Square Dance Classes in Fairbanks

by Isabelle Mudd

For the last several years our club, the Santa's Swingers Square and Round Dance Club in Fairbanks, Alaska, has been confronted with most of the same problems facing clubs throughout the country. We had trouble getting new dancers who were willing to commit to a full 30 week session of evening lessons. We also had to work around other clubs when scheduling our hall.

About six years ago we decided to try a series of lessons held five nights a week for a two week session. We wondered if there might be less loss of momentum and if the dancers could learn the moves in ten to twelve classes held similar to a two week workshop in other disciplines.

You know, it worked! The new dancers liked it and they did learn the moves in that length of time. Of course, as all new dancers, they needed to come regularly to as many dances as they could to maintain their new skill.

Our caller, Gordy Oseth, was willing to "try anything once" so when we were pressed again for time for scheduling our hall, we tried a series of three Saturdays for our lessons. We found that this wasn't quite long enough, so we currently hold our classes on four consecutive Saturdays for sessions of four hours (10 AM to 2 PM). We do take a quick lunch break and a couple of other breaks, but that amounts to four hours per Saturday or sixteen hours of classes.

Gordy plans to introduce all of the basic and mainstream moves, following the CallerLab program, as rapidly as he can so he can spend the time remaining in practice. Usually he is able to introduce most of the moves in the first three Saturdays so the fourth Saturday class is mostly review and lots of practice. This schedule gives time for lots of review of moves already learned at each session and allows the new dancers to enjoy the pleasure of dancing to singing calls at the end of the first class.

Our classes are small and certainly do not pay the expenses, but our members feel that introducing as many people to square dancing as we can is important. That is why we schedule classes in Sep/Oct (right after hunting season); Jan (start the year right) and again in March/April. In this way new dancers are encouraged to take the classes again for a good review of things they may have missed the first time!

In the beginning we graduated the new class at the first regular club dance after the classes were completed. However, we soon decided that the new dancers needed more floor time for them to feel comfortable at our regular dances, so we added three months of dancing (or six dances) to our requirement for graduation.

While the classes were begun as an experiment and with reservations on the part of many local dancers, Gordy has decided that accelerated lessons are the only way to teach folks to square dance. The retention rate seems to be about the same as it always was, but we are able to enjoy dancing with our new dancers at our regular dances much sooner than before.

If you are interested in more information about our club and classes see our web page at: http://www.fairnet.org/Agencies/dance/SanSwinhp.html

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.