66th US National Keynote by Eric Henerlau

Article Type Author Last Update Description
Summary Eric Henerlau (eric@erichenerlau.com) 2017-06-28

On June 23rd, 2017 Eric Henerlau delivered an exciting keynote address at the 66th US National in Cincinnati. His remarks were heavily laced with wonderful ideas and insights for how we can go about growing our square dance activity. This written version of his speech provides an extremely valuable aggregation of ideas for recruiting, teaching, and retaining dancers. But more importantly, it provides a framework and context for adjusting our thinking and approach to make our efforts to grow our activity more productive.

You can view the text of Eric’s remarks by clicking on the button below. Or, if you would prefer to see the document in PDF form, you can click here for PDF.

Welcome to the keynote address for the 66th National Square
Dance Convention here in Cincinnati. I want to thank you for coming.
My name is Eric Henerlau, and I live near San Francisco, CA. I’ve
been calling for nearly 40 years, and I travel extensively. I also have
an active home program where I teach multiple new dancer classes every year.

Today I was asked to talk about what’s right with square
dancing. What a great way to talk about this wonderful activity!
It’s so easy to focus on the negatives, to complain, and to
tell you all the reasons why square dancing is in decline. So many
of them we have heard time and time again. However, most people
don’t like to listen to others complain about a problem just to
complain. It drains their energy.

What people like to hear are ideas and positive responses. People
like to hear what’s good and right. It lifts their spirits and
helps them move forward in the face of challenges. So today I’m
going to talk about some of those challenges in a way that we can
meet and overcome them. I’m going to share a vision of what
square could look like in the future. And finally, I’m going
to give you some ideas of how you can attract more people in to
square dancing and build your club!

When I started calling, square dance clubs were ubiquitous. New clubs
were formed and occasionally other clubs folded, and I never paid
much attention to the overall health of the activity… until
about 15 years ago. That’s when I really started to see a
decline, not only in clubs and dances, but also in callers teaching
classes. The inevitability of square dancing continuing forever
didn’t seem so inevitable. When I talked to existing dancers,
they would start listing all the reasons why they thought square
dancing was in decline. Most people seemed to be resigned to the
state of affairs, as if nothing could change the direction. They
complained they couldn’t get younger people to try square
dancing, or that the Internet or videos or two working parents or
(fill in the blank) were turning people away from classes. However,
all of these things were really symptoms of other more fundamental
issues. Here are the issues that I see we face and some ways we can
overcome them:

  • Communicating
    value.
    Square dancing has so many positive attributes: fun,
    exercise, and social connection just to name a few. The combination
    of these things is unique in square dancing. We need to let people
    know the great benefits of square dancing. We need to have them
    feel it’s worth their while and their money to try this
    activity. However, we often advertise square dancing in terms that
    emphasize “cheap” or “free” in big letters.
    If we made all square dancing free, do you think people would be
    lining up at the door to join in? Probably not. People value what
    they pay for. Psychologists and economists tell us that if we pay
    money for a product, we value that product to the level of the money
    we pay. The more we invest in the product financially, the more
    likely we will support and promote the product. Let’s set the
    value of our product (square dancing) to be commensurate with the
    joy we get out of the activity. Valuing our product fairly leads us
    to the next challenge we face.

  • Setting
    realistic financial expectations.
    Halls cost money and callers
    need to earn money. Dues and dance fees that haven’t changed
    in the past 20 years are not keeping up with the real cost of
    living. Compare costs of entertainment in your area. What does a
    movie cost? What does a set of ballroom dancing lessons cost? How
    about a set of tennis lessons? Are your dance fees in line with
    other entertainment options such as a movie or bowling? Some clubs
    have done a good job with adjusting dues and dance fees to match
    expenses. These clubs usually have a treasurer who is good with
    numbers and can calculate what the club needs to keep afloat. Have
    honest club meetings to discuss finances. Setting realistic budgets
    can be empowering, and those who really enjoy this activity will
    find ways to make the finances work. These people usually have
    great attitudes towards the club.

  • Building
    the club’s attitude.
    If the club’s energy is low,
    or members feel burned out, or if the existing dancers have little
    tolerance for new dancers, the club is struggling. Dancers may be
    going through the motions of club activities without the enthusiasm
    they once had. When this is the case, identify your members who
    have the strongest vision and call a meeting. Have these leaders
    talk about the things that make the club fun. Emphasize the value
    of new faces in the squares and what these new people will bring.
    Talk about the future of the club in one, two, and five years out.
    Inspire them to look for ideas and elicit support from the rest of
    the club. Attitude is changeable, and it starts with the leaders
    who “own” square dancing.

  • Making
    more “owners” and fewer “renters”.

    Some people participate in life as a “renter”, that is,
    paying for a service or good while they want it, then leaving that
    provider whenever they want. The whole square dancing activity can
    be looked at as a provider. However, square dancing doesn’t
    happen by itself. Square dancing is a collective effort of many
    people. People with a “renters” attitude give less
    towards the support and maintenance of square dancing. They don’t
    “own” square dancing or take responsibility for the
    long-term health of the activity. They get what they want until it
    doesn’t suit them anymore, and then complain to the club or
    quit.

