I like the idea and think it maybe helpful to some despite the Cons listed.
One thing I am working on at South Bay Contra in the SF Bay Area, is to have a quarterly
workshop called “Next Steps”. This happened once so far (the next quarter had a weekend
workshop called "Contra College” that is about 30 min away from South Bay and has
about 15 newer dancers with some “angels”). I’m hoping to have another for summer and
The idea came from Jean Gorrindo in San Luis Obispo CA, who runs a quarterly free workshop
followed by pizza then the usual contra dance. She feels it is helping some of the newer
Our session luckily had one to one “angels” helping with newer dancers, with about 20
total. I had a very experienced caller teach the workshop for 80 min before the usual
dance, followed by ice cream and snacks. I had a separate band (new young musicians who
are eager to play) as the usual band didn’t want to extend the gig to 5 hours. We used a
large classroom downstairs of the hall, as it was affordable and available earlier than
the main hall. We got the support from our BACDS to pay the band, caller and rent. The
snacks were donated.
I got only positive feedback from the dancers. I had really great angels (who know how to
help silently and model listening to the caller, and dance both roles).
The downside was that I offered the workshop for donations to get more attendance (though
some would argue that paying for something makes it more valuable to some) and only got
$20 from one person.
The other thing I would check on is “creepy behavior” in your community. A lot of folks
feel they don’t have it, but if you ask some younger dancers you might find that they are
uncomfortable with a few dancers’ behaviors. Some of the offenders in our community swing
just fine with other experienced dancers, but when they get a young new dancer, they hold
too close and are too flirty for a stranger (both lacking consent). I’ve only discovered
this by watching known offenders. Then when I see a new dancer looking uncomfortable, I
ask them after the dance, and almost always I’ve gotten a reply like “that was horrible
and I’m never dancing with him again”. We only just got our code of conduct re-written
and lost our Safety committee board rep and our board President, so we’ve got a few folks
to address in the community still. I’m not sure, but feel this might have a big impact
on having new dancers return.
Dance Caller & Organizer
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2018 11:22:39 -0500
From: Emily Addison <emilyladdison(a)gmail.com>
To: organizers shared weight <organizers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
Subject: [Organizers] mini-beginner contra courses - ideas?
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
Here in Ottawa, we're brainstorming new ideas for attracting brand new
people AND keeping more of those folks. We get about 15 new people each
dance and we think we're already doing lots to support them (2nd dance free
cards, smiley stickers to ID so regular dancers even more supportive than
usual, etc)... ... still we don't retain as many of those folks as we'd
like. AND since we still haven't fully bounced back from a surprise drop
in attendance September 2016, we're trying to get creative.
One idea we'd like to try next year is a mini beginners course.
Has anyone done this before? Any stories of successes? Tips of things to
avoid? Course content? Advertising? etc????
Here's are a few initial thoughts that have been rolling around our heads:
- Partner with the city - have it as part of their course offerings. (Or
as part of a rec association)
- Approx 4-6 weeks long.
- Not only about moves but knowing where to be when, transitions,
timing, culture, etc.
Pros/Cons of doing something like this...??? There are many but here are a
- Pro: Despite our community being super welcome (at least we think so),
some people are just TOOOOO scared to try something so new/different in a
big social setting. This could address those people who have been too
scared to come out.
- Pro: Some brand new people are ok with the steep learning curve.
Others find the intensity of learning so much so fast 'too much'. We could
let brand new people know that this is an alternative to learning the ropes.
- Pro: Many adults look for new activities through things like
mini-courses (e.g., learn how to dance!). We'd be finding a new pocket of
- Con: Don't want potential beginners OR regulars feel that beginners
need to take a course before they are welcome. (e.g., like MW where have to
take a course before welcome at certain dances.. .... this might encourage
some experienced dancers who are focused on skill-level to push beginners
to 'dance better')
- Con: Having a room full of beginners would remove all the supportive
help that experienced dancers can provide. (Solution -- have a few
volunteer experienced folks come to the course)
Another thing we're working on is having our monthly community talent
dances be more beginner focused so that should be neat... ... but a little
different than a condensed weekly course.
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