Cuesta Squares: A Social Success

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Luis Magana 2020-05-31

This is the story of Cuesta Squares which is an LGBTQ club that dances in San Luis Obispo, CA. It is different in that it is told by a new member and relates his experiences learning to dance with the club. It is an excellent example of the importance of the social environment of the group to the success of the club.

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Sample Radio Ads From Montana

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Hunter Keller (Hunter@HunterKeller.com) Website 2020-03-06

Hunter Keller voiced four professional radio spots to advertise his beginner classes in Montana. Their first usage generated about 25 new dancers and a second round an additional 16. Each 30-second spot featured a different music style and a slightly varied message. Click on the button below to see links to the MP3 files so you can hear what they sounded like. If you’re considering doing radio spots, they provide a terrific example.


Facebook Stories About Using Social (formerly Sustainable) Square Dance (SSD)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Barry Johnson (callerbear@gmail.com),

Joni Micals (c3bdancer@gmail.com)

2020-01-12 Updated 2020-12-23

Dean Dederman posted a question in the Sustainable Square Dance group in Facebook. The answers provided by Barry Johnson and Joni Micals constitute an excellent Winning Ways story on using the SSD experimental lesson program. Later in a different thread, a question was posed as to how much of the success of a reported SSD implementation was due to the involvement of an outstanding caller (Kip Garvey). Barry Johnson replies to that with his experience calling for two different groups, one using SSD and one not.

Click on the button below titled “SSD Story” to see the transcript of the Facebook threads.

Dean Dederman Original Question:
I have a question. I ask this with no agenda or dog in the fight, and just ask for honest answers and opinions with no one getting upset or offended. Callerlab’s teaching list of basic and mainstream has been the gold standard in teaching modern western square dancing for many years. But as numbers have gone down, different lesson teaching ideas have been tried and discarded. Among the ones that have come to prominence and have enjoyed some success are the ACA’s teaching list and the Club50/SSD. My question is a long one, but can anyone explain why SSD was not presented to Callerlab for approval before presenting it as an option to replace the standard teaching list….or if it was, what were the reasons it was rejected?! Where it has been presented in piecemeal fashion where some clubs…federations….state organizations are for and against it, do both the traditional methods and the SSD methods a disservice. I ask this so I can give an answer to questions posed to me by various club and association officials, as well as for my own personal knowledge. I appreciate any opinions, and again ask that they be given in a constructive manner. Thank you.
Barry Johnson Comment #1
That’s a very fair question, Dean.
As you said, as numbers have gone down, different lesson teaching ideas have been tried and discarded. Along the way, Callerlab has supported experimentation: People trying to do something different, looking for success. Some of those experiments succeeded; many showed little improvement over the norm. Yet the problems persisted.

In certain parts of the country (in the Rio Grande Valley specifically) the “season” is a short one. There simply aren’t enough weeks in the dance season to teach new dancers the full Mainstream program and give them remaining weeks in which to dance before they leave the valley. The callers in that area developed the “Club 50” program with a goal of teaching for 12 weeks, then dancing a common program across the valley.

Why not simply use Basic? Well, there are some popular Mainstream calls that aren’t very hard to teach, and there are some not-so-popular Basic calls (and others that are harder to teach). So why not, if they’re working as a group, leave a few Basic calls off the list and add in a few of the popular/easy MS calls? So they did.

The RGV callers weren’t the only ones to look at sharing the entry level programs. Callers in the San Fernando Valley area (if I remember right) established a common teaching order that was somewhat different. Representatives of Callerlab and ACA negotiated a common list of 50 calls with a recommended teaching order (and Callerlab calls that the “Condensed Teaching Order”). Again, the goal was to look at something like 12 weeks of teaching time, not 16 or 20 or 30.

Later, much later, the benefits of a shorter teach cycle began to be realized in various parts across the country. A 12-week teach can comfortably be finished in the September-December timeframe without getting into holiday stress. A second class can be done in January-April, and even a third class in the summer.

Not only that, we’re finding that a larger percentage of dancers graduate from a 50-call program than the full mainstream program (and we could spend an hour discussing *why* that happens). AND, perhaps more importantly, being able to start a new class relatively shortly after the previous class gives the newly graduated (and excited!) dancers a chance to bring in their friends and start through the classes again. Together with yet other reasons, it looks like this type of 50 call program actually does make a meaningful positive improvement in recruiting and retention of dancers.

So, given that success, what should happen next? How does one try to share and build on that success? The Callerlab Board of Governors has authorized a non-permanent committee to explore continued development of this program. The RGV Club 50 list was chosen as a starting point. Teaching orders were developed, suggested choreography and lesson plans were created, and pathways to provide continuing education to dancers (the “with variety” and “extended applications” areas).

If this program shows success in growing areas of the country, then it may be reasonable for Callerlab members to adopt this as their entry level program. And we are indeed seeing successful implementations across the country, with everyday clubs and callers (the success is not limited to exceptional callers or regions of the country with specific demographics, for example).

Why not just use the Basic list? That’s certainly a possibility: The approach (50 calls, 12 weeks, standard positions only, get ’em dancing — THEN improve) is the important thing, not the specific list of calls. But what the heck — why not leave Do Paso and Allemande Thars to a little later, and bring in Scoot Back and Recycle a little bit sooner? Some tinkering with the contents of the Basic list could very well be reasonable.

What are the downsides? In the eyes of some (perhaps many) existing dancers, this feels like a step backwards for them. “I’m a Plus dancer, and I made it from 0 to Plus in one year, so of course we should continue doing that! I don’t want to dance some measly little 50-call list.” Those dancers, of course, turn out to be exceptional people: They were one of the 10% that survive the lengthy indoctrination into the activity. Many of them have been dancing for decades, so it seems very easy to them.

But if you look at the numbers — if you look at the way people learn — if you look at the benefits of dancing a smaller program, you find that callers can put on high-energy, fun dances with a small dance program and reinvigorate an area. By letting dancers get into the activity several times each year (at least twice, if not three times!), by capturing their excitement at its peak, we’re seeing rejuvenation in areas that have been stagnant for a long time.

Barry Johnson Comment #2
Shoot, hit “enter” too quickly. Anyway, very few dancers are willing to step up and say “Let’s make our activity simpler”. That’s been a giant hurdle.

And this is where callers — “Square Dancing’s Professional Leadership” come into play. If CALLERS see the benefits, if CALLERS lead the way, if CALLERS make this happen — even at the risk of pissing off certain dancers — then we can see the success.

Not all callers are in favor of this, of course. Not all see a difference between, say, a 16-week class and a 12-week class. Except that he 16-week classes are generally only once per year, and the 12-week class can easily be twice a year…. and right there, just off the top, you can double the number of dancers entering.

“Our angels don’t want to dance that much”. Well, the answer is to get more angels, isn’t it? So let’s get more new dancers, and turn them into angels faster, and that problem goes away quickly.

We can talk for a long, long time about all of the benefits that come out of this. But it’s hard to talk many-decade dancers into believing that a new approach can make a difference, and some very actively oppose it.

All I can say is that it works. It works in multiple areas, it works for many reasons (some of which are quite subtle), and the results are worth the arguments. As callers, we’re leaders… and it’s time we get up and lead.

Sorry for the strong words — but you can tell I’m pretty passionate about this subject. And that’s because of my personal experiences with it, and seeing how other callers in our area are having exactly the same type of success.

I’m running three beginner classes this year, and we’ll graduate something like 20 to 30 new dancers. That’s compared to years prior to this where we were getting 4-6 new dancers per year. So we’re looking at four and five times as many new dancers coming into the club. WOW!

And those dancers are, on the average, a bit younger than we’ve been getting in the past… and those somewhat younger folks are bringing in their friends. The 12-week commitment is easier for those younger folks to make, which is one of the reasons why the average incoming age is dropping… which is another one of the benefits .

But back to some of your original questions: “Why wasn’t it presented to Callerlab”? It was presented to the Board of Governers, and they authorized the continued development of this still-experimental program. And as the program develops, the various Callerlab committees and membership will consider whether it looks like something to adopt as a permanent program, or whether some of the existing lists could/should be changed, or whether the experiment should be abandoned.

It takes time to steer a very large ship, and course should be changed only for good reasons and after serious consideration. I really believe that is what’s happening now — as an organization, Callerlab is learning whether or not it’s a good idea. I happen to think it IS a good idea, but we’ll need to present convincing evidence to the rest of the membership to make a change.