    On the other hand, dancers with an “owners”
    attitude see that they are responsible for the condition of the
    club. They realize that without action on their part, the club will
    diminish. Owners take initiative and encourage others to
    participate fully. Owners understand the importance of social glue
    that keeps the club strong.

    The first step in making more
    owners is to have people self-evaluate. Can they be counted on to
    step up when needed and take on some leadership? Strong clubs
    develop efficient leadership in dancers.

  • Having a
    lean and effective board.
    How often have we heard that
    dancers don’t want to serve on the board because they don’t
    want to get involved in the politics? How about board
    members who feel they are more important just because they are on
    the board? These two attitudes are mutually exclusive, and it
    causes some board members to serve for years, while other members
    never volunteer. There is a need for administration of a club to
    keep it running smoothly. The club needs to choose callers and
    halls, advertise for classes, decide details of dances and run them.
    Is your governing body right-sized? A good board is trim and has
    only the offices it needs to run the club efficiently. A smaller
    board has fewer positions to fill.

    Make sure your board
    positions are clearly defined with a minimum of duties. Ask members
    to volunteer for the board for just a one-year commitment. Hold
    board meetings only when necessary, perhaps only four or five times
    a year. Have clear, purpose-driven agendas that make a productive
    meeting. Keep the focus on necessary club business and avoid petty
    or tangential issues. If you do this, everyone will feel the work
    is worthwhile instead of wasteful. Be sure to solicit input from
    your caller.

  • Including
    the caller on the board.
    If your club has a regular caller, use
    him or her for advice and guidance. The caller sees many things
    from the stage that dancers don’t see and is a thread of
    continuity in the board when club leaders change. The caller
    usually has experience with other clubs and their methods. The
    caller can draw from the body of knowledge that is shared with other
    callers and provide counsel and expertise.

  • Embracing
    the attitude of growth.
    Some people believe that when their
    club reaches a certain size they no longer need to grow. They
    believe they are big enough, and that any more people would be a
    problem (hall size, personal connections, etc.) Many years ago the
    president of a club I called for dismissed the idea of a beginner
    class because the club had 40 members and that, according to him,
    was big enough. He didn’t want to bother with growing the
    club any bigger until we lost members. In reality, we must always
    focus on growing. Marketing and recruiting new dancers
    should be a permanent year-round activity. There should never be a
    time when we decide we have enough dancers. During any dance
    season, a club is either growing or shrinking. No club is ever
    static. The moment we stop efforts to grow is the moment we start
    dwindling.

  • Believing
    there are plenty of people interested in square dancing.
    There
    are 300 million people living in the United States. Almost all of
    them don’t square dance – yet! This is a huge pool of
    untapped potential dancers. Some club members who have scarcity
    thinking believe there is only a small group of people who might be
    interested in learning to square dance. They find themselves in
    competition with other groups in attracting new dancers. Once a new
    beginner has started dancing, the club may be reluctant to encourage
    the person to dance with other groups for fear of losing him or her.
    To these club leaders, the new dancers are a scarce commodity that
    must be protected from other groups. Scarcity thinkers have a fixed
    mindset.

    In contrast, leaders who have abundance thinking
    believe there is an endless supply of people who would like to try
    square dancing. They see that for every personality type, age, sex,
    and demographic in their club there are hundreds more just like them
    that want to join in the fun. They never stop finding ways to reach
    out to those groups of people. Abundance thinkers believe the
    supply of possible new dancers is unlimited. Abundance thinkers
    have a growth mindset.

These challenges can be worked through and overcome. The way we see and experience square dancing may change as a result. Here are some
examples of what the future of the activity could look like:

  • A new group of callers steps up. They may not have all the skills of seasoned
    callers, but new and existing dancers connect with them and support
    them in their efforts.

  • Groups get creative about where they dance. Beyond the customary church halls
    and schools, groups find they can dance in vacant stores, people’s
    garages or living rooms, or on patios and decks when weather
    permits. In exchange for advertising, groups get local businesses
    to sponsor them or provide dance venues.

  • More Basic and Mainstream groups are created, giving dancers more options for
    dancing. Instead of pushing dancers through the programs, callers
    find more ways to use the Basic and Mainstream calls creatively, and
    dancers go to the dances because they are fun!

  • Square dance clubs partner with line dance, contra dance, and other dance groups,
    or square dance evenings are shared with other non-dance activities.
    People will come to square dance and do other things, so less
    emphasis is placed exclusively on square dancing. Square dancing is
    just part of an evening’s entertainment. People create clubs
    that hold a variety of social activities, with perhaps only some
    members square dancing.

  • Callers make more use of technology to reach remote dancers. Callers use Skype
    or social media to call to groups too remote to have a caller.
    Recordings of teaching modules or mini-dances are sent to remote
    groups for practice.

  • The music and sound systems become more contemporary. The speakers and amplifiers
    are on par with what is used by professional DJs. Spectators
    recognize the music as current songs from the radio.

