Information about how to put together a compelling, exciting event that is appropriate to your audience and context.
- As an organizer (or a group of organizers), it is your responsibility to have a vision for what your event or group will be. Is it open to people from off campus, or a campus-only scene? Is it aimed at experienced dancers or beginners or everyone? Is skill development a focus of your group or its events? What experience do you want newcomers and rank beginners to have at your events? What about more experienced folks? Plan your program accordingly and communicate this vision to your performers and your participants.
- Be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the people who are performing for or leading your event, and schedule them in situations and combinations where they can shine. If a violinist friend is playing fiddle tunes for the first time, pair them with a solid piano player who already knows the style. If a student is trying out calling for the first time, give them a really confident band to work with.
- If you are trying to attract beginners and folks who have never tried your activity before, schedule awesome, experienced bands and charismatic teachers/callers/leaders, especially towards the beginning of the year. People respond to confidence, charisma and excitement on stage, and first impressions matter.
"Having a really good caller who can teach clearly and correct problems patiently is important especially for the first few contras in a year. Confused dancers tend not to come back" - Marissa Roque, Swarthmore
- If your event attracts a large number of beginners, encourage your callers/leaders to plan programs that are accessible and exciting. It's better to do very simple dances (even ones that experienced dancers find dorky) smoothly and with minimal teaching than to spend half an hour learning a complex figure. At the same time, encourage leaders to plan a "teaching arc" through the event, building on skills learned early on in order to get to more complex things as the evening progresses.
"A good teacher can accomplish almost anything. I played at a college dance once for a group of 300 complete beginners. At 8:00 the caller said 'number ones face down' and 150 people stared at their shoes. By 11:00 they were dancing a flawless grand square with smiles on their faces." - Ethan Hazzard-Watkins
- Be aware of the needs and insecurities of your audience. Plan styles and figures that are likely to seem cool and allow your audience to get over their initial hang-ups about dancing.
"At Brown, students were often embarrassed to do dances that had "dorky" figures, whereas they took to easy smoothly-flowing dances nicely. College students can be very self-conscious, and this can be a barrier to them dancing in the first place. At Brown dances, students who had never danced before would regularly cluster outside the door, peeking in to decide if they wanted to join. They would pay their money and walk through the door most often when what was going on inside looked 'cool' to the average college observer." - Julia Nickles, Brown alum