[Callers] Recruiting new dancers

Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing winston at slac.stanford.edu
Thu Apr 29 11:39:38 PDT 2010


I'm most involved with BACDS in the San Francisco Bay Area, which sponsors a
bunch of different dance series (English dances in Berkeley on alternate
Wednesdays and fourth Saturdays, San Francisco on second Saturdays, Palo Alto
on 1st/3d/5th Fridays, Mountain View on 1st/3d/5th Wednesdays; Contras in
Berkeley on 1st/3d/5th Wednesdays, SF on 1st/3d Saturdays and 4th Fridays,
Palo Alto on 2nd/4th/5th Saturdays).

We have several hundred members who get membership cards in the mail.

We mail members a coupon good for free admission to your first regular series
dance, so they can bring friends for free.  We give second-dance-free coupons
to people who attended the beginner's welcome/lesson/workshop.

We aren't doing it this year, but for a couple of years we participated in Bay
Area National Dance Week, and had free 'introductory dances' (not lessons, but
parties where you might start with a Virginia Reel and work up to a contra)
with free admission to the dance after that.  Now the Berkeley English dance is
doing a quarterly thing (Wednesday night, 6:45 - 7:45) with free admission,
optional donation for caller and band and musician; when I called that a few
months ago there were about 25 first-time dances, about half of them at least
15 minutes late.)

We got great turnout for the National Dance Week dances, and people appeared to
be having fun.  (We made sure to have excellent teaching callers and bands.) 
Nonetheless retention was very poor.  It was like the attendees went home
thinking "That was really fun!  What will we do next week?")

The other stuff with coupons, etc, has been moderately successful - at least it
doesn't hurt.  (And I think the coupons-to-members tends to exhaust the social
networks of the members, so it stops being effective after awhile.)

We get more people in the door at the Palo Alto contra through listings on
Craigslist and Squidlist and community calendars than through coupons, and
thoses people pay full price at the door.  I think having a good time on 
a Saturday night is more important to people than the $10, so it's more
important that it looks like a good time than that it's free.

> Do callers doing one night gigs announce local dance options if they
> know them? Or do you only talk about it with the folks who come up and
> ask? Presumably if a caller has been brought in, the organizer of the
> party knows the folks at the party and the local dance scene. Is it on
> the caller or the organizer to spread information about other chances
> to dance? And do you broadcast wide, or focus on the folks who seem
> really in to it. I think culturally, at a societal level, we've lost
> the sense that we can dance after our 20s at things besides weddings,
> which is a real shame.

I don't think that's what's happening, really. At least judging by the number
of seniors dances, ballroom, salsa, and disco dance lessons at the Parks and
Rec, etc.  I think what we're seeing more precisely is that going out at all is
viewed as kind of dating activity; once you're hooked up (and especially once
you have children) you stay home and watch DVDs/satellite TV, or play immersive
videogames.  When you're divorced and lonely, you go out looking for stuff to
do, or when the kids can be left alone.  This tends to make a big demographic
hole in group activities - people in their 30s and 40s tend to be missing. 

-- Alan

 Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not SLAC or SSRL   Phone:  650/926-3056
 Paper mail to: SSRL -- SLAC BIN 99, 2575 Sand Hill Rd, Menlo Park CA   94025

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