How will these changes occur? There two possible paths. The first is
that forward-thinking clubs will see the future and embrace the
coming changes. They will realize they must adapt to today’s
society to keep square dancing relevant. They will modify their club
policies about everything from dress code to lesson requirements to
callers’ participation. They will expand their idea of what a
square dance club is to include other activities.

The other possibility is that the existing clubs will continue as they
are and eventually fold. The callers and dancers will be content
with stasis, and eventually the clubs will shrink and cease
operations. In their place, new groups will be formed with new
callers and dancers who don’t have the historical context.
These groups will bring a new paradigm for square dancing without
having the institutional thinking of the legacy groups. Culture and
style will be newly created, and a new art form will arise. Either
of these paths will involve getting new dancers.

How can we get more people into square dancing? This is the question
we’ve been asking ourselves for a long time. We know there is
no silver bullet; if there were, we would have discovered it by now
and the halls would be overflowing. We do know that
marketing, promotion, recruitment, and retention take effort, and
that our results will be directly proportional to the effort applied.
However, even the best efforts can yield poor results if we are not
communicating effectively. Achieving better results starts with an
understanding of who we are and what we are willing to change in
order to adapt. Here are my suggestions to start the process:

  • Decide
    what you are going to offer.
    What are you offering to people?
    Fun or long-term commitment to an unknown activity? Basic,
    Mainstream, or Plus destinations? Social community or academic
    lessons? If what you’re offering isn’t working,
    consider changing it. People who don’t square dance are not
    keen on making a long-term commitment to an activity they don’t
    know if they will enjoy. Connect with people on a social level.
    Build relationships around fun, and then include square dancing as
    part of the relationship.

  • Target
    your audience age group.
    People generally socialize with other
    people who are less than five years older or younger than they are.
    If you want to bring in younger dancers, target your marketing
    efforts to people who are five years younger than the average age of
    your club. If the club’s average age is 70, don’t try
    to recruit 30 or 40 year olds – they won’t be
    interested. As an activity, we’ve been aging up over several
    decades. Aging down will be a gradual process for many existing
    clubs. It will take effort and focus. In some cases, entirely new
    clubs may need to be formed with a younger demographic.

  • Focus on
    your club’s personality and strengths.
    Who are you as a
    club? Are you mostly working-age adults or retirees? Singles or
    couples? Do you all attend the same church? Are you traditionalists
    or casual in your approach to dancing? Does your club do only
    square dancing or also include other social activities? The culture
    of a group tends to indicate the type of people it will attract. If
    you want to attract a different demographic, have the club discuss
    the changes needed in its culture. Different groups will attract
    different kinds of people.

  • Find ways
    to be more inclusive
    . Does your club welcome singles? People
    of different skin colors or religions? People with different sexual
    orientation? Just like other activities, many square dance clubs
    have unspoken cultural attitudes that set the social norms for the
    group. These attitudes can be helpful when recruiting people who
    fit the same norms as your group, but they can also be a barrier to
    others who would like to participate but don’t feel like they
    fit in. Look for areas in your club’s culture that may make
    new dancers feel less welcome and discuss what you can do to change
    these areas.

  • Don’t
    be everything to everyone!
    A respected business leader once
    said, “If you’re everything to everyone, you’re
    nothing to anyone.” This holds just as true for square
    dancing as it does for business. We all like to say that square
    dancing is for everyone regardless of age or ability. It’s a
    great thing that so many people can participate in this activity,
    but when we talk about square dancing and offering it to the public,
    we need to narrow our focus to our target audience. Understand
    whom you are trying to attract. A person who hears that square
    dancing is for anyone, and anyone can square dance, is the same
    person who thinks “I’m not just anyone, I have special
    qualities and interests, so this is not for me”. Instead,
    consider focusing on a demographic that is in sync with your group:

      • People who want a social activity

      • People who want exercise

      • People who are interested in trying something unusual or different

      • People who like puzzles and games

      • People who like to travel

      • People who are single or whose partners don’t dance

Even though you are focusing on your target audience, avoid
exclusionary practices that would turn away a potential dancer that
is not part of your target. For example, if you are primarily a
couples-oriented club and a single dancer shows up for lessons, have
a plan to accommodate that person. That person may be the next
enthusiast in the group who contributes to the activity. Find a
place for everyone who expresses an interest.

  • Rethink
    Plus or even Mainstream as a destination for new dancers
    . Last
    year Jerry Story gave an impassioned address about the problems with
    pushing people through too many calls too quickly. He advocated the
    Club 50 program and other similar programs. Some areas of the
    country are experimenting with the 12-week condensed teaching order
    and other smaller lists. Both the Basic and Mainstream programs
    have plenty of variety in their calls, and a skilled caller can use
    these programs to make an entertaining dance for everyone. He or
    she can make the choreography simple and easy or complex and
    challenging without using extra calls. Consider a destination
    program that is shorter and easier to learn, allowing new dancers to
    reach a level of proficiency more quickly.