Long answer to a very good question!

Barry Johnson Comment #3
Oh, other questions that often come up from the dancers:
* “People won’t come to our dances if we do this.”
* “We won’t be able to take our new dancers anywhere else.”
* “We can’t take them to association dances, special weekends or conventions”

The long-term answer to all of this, if it works out this way, is to grow the support for the program across wider areas. But in the shorter term, this has been our experience:

“People won’t come”:
Attendance at our 50-call dances has actually INCREASED, not decreased as our club members feared. There are several reasons for this: The new 50-call dancers from -other- clubs are attending our dances (woo hoo!); some dancers that felt like they couldn’t keep up with our higher-level programs have continued to dance instead of dropping out; our own membership is growing faster because of the change; and the experienced dancers in the area have realized that they can still have a fun night dancing without needing Spin the Top or Shoot the Star.

By focusing on standard arrangements first, we can get the new dancers dancing at “club speed” sooner and with more success, so as callers we’re able to put on a higher-energy event… which raises the attractiveness of our dances.

“We can’t take them to other clubs”
That problem can be surprisingly short-lived, particularly when a leading club has success with the program. If one club starts growing much faster than others, then others may choose to copy that model… and it starts to grow. Inviting other callers to come in to the first club gives them experience in how to call at that level, and that eases the transition into other places. And honestly, the newest dancers are often the ones least interested in going to other clubs at first, giving more time for “continuing education” that improves their skills before heading out.

“Can’t take them to large events”.
Yep. That’s part of the overall picture of change. In our area, we’ve been able to convince our association leadership to offer SSD tips, if not a full-time hall, and it’s been popular (in some cases, more squares on the floor in that hall than in the ‘big’ hall). For our state convention this year, the hall that would normally be Mainstream is going to be SSD full time… the convention chairman and the programming chairman both strongly support the concept. For Nationals? Yeah… most of the newest dancers are not willing to travel to Nationals in their first year anyway, and by the time they ARE invested enough in the activity, they’ve probably had time for the continuing education to bring them up to the Mainstream level.

Of course, there are always roadblocks to making change, and these are good examples of the hurdles that need to be worked through. But they ARE solvable, and generally shouldn’t be considered to be complete show-stoppers.

Now, if there are clubs that don’t care about increasing the number of incoming dancers by 2 or 3 or 4 times… well, then, the right answer may be to let that club continue exactly as they are. They’ll either flourish (good for them!), stay the same, wither away and die, or decide to change. That’s entirely their prerogative, and that’s OK. No-one HAS to change.

Barry Johnson Comment #4
Sigh. I just can’t stop talking about this subject…

One other very important point about the approach.
IT IS NOT AN IMMEDIATE SILVER BULLET!

A giant contributor to the success of this program is small positive changes that compound year after year. There is no magic wand to wave that makes a huge difference from day one.

Instead, the success builds over time as the principles are applied season after season, year after year. It’s the old “friends bring friends” approach… if you get 5 people through the first class, then make it easy for them to bring new friends to a second class, then THOSE friends bring more friends for the third class… it grows over time.

But doing lessons just once per year isn’t enough. A shorter class makes it easier for an excited new dancer to sweep up a friend or few and start again “in just a few weeks”. And by increasing the percentage of folks that finish, this all compounds class over class over class until you’re seeing the good results.

And if you have someone that can’t finish for some reason? “Why don’t you come back and join us again in in six weeks when we start again?” instead of “Gee, I’m sorry you’re on vacation for 5 weeks. Will we see you again ten months from now?”

So, for all of my cheerleading about the process, it’s like advertising: you don’t get much result from just one application, but if you keep doing it over and over, it works better and better.

OK, I think I’m done now

Joni Micals Comment
My turn. I began dancing in 1975, with Callerlab calling the shots with program lists, experimental and quarterly selections, adding or deleting calls, and so on. If I didn’t dance regularly, soon I wouldn’t be able to because I would miss out on the latest call or concept, especially if it made it on my program. So here I am, 46 years later, at C3a. I started teaching the SSD program three years ago and love it. 2-3 classes a year, 50 calls. No, they cannot go to a mainstream dance (first criticism). No, most did not want to ever go beyond 50 calls (in fact, they all thought the first 40 was more than enough). My point is, if callers made it a fun journey, and not arduous, the dancers do not need to learn all of Burleson’s book of definitions, or even MS. Most are just interested in dancing. Although I teach all positional (and that’s my lack of experience in calling — they are half sashayed and I call R & L Thru), they don’t know that they shouldn’t know it at this point in the scheme of things. I do teach an older crowd (seniors — not the future of square dancers — second criticism), but what the heck, they enjoy it.
Today I was asked by several in my new 55+ community when I will start up a square dance class. I need to get a bit more organized, and I will. (BTW, no overhead, but no pay. Purely for volunteer.)
Barry Johnson reply to query about results being due to caller, not SSD

Barry Johnson replying to Mike Pogue: A large part of it is transferable, Mike. I can tell you that from personal experience.

The key differences: 12-14 weeks of lessons, not 16-30. Multiple starts per year. Focus on the *dance*, not in the puzzle, using generally just standard formations and arrangements. Support the new dancers by making the level a part of every club dance, preferably the only level offered at least some of the time.

I am a dead-average caller, certainly not a top tier guy, and it’s working for me. We’re only halfway through our second year after switching from a pure Plus club, and we’ve already increased our membership from about 45-50 (and trending down) members up to 70… and we’re starting two more SSD classes next month so hope to finish the year with 80+ members.

We’re also seeing it work with several other groups in the area (some of whom started calling after learning to dance with this program). There are now five area clubs that have adopted it (started with just one), being taught by eight different callers, none of whom are stars. The remaining clubs in the area are watching our success, and I know that at least a few more are considering changing as well.

Outside of this area, we’re seeing it work in Radar O’Reilly’s home town of Ottumwa, Iowa (led by Robin Ragen) as well as in the southeastern Iowa (Tom Manning). Tom is a good regional caller, but he’s seeing a dramatic difference in his results as well.

Some other observations (again, less than two years into the program):

  • Our dances usually had 2 to 5 squares before, and now we’re fairly consistently at 4 to 7.
  • Our class sizes are bigger: graduating 10 new dancers this week instead of the 2-4 dancers we had been doing each year for the 4 previous years. We’re also losing a smaller percentage of dancers though a lesson cycle… I think we lost just 2 or 3 dancers this fall, instead of the more typical nearly 50%.
  • The dancers in this set of lessons appear to average 5-10 years younger than previous groups. Don’t know if we’re seeing a significant difference yet, but the indication is that this program is more acceptable to folks somewhat younger than in the past.
  • Enthusiasm for classes is up: our lesson managers report increased numbers of phone calls expressing interest. We’re also definitely seeing the “friends bring friends” affect.
  • From a budgeting perspective, the club had been losing about $1000 per year on lessons, and people were seriously talking about killing the lessons because we couldn’t afford it. Now, we’re making a small profit on the lessons and again, the trend is upwards instead of down for several years.
  • This group holds 20 dances per year, and uses almost entirely guest callers. The callers have begun to embrace the program and are doing some nice, nice dances for us. The focus on flow and wind in your face for the SSD tips has been great. We’re using callers from four states, some of whom are more than two hours drive away, and they all (now) understand the program we expect. We’re hiring them, and they’re doing what we ask with virtually no complaints.
  • Excitement is higher in the club than we’ve seen in the past. This is really hard to quantify, but we had lost the feeling of fun and anticipation for dances and special events. But now, our newest dancers are bringing that back: they’re happy, they come to dances, they smile a lot… and the whole club feels uplifted.
  • Like many clubs, we were getting in a rut with the same volunteer leaders doing jobs for years. Now, we’re seeing new club members step into leadership roles, bringing fresh ideas.
  • The other local clubs (there are about 20 clubs with a 60 minute drive, and 75% of them are Plus only) have been accepting of our new format. Initially skeptical, those clubs have returned to visiting our group… and they’re doing it in somewhat larger numbers, too. Our visiting attendance at dancer is higher than it had been two, three or four years ago.
  • Best of all, I think, is that our wider net for catching has brought in some truly wonderful people that will, I think, form the future leadership of the group. I’m also about to start recruiting folks interested in calling to try to grow another caller or few.

