Hi fellow Shared Weight organizers,
I was curious as to whether anyone on this list had lingering questions
coming out of the CDSS Family and Community dance web chat last month?
There were a number of great ideas I was excited to learn about including
many suggestions on adding non-dance features to events in order to make
them feel special.
Related to community dance organizing, I also wanted to share a story from
our community dance this past Saturday here in Ottawa Ontario. The story
relates to the Belfast Flying Shoes community dances ---> They were one of
the groups featured in the CDSS web chat.
Note... the story is long... apologies!
The backstory: Ottawa Contra Dance has been hosting afternoon family dances
for approximately 8yrs. These are well attended (70-100 people each time)
but there is big turn over with kids aging out around 7yrs old and no
bridging into our evening contra dances. This year, we launched four
community dances using a very similar model to Belfast Flying Shoes (and a
few other community dances) in the hope that we could create a truly
intergenerational dance that would encourage school-aged families in
particular. The timeline is as such: 3-5pm afternoon advanced dance,
5-630 potluck for all, 630-730 community dance, 730-8 beginner lesson, 8-11
contra dance. (People who pay for the community dance can stay for the
contra beginners + first two dances for free; People who pay for the contra
can come to the community dance for free.)
It took us a whole year to plan the new series (e.g., the timing; pricing;
how the open band would work; sound; type of dances; etc). Mostly our
planning has paid off as the dances have been a blast. We just need more
school-aged families + a few more volunteers.
The cool thing: During the planning of the new series, our Board couldn't
imagine not having a beginner contra lesson before the 8pm dance. This is
a long tradition in our community and there were a number of us who felt
that the skills that are built in that workshop are too important to give
up and we couldn't see how else they could be taught.
Well.... Will Mentor was calling our afternoon advanced dance as well as
the evening contra dance this past Saturday and when he arrived, he
suggested we 'do as in Belfast'. Instead of running a beginners lesson,
simply bridge the community dance into the contra dance with some basic
dances from 730-8pm. That's exactly what we did (after checking with some
Board members). Instead of having a formal break & switch at 730, Will
took over the calling from Esther (our community dance caller) and
continued with those same dancers + others who were arriving in the hall.
He taught a couple of beginner contras and built the skills right in. And
our all comers band got to play with Will calling contras - a great
I know lots of contra dance series don't have beginner lessons AND we
didn't have as many beginners that night as we sometimes have but it was so
exciting to try something new to us and that we had been unsure of, with
the suggestion coming from such an experienced caller who wanted to make it
happen. I love these moments in dance organizing!
PS - I don't know if we'll keep the beginner workshops on community dance
nights next year or whether we'll give this model some more testing time...
we'll see! :)
PPS -> Shout out to Belfast! When Will suggested the idea, he said that
he feels the great success of that series has to do with the community
dance and how they've structured their model!
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