Tag Archives: organizers

Puttin’ On the Dance: Northeast organizers’ conference

Following successful conferences in the Northwest and Southeast, this November CDSS is co-sponsoring an organizers’ conference in the Northeast! I’m looking forward to be attending myself; I’ll also be leading a session or two on youth and intergenerationality. Chrissy Fowler is one of the organizers of Puttin’ on the Dance and sent me the following update. – Max

Puttin’ on the Dance

Chrissy Fowler here, CDSS member and all-around traditional dance enthusiast.  I help produce the Belfast Flying Shoes Dance Series, a monthly community and contra dance, and a CDSS Affiliate.  As a dance organizer, I know what a tremendously rewarding but tough job it is to be “puttin’ on a dance” in my local community.

That’s why I’m thrilled to be deeply involved with a project whose goal is to connect and inspire dance organizers:  Puttin’ On the Dance – A Conference for Northeast Dance Organizers. We four conference organizers have all had personal experience with the joys and challenges of dance organizing, and we are eager to provide a forum for sharing ideas, learning new things, building regional networks, and the overall rejuvenation of dance organizers.

What You’ll Find at the Organizers Conference

In October 2009, I had the honor of being in a leadership role at the Southwest Virginia Leadership Conference.  I can testify firsthand to the effect that gathering had on my life as an organizer, and on the many dance organizers who attended.  I’ve heard similar testimonials about other conferences in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest.

Your PotD organizers. Linda, Mary, Chrissy, and Delia.

At PotD you will find experienced and enthusiastic dance organizers leading sessions related to building healthy dance organizations, sustaining a series over time, attracting a solid base of dancers and volunteers, marketing, finances, running sound for dances, working with performers, fulfilling your dance’s mission, and other useful and enriching topics.  But most of all, you will find each other.

This is the clincher for me.  Each other.  Every single time I talk to someone who’s planning to come, I realize just how much we dance organizers have to offer each other.  Sure, we all have our problems, but we also each have successes and strengths, and I can’t wait to be surrounded by folks who can help me puzzle out some of the challenging aspects of dance organization.  Folks who have been there. Folks who get it. Folks like me, but who have actually figured out solutions to particular things I struggle with!  And who are ready to celebrate all of the wonderful aspects of organizing a dance series, across the whole spectrum of contra, square, English country, gender role free, family and community dances.

Attending the Conference

Puttin’ On the Dance is November 11-13, 2011 in White River Junction, VT.  Everything you need to register is here. You’ll find the registration form, ways to finance attendance (including scholarships) and more.  NOTE:  All registrations postmarked by September 1 qualify for Earlybird Rates. (Send in those forms ASAP for discounted fees!)  If you have questions, let us know.

What You Can Do

  • Be at the conference! Current registrations come from across New England (5 of the NE states), New York, and Ontario, and we’ve even got a dance organizer joining us from Jonesborough TN.  We’d love to have YOU there too!
  • Send someone else from your organizing team, if you just can’t make it… or even someone who’s thinking of joining your team.  What a way to get someone invested and excited in dance series organization!
  • Share your ideas – for session leadership, for session content, for other program activities. [Feel free to post them in the comments section here. – Max]
  • Get on our mailing list, and help us spread the word via Facebook, in person. Print a flier!

And trust me, my fellow dance organizers, you don’t want to miss this one!


Puttin’ On the Dance:  A Conference for Northeast Dance Organizers
November 11-13, 2011

Chrissy Fowler (ME) Delia Clark (VT)  Linda Henry (MA) Mary Wesley (VT)

Chrissy Fowler is a caller and organizer from Maine. She is co-organizing the Puttin’ on the Dance Northeast Dance Organizers Conference.

Newsletter Highlight: Dance Revitalization in Palo Alto

Deadline: The deadline for our next issue (April-June) is February 1st, next Tuesday. We’d love your submissions.

We’ve also posted a few articles from the current newsletter online and I wanted to highlight one today. Joyce Fortune wrote a wonderful piece entitled Revitalization: How Do You Make a Dance Come Back to Life (pdf) which looks at some of re-energizing strategies used by the Palo Alto dance to increase their attendance. I recommend reading the whole article, but here are some of the points that caught my eye.

The Food. Instead of selling snacks, the Palo Alto community added a regular potluck table at the break, something that can be surprisingly effective at strengthening a community. It’s great to have something outside the dancing itself, food especially, that facilitates conversation. A predictable potluck also creates an opportunity for people to contribute something and strengthen their community ties.

The Welcome. The Palo Alto dance “mix[ed] up the faces at the front desk… asking for multiple people to sit out only one dance.” It sounds like this did a lot for relieving organizer burnout. Like with food, more door-sitting shifts created “an easy volunteer job that people can do and feel like they are contributing to the dance community, which they are.”

The Talent. The dance makes an effort to showcase a variety of musicians, callers, and sound people. While fun, accomplishing this can require some legwork finding talent, as well as some care getting everyone on board. It can be a matter of balancing: familiarity and predictability can be assets, but so can variety and risk. I’ll add that making space in your schedule can also be a part of a long-term investment in creating more new callers and musicians. In turn, I’ve seen frequent anecdotal correlation between more new talent on stage and more new dancers on the floor.

Post-dance connections. As well as creating an e-mail list for the dance, they have been making sure to connect with new faces. Joyce notes she has “made a point of talking to newcomers and getting their email address to send a follow-up email to them as well as adding them to our regular list.” This takes effort from the organizers but really pays. I note they have an active Facebook group, with several posts a month. These include information about the upcoming dances, photos, and videos. They also advertise their quarterly follow-up potluck and meeting, which is fabulous.

Fostering a newcomer-welcoming dance culture. Having lots of new people is, happily, a familiar circumstance. Unfortunately, so is wondering why many don’t return. In addition to talking with them and sending them a follow up e-mail, Joyce and others took it upon themselves to make sure they had a good time on the dance floor. “We actively help them to learn how to ask people to dance,” she notes, “and make sure they are only sitting out voluntarily.”

The process. Perhaps most of all, the process by which these changes came about. Joyce cared about the local community. She identified that the organizers were getting burnt out and needed help. She did her research about other dances. She asked for advice from other organizers. She brought others on board (“six committees with eighteen people”!). They identified their goals and effective ways to address them. They also took some risks and expended a lot of effort. It was the right kind of effort — not the kind that wears you down, but the kind that you can build on.

It’s great to hear about.

– Max

Don’t forget we want to hear from you. Send your newsletter submissions to our editor Caroline Batson (caroline@cdss.org) by next Tuesday, February 1st.