  • Shift the
    focus from calls to people.
    We tend to emphasize learning a
    bunch of calls to get through the list or program, just so we can
    learn the next set of calls on the next list, etc. Instead, your
    club could make its top priority meeting, socializing, and having
    fun. When the people are more important than the
    calls, groups thrive. New dancers feel more welcome and are more
    likely to return. Experienced dancers enjoy dancing with new people
    as much as being entertained or challenged by the caller.

  • Redefine
    success.
    What is success in square dance lessons? What makes a
    beginner class worthwhile? How long must a new dancer continue
    dancing for you to consider the class a success? Some people
    believe that if the new dancers don’t stay square dancing for
    life then the class was not successful. What if a dancer learns to
    dance and continues dancing for a year or two and then leaves? Is
    that not a form of success? Are we expecting too much from people
    who don’t stay involved for a long period? While some people
    join the activity and do stay for a long time, others will enjoy
    dancing for a while, and then move on. If you consider that
    recruiting effort to be a failure because the person isn’t
    still dancing, then the club’s morale will be compromised.
    Alternatively, if you consider the class a success because there was
    a period of time when the people were in a square, then you can
    build on those efforts and tailor your program around those dancers.
    We all know that many dancers who stop dancing come back again at a
    later date. When this happens, be sure to keep that person on a
    follow up list for future classes or dances.

  • Talk about
    what’s good about square dancing.
    Have a real discussion
    in your club. Underscore your strengths. What is it about your
    club that makes people want to return each week, each month, each
    year? People come for a reason, because square dancing fulfills
    something in their lives. Have your club members articulate those
    reasons. It will get them excited and inspire them to share with
    others who are not square dancing yet.

  • Develop
    community service outreach.
    While square dancing is fun in
    itself, the people involved in the club can also make a difference
    in their local community. Probably some are already volunteering
    time or money to local non-profits. Is there a way to connect the
    club or local dancers with a non-profit or charity? Can you
    organize the club to contribute time or money to a charity and get
    some visibility for square dancing? Not only will your club feel
    good about what they are doing, but non-dancers can bond with club
    members on a different level. The more connections you can make
    with the public, the easier your class marketing efforts will be.

  • Initiate
    cooperative marketing with clubs in your area.
    It takes a lot
    of effort for one club working independently to recruit new dancers.
    Instead of going it alone, talk to other local groups who want to
    grow. Working together, each club can leverage the others’
    skills, resources, and labor to attract people into dancing. The
    visibility of square dancing will increase exponentially. These
    efforts can be coordinated through your local association or
    federation. If your governing organization is not interested in a
    coordinated marketing effort (or other factors make doing so
    ineffective), then create an informal group of clubs who want to
    make a difference. Form small teams from each club who are willing
    to meet periodically to share ideas and work on joint projects.

  • Experiment
    with different marketing techniques.
    There are many ways to
    advertise for your classes: flyers, postcards, newspapers, lawn
    signs, placemats, community outreach events, and Internet ads, just
    to name a few. Try as many as the club has energy and money to
    support. Track your return on investment, but don’t give up
    on any one method if you don’t see immediate results. What
    doesn’t work this time may work well next time.

  • Think big,
    think new.
    Do you remember the children’s book The
    Little Engine That Could
    ? The mantra that kept that engine
    going up the hill was “I think I can! I think I can!”
    The Little Engine took on the challenge of climbing the hill, and
    instead of letting her limitations stop her, she persevered with
    focus and commitment until she was successful. The Little Engine
    thought BIG and NEW. How can your club think bigger or in a newer
    way? What outrageous ideas can you come up with for building your
    club? When you embark on a new project, believe what you’re
    doing will work. Commit to your plans fully. The quickest way to
    failure is not having faith in your efforts. That
    subconscious message of “not believing” will undermine
    your work and almost certainly guarantee disappointment. Instead,
    commit and put the energy into your plans without hesitation.

  • Think
    strategically.
    Where do you see the club in the future? Not
    just for your tenure in the activity, but beyond into the next
    generation of dancers? Do you have a goal for the club and its
    growth? Be willing to adapt to the 21st century world for
    square dancing. Create a vision of your club at milestones in the
    future: 2018, 2020, and 2025. Make plans; think about what’s
    possible even if it seems impossible. Enroll other dancers
    in looking ahead.

  • ALWAYS
    look ahead and avoid dwelling on the past
    . It doesn’t do
    any good to talk about how many squares there used to be at dances,
    how many dances were held, how big the beginner classes used to be,
    and the like. All this is just negative thinking. NO ONE likes to
    hear that yesterday was better than today. We all want to believe
    that today is great and that tomorrow will be even better.
    Suggesting anything different, whether or not it’s true, is a
    sure-fire way to discourage someone new to square dancing. That
    person will think he or she missed the glory days and start to take
    a dim view the current state of affairs. His or her dancing career
    may be shortened – after all, why learn an activity you
    perceive as dying? Instead, keep the focus on how great you can
    build on what you have: classes, activities, and fun. Inspire
    people to look forward to good times in the club, regardless of how
    many people are dancing.

