"New Style" Square Dancing?

by Jim Mayo
(reprinted with the permission of American Square Dance Magazine)

I recently came across an article in the Wall Street Journal about bowling. It described some changes that have been taking place. League bowling has been declining for perhaps fifteen years and four years ago some bowling alley operators offered "glow-in-the-dark" bowling. It has discotheque music, flashing LED's, laser beams bouncing off the walls and black light on the pins.

Last year the 6500 bowling alleys in the U.S. posted a 3.4% growth in the total number of games played. A lot of this is being attributed to "glow bowling." The article noted that "while bowling remained popular among children, middle aged people and senior citizens, there was virtually no way to attract the coveted 18 to 34 year-olds that had shunned the game."

The article went on to quote a North-Of-Boston bowling center operator saying "League bowling used to be a triple shift: 5, 7 and 9. Now it's just 7 o'clock. People don't want to commit to 32 weeks. There's a lot going on today. The entertainment dollar's really spread out." An official in the company that sells the new equipment describes the new style of bowling as "It's the same product positioned differently to appeal to a different demographic." They call it adding Xtreme effects. The article ends saying that the owner of the reshaped bowling center "isn't all that thrilled with the noise and flashing lights." He says "I'm kind of a purist. I'm not crazy about doing this, it's not real bowling. But you have to keep up with the times."

As I read this I found myself wondering how many of us would accept square dancing repositioned in an equally drastic way to appeal to a new demographic. Would we continue to go to the "new style" dances? The bowling center operator has a large investment and debts to pay off. In square dancing we can just close down the club and give up dancing. Is that our future?

One point that hit me strongly was the observation that "people don't want to commit to 32 weeks." I've always felt that a really wonderful thing about square dancing was its flexibility. We can make it without even drastic changes as demanding or as easy as we wish. We could easily create a square dance activity that people could get into comfortably in 10 weeks. It would have many of the good qualities that we enjoy now. It would probably not include as much Challenge as we have built into our current club square dancing. Would that drive you away? I enjoy dancing when it's easy and I don't have to think furiously every minute I'm on the floor. In fact I like it better when my square makes it through everything all night long. How much change do we want? How much can we accept?

background info
Jim Mayo is a caller from Hampstead, New Hampshire, and a member of the CALLERLAB Board of Governors. He writes a monthly column for the Northeast Square Dancer Magazine.

This article will be featured under CALLERLAB Viewpoints in the February issue of American Square Dance.

This article may be reprinted with no further permission from the authors and/or publications.  Permission has been granted in advance for the reprinting with the stipulation that credit be given to the contributing author/publisher.

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20-August-2018 20:17:05