    I’ve been teaching lessons for about 10 years now, and these SSD lessons (three groups last season, one so far this season, and two more starting next month) have been, I think, the most fun. I’m not grinding the dancers to death with 100 calls… I’m not teaching all positions… we celebrate victory about every three months… and then we do it again.

  • Continuing education has also been popular: we’re teaching advanced to the jaded Plus dancers (who suddenly realized they weren’t as good as they thought they were), running SSD and Plus workshops where we can focus on nuances, and happily encouraging our newest graduates to go through lessons a second time (this time as angels).
  • Finally, you can contrast this all with the mainstream lessons I’m teaching for a club in southern Wisconsin. They have lessons just once per year, and even skipped the lessons last year because their angels were too tired and wouldn’t commit to coming. The club membership is down to less than 20. We’re about to graduate 8 new dancers for them… but I can point at four or five of them that I don’t expect to see next year.

    They’ll add some of these folks to club membership… that’s good, but it’s unlikely that they’ll do much more than stay even with their membership.

    I really, really have to convince them to change next year. They need all the help they can get.

    Convincing our club to change was hard… I finally threatened to quit. “I’m not interested in teaching 0 to Plus any more. If you want to do that next year, you’ll have to find a different instructor.” THAT’s when they got serious talking about it. After the last 18 months of success, all of the reservations of club members are gone… they have completely bought into the program (and realized that they’re having more fun, too!)

Mike, I’m sold on this program, because I’m seeing it work for me.


Square Dance Calling Makes a Comeback in Chicago

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Janice Cha (Janice@glenviewsquares.org) 2019-08-27

Square dancing is enjoying a surge of interest from both dancers and callers in the greater Chicago area. Clubs in Glenview, Wilmette, Evanston and Arlington Heights, as well as Chicago’s North Side, will be offering classes for beginners and intermediate dancers starting in September. But without callers to lead classes, this uniquely American dance form would be in danger of extinction. Luckily, Chicago has become one of the leading areas in the country when it comes to the number of square dance callers-in-training.

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West Coast Square Dancing Flexible Learning Program

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Gordon Ruedig  (webmaster@westcoastsquaredance.com) 2019-03-28

The West Coast Square Dancing site provides a great example of effective marketing of square dancing. It serves as a vehicle to promote several clubs in western British Columbia. In addition, they have designed a modified teaching plan called the Flexible Learning Program that allows more student intakes per year and also accommodates people who have to miss lessons due to travel or work. Click on “Read more” below to see the full story. To see the lesson plan for their Flexible Learning Program, click here.

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No Experience Dance at a Local YMCA

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Susan Morris (susan@callersusan.com) 2019-01-19

The Mount Baker Council in the Seattle area had good success running a “No Experience Necessary” dance in partnership with a local YMCA. Read the writeup below to see what was involved.

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North Shore Squares – Zero to 50 in 18 Months

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Bruce Holmes (Bruce@BruceTHolmes.com) 2019-01-16

Bruce Holmes is the caller for a new club in Evanston, ILL called North Shore Squares, which at the time of this writing has been in operation for about 18 months and now has 50+ members. This story is an inspiring personal narrative that charts his journey through the process of using the Social Square Dance (SSD – formerly named Sustainable Square Dance) system as a tool to dig their club out of an all-too-common hole. All the clubs in the area danced Plus or beyond and you can’t realistically take the average recruit from nothing to Plus in a dance season. Result: at most one student intake a year, sparse student numbers, and heavy attrition. Club membership was falling. Along the way, the group faced all the usual hurdles: resistance to change, demoralization, lack of resources, reluctance to do the hard work. Bruce’s narrative takes you through how they stick-handled their way through the obstacles and grew their club.

You can click on the links below to get more information on the North Shore Squares story, and also see some of the supporting materials they developed to support their marketing and teaching.


Social Square Dance (SSD / Sustainable SD / Club50) Teaching Videos

Article Type Owner Links Description
Resource

North Shore Squares (northshoresquares@gmail.com)

SSD Teaching Videos

North Shore Squares dances in Evanston, ILL and has been using the Sustainable Square Dance (also known as SSD and Club 50) teaching list as their intake level. To help their dancers they have created a series of teaching videos that demonstrate the calls in the SSD 50-call lesson plan. Follow the link to see the list of call videos, both in alphabetical order and by lesson.

Teaching an SSD Class

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Joni Micals (c3bdancer@gmail.com) 2018-11-29

Joni Micals is a newer caller who decided to use the Sustainable Square Dance (SSD) framework to teach a new group of seniors. Click on the button below to see her report of how it worked out. The second button shows a report by a dancer from Australia who happened to be visiting one of the lesson nights. It shows a third-party perspective on what was going on.

My First Attempt at Teaching a Class, by Joni Micals

I attended two GCA sponsored caller schools, my first with Betsy Gotta in St. Louis, 2015, and my second with Randy Dougherty in Palm Springs, 2017. The first time my goal was to just do one-night stands at RV parks across the USA as I was living in my RV and each park had empty recreational halls just waiting for someone to do something in them. The second time my goal was to take eight non-square dancers and teach them to square dance while I learned how to use my equipment, acquire stage presence, figure out how to actually use my words to teach the calls, and most importantly, make it fun while trying to get everyone home.

Be careful what you wish for.

I had moved into a 55+ gated community with a very large auditorium and many club rooms. I immediately petitioned to start a new club—square dancing. It took over six months of attending the recreational board meetings, writing requests, and explaining myself during open forum before two board members decided they would join a class if offered. They finally convinced the board to give me the auditorium, starting January 2018. I had six months now to recruit.

This community has a bi-monthly newsletter and a Facebook group of which I took total advantage. I posted blurbs about how square dancing was good as physical and mental exercise, wards off dementia, get to know your fellow community members, have fun, and learn something new. I posted pictures and videos of dancers smiling, memes of square dance sayings and images, and each time I left my name, number, and email, encouraging those that wanted inclusion to contact me. Without knowing the actual day and time (the Rec Board would let me know late in December!), my list of new dancers grew to 48.

Then our local area club, which did not have a class that year, started telling people that I was starting a class in January, and handed them my contact info. Dancers from that club, wanting to be angels, also contacted me. My numbers grew again.

I started to feel panicky. A group of eight to play with was now approaching five squares. I reached out to callers and dancers who all told me I would be fine, I could do this, I was a teacher for 38 years before retirement and this would be a piece of cake.

End of December and I was given a room (auditorium), a day (Tuesdays), and a time (10-12). I called back everyone to give them this info personally. Three squares could do it at that time and day. The rest had other obligations but wanted on my list for the next class if offered any day but Tuesday, in the afternoon, in the early evening, etc.

Class #1
Three squares of dancers age range 70-94. Everyone was given a name badge (Hobby Lobby, 12 plastic pin-on buttons for $4.99). Everyone initialing by their name on a sign-in page. Following the SSD (Sustainable Square Dance) 12 Week Program they learned 20 calls (parsing out the Circle Left and Circle Right as two different calls). In the first tip we learned most of the calls in a big circle. Here they could dosado, allemande left, right arm turn, promenade, and do a really grand Right and Left Grand until they got back to their partner again. In the second tip we reviewed all that we learned and then did a scatter promenade. Two became a circle of four, four became a circle of eight, and bingo! Three squares. Now they learned their new labels, Heads and Sides, and numbers, evens and odds. As they now saw the calls in the context of these squares, with each additional call (2 and 4 Ladies Chain) I realized I could get them back to their partners, and if they got out of order, I told them to grab their original partners and go home.

Class #2 and #3
Since the first three weeks were open to anyone else wanting to join, the first lesson was repeated. Some people came down with the flu, some dropped out because they had obligations (but please put me on your next list) and new people joined, so my number of squares hovered around two. At one point someone had to leave early for a doctor’s appointment, leaving one square with a hole. I put down the mic, took up the boy’s position, and called from the square. I called this “Trial by Fire.”

I should mention here that I have everyone’s email and phone numbers. For the first three classes I called everyone each week to encourage them to come, warning others that if they missed three lessons in a row they would have to discontinue their lessons and reenroll the next class offered.

Class #4
On to Lesson 2 in the SSD Program. The class learned four new calls, but were having problems with the patter that I was using from the SSD manual. Nobody was getting home. There were a few calls incorporated that they hadn’t learned yet. The sequences were too long for some dancers. I was getting frustrated. When class was over I complained on the Facebook site “Newbie Callers” only to find out I had an original copy, not the latest up-to-date version (look for the XX on the bottom of the page). I copied off the latest version (looks like they fixed Lesson 2), and I was a happy camper again.