  • Recruit
    and support the next generation of callers.
    The activity cannot
    survive unless there are new callers coming up the ranks. Encourage
    every young dancer to call a tip or singing call. Create an
    environment that would foster the calling “bug” in
    someone. Encourage that person to go to an accredited callers
    school. Give him or her opportunities to call and teach. Enable
    these new callers by fully supporting their efforts. These people
    will be the leaders of tomorrow. Help cultivate them now!

  • Support
    motivated club leaders.
    These people may or may not be on the
    board, but they are “movers and shakers,” people who are
    inspirational, have energy, and get things done. If they have an
    idea that would benefit the club, give them what they need to run
    with it. Let them lead the rest of the club in something new. Even
    if you’re not feeling like a leader, support the people in
    your group who have the energy and let them do the job.

  • Partner
    with your local callers
    and callers association. If
    there are any restrictions on how your organizations can work
    together, remove the restrictions. Have dancers and callers serve
    together in organizations that promote square dancing. Form a tight
    teamwork relationship with your club caller. If you don’t
    have a club caller, enlist local callers whom you respect. Solicit
    their advice. Listen to the issues they see from their side of the
    microphone. Most callers have a vested interest in attracting and
    retaining dancers. They can see what works and what needs
    improvement, even if it’s not popular or goes against
    tradition. Be open to suggestions, and then partner together to
    create solutions.

  • Involve
    the club caller financially.
    Structure the caller’s
    compensation to have some correlation with dance attendance. This
    makes the caller have a reason to attract as many people as possible
    to classes and dances. He or she is more motivated to teach and
    call in ways that retain the most dancers. Callers should take an
    active role in the club’s marketing efforts.

  • Run more
    than one class per year.
    Running only one class each year is
    not very effective. The non-dancing public expects multiple entry
    points to any recreational activity. It’s very bad PR to tell
    a person interested in learning that he or she must wait 9, 10, or
    11 months before another class will be offered. It’s highly
    unlikely that person will return. Many groups have redesigned their
    teaching program and are successfully running multiple beginner
    classes each year. Experiment with multiple entry points and
    overlap the classes to allow the club members and new dancers to
    mix.

  • Use
    technology.
    Technology is available in multiple forms to help
    you grow square dancing. If you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar
    with the variety of technologies in use, find someone in your group
    who can step in and do some of the work. Often the caller can help
    out as he or she may be using the various tools.

    • Website.
      If your club’s website is out of date, have someone volunteer
      to keep it updated. It’s a bad sign to visit a club’s
      homepage to find out about all the dances coming up in 2006…
      If you don’t have a website, get one! They cost from $0 to
      $1000, depending on how robust you want it. Several companies
      offer free websites and website tools in exchange for advertising
      on the side. The club’s homepage should be designed for the
      non-dancing public. When a visitor lands on the homepage, the site
      should communicate the social and fun aspects of the club, along
      with when the next class will start. All other club information
      and business can be on other parts of the site. The homepage is
      the most critical for a new prospect.

    • Facebook.
      Keep your Facebook page up to date with current and relevant club
      activities. Facebook and your club’s website are the
      public’s perception of who you are. Anyone considering
      joining your class or club will visit the website and Facebook page
      first – make sure they are attractive and inviting.

    • Email
      distribution lists.
      Use email group lists for communications
      within your club. Be clear, and concise with club communications
      so that everyone is fully informed. These emails strengthen social
      bonding. Your web hosting service may provide email groups; if
      not, Yahoo and Google both provide this service for free.

    • Google
      phone number.
      Get a unique phone number for your club that you
      can give out to people. Google offers phone numbers for free, and
      you can have any incoming call to that number redirected to a
      person who is designated to receive it. This allows the leadership
      in a club to change while still keeping the same club phone number.
      It also keeps personal phone numbers private.

    • Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram.
      You can use these to send out news and pictures about the club,
      club events, and recent activities.

    • Free or
      near-free online services.
      Use Craigslist, local “patch”
      news sites, meetup.com, etc.

    • Groupon,
      Living Social and other web-based coupons.
      Some clubs have had
      success in using promotional coupons through the Internet. Explore
      this avenue to see if it may work for your club.

    • Prospects
      database.
      Once you get a person who is interested in learning
      to square dance, capture that person’s name/email/city and
      phone number and put it in a database (spreadsheet or document).
      Use an email processing tool to send out email invitations to your
      prospects for upcoming classes.

    • Ads and
      keywords.
      Both Google and Facebook have abilities to promote
      your classes when people use certain keywords to search. Look for
      keywords that someone might enter that would make that person a
      square dance prospect. Bid on and buy those keywords, so that when
      a person enters them, your ad is displayed on the sidebar.

Finally, the most important thing you can do to grow your club: have
the right attitude!

  • The number one key to success: Attitude. A club that truly wants to grow
    will find a way to grow. The members will generate enthusiasm that
    is infectious. People want to be around people who are happy and
    having fun. Capture that attitude and do whatever is necessary to
    bring people in the door. Some groups say they want a class but
    then can’t get enough beginners to justify it. Other clubs
    run successful classes and grow. What’s the difference
    between these groups? ATTITUDE! Those groups who are excited and
    happy about coming to a dance create an energy that attracts others.
    They exude fun and friendliness that make others happy. They don’t
    have to remember to smile – they are already smiling!

