I am in Lawrence Kansas. Since Covid we have consistently had a larger
number of new dancers than experienced dancers at each dance. This evening
we had a very well attended dance with approx 70 people. I would estimate
that at least 60-70% were inexperienced dancers. We are also in the
process of grooming new callers and had a callers workshop in March so we
are trying to integrate those folks in and get them more experience. I've
seen on other posts that a dance can easily absorb about 25% beginners, but
we have that formula pretty much flipped. We dance monthly which is a
hindrance. Experienced dancers are fatigued of not getting to do more
complicated dances. This has been happening for a long time and we need to
make some changes so that we have a larger percentage of experienced
I acknowledge that there are many ways to teach and value the tradition
of contra dancing.
I'm pushing the edges a touch here, but felt, given the recent
discussion re large % of beginners
and how do you pull in and keep younger dancers, that these two data
points may be helpful.
Back in 2019 I was asked to run sound, provide canned music, and call
contras at a wedding.
The bride had gone to a nearby college and was part of a cohort of
students who came to my dance for awhile.
At the wedding reception I had an hour to teach and call contra dances
to some 45-50 dancers, 85% of whom had never danced contra.
I set the rule for myself of almost no "teaching" and lots of dancing to
I came up with a 16 count dance, a 24 count dance, a 32 count dance on
up to the full 64.
The dances built on one another. They all progressed. I had a small
rectangular space so
two tight lines. I don't recall if I used improper or Beckett as the
I had several "contemporary/hot" contra music tunes lined up, e.g.
Perpetual eMotion's Flying Tent.
So a few minutes to explain line and progression then a simple dance
with music that progressed.
(e.g. ??? if I used improper maybe circle left 4 places, balance, pass
through for 16 count dance, add in do-si-do for a 24, ...
this probably isn't what I did but you get the idea)
It worked well. The *high energy music* was enjoyed by the wedding crowd
*they never stood still for more than a few minutes* before dancing to
some juicy music.
A local women's university had studied integration in the south and how
such as the Virginia Reel, were used to socialize the northern white
the Southern African American integration movement community leaders.
I was asked to teach and call the Virginia Reel, outdoors, to some 800
While the students were assembling, which took awhile, I played
Perpetual eMotion over the sound system.
That juiced the students. You could see it in how they walked with a
bounce in their step,
in how animated their faces were, etc. But when it came time for me to
actually teach and
call the Virginia Reel I was told to pull back to old time string band
I did as I was told and the music shift from high energy to old time sucked
the energy completely out of the students. I called, and they
the Virginia Reel and then went back to their classes.
This Sunday the Neverland Ramblers are playing in my town with two out
of town callers.
The Neverland Ramblers are composed of a keyboard player,
a classically trained violinist, and a been-playing-in-rock-bands-forever
lead (and follow, but easily throws out riffs based on the chord
The violinist plays in numerous symphonies, has about 50 students that
and, besides the contra dance band, is in two cover bands, one easy
listening and the
other raucous. I enjoy her and the guitarist launching into Psycho Killer.
I just got permission to call a 12 bar blues contra (several are out
there and I've
adapted a few AABB contras over to 12 bar blues format). ... This will
CAUTION most contra bands can't play 12 bar blues without rocketing past
because they're used to playing so many notes in a bar. So this
paragraph is about
pulling in pop/blues music but also I want to flag that a 12 bar contra
is easier to
remember than a 16 bar contra so easier to dance by a beginner.
Related, I'm thinking of how top weekend bands often have fun
Perpetual eMotion's Eleanor Rigby
Playing with Fyre's Sweet Dreams
Giant Robot's Hall of the Mountain King
or everything Emily Rush plays when calling RushFest.