Class #5
No new lessons. All we did was dance all of the calls we had learned. They were reacting quicker to the calls, dancing smoother, and really looked like square dancers. They were smiling, laughing, and told me how much fun this is. Only one sour puss in the group—an angel. Having been president for many years of the local club, he commented on how slow this class was moving through the calls. I said that I did not have a club over me demanding I reach Plus in 36 weeks, that I could take two years, if I wanted to, to just get them through Mainstream. Even though the SSD Program is a 12 Lesson program, it does not necessarily have to be done in 12 weeks. I wanted to make sure my class could dance, that everyone could execute the calls properly, that nobody felt stressed, and that everyone was having fun. That was my purpose.

The weekend before Class #6 I emailed everyone a copy of all the calls learned and encouraged them to print them out, highlight the ones they could do automatically, and mark the ones they wanted me to review more. Since I was being dropped off very early for the next class, I offered extra help to anyone showing up early.

Class #6
Six class members showed up early. We reviewed Star Thru and Slide Thru. Those women acting as men put their name badges on their left side, and by touching that badge they knew which way to turn on a Slide Thru. I answered questions, such as hand holds, and practiced swinging your partner. They also got a preview of one of the new calls, California Twirl.

A new lesson, four calls. Two squares (and another square’s worth absent with colds, coughs, doctor appointments) dancing everything. Bend the Line was a challenge for some. California Twirl, not so much. But when we learned Dive Thru, I introduced it as a swimming pool. Do you dive into or out of a pool? Who are my outside people? You are going to dive into the pool. You are going to dive under the arch that the people in the pool are now going to make with their inside hands raised. When those on the inside go to the outside of the pool, use that raised hand to do a California Twirl. Oh my! They actually had to remember to do something more on the outside that was different from the inside people! They felt very accomplished.

All too soon I decided to do a singing call that I planned to do at my next caller school (teaching us how to do one-night stands with Rick Hampton). I realized that the song had two calls not yet learned so they were taught Right and Left Thru and Grand Square. Then we attempted the singer several times. It was decided that no matter how slow I played the music, they hesitated too much to execute the moves in the amount of time allotted. I should mention that up to this point in the lessons I have not sung a song, just did patter. I am not a singer, having been told all of my life that I cannot sing (my parents switched me from piano to violin so that I would not sing with the tune!). In any case, I turned off the music and sang the song with the calls and slowed down for them to catch up, left song words out so they could catch up without being confused, and lo and behold! They got through the singer! Even better, I got through the singer feeling pretty good about my singing voice.

This is all I have for now. By the time this goes to publication I will have the rest of February through April under my belt. Who knows, we might have even finished the SSD 12 Week Program!

Doona Young, Australian guest

I attended one 2 hour session of Friendly Valley Twirlers in late Nov., 2018. The caller and teacher was Joni Micals.
The class was a mixture of two experienced angels, two elderly retreads, one lady taking classes both here and elsewhere (totally new a few months ago), one lady who had tried square dancing in the past, but not graduated, and two ladies who were totally new to square dancing this year. On the sign in sheet there were eight more dancers who couldn’t attend this lesson for all the usual reasons.

The class starts again from scratch (Circle Left) every 3-4 months, to allow beginners to join and others to review.
They are all elderly dancers – some with memory or movement problems. Some were quite tired after the two hours. All enjoyed square dancing for its exercise/movement benefits and fun. One mentioned the mental benefits.
The class started with only seven dancers, so Joni called while dancing for half a tip, when the eighth dancer arrived. Dancers tended to stayed paired with the same partner and same position in the square for the class duration. Dancers and caller benefitted from this consistency of home, partner, corner and opposite.

Joni turned the music down and her voice up when she was calling AND dancing. Otherwise, she used a microphone clearly. She had previously tested music and microphone levels before the class started.
There were two men and two ladies who immediately volunteered to be left side dancers. The ladies wore wrist bands for identification. The other four ladies were right side dancers.

We spent about 45 mins reviewing previously learnt calls, which were displayed on a whiteboard prominently. The calls were colour coded:

  • Black for calls already taught and reviewed.
  • Green for calls taught last week.
  • Red for the five calls to be taught in this lesson.

I was impressed with the review tips where many moves were taught and practised from both normal and half sashay positions. These moves included Flutterwheel, all 8 circulates and Grand Square. Joni moved the dancers quickly and easily to new positions.

At no stage were circulates taught as “Follow someone else.” The first circulate for the session was from ends facing out – “Ends Circulate”. – ie a facing circulate!

The most interesting was Grand Square. With a simple command “All join hands, circle left a quarter” “Sides face, grand square” can now be repeated with new sides. “Everybody half sashay” – and a warning to “be careful, this will feel different” – and we were all doing grand square half sashayed.
And this is week 8 of a beginner class.

After the review tips, we spent about 45 minutes teaching the new moves.
All of the tips in this 90 min period were used with hoedown music.
Joni constantly praised the dancers as they achieved new calls, remembered old calls, danced from new positions. She fixed muddles quietly. She asked the square to move close to her and microphone lead, so she could help people.

The last 30 minutes were used practicing and dancing two singing calls.
For one record, Joni knew how and when to leave out or shorten some calls, so we could complete the choreo in the required 64 beats. Joni knew how to add extra words for clarity, if needed. “full turn, all the way around” or “swing your NEW corner”.

The class also had a visitor – a gentleman from a neighbouring retirement village – interested in the suitability of square dance for himself and friends. Joni invited him to try – he declined – but watched with interest – and videoed our dance, and teaching, for his friends. I hope he joins the class when the next class commences in February. Maybe, if invited, he will join the class for the Christmas party in two weeks.

Effect of my presence –

  • “Are the calls the same in Australia?” = discussion about international hobby and use of English.
  • “Where are you staying?” = discussion about friends and travel.
  • “I’m coming to Melbourne next October”= email addresses exchanged; chance for this lady to dance in Australia; square dance hospitality demonstrated.
  • Another experienced dancer in square = group achieved so much.
  • I was the one who chatted to the visitor and prospective new dancer (as well as Joni, of course).

Continuing fitness and health are always continuing problems for elderly groups. Health, family and travel means many absences. Continual intake and frequent new classes mean that new dancers are welcomed and included quickly. Old dancers, who miss too many classes, can re-join in a few months.
This class has no time constraint for completion – no need to meet anyone’s expectation. They meet for fun and exercise. Well done, Joni.


Successful Experiences using the 12 Week Condensed Teaching Method

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Lorne and Barb Smith (l.b.smith@shaw.ca) 2018-05-25

For the past 3 years, the Western Squares Square Dance Club in Calgary, Alberta, Canada has been running the 12 week lesson program. This program was introduced by Tim Mariner and Bill Harrison several years ago at the CALLERLAB Convention. I (Lorne Smith) felt there was a lot of merit in this program so I presented this revised teaching program to the Western Squares Square Dance Club and they bought into it. The program was introduced to this primarily solo club to aid in encouraging a second entry point into the square dance club. The Western Squares is a club that conducts a split program on a weekly basis. For the first hour and one half the caller (Lorne Smith) teaches the condensed 12 week method and then for the remainder of the evening the club dances the Mainstream program. This program is very similar to the Sustainable 50 that was presented at the CALLERLAB 2018 Convention.

Read More …


Innovative Program For New Dancers Revives Dying Club

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Claudia Littlefair (claudia.littlefair@gmail.com) 2018-04-01

This is the second year that our Strathmore club, just east of Calgary, used ‘The Nest’ program for new dancers. What this method has meant for us in Strathmore is that our club is not only surviving, but thriving. Four years ago we were close to shutting down because our small group of dancers (one to two squares/night) were quickly aging out. We were fortunate to graduate several new dancers that year and the next, who were willing to take on executive positions. But we were still just hanging in there. When we introduced The Nest program two years ago, six dancers completed the program. Using the old method (one fall entry point and no absences), only two of the six would have completed.

Read More …


Restructuring El Camino Reelers Classes

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Allan Hurst (allanhurst@gmail.com) 2019-03-29

El Camino Reelers (“ECR” for short) is a club in the San Francisco area which had been experiencing a constant decline both in terms of class sizes and club membership from year to year. The club was losing money from year to year, especially on classes, but also on club nights. A number of members had died, experienced medical issues preventing them from dancing, or retired and moved out of the area. To arrest this decline the club decided on a new approach to reinvigorate their membership. The new plan involves a three track approach to recruiting and retaining dancers:

  1. Monthly “Drop-In/Fun Nights” with no experience required.
  2. A series of three partitioned blast classes, gradually taking dancers to Plus.
  3. Club nights with both blast-level and full level Plus/Advanced dancing.

