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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Emily Addison <emilyladdi...@gmail.com>
Cc: organizers shared weight <email@example.com>
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, NYwww.homespun.biz
On Oct 12, 2017, at 10:05 AM, Emily Addison via Organizers
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
I know Belfast does a great job and Syracuse also has Family dances rolling
If you do this, might you be willing to share some info?Things I'm wondering
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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