Greetings from Minneapolis/St. Paul! We are in our fourth year of a once-a-month family dance immediately preceding the regular Saturday evening contra. We run 6:30pm - 8:00 pm with a break for a snack in the middle. The contra dance runs 8:00pm - 11:00pm. We charge $10/family of any size (and any definition), plus we tell family dancers that they are welcome to come to the first hour of the contra for free. That's plenty late enough for most families with small kids. Most families that stay just watch, but some kids do try it out.
We have a somewhat unusual arrangement because we have two dance halls, a small one and a larger one. We run the family dance in the smaller hall, meaning that we can run right up to the start of the contra without interfering with sound setup, teaching session, etc. A lot of early-arriving contra dancers will stop to watch the family dance on their way in. Having the two spaces also means that we can have kids with extra energy to burn racing around in the small hall while the contra is starting in the big hall. We have a separate band/caller for the family dance and the main dance. We run the family dance on a shoestring budget -- everyone who calls or plays knows they'll probably get gas money and that's it. So far, we've been able to find callers and musicians willing to do it primarily for the fun and community spirit. We've found that we have almost no 'core' family dancers who are there every time. But we have several families that come 4-5 times a year. (We gave up on June-July-August dances this year, so we're doing 9 per year.) As with contra, word-of-mouth is the most important way we've gotten folks in the door. We did get some people through an interview my daughter and I did on a local bluegrass radio show -- you can find it at http://tapestryfolkdance.org/programs/family-folkdance/ (click play next to "family dance on the radio"). One thing you didn't ask about that I think has been important is the continuity of programming. Our three regular callers have an overlapping repertoire of dances, so kids will usually see some of the same dances that they did the last time. And kids that come frequently begin to know dances and can request specific ones. My daughter has called dances occasionally since we started (she's 12 now), and hopefully we'll get one or two other kids up to calling a particular favorite dance themselves. Another important point you didn't mention is safety. No dancing with small kids on dad's shoulders. No whirling kids round and round with feet off the ground. No kids wandering off by themselves to explore other parts of the building. NEVER have a situation where a kid is alone with an adult that is not a parent or other caregiver. And make sure that there are ingredients available for all food provided so that parents can check for allergy issues or other dietary restrictions. That's what we have going on here. It's working pretty well, except that we need some new blood on the organizing committee so that people can step aside before they burn out. But that's a common need for all sorts of community projects, isn't it? David
_______________________________________________ Organizers mailing list Organizers@lists.sharedweight.net http://lists.sharedweight.net/listinfo.cgi/organizers-sharedweight.net