This detailed 23-page document describes how they implemented this plan: how they advertised, how they recruited, how they restructured their teaching and club groups, and how they integrated new dancers into the club. It contains a wealth of insightful thinking and planning.

Read More …


BC Westsyde Squares Recruits 29 New Dancers

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Alberta Chatter Newsletter (claudia.littlefair@gmail.com) 2017-12-20

This story describes how Westsyde Squares in British Columbia used marketing savvy and well targeted advertising to recruit a large new contingent of dancers. It contains a lot of great information about what messages people responded to, as well as an insightful discussion of the reasoning behind the design of the advertising which was a significant element in their success.

Read More …


Mountaineers 2017 Class

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Jim Langdon (mntndncr@gmail.com) 2017-12-08

This year, Jim Langdon introduced the Rocky Mountain Recruiting Program to the Mountaineers. Although we had been doing a lot of the pieces of the program, we adopted the entire program. The main emphasis was to set up a committee of 5 couples to divide the work. We also had expectations that the Club Members were to actively pursue new dancers. Our goal was to collect 100 names and end up with 20 new members.

Read More …


Small Town Club Has 5 Squares of Beginners

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Tom Kahnert (tom@teamtomandjo.com) 2018-08-21 Updated 2019-09-23

The Town of Strathroy has a population base of about 8,500, located about 35 km west of London, ON. Including some surrounding rural areas the natural catchment area is about 22,000. Despite this relatively small population to draw from, this club has a very successful beginner program with 40 paid-up new dancers. How exactly did they accomplish that?
(2019 Update: Using the strategy outlined in this article, the club inducted 15 new members in the fall of 2018 and 16 more in the fall of 2019)

Following are links to two documents that describe what happened. The first is an article in the Alberta Chatter newsletter. The second is the slides from a presentation Tom and Jo did at the Canadian National Convention in July 2018 where they went into a great deal more detail on how they made it work.

Newsletter Article
Presentation at Canadian National

Tom pointed out that some of the images used on the flyers and marketing materials were copyrighted and license fees were paid for their use (approx $35 each). Tom provided the following information about finding appropriate images:

Through liaising with a contact in Alberta, she reached out to another Club’s Executive Member who used these photos. Having the above numbers for each photo really helped, given that there are hundreds to look at.


Morrison Grand Squares – Zero to 60 in Two Years

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Mike Hogan (mike.hogan@cox.net) 2017-07-06

Morrison Grand Squares in Morrison, Il went from zero to 60 members in just two years. This item shows how they did it and provides details of their marketing plan.

Read More …


Happy Time Squares, Lawrence KS

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Mike Hogan (mike.hogan@cox.net) 2017-07-06

In four years the Happy Time Squares in Lawrence, Kansas, went from zero to 140 members!

Read More …


Duke City Singles and Doubles – a Revival Story

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Mike Hogan (mike.hogan@cox.net) 2017-07-06

In 2012 the club was very close to folding due to lack of members so new club leadership took responsibility to develop a growth strategy. The result – by 2017 they have 80 new members.

Read More …


Collection Of Marketing and Recruiting Articles

Article Type Author Last Update Description
Summary Claudia Littlefair (claudia.littlefair@gmail.com) 2017-05-25

Claudia Littlefair is the editor of the Alberta Chatter newsletter. This edition provides a wonderful compilation of a number of articles dealing with advertising, marketing, promotion, and recruiting. You can see the table of contents for the edition below. Follow the link to access the newsletter.

Read Newsletter ….

Name of Article Page
1. No ‘One-Shot Wonders’ in Advertising – by Mike Hogan …..……………………………..……. 2
2. *New* CALLERLAB Resources: Teaching; Knowledgebase; Dances ………………….……… 3
3. A Lesson In Marketing – Producing An Effective Print Ad – by Brian Elmer ….………….. 4
4. *New* Canadian Society Pinterest Account ………………………………………………………..…… 6
5. Marketing On-Line ………………………………………………………………………………………………..…. 6
6. The Off-Season …………………………………………………………………………………………………..……. 7
7. Favorite Website Picks for Promotional Ideas ………………………………………………………..… 8
8. Recruitment – by Tim Marriner …………………………………………………………………………..….… 9
9. Rocky Mountain House’s Success Story – by Doreen Guilloux …..……………………………. 10
10. ‘Winning Ways’ Success Story – New Jersey Rutgers, Ken Robinson ………………………. 12
11. Selling the “Why” ………………………..………………………………………………………………………….. 13
12. What Sells – Facts or Benefits? …………..…………………………………………………………………… 14
13. Signs Speak Volumes …………………………..………………………………………………………………….. 15
14. Summer Demos – by Mike Seastrom …………..………………………………………………………….. 16
15. Writing a News Release, “The Modern Square Dance Image” CALLERLAB, 1978 ……… 17
16. Who’s Your Target – by Mike Hogan ………………………………….…………………………………… 18
17. On-Line Articles Bring In 20 New Dancers ……………………………………………………………….. 19
18. Why Fax? ……………………………………….……………………………………………………………………..… 20
19. Marketing To Baby Boomers …………….……………………………………………………………………… 21
20. Today’s Square Dancer – Do We Have An Image Issue? …………….…………………………….. 22
21. Successful Square Dance Recruiting – Does It Exist? by Patrick Demerath ……….………. 24


Enticing New Callers

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Arlene Kaspik (amkaspik@comcast.net), Janice Cha (Janice.cha@sbcglobal.net) July 30, 2016

Here is a report from Arlene M. Kaspik about the New Callers Seminar that took place during the ILLINOIS SD CONVENTION, July 30, 2016, in Itasca. We are so incredibly thrilled by the potential new callers in our midst. Way to go, Arlene! – Janice (Illinois 2016 SD Convention co-chair). You can read the full report below.

Several callers asked me to provide a follow-up report on the new callers seminar held just prior to the Illinois State Square Dance Convention. Here it is!

For the past few years Barry Johnson and I hosted a 1 hour or 90 minute session/chat “So You Think You Might Want to Become a Caller” as part of the Illinois State Convention. We had a dream of expanding it in to a seminar that included microphone time as well as just talking about what it takes to become a caller and opportunities for caller schools. It is our belief that for the activity to continue we not only need new dancers, we need new callers as well. This year that dream became a reality.

We had absolutely no budget for the event. The room(s) were included in the convention committee’s negotiations. Other than that, the panelists donated their time and I donated the cost of reproducing a packet of information for the participants. The packet included a list of “full-fledged caller schools coming up in the next couple of months, information on formation and arrangements, basic information on CRAMS, how to find and purchase square dance music, and the usual materials found in a beginner’s packet.

Presenters were all Illinois callers who donated their time: Bob Asp, Curt Braffet, Barry Johnson and Ozzie Pearl. Our goal was to reach out to really new callers and talented dancers that we tho ugh might make good callers. Janice Cha and Bobby Poyner helped a great deal with publicity. Word of mouth and personal invitation were al so tactics in attracting attendees. I had hoped for 6 potential new callers – maybe 8. By the time convention rolled around we had 18 participants and about 75% of them had never picked up a microphone before. Exactly the audience we had hoped for and larger than I imagined in my wildest dreams.

In the morning and, for a short time after lunch, there were presentations on software and technology, music, showmanship and an introduction to choreography and resolving a square from a corner box. The bulk of the afternoon provided each participant with the opportunity to pick up a microphone, move dancers around and resolve a square. About 10 days prior to convention I received a phone call from the convention chair asking me if I was open to the idea of a “new callers open mic” from 10 until 11 am on Sunday morning. I eagerly agreed to promote the concept at the seminar. I had hoped that 5 or 6 of the attendees would sign up for a slot and I made the assumption that the presenters and I could fill in any holes in the schedule. Eleven freshly minted callers signed up to call on Sunday morning and they called to a packed room. As a matter of fact, other rooms on the same floor of the hotel came to the open mic room to steal dancers for their floor. Passers by would hear the joy and enthusiasm and poke their heads in to see what was happening. Most of them stayed to dance a bit.

