Hi Emily! 

I like the idea and think it maybe helpful to some despite the Cons listed.  

One thing I am working on at South Bay Contra in the SF Bay Area, is to have a 
quarterly workshop called “Next Steps”.  This happened once so far (the next 
quarter had a weekend workshop called "Contra College” that is about 30 min 
away from South Bay and has about 15 newer dancers with some “angels”).  I’m 
hoping to have another for summer and fall.  

The idea came from Jean Gorrindo in San Luis Obispo CA, who runs a quarterly 
free workshop followed by pizza then the usual contra dance.  She feels it is 
helping some of the newer dancers.  

Our session luckily had one to one “angels” helping with newer dancers, with 
about 20 total.   I had a very experienced caller teach the workshop for 80 min 
before the usual dance, followed by ice cream and snacks.   I had a separate 
band (new young musicians who are eager to play) as the usual band didn’t want 
to extend the gig to 5 hours.   We used a large classroom downstairs of the 
hall, as it was affordable and available earlier than the main hall.   We got 
the support from our BACDS to pay the band, caller and rent.  The snacks were 

I got only positive feedback from the dancers.  I had really great angels (who 
know how to help silently and model listening to the caller, and dance both 
The downside was that I offered the workshop for donations to get more 
attendance (though some would argue that paying for something makes it more 
valuable to some) and only got $20 from one person. 

The other thing I would check on is “creepy behavior” in your community.  A lot 
of folks feel they don’t have it, but if you ask some younger dancers you might 
find that they are uncomfortable with a few dancers’ behaviors.  Some of the 
offenders in our community swing just fine with other experienced dancers, but 
when they get a young new dancer, they hold too close and are too flirty for a 
stranger (both lacking consent).   I’ve only discovered this by watching known 
offenders. Then when I see a new dancer looking uncomfortable, I ask them after 
the dance, and almost always I’ve gotten a reply like “that was horrible and 
I’m never dancing with him again”.   We only just got our code of conduct 
re-written and lost our Safety committee board rep and our board President, so 
we’ve got a few folks to address in the community still.   I’m not sure, but 
feel this might have a big impact on having new dancers return.  

Claire Takemori 
Dance Caller & Organizer
Campbell CA 

Message: 1
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2018 11:22:39 -0500
From: Emily Addison <emilyladdi...@gmail.com>
To: organizers shared weight <organizers@lists.sharedweight.net>
Subject: [Organizers] mini-beginner contra courses - ideas?
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

Hi Folks,

Here in Ottawa, we're brainstorming new ideas for attracting brand new
people AND keeping more of those folks. We get about 15 new people each
dance and we think we're already doing lots to support them (2nd dance free
cards, smiley stickers to ID so regular dancers even more supportive than
usual, etc)... ... still we don't retain as many of those folks as we'd
like.  AND since we still haven't fully bounced back from a surprise drop
in attendance September 2016, we're trying to get creative.

One idea we'd like to try next year is a mini beginners course.

Has anyone done this before?  Any stories of successes?  Tips of things to
avoid? Course content? Advertising? etc????

Here's are a few initial thoughts that have been rolling around our heads:

  - Partner with the city - have it as part of their course offerings. (Or
  as part of a rec association)
  - Approx 4-6 weeks long.
  - Not only about moves but knowing where to be when, transitions,
  timing, culture, etc.

Pros/Cons of doing something like this...??? There are many but here are a
few thoughts:

  - Pro: Despite our community being super welcome (at least we think so),
  some people are just TOOOOO scared to try something so new/different in a
  big social setting.  This could address those people who have been too
  scared to come out.
  - Pro: Some brand new people are ok with the steep learning curve.
  Others find the intensity of learning so much so fast 'too much'.  We could
  let brand new people know that this is an alternative to learning the ropes.
  - Pro: Many adults look for new activities through things like
  mini-courses (e.g., learn how to dance!).  We'd be finding a new pocket of
  - Con: Don't want potential beginners OR regulars feel that beginners
  need to take a course before they are welcome. (e.g., like MW where have to
  take a course before welcome at certain dances.. .... this might encourage
  some experienced dancers who are focused on skill-level to push beginners
  to 'dance better')
  - Con: Having a room full of beginners would remove all the supportive
  help that experienced dancers can provide. (Solution -- have a few
  volunteer experienced folks come to the course)

Another thing we're working on is having our monthly community talent
dances be more beginner focused so that should be neat... ... but a little
different than a condensed weekly course.

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