The International Square Dance Magazine
                         

CALLERLAB VIEWPOINTS
By
Mike Seastrom

Open the Doors to Your Club

Many callers and dance leaders agree that we need an easier program of dancing that can be learned in 3 to 4 nights, and if actual lessons are taking place, no more than 12 nights. It’s been said that our club program is not an easy sell. It takes a long time to learn and regular participation to remain proficient enough to stay involved. Market analysts have told us for years that we have a limited product line, and don’t have enough opportunities during the year for people to join or re-enter our dance activity.

Our club-based activity has an entry/destination program that is either Mainstream or Plus. Most clubs are fairly rigid and similar in their policies regarding dress, dance times, locations, marital status, and age. Many are not doing as well as they were in the past and many have folded. Several callers and dance leaders I have spoken with are convinced that club-based square dancing as we know it today will cease to exist.

I am much more optimistic and believe that every club can become successful, because many currently are. Even new clubs can be formed and can flourish, because it is happening in many areas of the world. There is something that almost every club can do right now that will increase its numbers and provide an easier way for new dancers to join. This idea was discussed at this year’s CALLERLAB Convention.

First, you should commit to sponsoring a Continuing New Dancer Program. If your club does not have a way to bring in new dancers, your club will slowly fade away like others that have blindly taken this course to extinction. Second, your club should organize several Dance Party Events to be held throughout the year. These events allow your club to develop a list of people who have already socialized with your club members and have enjoyed dancing too. It’s a perfect list that could be called, “Friends of (your club name) Club”. What a great list of prospects to reach out to when your new dancer program begins again.

A Continuing New Dancer Program provides an opportunity for new dancers to join square dancing and your club. CALLERLAB has some great information on its website at www.callerlab.org. Go to the home page and click on, “For the Public” and then click on Marketing on the left side menu. The “Winning Ways Booklet” will be listed after that. If you have not yet seen the newly formatted CALLERLAB website, check it out.

Dance Party Events, One Night Stands, and Fun Nights are just some of the names that have been used over the years for a party where non-dancers without previous dance experience can come and learn enough to dance and have fun in one evening. They have successfully been organized for many, many years and some callers even specialize in calling these important events.

CALLERLAB has regularly held interest sessions at their conventions on how to do these parties. It takes a special talent for a caller to call an evening like this, and there are many books and educational tapes on the subject. One of my favorites is the “Jerry Helt Dance Party” recording available in several formats from www.dosado.com.

These parties can be organized in so many ways and can even be done with other social clubs, service clubs, church groups, or school events. They can be used to raise money for charity, for your club or church, or to even help build the publicity fund for your next new dancer class. They can be organized at no charge to the participants, but I would strongly recommend that you print up tickets and include a donation amount to show their value. They can be sold or “given away on a complimentary basis”. Tickets allow you to include pertinent information and if they are the size of business cards, they can easily be carried in wallets and purses and given out to friends, family, co-workers, children, and grandchildren.

What a great opportunity to include those you have attempted to bring to lessons in the past. These participants can attend one party or even attend multiple times, and if given the opportunity will possibly invite their friends, family, and co-workers to attend.

I would encourage you to serve food. It can be potluck or something special like ice cream sundaes, root beer floats, or finger foods. Use your imagination for this decision and vary it from event to event. Consider decorations, as they always make the attendees feel like “there’s a party going on”. You might even be able to pick a theme that coincides with a holiday at that time of the year.

Have a raffle and give out door prizes. It’s important to collect names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for insurance reasons, and the ability to make contact about other events, and of course to publicize your next new dancer program. This is so important.

Consider these events as an extension of your club and your new dancer program. If these Dance Party Events are all the participants ever attend, just think of the positive publicity for your club and square dancing. These dancers are really dancing, and your club shouldn’t try to use these events to show off by dancing their own tips.

 The attendees may include children or grandchildren who may not have the time right now to devote to learning and being a regular participant in club dancing. Yet someday, when time allows, they’ll be able to join your group or even form their own family club.

Change and adjust how you organize these parties to make them more successful and to provide variety. They can be held in public areas and at different times. The possibilities are endless. Keep them going on a regular basis and don’t give up just because the first one or two are not as big and successful as you would like.

The future of square dancing is up to all of us, and this is one idea that could make or break the future of your club. Talk it up at your next dance or board meeting. Plan to succeed!

Fun set to music!