Even though the information packet had some short, easy sequences for the new callers to use, they all wrote their own choreography and used it with a high success rate. Some chose to track me down to read through their choreography but most of them did not. AND they were amazing!

I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of this one-day seminar. It did exactly what we hoped it would do: Give potential new callers a taste of what it’s like to call. The workshop also attracted exactly the type of person we were hoping to reach. OK, 1 or 2 were a more seasoned but most of them were truly first time callers.

At the Illinois Callers’ Association meeting on Sunday morning, the group began a discussion of “where do we go from here” and “how do we build on this success.” Several callers agreed to mentor the attendees in their area. We are also looking at expanding this concept in 2018. More on that as it unfolds!



Using Yard Signs to Promote Square Dancing

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Janice Cha (Janice.cha@sbcglobal.net) 2016-06-21

This item contains a description of how the Swinging Sugar Squares of Evergreen Park, Ill. effectively used yard signs to attract more interest in their classes. There is also a link to the Swinging Sugar Squares Toolbox page which contains all kinds of resources such as sign templates, sample flyers, advertising strategies, and more. Click on the links below to see these resources …

Using Yard Signs Article
Toolbox Page


Rocky’s Success Story

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Doreen Guilloux (jdguil2@cciwireless.ca) March, 2016

Three years ago the Rocky Mountain House Whirlaways were struggling to hold their own. This spring they already have 2-1/2 squares signed up and paid for, for next fall, and they haven’t even advertised yet! Their recent President’s Report explains how their club worked together to turn things around.

Read More …


Timberline Toppers’ Recruiting Plan

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Jim Langdon (mntndncr@gmail.com) March 2016

Timberline Toppers in Colorado created a recruiting plan that they used repetitively over a period of several years resulting in a dramatic regrowth of their failing club. In 2005 they struggled to put a square on the floor. Their first execution of this plan resulted in 38 new club members. They have fine tuned their plan over the years and now believe they can develop a class of 40 or more any time they choose to put forth the effort.

Read Timberline Toppers’ Plan …
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Operation Frontier – 2015, Milford, OH

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Dale and Cindy Bennett (dale@the-nest.us) 2015

If you think it’s inevitable that square dancing is destined to decline, ask any member of Frontier Squares from Milford, Ohio – and they’ll offer a different opinion. Working together as a team our club achieved the following:

  • Our marketing and advertising strategy resulted in 102 new visitors the first three weeks of lessons.
  • On the 15th week, 51 new dancers were still active.
  • On the 15th week, 11 squares were dancing – 47 new dancers were dancing with 41 Angels
Read More …


Using The 12 Session Twice Per Week Program in Red Deer, Alberta

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Ron & Connie Morgan, RED DEER May 2015

For the 2014-15 square dance season, the Red Deer Square Dance Club decided to try something new and untested for introducing New Dancers to square dancing. Instead of the usual 6-7 month lessons once a week, we wanted to do a 12 week, twice a week approach. Red Deer has always had lessons on a separate night than the regular dances, so our new dancers get more floor time right from the start than most other clubs who teach on their regular dance night.

Thanks to Claudia Littlefair for her permission to republish this story first published in her Alberta Chatter newsletter.

Read More …


Experience Using the Nest System in Calgary, Alberta

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Claudia Littlefair, Calgary May 2015

May 2017

The Banff Trailers Club dance every second Saturday, and have New Dancer lessons every Monday night. Each September several New Dancers would join, but due to factors such as illness, time constraints, vacations, only some were able to complete the year. The club was looking for a new way to increase their numbers, and when ‘The Nest’ idea was presented they agreed to give it a try during the 2014-15 dance year.

Thanks to Claudia Littlefair for her permission to republish these stories first published in her Alberta Chatter newsletter.

Read the original story from 2015 …

Read an update about their experience in 2017


Success Using Fast Track in Edmonton, Alberta

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Pat & Ray Duffy, EDMONTON May 2015

In 2011/2012, the Country Sunshiners promoted and started New Dancer lessons under the watchful eye of Gary Winters. However, our turnout was low and to our dismay, by Christmas most of our new dancers had disappeared. During a meeting to discuss the results it was suggested a new format might be in order as the current one had not worked and maybe a compressed time frame would be better received. At the 2012 A.G.M. the Club discussed our future and the need for new members. It was decided to initiate the FAST TRACK Program with the hope of increasing the interest in Square Dancing.

Thanks to Claudia Littlefair for her permission to republish this story first published in her Alberta Chatter newsletter.

Read more …


Otonabee Squares – Success Starting a New Club (2009)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Jean Lander (hjlander@gmail.com) 2015-08-03

Report from Jean and Howard Lander about their success in starting up a new club in Peterborough, Ontario. The report contains much interesting information about how they advertised, promoted, and recruited for the new group.

Read More …


Using Square Dancing For Rehab (2004)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Barbara Blencoe 2005

Report from Barbara Blencoe about how her square dance group and activity helped her rehabilitation from a stroke.

Read More …


Success Story Growing Classes

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Don Wood 2015-03-02

Report from Don Wood describing how they revised their beginner offerings to increase their recruiting success.

Read More …


Rutgers Promenaders Rebuild

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Ken Robinson 2015-03-02

Report from Ken Robinson describing how Rutgers Promenaders rebuilt their club after a period of decline.

Read More …


No Experience Necessary Dances

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Dave Harry 2015-03-02

Report from Dave Harry describing how combining a “no experience necessary” floor with a Mainstream dance introduced 15 squares of non-dancers to our activity.

Read More …


Village Swingers Club New Recruiting

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Eva Murray 2015-07-28

Report from Eva Murray about how over a period of years the Village Swingers is rebuilding their club through effective advertising and improved teaching programs.

Read More …


New Dancer Promotion

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Bill & Marge Webb 2015-02-01

Report from Bill and Marge Webb, Brecksville Squares. They report information of actions the club took to increase the number of new dancers in the club. Very helpful information for any club looking to add new dancers.

Read More …


Fast Track To Mainstream In Iowa

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Doug & Don Sprosty, “The Calling Twins” 2008-02-16

The purpose of this article is to relate our very positive experience in early 2007 with teaching the CALLERLAB Mainstream program using the “Fast Track” (or accelerated) approach. We are writing this as we prepare our lesson plan to begin teaching in this format again in early 2008.

Read More …


New Dancer Class (Washington State)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Don Wood, Robert Hurst 2009-02-12

This report was received from Robert Hurst with a report from Don Wood regarding a New Dancer class in Washington state. The report indicates that good advertising, hard work, and recruiting can be successful. Ten squares showed up on the first night!

Read More …


Accelerated Learning Program for Squares (ALPS)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Virgil Forbes 2008-03-11

The ALPS program that I have been using for the last several years is not original to me. It is an adaptation of a number of different concepts such as “Blast”, “Blitz” and “Crash Course” that have been talked about at Callerlab and other caller gatherings, in recent years. The concept: Quick equip new dancers with enough square dance vocabulary and dance skill so that they can quickly join regular club dances.

Read More …


Ohio – Class Promotion

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story (No Submitter Information) 2009-11-06

At the meeting of the Central Ohio Council of Dance Clubs (COCDC) on May 4, 2009, it was announced to the council representatives that we were forming a group to try to promote square dancing, recruit more new dancers for our classes in the fall, and ultimately to increase membership in our clubs. Mary Galentine agreed to chair this committee. We gave the club representatives information of when and where the first meeting was going to be held. We also sent out this information by email to dancers from all of the clubs and announced it at each of the club dances we attended for the remainder of the spring. Dancers representing eight different Central Ohio clubs attended the first committee meeting in May.

Read More …


Saturday Classes (Martinez, CA)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story BSwerer@aol.com 2009-09-11

What?…a Saturday morning square dance class? Why not! People take walks, run, ride a bike, walk the dog, or go to a gym for exercise on Saturdays. Why not learn to square dance and get the same benefits and meet some great people at the same time. The Martinez Swingers of Martinez, California has joined with the Martinez Adult Education (MAE) to offer such a class. Each Saturday morning from 10:30AM to 12:30PM dancers from the Martinez Swingers, acting as “Angels”, join with the class members for the two-hour sessions.

Read More …


Success Strategy – Brecksville Squares (Ohio)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Dennis H. Deluga 2004-01-30

A report from Dennis H. Deluga about what can be done to help a club become successful. It deals with a number of areas including leadership, communication, and outreach, that clubs must address in order to be successful.

