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Article 030500 - New Ideas, 2000 Lessons

 

 Well, Lessons are here. Ready?  You have 4, 5 or even more squares starting right?  The first night went great right?  Now its the second week, They all came back right?  Lots of new folks showed up too, Right?  Its the third week, they all came back, more new folks showed up right?  Bet I'm wrong!
   Let me guess, you read the books, you talked to Callers that have been around for years and you had a plan.  Did you start them in a big circle?  Did you mix them up real good and teach then Do Si do, Rt & Lt grand or even swing?  Did you do that for all your new folks?

  I bet you even told them all about the great things in square dancing like the dress code, and you need volunteers to help out, they had to be at every lesson, and they must join the club.  I bet you stayed right with the Callerlab list and didn't vary from it at all.

  So where did they all go?  Why did they not come back?  Why is there no young folks, kids or singles?  Why did they drop out after four or five weeks.
   Okay, this may not be the answer, but it will be darn close.

   Lets start with your first night.  Do not start with big circles.  Go straight to making squares.  They do not want to play children's games, they came to square dance, so teach them square dancing for goodness sake.  Do not rotate the girls, never, never, never.  Why?  First of all, many folks are out of their comfort zone if you do.  They are not ready to do anything more than a Do Si Do or left allemande with a stranger.  Do not even show that to them till the 4th or 5th week.  By then, they have gotten to know the group and will adapt to it a little easier.

  Expose them to a singing call on the first night, not some stupid one that know one has ever heard, a popular one they may have heard on the radio.  A hum dinger!  And do not rotate the girls.  Keep them with their partners.

  I bet you just had to tell them about the dresses and long sleeved shirts.  No Hats, No Tennis Shoes, No Pants for the girls (Dresses only), No gum, No modified interpretation of the moves like arm around Do Si Do's, or twirls.

  I say you let them do what they want, suggest prairie dresses at best, if they want to, and who cares about a man's comfortable dress shirt over a dress long sleeve shirt.  I say back off!.

   That has got to be one of the first things to scare them off, next to dancing with a complete stranger.  I am willing to bet that after about 2 months, they will have square dance dresses or prairie, and men will have long sleeved shirts without you even having to push the issue.  Let them make the decision when their ready.  And if the women pick prairie dresses, Great, at least you have them.  

  Lets see, Bet you had to tell them about joining the club, Right?  Man, are we learning anything?  This is the new millennium, People are busy, very busy.  You better just be glad they walked through the door.  And you want them to sign up for food, cleaning, join the club, kitchen duty and who knows what else.
  Why don't you just teach them square dancing, and let them have fun.  If they are available, they will let you know when they are ready.  Let the group have a question and answer time.  If they ask, then tell them, bet someone will, maybe not the first night, but they will, then you can suggest what is available.  But make it clear, your just glad they are there.  If they do not want to join the club, or volunteer, who cares, just be glad they are there.  Once again, after about 2 to 3 months, I bet they join.
  I would not say this at all if I could not prove it.  I have always kept a 80% retention or better to any age group I have called to.  My dancers not only have fun, they can dance anywhere and do well.  I teach all position dancing from day one.

  Now I still listen to advise, and I am always looking for better ideas.  But not from you, not from club members, I listen and watch my dancers.  If they have concerns, you can see it in their eyes, and some will even tell you if your lucky.  But normally they just don't come back.

  I suggest to change your perspective.  Something is wrong, just look at the numbers.  Something is wrong, and its not square dancing.  Its us!  Time to ask why, Time to change our ways, time to listen to the new folks, Time to increase the numbers and maybe bury some old traditions, or they may bury us.

By Rob Scribner

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