[Callers] Recruiting new dancers

Delia Clark deliaclark8 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 29 13:16:17 PDT 2010

Thanks for all the input on walk-throughs -- lots to think about!

I know that this is slightly off-topic, but I wanted to share a  
different angle on recruiting new dancers -- the slow way!  We  
started a monthly dance a few years ago. As our principal goal as an  
organizing group was to build community, right from the first dance  
we made it VERY family-friendly:
-  we offer a local-foods vegetarian dinner as part of the price of  
admission (soup, bread, cheese, prepared by rotating local  
volunteers, often with ingredients from different folks' gardens,  
root cellars, etc)
-  we built the schedule around families:  dinner served any time  
from 530-7:30, family dance from 6-7:30, dessert potluck and break  
7:30-8, contra dance 8-10:30
-  during the break we sometimes feature local kids performing  
traditional music, or a jam
-  we charge $8 for the evening (dinner and/or dances, whenever you  
arrive), but kids and teens (18 and under) are free
-  we have a local business sponsor (compost and recycling company)  
who sponsors the cost of the hall and some of the PR
-  we have worked hard to be cool for area high school students,  
using whatever connections we can
-  we send out little poetic reminders each month, and have  
benefitted from a very supportive local press

On the plus side, this strategy has resulted in strong consistent  
participation in our family dance, with many of the high school  
students going on to play in their own bands and dance regularly in  
their new college towns (including two who are doing a trad music  
tour of Ireland as I write!) We have found that our dance is  
particularly appealing to Waldorf School families and home-schoolers,  
but we have also enjoyed strong participation from families of the  
small public schools in our rural region. We have recently been asked  
to join our local sustainability initiative, as an example of using  
the arts to build community sustainability.  I feel really great  
about the new dancers I believe we are churning out into the world  
and I hope that many of you find it easy to recruit them to your dances!

On the challenge side, we have had a harder time building momentum  
with the contra dance part of our evening, though I have to say, we  
have always had enough folks for a fun dance.  With the mixture of  
new dancers, lingering families, high school age folks, we haven't  
been able to provide the kind of scene dance gypsies seem to prefer,  
but we have had some very kind and generous experienced dancers  
frequent our dance and they seem to enjoy the challenge of keeping it  
all moving.  I have considered booting the kids out during the break  
when we switch to contra dances, but many of them are becoming good  
enough dancers that it just doesn't feel right, though I am aware  
that this shifts our dynamic away from appealing to singles, etc.   
Instead, our committee has made a big push to pull in people who  
don't think of themselves as dancers, ex the sustainability crowd, or  
the church choir crowd, and so far that's keeping the lines pretty full.



Delia Clark
PO Box 45
Taftsville, VT 05073
deliaclark8 at gmail.com

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