Read More …


Class In 3 Days – Four Corners Area

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Four Corners Dancers
(Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona)
2004-02-01

The Four Corners Dancers is a small square dance club. Until this year we had been holding 20 week instruction sessions, (basic-mainstream). We tried starting in September which was good. Everyone was gung-ho but then along come the 2 months of hunting seasons. And hunting being a big recreation in our area we would have several couples not attend lessons because they were hunting, or they would attend just intermittently. Through this we would usually lose some of the new dancers altogether. Then along would come the Holidays and again conflict, so we would lose a few more. By the time we finished the 20 week cycle of lessons we were lucky if we had retained 2 or 3 new dancers. Retention has always been a problem for us. A large percent of those finishing lessons were no longer dancing at the end of a year. Then we tried starting in January, with about the same results. People just got tired before the 20 week commitment was up.

Read More …


Square Dance Video Infomercial – MN

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Mike & Edie Kirsch 2004-02-28

The desire for a tape to show at square dance demos, showing the fun and excitement of Square Dancing, has developed into a 15 minute Square Dancing Infomercial in Minnesota’s Central East Region.

In previous years one of the local clubs recorded a tape each year in the studios of a local public access cable TV station. It was shot in a studio with 2 or 3 squares and no scenery. It did net a few couples each year but wasn’t really that exciting.

Knowing that a professionally done film, produced by a recording studio would be cost prohibitive they approached the regional cable access company about taping some scenes at local square dances. The company was very receptive and offered to produce a 15-minute infomercial about square dancing for a maximum of $1500.00. The final cost was $1300.00.

Read More …


Success Strategy – Broken Wheel Squares (Kirtland, OH)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Mike and Rose Speers at RVROSE @Earthlink.net or 28845 Serenity Lane, Wickliffe, OH 44092. 2003-10-30

The 35th Anniversary Year of the Broken Wheel Squares came at just the right time. The club was in the doldrums. It had inexperienced leadership, an aging membership and was losing its spark. To many we were just going through the motions. We had good dances, but any excitement was coming from the caller not the membership. We were losing money on about a third of our dances and were surviving by the thinnest of margins.

Read More …


Recruiting Old & New Dancers (Belles and Beaus-Pomeroy, OH)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Betty Knight (club president) 2003-07-06

The Belles and Beaus of Pomeroy, Ohio had a new dancer group of 7 couples and 3 singles in 2002. Their success in recruiting was attributed to two activities. Several weeks prior to the start of their new dancer session a written invitation was sent to former dancers inviting them to a “Come Back to Square Dancing Party”. They obtained the membership lists from three area clubs that had folded plus past membership lists of their own. They also placed ads in 3 local newspapers. The papers listed their club activities and new dancer group in their social calendar. The papers also carried a news story a couple of weeks prior to the start of their new dancer session.

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Larkspur Tam Twirlers – Invite Public

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Eric Henerlau 2003-07-19

The Larkspur Tam Twirlers, which dances during the week, periodically sponsors a Saturday night special when other clubs, are invited. These dances are typically plus level. Occasionally, the dance may be a red light/green light dance where half the tips are new dancer level.

Realizing a marketing opportunity in having the non-dancing public see a large Saturday dance, the club recently advertised their dance to the general public. Non-dancers were invited to attend at no charge. A special introductory session was held 30 minutes prior to the dance, during which the caller taught some basics with the club dancers filling the floor. After the half-hour was completed the public was invited to stay and watch the square dancing. Between tips, mixers and easy lines were played with everyone invited to join in. Twenty non-dancers attended and thoroughly enjoyed themselves with several joining a new dancer session that started 3 weeks later.

The Lakespur Tam Twirlers use a multi-cycle new dancer format. The destination level is Plus.

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Dancing In Schools (Cogan Station, PA)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Hank Lutcher may be contacted by phone at 570-435-2048 or by email at hanjan@chilitech.net 2003-09-04

For the past six years, Hank Lutcher from Cogan Station, PA has been teaching Modern Western Square Dancing six weeks each year at the Jersey Shore School District #6 Jr High School.

Hank was initially approached by one of the teachers, the son of a local square dancer. During his first visit to the school they showed him a notebook of instructions to teach Modern Western Square Dancing and a music tape but they did not know where to begin. The schools in Pennsylvania are required to teach traditional dance every two years.

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New Dancers – (Crosstrailers – Warren, OH)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Margie McCummins 2004-03-30

We have enjoyed thirty-seven new dancers (students) for lessons this year ….. thirty-seven! Our lesson nights have ten to eleven squares, and yes, they are a bit noisy with all the laughter and fellowship.

When we polled our new dancers to see what brought them to our lessons and squares, thirty-seven came because of a personal invite; one couple found our club on the Internet. Sixteen new dancers said they had previously seen a demo; four had seen a flyer at a fair; and four read our article in the local newspaper. However, this did not bring them to our lessons …. it was the personal invitation that brought them to lessons.

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Growth Thru Classes – Greenville, PA

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Shirley Newbrough Club Correspondent 2004-12-01

An encouraging story about a club rejuvenating itself.

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Square Dance Video – Background

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Spring Park, MN,
Dee Scott: 952-472-2987
2005-01-01

This report provided Questions and Answers concerning the Square Dance Video produced by the Minnesota square dancers.

In October and November, 2003, Ken and Dee Scott took classes at the Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission TV studio in Spring Park, Minnesota and became ‘certified community television producers.’ This certification entitled them to use the LMCC studio free of cost for any TV production they wished to undertake. Being square dancers, they thought a TV show would be the perfect way to communicate the many extraordinary qualities of square dance to the public.

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Square Dancing in Schools – Teacher Workshop – CA

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Roger Smith & Josie Baumgartner –
Email: Rogersmith14@comcast.net or phone # 650-968-0626
2005-02-01

This report provides information from Santa Clara County, California about Teaching Square Dancing in the Classroom in a program called “Workshop for Teachers”.

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WA State Dance – 25 Years

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Eddie Harry (eharry@lrcsunited.com) 2004-10-01

This is a report from Eddie Harry with information about the 25th Anniversary of the Square Dance as the official State Dance of Washington. (10-01-2004)

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Club For Classes – Only

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Boomerangs – Washington, DC Area
Becky & Hoyt Stewart, 4414 South 34th Street, Arlington, VA 22206, Phone; 703-578-0132 E-mail: beckv.hovt@verizon.net
2004-03-20

The Boomerangs is a club that is not a club. We are not a dancing club; rather we are a teaching council with multitiered classes. We exist for one purpose, to hold square dance classes.Our concept has been a combination of already tried ideas and new ideas. We are always evolving and trying to adjust to changing times.

We started with a small group of dancers and one caller who met almost on a weekly basis during the formative months. The members began with a vision and contributed their time, energy and funds to begin the council. Then we recruited additional callers and dedicated angels to help make this teaching concept a reality. We exist through the support of our local callers, angels and a very dedicated council who are the managers and administrator of our group.

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Teen Dancing (Petaluma, CA)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Scott Byars 2004-08-01

This is a report on teen dancers in Petaluma, CA as reported in the Press Democrat By Janet Parmer.

—–

Petaluma’s youth bop to a new beat and learn it’s fun to dance to a different tune! Aleksandra and Danielle Olivera once dreaded being dragged to square dances. Now the St. Vincent High School students are largely responsible for the dramatic increase in teenagers learning to square dance in Petaluma. They’ve lured many of their friends to the Tuesday night Adobe Squares club, and most have returned voluntarily to learn more dance steps. The Adobe Squares beginning square dance class, which meets at the Petaluma Women’s club, is anything but traditional, with teens almost outnumbering adults.

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Recruiting Success – New Zealand

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story John Addison 2004-09-01

The following encouraging information from New Zealand was provided to the CALLERLAB office by Canadian Member Norm Wilcox. If you have success reports to share, please send them to the office.

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New Class Promotion, South Milwaukee, WI

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story 49’ersSquare Dance Club
South Milwaukee, WI
Bernie Coulthurst, editor of the Club Leadership Journal
2003-01-01

Hard work and perseverance has paid off for the 49’ersSquare Dance Club of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There are 24 new dancers in their 2002-03 class. Their promotional efforts started in 1999 after not having any new dancers in 1997 or 1998.

