To answer the question about dance timing, we have a weekday dance which used to be 8 to
11, but since it is a Wednesday dance we noticed that numbers near the end of the night
were getting pretty anemic. Lots of people left at the break and even more during the
course of the 2nd half so that even on evenings with good attendance, the last few dances
of the evening were very small.
To get people to stay until the end, we then attempted a 7:30 to 10:30 dance. And people
were indeed more willing to stay to the end, BUT it's still the weekday and now the
problem was at the beginning as 7:30 was challenging to get to. We noticed that people
didn't really start arriving until 8 or shortly after 8 for most dances, and it was
hard to get the dance going.
Finally we settled for 8 to 10:30, cutting a half hour from the dance. This has presented
its own issues as we break at 9:30 as if it were a 3-hour dance, but then we have a
3-dance 2nd half and we do have the mass exodus at the break anyway, but it's still a
decent attendance. I toy with maybe having equal halves, thinking that dancers would stay
on for the 2nd half because they did not get enough in the 1st half, but I've been
advised against that.
As for the connecting family dances with contra, we have done that at one of our local
dances. Pretty short family dance (about 90 minutes), potluck in between, and many
families do leave before the evening contra dance, but a few stay on. I think we try to
make the dances easy at the start but even so they are challenges for kids who don't
understand the structured dances.
You are right that we have lost the community aspect of our contra dances, but it's
quite challenging integrating children in our dances. Many kids can contra dance and do
it well, but most prefer to run around and dance without structure.
From: Paul Rosenberg via Organizers <organizers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
To: Emily Addison <emilyladdison(a)gmail.com>
Cc: organizers shared weight <organizers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
Sent: Thursday, October 12, 2017 10:34 AM
Subject: Re: [Organizers] Ideas for connecting family dances with contra
I remember thinking about this situation many years ago. I believe we linked the family
dance with the contra a few times. A small handful of children tried a few contras. But
back in those days, the contras were more community oriented. An evening would start with
some easy dances, and include a circle mixer and maybe some squares.
At least in my area, Albany, NY (and other areas in the northeast US that I have visited)
the shift in recent years of repertoire away from anything easy, into smooth, flowing,
complex contras -- and no circles or squares — has made these evenings unwelcoming and
inappropriate for most children
But hopefully, dances in Ottawa, Syracuse, Belfast and some other places still value the
community aspect of contra dance evenings.
By the way, how do you keep attention of young people for two and a half hours? When we
started our monthly family dance in 1994, our dances were 2 hours, but included a 5 to 7
minute story and a 5 to 7 minute singalong . For the last ten years, our family dances
have been 90 minutes, without any “extras”
For a double dance like this, don’t you think a shorter family dance would work better?
Although I suppose some people could show up later for the family dance and then stay for
the contra, without making a huge time commitment.
On that note, after decades of organizing contras, community dances, and family dances,
and watching changing preferences and patience levels of participants, I have come to the
conclusion that in general, shorter is better. So many dances keep their evening length
as 3 hours, even with 80% of the dancers going home after two and a half hours..
For those dances that get so tiny for the last 30 - 45 minutes, would you consider
thinking outside the box and leave the participants satisfied and shortening a dance
How many arts events are three hours long? Most concerts and other shows I attend last no
longer than two and a half hours at the most. Yes, in the good old days, a contra evening
would still have a healthy sized crowd right to the end, but times change.
Part of what keeps our events vibrant and exciting is watching the trends and reacting
with appropriate response
OK, I have 25 other emails to respond to so please forgive me for typos, etc
Paul RosenbergAlbany, NYwww.homespun.biz
On Oct 12, 2017, at 10:05 AM, Emily Addison via Organizers
Hope folks are having a good fall!
I'm writing about a question regarding family dances and linking them more to
Here in Ottawa, we have four family dances a year... 3-530pm with a potluck after.
They're always on the same day as an evening contra which starts at 730pm with a
beginner lesson, dance from 8-10pm. There's not much overlap in audiences and
we'd like to have some of the families with the younger and middle aged kids,
naturally flow into the contra dances while maintaining our awesome contra dance vibe (not
feel overly family dance).
We're looking to learn from others on how they might have a better link between the
I know Belfast does a great job and Syracuse also has Family dances rolling into Contras.
If you do this, might you be willing to share some info?Things I'm wondering about
1. What is the timing of the different parts of the dance(s)2. Is there food/potluck/?
involved?3. How does the transition happen between family and contra? 4. Do younger kids
stick around and not dance when contra starts? If so where are they and what are they
doing?5. Anyone have a play space for younger kids in the evenings?6. What do you do in
terms of callers/bands for the family and contra portions?7. Other things you feel are
Maybe you have a totally different model...
With much thanks!EmilyOttawa Contra
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