, but if so it should be under The Tree in front of Town Hall (that tree needs a name).

I saw Bruce at WSM Sunday evening kicking a ball with a little girl and her parents in a manner that could not be called dancing... Bruce's dancing most reminds me of Tai Chi. Is Tai Chi banned yet? This should all be a big point of discussion at the WSM board meeting this fall.

(Dan, speaking of July 4, can you and Jacquie - we've had this conversation -- try to get the WSM parade going a tad earlier and the Chapel Hill community band starting a tad later? As it is now, you can't participate in the parade and see more than one nice July 4th song...).

Good point, David. I noticed this year that folks were still arriving when Mayor Chilton was reading the Bill of Rights.

I'm glad to hear there has been some discussion of alternatives to the present WSM and lawn. How about planting some trees now, over near the Farmer's Market, that could eventually become a new site similar to WSM and the lawn?
Perhaps there are other good sites that could be developed, or acquired and then developed.
There's just no reason to suppose that this lawn will be available in the future. The owners could remove it in an instant. It will take years to develop an alternative, so the time to start is now.
We are lucky to have a working system that can, rather than being replicated (which would be impossible), at least be reflected in something new. Besides, at the rate things are growing, it wouldn't hurt to have two such venues, in the event WSM and the lawn stay.

What about the town lot across from Armadillo? Close to the restructure Artspace. Central to downtown. Ties into the bike path.

Will, that lot belongs to Main Street Partners and is part of their planned redevelopment project.

Thanks Dan. I just checked and it looked like it was on 300 E Main St.'s lot.

One of the attractions of WSM is taht it's like a centroid for Carrboro. The Farmer's Mkt. seems a bit "off-center".

I love the idea of creating new common space as much as anyone, but I think it'd do well to think of the lawn as comparable to a european piazza. I know nothing about how such spaces in Italy are owned or managed, but the impartnat thing is that people congregate naturally where they can replenish their food and drink, and conveniently take care of errands closeby, in a pleasant open space that's shaded in summer & sunny the rest of the year, where they know they'll meet up with or find enjoyable company and people-watching. I think the less immediate access to commercial/eating & drinking venues, the less the traffic. It's not as easy as setting up a coffee cart--it needs to be a market of some sort.

I say we buy out the triem property and build a mutli-level, tree-planted, commercial and public space with shaded under-building parking (yes, people often DO use cars, ya know?). WSM can have a mini-market selling the items that people most often run out the door onto the lawn with. Amante can have an oven. Another store can offer supplies to students at the new high school. There can be a new performance space & recording studio. A dry cleaners can have a pick-up/drop off. Dances & Tai Chi can be held on the rooftop plaza. A bus can go down AND up S Greenesboro. Sidewalks can be created. Etc.

But most of all, and for simplicity's sake, I still think we need to let Carr MIll management know we want this decision turned back. It's a misguided one. Has everyone called to respectfully let Nathan know you'd like this changed?

elizabeth, that's the kind of vision we need for Chapel Hill's $100M+ downtown redevelopment effort. Care to add your voice to the growing chorus of folks asking for a rethink?

Thanks, Will (although, ideas are cheap), but I'm a Carrboronian.

Seriously, no idea can fly the way this lawn has without some serious insight into what made it what it is. Planners can spend years designing all the bike-friendly, or parking-friendly, or homelessness-unfriendly spaces they want, but it doesn't mean they'll fly. People want good coffee, beer & wine, decent foods to grab and a good place to sit down with it, but they seek these things out where they know there will be a variety of people--outgoing, expressive, fabulous, or whatever flavor you want, people who DO things in public, people to be with and to be around. We want to be where things happen, including unusual things that make each day a little different. We want to be part of a rhythm, one which gives energy rather than draining it.

Such a space could be happen in downtown Chapel Hill (just don't forget--sometimes even the students want to get away from the students). And if it does, Carr Mill may lose some important traffic. When I was growing up in the 70's--80's, it was all up and down Franklin Street where everyone congregated and met up, fromthe mild to the wild, the young to the old. That kind of general gathering does seem to have migrated to Carrboro, but things could change back.

