I'm not sure that I can give you good advice about building a dance
series, since Mill City is still struggling. I think that I can guess
which series you're talking about, but we'll leave that out for now. I
can, however, talk a little bit about how I ran the series and how I
handed it off to a new group of organizers.
Alan's suggestion that the current organizer be the town liaison if no
one else can be found is a very good one. David also made some very good
I, too, tried a broad appeal for help in running the series last Spring.
It didn't work. What did work was face to face discussion. You need to
ask people to become involved directly. By making a personal request,
it's much more difficult for them to turn you down. I chose people who
were regulars and seemed to have a commitment to the dance and a good
attitude about the community. If they do turn you down, ask them to make
suggestions about others who might be interested and recruit them to
help you find people who will help.
Some other thoughts:
If you can't afford the "flashy" talent that draws from far away, then
look for the exciting up and coming talent. They're usually hungry for
venues to gain experience and hone their performances. Keep an eye on
the other dances in your area to see who they are hiring. Dance in as
many places as you can. I found musicians through friends, at festivals
and just by talking with strangers during the break in a dance. Go up
and talk to musicians at the dances you attend and let them know that
you organize a dance and ask to exchange contact info. Look for the
people sitting in the back of the hall, playing quietly with the music
You mentioned that it was a community dance but also mentioned that it
was failing to draw dancers from more than an hour away. The
organizer(s) needs to decide what kind of dance they want to create. The
hard core dancers who would travel far for a dance are not going to do
it for a community dance. Making a decision about what kind of dance it
will be will go far in deciding what needs to be done to build
attendance. Creating a "flashy" dance means investing (out of pocket) in
a few of those bands/callers that will draw the crowds. This is
financially risky, but can be done. Creating a community dance means
advertising to non-dancers in the area. Schools, churches, social clubs,
colleges are all fair game. It's important to remember that people
attend a dance not only because they enjoy the activity, but to see and
socialize with their friends. The core group of dancers are the ones who
need to spread the word and bring new people to the dance. Word of mouth
will be the most powerful advertisement you can get.
If the dance is scheduled on a day that conflicts with another dance of
the same type (either community or flashy) that is close by, then
consider changing the date (no matter who was there first). If a
community dance is up against a "flashy" dance on the same night, then
it gives people a choice and an opportunity to dance the way they wish.
But if there are two community dances close by on the same night, then
both are going to suffer.
Hope this has helped.
Gale T. Wood wrote:
Subject:Dance in transition
Dance venue in transition Qs?
Just curious as to longevity of dance series.
How do you handle organizer burnout?
I know an organizer who has been at it for 12 years and wishes to turn
over to a new 'generation'.
How do you generate support and bring new people in to the organization
(dancers scatter when there is mention of organizing!)
There is a small loyal group of dancers. The problem is no one wishes to
take up the duties of organizer. This is compounded by the fact that the
main organizer needs to
be a resident of the town where the dance is held. (I do what I can. I
organized a dance and found it was not my calling. esp. as the sole
organizer, dancers want to dance not organize!)
Dance started in 1996
In a beautiful medium size hall.
First 2 years averaged 65-70 dancers
In the third year there was a problem with parking at the hall. Number
of dancers dropped off. Parking problem was resolved but the numbers did
A "Flashier" dance series, 50 miles away, was created for the same wknd.
off more dancers.
Over the next 8 years attendance fluctuated between 20-40. which is the
sustaining level for this dance.
In the past year attendance levels have dropped to 10-30
The dance is having problems hiring the "Name" talent that brings in
dancers from more than an hour away (Though Randy Miller from western NH
is a fan of this dance and
plays for the take of the door)callers and musicians ask for guarantee
The organizer just does not want the hassle of it anymore.
There are several of us who help when we can.
Some of the reasons the dance is struggling (along with the above)
Very few local dancers.
Lack of flashy talent (dance can not provide the pay out)
It's a community dance that welcomes beginners/families
At one time there was a rowdy teenage group who frequented the dance,
they were very energetic, too much for some dancers. (they do not
attend the dance anymore, but the stigma is still there)
It's to far off the beaten path (Where is ----------- anyway?) [ I
choose not to include the name of the dance without permission of the
Its to long of a drive! There are better dances closer by...
Is that dance still happening?
It is a shame to see the demise of this dance series due to lack of
gas prices, an aging dance community, apathy.
Perhaps it is time for this 'community' dance to close it's doors. I
wonder how many other smaller dances are experiencing the same problems.
Here is in southern NH dance venues (new dance halls) are becoming
increasingly hard to find and it would be a shame to see this one fall
Hope to start a dialogue and get some ideas for keeping this series
Thanks in advance