Summary:

So, what’s right with square dancing? Every person might have
a different way that square dancing appeals to him or her:

    • Social activity with friends

    • Community

    • Exercise

    • Mental stimulation, brain exercise

    • Respite from the anxiety in the world today

There are so many ways square dancing is the right activity right
now. We all know that people would love this activity if they tried
it. The call for action is now. Get the whole club involved. Make
it fun. Seek out and find success stories from other clubs and
callers. There is a wealth of information on the Internet on
marketing ideas; however, resources are useless without action.
Inspire and motivate your club to take action. Keep emphasizing all
the reasons why square dancing is right for everyone. Your classes
will be more successful, your club will grow, and square dancing will
continue to be the best entertainment for people all over the world.



Learning To Dance Without a Caller

Article Type Author Last Update Description
Summary Julian Pritchard (julian.pritchard@orange.fr) 2017-06-11

We dance in two clubs which have no caller (actually, most of the clubs in France have no caller). We study the calls and then teach them; then we use pre-recorded training material to compensate for the lack of a “real” caller. All the material referenced below comes with texts files enabling you to walk-thru the material when your square crashes. In some cases we have transcribed tracks where text was not provided and people can always contact me for a copy.

(Open the tab below to read the full article.)

We dance in two clubs which have no caller (actually, most of the clubs in France have no caller). We study the calls and then teach them; then we use pre-recorded training material to compensate for the lack of a “real” caller. All the material referenced below comes with texts files enabling you to walk-thru the material when your square crashes. In some cases we have transcribed tracks where text was not provided and people can always contact me for a copy. The best programmes we have found so far are:

BASIC intro – Traveling Hoedowners (USA):

We start our BASIC class using the Travelling Hoedowners Instant Hoedown DVD/CD set. This starts from zero dancer knowledge and works thru the first part of the BASIC programme in 10 lessons with alternate Patters (11) and Singing Calls (12). Cost is 30 USD. We find it works very well. See: http://travelinghoedowners.com….. We only use the CD part but it comes with a DVD showing all the patters/dances so you can look to see how it should be performed if you have any doubts. The Traveling Hoedowners also do an excellent set of BASIC/MS/PLUS reference DVDs explaining and showing each call performed by a Square filmed from above. This was a tremendous aid to us when we started-out.

BASIC – Tomas Hedberg (Sweden):

… after that we swap to the Tomas Hedberg BASIC teaching CDs set which covers the entire Basic programme in 29 sessions of patter+singing calls. The actual callers on the latest version are Bronc Wise (USA) and Thomas Hedberg (Sweden). The cost is 2000 SEK (approx. 230 USD). More information is available from Tomas Hedberg email: caller@caloham.se. (He doesn’t have a website).

MAINSTREAM – Tomas Hedberg (Sweden):

We use the Tomas Hedberg MAINSTREAM teaching CDs set which covers the entire MS programme in 16 sessions of patter+singing calls. The actual caller on the latest version is Thomas Hedberg (Sweden). The cost is 1250 SEK (approx. 140 USD). More information is available from Tomas Hedberg email: caller@caloham.se. (He doesn’t have a website).

PLUS/A1/A2 – Stefan Sidholm (Sweden):

We use the Stefan Sidholm teaching CDs sets:

PLUS: –
71 tracks of patter+singing calls covering the whole programme. The actual caller on the latest version is Stefan Sidholm (Sweden).
A1: –
71 tracks of patter+singing calls covering the whole programme. The actual caller on the latest version is Stefan Sidholm (Sweden).
A2: –
69 tracks of patter+singing calls covering the whole programme. The actual caller on the latest version is Stefan Sidholm (Sweden).

You can get more info from: stefan@sidholm.com. (He doesn’t have a website). The cost is 155 euros (approx.. 170 USD) per level plus postage (discount available if provided on one DVD in mp3 format) (further discount available if you buy more than one level at a time.

C1/C2 – Tony Collingwood (UK):

Tony has C1 and CD teaching material which you can download from his website for free (https://sites.google.com/site/pacesettersuk/home). Contact: tcpace@gmail.com. He also does Two-Couple teaching/practice material from MS thru C3B.

(See also the full KnowledgeBase article on Tony’s recordings here. )



Two-Couple Teaching and Dancing Recordings

Article Type Owner Links Description
Resource Tony Collingwood (pace@collingwoods.org) Webpage

In the Challenge dancing world it has often been the case that dancers wishing to learn a new level did not have a live caller near them who could teach it. The remedy for this was “tape groups” that used recorded materials to learn and dance the new level. Unfortunately, a result of our declining numbers is that it is increasingly common for a group wishing to learn a new level to be unable to muster a full square of dancers, let alone a caller. One answer to this problem is recorded material that requires only two couples. A surprising number of calls and concepts can be exercised without a full square.

