Here are a few general ideas and recommendations from folks who have done this to get you started. 

  • Become a campus club or organization. The process for this varies on different campuses. Contact your student activities office, Dean of Students, Student Government, or ask any faculty member for information. Usually club status makes it easier to rent space, have a budget, get student activities money, do publicity, have a web site, etc. It makes you seem more legitimate (which you are). Emily Troll (Wesleyan) says:

    "Becoming a group is a helpful and easy step that then allows you to rent spaces, request money, and just be recognized by people around campus."
  • Start small. No need to have hundreds of people, a fancy hall, and a huge sound system for the first event. Emily Troll says:

    "We started in a dorm lounge, with a bunch of musicians, playing a lot of common tunes, one-tune sets with lots of energy. We definitely put up a lot of posters and got all our friends to come, and our first dance hit 40 people about, I think."

  • Consider starting with just one event to test the waters. Once you know it will work, establish a regular schedule as soon as possible so people will know when to look for your events. This also helps to increase credibilty and recognition.
  • When getting started, seek support from existing local dance communities if there are any. Experienced dancers from elsewhere can help provide an intial critical mass. Frequently, these dancers are excited to help support a new college dance.
  • Spread out responsibility for organizing among a group of people. This will help to avoid burnout and anyone being too overwhelmed when all their papers are due at the same time.
  • Spread out leadership roles (organizing, music, calling) among people of different ages. Make sure you don't lose all your organizational capacity and talent all at once when people graduate. Create mentorship relationships between seniors and sophomores to transmit experience. Marissa from Swarthmore says:

    "Juniors going abroad is a great excuse to make younger members step up and take initiative."

  • Create a manual about how to run your group or event, (like this draft from Wesleyan (word.doc). Provide all the information you have gleaned as an organizer to younger students who will take over things once you graduate. Make it very specific to your campus - who to contact to rent the hall, how to book a sound system, what sort of publicity strategies work for you, etc.
  • Cultivate a relationship with local off-campus groups, performers, and organizers. You can learn a lot from them, and they can probably learn from you. Many non-college dance and music groups are anxious to get more young people involved, and they'll be thrilled if you bring a group of students to their events. For help finding a group look under "How to find a caller/band" in this page.
  • Take a van of students to off-campus dance events, including local events and larger festivals (NEFFA, Flurry, etc.) This helps to generate enthusiasm among students about the dance forms, and raise awareness about the campus group among the broader community. Use club/college funding for van and entrance fees, so the outing is free to students
  • cultivate a group of student musicians and callers. These people will drag their friends to events, they will be invested in helping to organize things, and they often play for free (or for less than professional bands/callers from off-campus)
  • organize big events (like the English Scottish Ball at Swarthmore) that combine students, alums, and off-campus participants. Big events can raise money and generate enthusiasm (and be a lot of work)
Go To Top