New Idea to promote Square Dancing as a social activity

By Rusty Fennell

For years, we have held square dance lessons to bring new people into our activity. We advertise the lessons, gather the people, ask for "Angels" from our club and go to work.

The down side to this practice is that even when classes are held on the same night as the club, they are separate. Not all members are willing to be Angels so we have two distinct groups. These consist of one group of people who are not members and one group of people (excluding the Angels) who sometimes do not want any part of those who are not members. Let's face it. Some dancers just won't willingly "square-up" with beginners and that is their loss.

So, at the end of the class, the new dancer may find that only some "Square Dancers" are friendly. On the other hand, these "unfriendly" club members may not be unfriendly at all they simply do not know the new graduates because they were not there during the learning process.

Here lies a wonderful idea presented by Kay Fennell.

"Do not invite new people to join your class, invite them to join your club!" Change the format of your club during the time it takes for the new dancer to learn the moves associated with your club. I.e. Mainstream, Plus, etc. Lengthen the club dance time by 30 minutes or so and make every other tip a learning tip and a club tip.

Kay's suggestion hit me very hard. Where have we been? Of course! Why didn't I think of that?

Contrary to belief, it does not take many weeks or months to learn how to square dance. It only takes a few minutes. If we can circle left, allemande and promenade, WE ARE DANCING. True there is more to learn but there is always more to learn. Nothing written says we cannot have fun interacting and dancing when we only know a few movements.

Everyone in the club can dance the learning tip and the new dancers get a time for observation during the club tip. The new dancer can interpret much by seeing what they have learned as well as dancing the same. And, they are not likely to get bored watching when they know that their turn is next.

Actively promote your "social" club by visiting church groups, community organizations, etc. Ask those groups if you can attend one of their meetings to talk about the "Wonderful world of Square Dancing"? Be brief and well prepared to show them what they are missing. Invite them to attend a special open house night - have refreshments - do not mention lessons - invite them to join your club.

Financially there should be little if no burden to the club. The hall rent must be paid for every night of the lessons and every night of the club. Charge the members regular dues. Charge the NEW CLUB MEMBERS (not students) the equivalent of what the lessons will cost until they have finished learning all the moves.

For the past x number of decades, we have followed the same format for gathering new dancers. For the past few years, our success rate has fallen tremendously. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by making new dancers truly a part of our club and our activity. Thanks again to Kay for this great idea.

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