Tony Collingwood is a caller in the UK who has created an impressive repertoire of 2-couple teaching and dancing material ranging from Mainstream through C3B. These recordings are available free of charge as MP3 downloads. Click on the link in the column to the left to go to a list of the available recordings.


Teaching Styling

Article Type Event Date Presenter Links Description
Presentation CALLERLAB Convention 2014 Jon Jones and Tim Marriner Video File (part 1)

Video File (part 2)

Handout Files (zipped)

Presentation on the how’s and why’s of teaching styling to new dancers. How styling can help you and your dancers to succeed. Functional styling that helps dancers succeed and feel comfortable dancing (as opposed to regulated styling that implies “do it this way because I told you to” and “this is the way we always do it”).


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 …


Multi-Cycle Program X Plan from Gardner Patton

Article Type Author Publication Date Links Description
Document

Idea

Gardner Patton (gcp6@optonline.net) 2012 Webpage

If you read any of the square dance publications today you will note that many articles suggest the way to attract more people into the square dance activity is to provide a square dance Program which: 1) takes a short time to learn; 2) provides dances where a person can dance that Program frequently. The thought is, that if you can teach dancers enough quickly to where they can dance frequently knowing a few calls, they will spread their enthusiasm for the activity to their friends who can start dancing almost immediately without waiting a year for the next cycle to start.

In the past there have been plans that provide for a Program with less calls (ABC, Community Dance Program, Basic 1, etc.) with little thought to moving those folks who dance that Program forward. There have also been multi-cycle plans which have short periods between new class starts but they have not included a way for people who want to, to dance frequently to a Program lower than Mainstream.

The plan described here is a combination of the best parts of those two plans, and shows that if it is implemented in a region where there are multiple clubs, who all follow the plan, a new dance Program can be introduced into the region which has fewer calls thus creating a pool of dancers from which new Mainstream dancers will eventually emerge.


Alternate Lessons Systems Brochure

Article Type Author Publication Date Links Description
Document Arnold Gladson (agladson@austin.rr.com) 2001 Brochure

This brochure was produced by a CALLERLAB Ad Hoc committee. It explains and contrasts traditional lesson structures with multi-cycle and accelerated programs.


Condensed Teaching Order

Article Type Author Publication Date Links Description
Document Ad Hoc Committee
(prepared by Tim Marriner and Bill Harrison)
2013-04-01 (Press Release)
2014-12-01 (Full Document)

Press Release

Full Document

In 2012 CALLERLAB commissioned an Ad Hoc committee to work with ACA to document a condensed teaching system that some callers had been using successfully for some time. The Press Release document describes the project and presents the initial output of the Ad Hoc in April of 2013. Additional materials and documentation were developed by the CALLERLAB members and a detailed booklet was released in December of 2014. That booklet (access via the Full Document link) includes the suggested calls to teach along with abbreviated definitions, teaching tips and other useful information.

See document abstract for the Full Document below.

Several different approaches to teaching square dancing have surfaced over the years; Blast Classes, Fast Track, and ABC, to name a few. Most of these methods involve shorter teach times. All offer an alternative approach to teaching outside the norm. One problem not usually addressed is the staggering amount of material that still must be taught for the average new dancer to participate in a club program. Many groups start new dancer sessions once a year in Sept. and move them through for almost a full year before they can join in with the existing club. The window of opportunity to join Square Dancing is usually open and shut in just three weeks. Very difficult to get many new dancers involved this way at today’s current pace of life.

It is for this reason other teaching approaches have been introduced. Still, only a handful have had limited success with these unique teaching methods. One pitfall is not having a suitable destination for new dancers to continue after the session is over. The transition between class and club is still devastating with soaring dropout rates. It is unrealistic to assume a reversal of this trend can be obtained by teaching new recruits at a quicker pace with as much material currently being danced at average clubs.

Focus groups surveys concluded the average age of our activity is growing older. The same surveys polled ex-dancers and obtained staggering results that most felt were not statistically accurate. Yet several other focus groups netted the same results. Apparently, close to a million people have had an introduction to Modern Western Square Dancing but dropped out mostly because it took too long to learn. Shortening the lessons seems a logical repair, however; it is only one part of the equation. Less material needs to be offered while still providing variety and fun.

It has been suggested that a limited dance language can be obtained if a group committed itself to the current Basic Programs. It is debatable however why such a group is not sustainable in most regions. One possible answer is that there are several redundant dance moves and others that are not widely used on an average Mainstream floor. Also, dancer satisfaction can be better achieved with a wider variety of calls from a wider variety of formations better sustained with some Mainstream actions.

The ad hoc committee working on this project designed a teach order that includes these most popular dance actions, integrating some of the more difficult dance actions with the easier ones, and defers less used dance actions and redundancies to shorten the normal teach time. The following will provide greater explanation and details of this Condensed Teach Order.



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 …


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 …


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 …


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 …


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 …


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 …


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.

Read More …


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.

Read More …


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.

Read More …


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.

Read More …


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.

Read More …


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.