I think a lot of people upset with the reason for this discussion (where's the petition????) could make the point that the mall management is taking the way things are for granted. There sure does seem to be a lot of great new stuff at the Courtyard . . . I'd hate to see Carrboro losing out on its trade in the future just because people seek their songs and bread, sparkles and feathers, somewhere more likely.

The petition for Bruce is at the Balanced Movement Studio, 304 W. Weaver Street. There are 2 copies- lower level is open 8-5 and second level is open later depending on evening class schedule. Tonight, Wednesday, the second level is open until 8:30 p.m. Call 942-0240 for more info.


A new artilce about the dancing ban is in the N&O here. They quote Mark Chilton's comment straight out of OP. Nice to see they credited the source, OrangePolitics.org.

I'd like to see an actual link to OP on their website. When are newspapers going to get the fact that good netiquette REQUIRES linking back to the source of your material? Why don't they link to other sites? OP promotes local media ALL of THE TIME! We are big fans of local media.

I'd love an explanation from local newspapers on why their sites don't link back to blog sources.

BTW... the Herald Sun story linked to in the post above is broken now. How are people going to understand this story with out the original source material? Newspaper websites are missing out on the benefits of traffic from such a link. Hey Newspapers! Wouldn't your advertisers like the traffic we can send your way? You earn money based on clicks don't you? Don't you want more clicks? Please keep archives of your stories online.

Brian, unfortunately the N&O is going the wrong direction.

They've started to lock down on their links by requiring a "free" login. To get the login requires answering lots of personal questions. Worse, every click-thru we give them (which drives their online business) rewards OUR readers with a login screen.

Maybe the N&O and the HeraldSun (which is the ABSOLUTELY WORST - as, at least, the N&O has a permalink) want to follow the NYTimes lead - whose inbound links plummeted when they required login. By their behavior it seems they just don't want us to drive traffic, for FREE, to their sites.


Good news outlets?

The Chapel Hill News, Daily Tar Heel and the IndyWeek understand they have a responsibility to maintain a public accessible record. For that, I'll continue to reward them with bountiful links.

Brian, I think you should contact Ted Vaden, who is the N&O's Public Editor. I find him to be quite insightful about the N&O's relationship with readers. Since they recently have put some effort into meshing their blogs with their print version (see today's Q section), he might be interested in exploring your points. Plus, as the former editor of The Chapel Hill News, he is very familiar with our local community and issues.

Here's the paper's contact info for him: The Public Editor can be reached at ted.vaden@newsobserver.com or by calling (919) 836-5700.

"...The ban apparently results from a Carr Mill policy that states that only mall tenants and those attending their events can use the lawn space (thus, Bruce may dance during a WSM event but not otherwise)..." If this is true, why doesn't WSM simply have an event every day, all day called "Free Form Movement in the Moment" or something?

I'm going out of town for a week. Is anything going to happen about this while I'm gone--or are people just going to be frustrated and watch the issue fizzle out? I spoke with Ellie K. about it last week, and the subject of a peaceful demonstration (a dance-in?) came up again.

And P.S., for the record and what it's worth: again, I agree that the property owner can do what he or they choose with their "private property". That doesn't mean that people who enjoy being here can't respectfully ask for reasons why certain decisions were made, or that a decision be reconsidered, and ask in a unified way.

Well Elizabeth, I've made at least one suggestion about what people can do to fight this silliness, but as far as I know, no-one has stpped up to the plate yet.

From today's N&O:

Weaver Street Market and Carr Mill Mall's management are holding a news conference at 3 p.m. today to discuss future use of the market's community-oriented lawn.

Ruffin Slater, Weaver Street Market general manager, and Nathan Milian, Carr Mill Mall property manager, will present the plan at Panzanella restaurant, inside Carr Mill Mall.

The announcement comes about a month after Weaver Street Market regular Bruce Thomas, known locally as "the dancing man," was told to stop dancing on the market's lawn.

