To answer the question about dance timing, we have a weekday dance which used 
to be 8 to 11, but since it is a Wednesday dance we noticed that numbers near 
the end of the night were getting pretty anemic.  Lots of people left at the 
break and even more during the course of the 2nd half so that even on evenings 
with good attendance, the last few dances of the evening were very small.
To get people to stay until the end, we then attempted a 7:30 to 10:30 dance.  
And people were indeed more willing to stay to the end, BUT it's still the 
weekday and now the problem was at the beginning as 7:30 was challenging to get 
to.  We noticed that people didn't really start arriving until 8 or shortly 
after 8 for most dances, and it was hard to get the dance going.  

Finally we settled for 8 to 10:30, cutting a half hour from the dance.  This 
has presented its own issues as we break at 9:30 as if it were a 3-hour dance, 
but then we have a 3-dance 2nd half and we do have the mass exodus at the break 
anyway, but it's still a decent attendance.  I toy with maybe having equal 
halves, thinking that dancers would stay on for the 2nd half because they did 
not get enough in the 1st half, but I've been advised against that.

As for the connecting family dances with contra, we have done that at one of 
our local dances.  Pretty short family dance (about 90 minutes), potluck in 
between, and many families do leave before the evening contra dance, but a few 
stay on.  I think we try to make the dances easy at the start but even so they 
are challenges for kids who don't understand the structured dances.  

You are right that we have lost the community aspect of our contra dances, but 
it's quite challenging integrating children in our dances.  Many kids can 
contra dance and do it well, but most prefer to run around and dance without 

      From: Paul Rosenberg via Organizers <>
 To: Emily Addison <> 
Cc: organizers shared weight <>
 Sent: Thursday, October 12, 2017 10:34 AM
 Subject: Re: [Organizers] Ideas for connecting family dances with contra
I remember thinking about this situation  many years ago.  I believe we linked 
the family dance with the contra a few times.  A small handful of children 
tried a few contras.  But back in those days, the contras were more community 
oriented. An evening would start with some easy dances, and include a circle 
mixer and maybe some squares. 
 At least in my area, Albany, NY (and other areas in the northeast US that I 
have visited) the shift in recent years of repertoire away from anything easy, 
into smooth, flowing, complex contras -- and no circles or squares — has made 
these evenings unwelcoming and inappropriate for most children
But hopefully, dances in Ottawa, Syracuse, Belfast and some other places still 
value the community aspect of contra dance evenings.
By the way, how do you keep attention of young people for two and a half hours? 
 When we started our monthly family dance in 1994, our dances were 2 hours, but 
included a 5 to 7 minute story and a 5 to 7 minute singalong .   For the last 
ten years, our family dances have been 90 minutes, without any “extras”
For a double dance like this, don’t you think a shorter family dance would work 
better?  Although I suppose some people could show up later for the family 
dance and then stay for the contra, without making a huge time commitment. 
On that note, after decades of organizing contras, community dances, and family 
dances, and watching changing preferences and patience levels of participants, 
I have come to the conclusion that in general, shorter is better.  So many 
dances keep their evening length as 3 hours, even with 80% of the dancers going 
home after two and a half hours..
For those dances that get so tiny for the last 30 - 45 minutes, would you 
consider thinking outside the box and leave the participants satisfied and 
shortening a dance evening?
How many arts events are three hours long?  Most concerts and other shows I 
attend last no longer than two and a half hours at the most.  Yes, in the good 
old days, a contra evening would still have a healthy sized crowd right to the 
end, but times change.  
Part of what keeps our events vibrant and exciting is watching the trends and 
reacting with appropriate response
OK, I have 25 other emails to respond to so please forgive me for typos, etc

Paul RosenbergAlbany,

On Oct 12, 2017, at 10:05 AM, Emily Addison via Organizers 
<> wrote:
Hi All,
Hope folks are having a good fall!
I'm writing about a question regarding family dances and linking them more to 
Here in Ottawa, we have four family dances a year... 3-530pm with a potluck 
after.  They're always on the same day as an evening contra which starts at 
730pm with a beginner lesson, dance from 8-10pm.  There's not much overlap in 
audiences and we'd like to have some of the families with the younger and 
middle aged kids, naturally flow into the contra dances while maintaining our 
awesome contra dance vibe (not feel overly family dance).
We're looking to learn from others on how they might have a better link between 
the two.
I know Belfast does a great job and Syracuse also has Family dances rolling 
into Contras.
If you do this, might you be willing to share some info?Things I'm wondering 
about include...
1. What is the timing of the different parts of the dance(s)2. Is there 
food/potluck/? involved?3. How does the transition happen between family and 
contra? 4. Do younger kids stick around and not dance when contra starts? If so 
where are they and what are they doing?5. Anyone have a play space for younger 
kids in the evenings?6. What do you do in terms of callers/bands for the family 
and contra portions?7. Other things you feel are important 
Maybe you have a totally different model...
With much thanks!EmilyOttawa Contra
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