[Callers] Origin of Beginners' workshops

Jon Southard JSouthard at IntouchHealth.com
Fri Sep 2 13:00:41 PDT 2011

David raises an interesting question about when and how beginners' workshops/orientation came to be part of the evening.  I have been dancing in Southern California for a little more than 20 years, and there have been beginners' workshops here for at least that long.

I am wondering if one factor was geographic spread.  Perhaps an orientation wasn't considered necessary in the New England setting because everybody more or less knew what contra and traditional square dances were, even if they didn't necessarily dance them.  Whereas in other parts of the country people might not have that knowledge, coming in.   

We don't any longer have any 'original members' of my local community to check this, but it stands to reason that if you were trying to start up a series in a new part of the country (maybe having moved there from New England, which is how a lot of West Coast dance communities got started), you'd certainly provide a lesson/orientation.

If beginners' workshops did originate elsewhere and then were imported back to New England, that might explain why your memories of them there may be more recent than my memories of them here.

Jon Southard
Santa Barbara, CA

-----Original Message-----
From: callers-bounces at sharedweight.net [mailto:callers-bounces at sharedweight.net] On Behalf Of David.Millstone at valley.net
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2011 10:53 AM
To: callers at sharedweight.net
Subject: Re: [Callers] Implied Messages in First-Timer's Orientation [bcc][faked-from][senderbase]

[Many good comments deleted]

David notes:

P.S. As a historical note, I think it worth pointing out the concept of workshops  
before the dances is a relatively recent phenomenon... maybe 25 years old, but  
probably more like 10-15 years.  (I'd be interested to hear from others around  
the country on when they think these introductory sessions began in their neighborhood.)  

To be sure, going back into earlier centuries, there were dancing masters and  
classes, but I'm talking about twentieth century social dances, at least in the  
part of New England about which I know the most. People just came to the dance  
and learned as they went; that's certainly what happened at community square dances;  
where contras were done, which was a relatively small number of venues, there  
wasn't such an introduction in places such as Nelson, NH, and at Dudley dances  
throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s, the events that (IMHO) were the  
primary jumping off point for making contras a much more popular dance form.

It might be worth speculating on what led to the introduction of such workshops...why  
folks came to feel that they were necessary. Changes in the dance programs? In  
the folks coming to the dances? in the caller's expectations of what they hoped  
to accomplish in the course of the evening? broader societal / cultural changes?  
But all of that is grounds for starting a new thread, so if anyone is interested  
in picking it up, I hope they'll change the subject line.
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