I have to think back to my beginning dances in South Amherst with
Dudley. There was no thought of beginner sessions - we just get on the
foot of the set til we got sucked in and literally pushed around. I'm
not advocating that, all tho there was a certain excitement to it in my
20s. Really, I want to emphasize the part about being a newbie on the
floor with experienced folks. It is waaay easier to learn if everyone
around you knows where to go and what to do - IF you are brave enough
and observant of clues around you. Basically, I don't think there is a
single answer. As a caller, I prefer to teach the dances as the evening
progresses rather than offer a beginners session at all. But the
community feels differently, so I teach a session at the start that
focuses more on the changes in the music and how to swing than on trying
to explain all the moves. It is certainly a question with many answers
and many variables.
[mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Hgrastorf(a)aol.com
Sent: Sunday, August 15, 2010 4:23 PM
Subject: Re: [Callers] Introductory session at dance weekends
I am one of the organizers of FootFall Dance Weekend, and I dance at
Echo. I teach the beginners class there on a regular basis. I always
beginners that they will learn more, faster, if they dance with
dancers, and that includes coming to a dance weekend, where it's total
We've always had a least one inexperienced or brand new dancer at
but never so many beginners at FootFall that I've felt a beginners'
is necessary. In my experience, the dancers who are there (with a few
impatient exceptions) are genuinely pleased to bring new dancers "up to
Personally it's a pleasure to watch the expression change from grim
concentration to smiling delight as these brave newbies find themselves
along the line.
In a message dated 8/14/2010 12:00:10 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
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1. Re: newcomers' workshops at dance weekends (Greg McKenzie)
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2010 11:15:06 -0700
From: Greg McKenzie <gregmck(a)earthlink.net>
To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
Subject: Re: [Callers] newcomers' workshops at dance weekends
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed
Thank you for introducing this subject.
One of the greatest ironies of the contra dance "movement" is that,
by convention, the most wonderful bands, and callers--because of
their notoriety--are most often scheduled at events, camps,
festivals, and dances where newcomers seldom attend. Consequently,
the first experience, for most of us, with contradance is not the
inspiring experience of an exciting event in a hall filled with
regular dancers, a hot band, and a caller with the knowledge and
experience of integrating newcomers.
Thank you for considering alternatives to this convention.
Keep in mind that there are many ways to work on integrating
newcomers. A separate orientation is certainly not the best and, it
could be argued, is not even a good way to accomplish this integration.
Personally, I actively encourage newcomers to sign up for camps,
festivals, and special events. With a good caller this can be the
best introduction to the magic of contra dance.
I am interested in other views on this.
At 10:23 AM 8/12/2010, you wrote:
My dance organization, Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca,
likes to offer
a beginners' workshops before an evening dance. We are now
discussing whether or not to make this official policy for ALL
events, including the day-long Fiddlehead Frolic in April. The
Frolic begins in the early afternoon and, in 2011, will probably
include a welcome contra dance with the featured band, then a couple
of breakout sessions (contras with a second band vs. music workshop
w/featured band; ECD vs. squares), then a contra medley; followed by
potluck and an evening dance.
What are people's thoughts about the value of a beginners' workshop
at such an event?
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