Sorry it's taken a bit to chime in here from Ottawa!
Some of the ideas below are likely repeated by others but here are a few
ideas that we have found successful for the Ottawa Contra Dance:
- *Beginner lesson:* We always have a beginner lesson... some of the
messaging that is part of that includes the practice of asking anyone to
dance, long-time dancers liking to dance with newbies and how that is
beneficial if a first-timer, that the terms lady & gent are for positions
in the dance and that anyone can dance whatever role they wish... ...
We don't have it as a policy but some of our board members participate
in the lesson. Modelling for the other regulars to do so.
- *Board ID:* Our board all wear a different colour of button and our
pictures (with roles) are posted at the back of the hall so that we are
easily identifiable. We announce that we love to hear from all.
- *Board members model dancing with a wide range of dancers: * We try
(to differing degrees) to model dancing with partners of all experience
levels, genders, etc.
- *Name tags for all: *This includes buttons for members, sticky name
tags for others. ... ... colourful markers to make them fun
- *More about beginners in particular: *
- Welcome at the start of the dance: We introduce the band and caller
(enthusiastically!) at the start of the dance and at that point
one of our
board members gives a warm welcome and a few tips to the brand new folks.
- We have a second dance free card (announce why on the mic).
However, we also have quite a new handout to us for beginners
bit about our community.. .... I see this as inclusion as a contra dance
community is SO different from many other communities that we
daily life. Thus, having a bit of an 'in' to read about us and an invite
to volunteer, etc.
- *Last spring we started having small colourful smiley stickers on
the name tag table. We promote these to brand new folks as a way to
self-identify as a new dancer (if they want). It's been
FANTASTIC as I can
quickly glance around in a room of 100 people and find folks that want me
to know that they are new... ... then I can go ask them to dance. (For
those who want to self-identify as new, it also takes some
pressure of them
as they then know that all the experienced folks will know they are new.)
- As president, I send an email to all new folks who have provided us
their email through the second dance free card or our email sign
I welcome them, ask them for feedback, etc.
- *Re inclusivity around gender*, we are not a larks and ravens
community. However, as mentioned above, we talk about the terms of
gents/ladies being danc roles/positions and anyone welcome to dance any
role. We are trying larks & ravens twice this year. Many of our
experienced dancers model dancing with same-sex partners and taking on
different dance roles.
- *Mixer + squares in an evening:* We offer/encourage callers to call a
mixer early in the evening and also a square or two to provide not only a
bit of variety but to create a different sense of connection throughout the
community of dancers there that night (e.g., squares work as a team).
There's lots that we do in terms of building a strong sense of community
(e.g. lots of potlucks) which adds to the sense of inclusion.
I think I'll stop rambling now though...
Hope this is helpful.
Ottawa Contra Dance
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