Just in case any organizer is wondering:
Yes, you may use these particular words and ideas
in your efforts to sustain and grow your community.
Here's a liberal copyright license:
I hereby place the text in the public domain,
though I appreciate knowing if any person makes use of the text or ideas.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mark R Dobyns Jones <markrdjones(a)gmail.com>
Date: Sat, Dec 17, 2016 at 11:07 PM
Subject: Sustaining your dance
To: A list for dance organizers <organizers(a)sharedweight.net>
How did you start dancing?
I asked that question of many people,
in my role as a dance producer,
in hope of learning better how to introduce more people to our dances.
It turns out that nearly everyone I quizzed did not first arrive
through their own initiative, to participate in something they had
never done before. (Nor did they first participate merely by seeing a
flyer, nor by viewing a web page - these are usually for the already
interested or initiated.)
Rather, most describe some one, or several people in their life that
made the occasion of going to a dance inviting, interesting or fun,
and they wanted to find out more, and see what the experience
might be like.
And to have the experience again.
That inviting person often was a friend, sometimes a family member,
sometimes part a group of friends, or a teacher or co-worker, and
sometimes it was someone that they did not know, who directly asked
them to come to a dance or festival for the first time.
I think each of underestimates the persuasive social influence we may
have, and that our friends and fellow dancers have, in inviting people
we know, and people we do not know--to the pleasures of dancing
regularly to live music, and to join our community.
Anyone organizing any group of people knows that no matter how many
there are involved, over time, people depart, for a variety of
innocent and benign reasons. Perhaps their work life has changed, or
they have moved; perhaps their family life has changed, or they have
become parents, or their lift to the event does something else that
My favorite metaphor for this is filling a bathtub with the drain open.
To sustain our dances and our communities (and any cooperative human
activity, for that matter), it is beyond desirable for us to invite
and welcome new people to our activities:
it is necessary.
It is necessary to personally invite people who may never have danced
To invite people often, graciously, enthusiastically and with welcoming
And invite people you don't know, too.
And to welcome them back. Again and Again.
I welcome you to invite several people this year to join you at a dance.
And to invite your entire dance community to do the same.
It is nearly the only way to sustain your dance.
To have a community that understands that it is crucial for the
community to continue to invite newcomers to come, and to treat them
well after they arrive.
The total population of people participating in our favorite forms of
social dance is less than one tenth of a percent of the surrounding
population (except perhaps for some rather active rural areas, where
it may be higher). I believe thinking about attracting and retaining
the next tenth of a percent of the population is the means to sustain
and grow our social activity.
There is no scarcity of potential dancers.
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