I hope someone out there will be at the 3pm news conference and report back here what happened. :)

But Brian, that's what 1360 is for!


But Brian, that's what 1360 is for!

Will 1360AM put up an entire un-edited audio of the event? (so we can infer our own meaning) Will 1360AM reporters have the same POV as Orange Politics contributors do? Will newspaper websites link to lots of sources in one place so a reader/listener can get the whole story in a convenient manner? Will newspapers ask the same questions Orange Politics contributors would?

I'm looking forward to 1360's report for sure. Thank you for your time and money spent covering the news. :)

Was hoping to go but have a meeting... Would be great if WCHL1360 would post audio of the complete conference. Maybe WCOM could get in on the act.

The news conference isn't open to the public. Found that out by getting turned away at the door.

Let's hope that's not indicative of the new attitude...

email that's been flying around (Ruby, maybe you want to post this seperately?)

Subject: We Can Dance If We Want To: Please forward widely

It's a Carrboro scandal...and Carrboro residents are dancing back...Wednesday, August 23, 5:30 pm...

Last week Carr Mill Mall manager Nathan Milian told Bruce Thomas, dancer extraordinaire, that he could no longer dance on the "private property" of Weaver Street Market's lawn. Read http://www.newsobserver.com/102/story/476463.html for a more complete story.

Today, Weaver Street Market and Carr Mill Mall put out a press release with their "solution" to this PR fiasco: a new program called "Live on the Lawn." These scheduled events will feature performers who apply at Weaver Street Market and are "approved" by Carr Mill. The press release says there "will be a limit of one performance per week per artist or group."

Personally, I don't dance once a week. I dance when I want to. I want Bruce to dance when and where he wants to. Please come help us make this point: TOMORROW, Wednesday, August 23, 5:30 pm.

Bring instruments. Bring your dancing shoes! Bring your friends.

Lest it get lost in the dance shuffle, my concern (which echoes many others) is beyond restriction of Bruce's dancing.

Nathan and Ruffin, from what I know of them, are decent folk. Yes, I don't understand their motives in this. Yes, they missed an opportunity to clear the air. No, I don't believe they're clamping down out of mean heartedness.

But whatever the motives, whatever the reasoning, the current situation is drawing lines and hardening hearts. That's a shame, especially in light of Bruce's (and others) call for compassion and understanding.

Even if Bruce was given a golden ticket for unlimited dance on WSM's lawn, there's still the issue of the lawn as part of Carrboro's public, private and civic space.

To me, from a decades of using the lawn (someone that, at the time, was upset with the WSM addition - still upset with the H-T clear-cutting ;-) ), the question for Carrboro comes down to this:

Do you want a sanitized space like Southpoint Mall, with its predictable carefully tailored events or do you want, even with the anxiety of potential surprise, a little dash of creative chaos?

Please check out the news and continue the conversation at the new consolidated and updated post: http://orangepolitics.org/2006/08/live-on-the-lawn/

"Even if Bruce was given a golden ticket for unlimited dance on WSM's lawn...", seems to miss the point of why so many people are upset. Bruce, nor anyone else, requires a golden ticket or any other form of permission to dance. We have the right to move how we want, when we want, and where we want as long as we are not interfering with another persons rights or are in no way threating or disruptive-- you can't yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater, but you may certainly sashay to your seat as long as you hurt no one (Bruce is being intimidated because of his history and threat of parole being revoked). If they had said "no loitering" it would be a different issue, but as it stands, this is really a civil rights issue. If a handicapped, little person, or spastic person moves in a way that bothers management, can they be tresspassed? Carr Mill may be private property, but it acts as a public space, and is not a private, members-only institution. Us such there are limits to what rules they can and cannot enforce. I don't see how there is much differnce between a "whites only" counter and an "uptight-stiff-people-who-in-no-way-scare-or-bother-other-uptight-inhibited-people only" Mall.

And then there is the larger question of where the line is between "dancing" / "performance" and "mindful movement" / "just happy to be alive".

(My appologies for not finding the proper quote function.)



Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.