By Mike Seastrom

There are some exciting things happening in square dancing these days and many areas are seeing their numbers grow again. It seems that we have a whole generation of "baby boomers" whose children are beginning to leave the nest. These "boomers" are looking for an activity to share. Some are also thinking about making time for exercise. Many that did a little country western dancing, that was real popular a while ago, have grown tired of smoke filled bars and dance clubs and are looking elsewhere. Square dancing is so "politically correct" right now that we're crazy not to share our activity with more people.

Market researchers have told us for many years that we don't have a product to offer, if we can only make it available once or twice a year. The old way of starting a new dancer program only in September and/or January has not been very successful. If someone wanted to join, and missed the opportunity in the few weeks the program was open, they'd have to wait another year. If a new dancer wanted to bring a friend, they would have to wait until next years new dancer program. We now have the solution!

The Multicycle Method of organizing new dancer dances has been around for many years now. In the last several years since CALLERLAB has been involved in its promotion, we've seen it spread to many areas in the world. These areas are growing. Their new dancer programs are "booming" and adding to the clubs treasury instead of draining it. So, whatever way you chose to use it, this updated method can put renewed life in your new dancer program.

The Multicycle Method has also been called 10 plus 10, among other names, but the concept is still the same. By starting more than once or twice a year, you make our activity more available to potential dancers. Instead of waiting until next year, your enthusiastic new dancers become your best recruiters and can bring their friends several times each year. They can even dance with those they recruit immediately. By having two or three new dancer groups on the same night, you increase your revenue and more people means more fun. Those who miss dance nights or need additional dance time can repeat a cycle as necessary, instead of dropping out and waiting so long to start again.

There are many ways to run the Multicycle Program. You'll want to adapt this plan to fit your group and modify it as you go to make it work best for your situation.

You still need to promote and recruit new dancers with as much effort as before. The LEGACY Promo Pak, available from Stan and Cathie Burdick, P.O. Box 2678, Silver Bay, NY 12874, is a great source of ideas. The cost is only $5.00. Use as many ideas as you can, and really encourage your new dancers to bring their friends. Personal contact is still the best recruiting tool.

Since every area is a little different, the Multicycle Method is being used in a variety of ways. The 10 week version can have five starts per year and the 12 or 13 week version can start four times a year. Others have had great results starting three times a year or every 17 weeks. It's ideal to run your new dancer program all year round, but that can be adjusted to fit your hall or seasonal schedule.

Divide your dance night into two or three separate periods. For example, in a three hour night you can either have two groups or cycles, dancing one and a half hours each, or three cycles dancing one hour each. You can alternate tips among the groups throughout the night, or can divide the dance into separate time periods for each cycle.

Let's assume you start a cycle in September and start a new cycle every 17 weeks (three starts per year) and have three hours of dancing each night. For your very first cycle you can hold a new dancer dance from 7:00 - 8:30 and a "club funshop" from 8:30 - 10:00 p.m. We've even heard of clubs holding a line dance program the first half of the evening and a square dance program the second half. You decide how best to run the first cycle for your group. Even if you've planned the "old standard" program of one start per year, you can always switch to the Multicycle Method and start another cycle on the same night to increase your numbers and revenue. The next start is in 17 weeks, or the first part of January. Divide your night in two parts, and teach your new cycle 7:00 - 8:30 and your September group from 8:30 - 10:00. After another 17 weeks, or the first part of May, you can graduate your September group and start another cycle. This spring start is around daylight savings time and has proven to be an ideal time to recruit new dancers.

The shorter dance time is great for new dancers because it gives them time to build stamina. Instead of them going home tired out, you actually leave them wanting more and excited about coming the following week. When dancers finish the first cycle they are encouraged to bring their friends, and while they are dancing the second cycle, they are also "angeling" their friends in the first cycle and reinforcing what they've previously learned.

If dancers get behind or miss a few weeks, they are encouraged to repeat that cycle and don't have to wait a year for a cycle to start again. We also find that we gain many former dancers, because they have opportunities to join where they feel comfortable many different times each year. Call your former members and encourage them to come back and "help" at your new dancer dances.

It takes several starts to build momentum, so don't give up after one or two cycles. You really need to try this program for more than three starts to fine tune it to fit your situation. Once you get to where your new dancers become your primary recruiters, the momentum you can build is exciting.

Let your new dancers feel like they're part of the club. Consider having refreshments, theme nights, and occasionally, decorations so your new dancer dances are like a party. Include your new dancers in club picnics, camp-outs, theater nights and other club activities. Create additional dancing opportunities by visiting other groups or attending special dances geared for new dancers. One successful club (on-line website: alternates club and new dancer tips on their own dance night. They not only get a larger attendance at club dances, but their new dancers get more dance time and feel like they're part of the club.

If you want to increase the numbers in your club, then update your new dancer program. Focus your club's attention on your new dancers. You'll make it easier for people to join square dancing and will be delighted with the results.

For additional information on the Multicycle Method contact CALLERLAB, 829 - 3rd Avenue SE, Suite 285, Rochester, MN 55904 (507-288-5121).

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