Read More …


Experimental Lesson Systems

Article Type Author Last Update Description

Summary

Barry Clasper 2017-03-19

This article summarizes several experimental approaches to teaching new dancers known to be in use at the time of writing. (Full text below)

All of these systems are aimed at the recruiting of new people into a system of progressive lessons from which they graduate as Modern Western Square Dancers capable of dancing some CALLERLAB square dance program (for example, Mainstream or Plus). This is in contrast to approaches aimed at entertaining non-dancers with no previous training for a single evening (for example, ABC, Community Dance, etc.) Material on those types of systems may be found here.

Some of these systems are simply revised teaching orders or innovative approaches to teaching a current program. Others are predicated on a revision of one or more current CALLERLAB program lists. Clearly, for those requiring changes to CALLERLAB programs universal adoption would require the appropriate committee approvals. Inclusion in this article does not imply such approvals are imminent or even likely.

Some of these initiatives are the result of CALLERLAB committee activity, others were created by CALLERLAB members independently of CALLERLAB, and still others were created by people with no CALLERLAB connection at all. Inclusion in this summary in no way implies that CALLERLAB officially endorses, recommends, or supports the system. This information is provided solely to acquaint you with known experimental systems.

In recent years a great deal of effort has been put into devising more effective teaching systems. These are primarily aimed at training new dancers more rapidly, and enabling multiple intakes of new dancers each year.

Following are some of the more prominent efforts:

Multi-Cycle

The term “multi-cycle” has been around for many years and has been applied to a variety of lesson systems. In general, the term implies that the teaching system in use permits new dancer intakes more than once a year. The term first evolved when adding a second intake in January was considered real progress. More recently, such systems aim to allow much more frequent intakes.

Click on the following link to see further knowledgebase articles on initiatives that could be considered “multi-cycle”: Multi-Cycle Articles

Condensed Teaching Order

This system was devised by a CALLERLAB Ad Hoc Committee to include a condensed teach system of calls. The documentation includes the suggested calls to teach along with abbreviated definitions, teaching tips and other useful information. The strategy is to teach the most frequently used subset of Basic and MS calls first so that students can more quickly be integrated into an existing group already dancing MS.

Sustainable Square Dance

Sustainable Square Dancing is the rubric Jerry Story has applied to a comprehensive effort he is leading to change the current most prevalent approach to recruiting, teaching, and retaining new dancers. It is based on Jerry’s experience in Iowa showing that teaching fewer calls more thoroughly, retaining new dancers in the entry level for a longer period, and exposing them to a broader range of call applications provides greater success.

Jerry’s design contains a number of parts, including a modified entry list that he calls Club Level 50 and a document that contains a detailed lesson plan containing sample choreography that illustrates both standard and extended applications. CALLERLAB has created an Ad Hoc charged with the task of creating this document. Once written and passed by the Sustainable Square Dance Ad Hoc Committee, it will be presented to the Board of Governors and the Mainstream Committee to seek approval for publishing as a CALLERLAB document. Regardless of how well accepted the overall Sustainable Square Dance initiative turns out to be, the SSD lesson plan document promises to be a valuable contribution to the activity.

At this point, the overall system, including the modified entry list, has not been discussed or approved by either the Board of Governors or the Mainstream Committee. That discussion is expected to take place in conjunction with the approval and publishing of the lesson plan document. Even after such approvals, SSD will still have the status of an Experimental Lesson System. Becoming a full CALLERLAB program such as Mainstream or Plus requires a vote of the full CALLERLAB membership, which, by design, is a lengthy process.

The NEST

The primary reason THE NEST system was developed was so prospective square dance students would no longer have to wait to take lessons. In other words, it was designed to encourage and facilitate the perpetual integration of new students into the classroom. Our goal has always been to create a learning environment so students could enroll anytime – thereby allowing us to recruit anytime – thus, enabling us to promote anytime. Never again having to tell folks they have to “wait ‘til September” or ????.

General Dance Program

This program was created by the Santa Clara Valley Square Dance Association (SCVSDA) as a means to integrate new dancers more quickly into their Plus community.

What is the General Dance Program?

GDP is three things:

  1. An easy and fun way to get more people square dancing
  2. A list of calls, about half the calls in the full program of Basic, Mainstream, and Plus
  3. A series of dances sponsored by SCVSDA using the GDP call list
Why should I come to GDP dances?

Because you want more square dancers. Learning the full Plus program takes a long time (particularly because most Plus clubs do at least some APD/DBD), and it’s clear from the declining size of the square dance community that this discourages many people from square dancing. It takes less than half the time to learn GDP, which gives us a chance to grow the community again.

Because you’ll have fun. The intent of GDP is “half the calls, ninety percent of the fun”. If you’re a Plus dancer who sometimes feels that Plus hoedowns are a bit too hard, you definitely want to come to a GDP dance.

What is missing from GDP?

For the most part, the missing calls are similar in function to other calls (e.g., Dive Thru), rarely used (e.g., Do Paso), or more complicated (e.g., Linear Cycle). GDP dances also use simpler choreography, avoiding APD/DBD and concentrating on “standard applications”.