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Winning Ways (2003/2009/2018) Sage Swingers

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Brunswick, ME
FoundationFL@aol.com for more information.
2003/2009/2018

In the various square dance magazines and web sites you can read how square dance clubs and national organizations have plans for advertising square dancing, for “improving” our public image, for altering the dance program and for growing memberships. For the SAGE Swingers in the process began with a change in philosophy. What are the club’s goals for its dancers? The Club thinks this can determine how you go about gaining and keeping new members. Their first report is from 2003, followed by updates in 2009 and 2018 describing how the club is faring.

The Clubs goals today are different from what they might have been five and ten years ago. For example, at SAGE Swingers some of our goals are:

  1. To help the club grow by getting more new members
  2. To make sure people are having a good time learning to dance.
  3. Insure that new members return.


Here are some of the “old” goals the club no longer strives for.

  1. The Club does not feel people need to graduate from a Mainstream program by a certain date.
  2. Classes do not have to start in September only.
  3. Learning to dance is not a race to see how quickly you can get to Plus or A-1
  4. The Club tends to downplay classic square dance clothes and make sure people know it’s optional
Read 2003 Report …
Read 2009 Update …
Read 2018 Update …


Gnat Boxers (Wooster, Ohio) New Class

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Gnat Boxers (Wooster, Ohio) 2002-03-27

The Gnat boxers of Wooster, Ohio have 22 members in their new dancer group for the 2002 –03 dance year. They have 4 singles, 2 men and 2 women, and 9 couples that range in age from their late 30’s to early 40’s. The destination level is plus with all the calls taught in one continuous season starting in September to mid April. This past year they had a story in the local paper with a picture of two couples with contact names listed. The club also has a float they use in area parades which gets good audience reaction. The club also does demo’s for local activities and passes out flyers, with word of mouth still the best advertisement.

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Valley Trailers

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story GNorthridge, CA
John Nash,
info@valleytrailers.org
2002-05-15

During the early 1990’s, the Valley Trailers Square Dance Club of Northridge, California had lost much of its membership from earlier years. The club had also fallen on bad times financially. The then board of directors decided that something new should be tried in order to secure the club’s future.

It was decided to try the Multi-Cycle new dancer program to see if this would bring in more revenue and class members. The President approached caller Vern Weese, who was familiar with the program, to teach the class and in September of 1994, the Multi-Cycle program was started using a 12 + 12 system through the plus program.

For the first couple of years, very little improvement was seen in membership, although starting classes four times each year did increase the overall number of new dancers. In December of 1995, Vern left the area and Mike Seastrom took over as the class instructor. At about that same time, the Multi-Cycle program started becoming profitable. However, the level of the dancers graduating at plus after only 24 weeks was not acceptable.

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Square Dance Video – Public TV – California

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Charles Class,
Santa Clara Valley, Class@aol.com
2005-02-02

We received the following information from Mary Knoppe with information about a square dance video program made available to viewers on Public Access television in the Santa Clara Valley area of Northern California. Our first taping was on April 19, 2004. We have taped a total of 26 shows since our starting date. We tape at the Comcast studio in San Jose, Ca. On each show taping date, two 28 minute programs are taped. Shows are live tape (no post production editing).

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Fun Nights – Introduce Square Dancing

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Walt Cooley, Northern California 2002-04-26

One of our members runs a local bed and breakfast which happens to be an old farm (Victorian farmhouse and a big old barn). At his suggestion, we’ve started having dances on our regular club night over at his barn about once every 6 weeks, and we invite all three of the local clubs. These have turned into a regular affair. It has become traditional that everyone dresses down a little (more jeans, even some of the ladies), and warmer (the barn is unheated), and folks bring more food. Also, in a newly forming tradition, we always have a Virginia Reel and occasionally a contra in addition to our squares. We get lots of visitors and usually have no trouble filling the barn (pretty easy, since it can only hold around 5-6 squares). This is a very old-fashioned thing– no entry fee, no minimum dance level, no club membership required, just bring something to share and come to visit and dance.

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Growth In Dallas/Ft. Worth

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Jim & Ann Short, Dallas, TX 2003-03-13

In May 2002, Jim & Ann asked to chair a “Growth Committee” for the North Texas Square and Round Dance Association. The primary direction was to try to figure out a way to turn around the declining membership in the association. They talked with callers and dancers from all over. They asked what had worked in other parts of the country. They also asked what hadn’t worked. They asked for ideas for might work. They “stole” ideas from everyone they could find. Their conclusion was that there were two basic problems: Recruiting and Lesson format.

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Accelerated New Dancer Class

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Ray Miller, Geauga County, OH 2005-03-01

This report is from the Hubs Square dance Club in Geauga County, Ohio and their caller, Ray Miller. It concerns the Hubs and their accelerated square dance class for the season 2004-05. The club started the class in October 2004 and continued through the last Monday in February 2005 with graduation on Monday March 6, 2005. Each class was three hours long and scheduled from 7 -10 PM. With the help of some very dedicated angels we were able to cover a large amount of material, using the CALLERLAB teaching list, each night and still have time for a great deal of review.

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Multi-Cycle Success

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Chris Pinkham, Hillsboro, NH 2003-05-05

There is some good news for square dance clubs that want to grow. A solid solution is available to help any club willing to be smart and progressive. But the club must have people who are willing to make some fundamental changes in programming and attitudes. The Multi Cycle system offers two or more starts for new dancers each year. Clubs using this system reach more people more often. New dancers are tireless, enthusiastic recruiters and they tap into new networks of friends and associates not just once, but two or more times per year.

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TV Publicity

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Town Howlers – Portsmouth, RI,
For additional information visit the Town Howlers web site at www.townhowlers.com or Rick Williams at
williams@wwpdesign.com
2003-05-15

The Town Howlers have gained a lot of publicity for their club and square dancing through the use of their local cable TV company and the efforts of club member Rick Williams.

 

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Leadership Seminar

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Akron, OH, Tom Rudebock, Larry Cole 2003-06-08

In March 2003 the Akron Area Square and Round Dance Federation sponsored a Saturday afternoon Leadership Seminar for all member clubs and clubs from the neighboring Federations. All area callers and cuers were extended an invitation. There were 96 in attendance.

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Recruiting Success – Square Benders (2002)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Square Benders – Milwaukee, WI, Ruth Witt, Eric Tangmann 2003-04-24

The Square Benders are currently one of the larger clubs in the Milwaukee, WI area with 22 couples and 13 singles. Their 2002-2003 new dancer group has 5 couples and 5 singles. This group of new dancers came from several sources. The club runs an ad in the local paper, beginning in June, with a number to contact for more information. The names are recorded of all those responding for later follow up. One couple invited members from their Bible Study Group and another invited people from their camping club. They lost some this past year due to health reasons, work schedule conflict and snow birds. Each year approximately 35 invitation letters are mailed.

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Multi-Cycle Teaching Method

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Brooklyn, NY
Vincent Nunziato, Club President
2003-03-23

The AL e MO Squares, 150 members strong, will celebrate their 25 Anniversary in May 2003. They are holding an Anniversary Dance and through personal contact, by club members, they have invited several of the local politicians to be their guests. They run a 10 + 10 program with 27 new dancers this year. They alternate tips during the evening with those in the first group serving as angels for the newest dancers. They graduate their new dancers at Mainstream. Their new dancer sessions run from 7 to 9 PM, September through April, with a plus workshop from 9 – 10 PM. There is no set time for the plus graduation. AL e MO’s have good member participation with the new dancer sessions normally exceeding 8 squares. They charge $4.00 per session and the angels pay. A good hospitality table is an attractive addition on workshop nights

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Youth Dancing

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Hilton, NY
Mike Callahan
2003-03-13

Mike Callahan has been working with a teen group for the past year or so. It started out as a “family dance group” but has evolved into a “young-middle aged” teen group. They are lucky to get about 2 squares. The organizing couple has been frustrated by the fact that the Church Hall that we dance at is not available regularly and our group sometimes is not allowed to use the hall at the last minute. Mike suggested that they contact the local Co-operative Extension Office (4H) to see if they would be interested in sponsoring the teens as a part of 4H. Not only was the Co-operative Extension Office hugely interested, they have offered to give the group a hall every Friday night at no charge! It will also be publicized in the 4H catalogue as a part of their many programs for youth. But this is not the end of the story.

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Dancing In A Social Club

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Kittyhawk Squares
Marvin Stibich
2003-03-23

The Kittyhawk Squares are a social club that square dances and not a square dance club that socializes. We have an excellent home dance location: The Lathrem Senior Center of the Kettering Recreational Center. They help recruit and publicize our events in their bi-monthly news letter.

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