Our Side of the Mic
by Bob Riggs
The stories we hear from callers and dancers around the country makes me jump up to say STOP IT! You are creating a self-fulfilling prophesy of the death of square dancing. I want to report that there is something you can do about it. You can take ownership of your future, the future of your involvement in this activity we love so much. First, you must decide to change! Then you must decide to learn! Then you must remember the joy, challenge, and fellowship that you encountered the first time you participated. Then you must recognize that in our modern world we cannot do what we have always done. Then you must recognize and accept some truths:
- Everyone likes to dance with their peers, i.e. their generation, their culture, their friends, etc.
- Adults with kids at home are parents first. They are fulfilling one of the most important roles in our society, being a parent, providing the guidance to the next generation that is our future, which means they have little truly leisure time.
- Everyone, but especially kids, will enjoy the dance until another experience catches their interest and they move on. They may return to the activity in some form as it fits into their “current” life schedule.
- Men hear the word "Dance" and instinctively move away because they believe they cannot be good at anything called dance. Instinctively there is a risk of failure and chance of embarrassment. It is not viewed as an athletic activity requiring physical skill that involves some form of challenge.
- There are more women than men who enjoy and want to participant in the dance experience.
- Our activity needs a strong and broad base of dancers to thrive and grow, i.e. we need more limited basic events than those that require more knowledge and skill, i.e. we need "square dance" basic dance series or events to complement our mainstream, plus or beyond.
- The diverse nature of our society includes many competing options for our leisure time, thus the frequency of participation necessary to be successful must be reduced to enable a larger recreational base.
- There will always be those that want to advance beyond the base and the activity must provide experiences for them to strive for, i.e. we need Mainstream, Plus, Advanced and Challenge.
- Younger and more physically able dancers will learn faster than older or less physically able dancers. I have held a class for groups of teenagers that learned the 68 calls of mainstream in a single 12 hour weekend. They retained the knowledge and continue to dance those basics years later.
- Frequency of participation in square dancing and personality traits (right brain and left brain) reflects directly on the number of dancer terms that can be retained, enjoyed and utilized. This means that a one-floor concept will not work for everyone that we hope will experience the joy of formation dancing.
Consider these truths and think of how YOU would change your world to broaden the base.
Experience tells us that callers should be able to entertain with less than 10 calls for a group that dances once in a lifetime or once a year, less than 30 terms for a group that dances a few times a year, around 50 terms for those that dance at most monthly and one of the Callerlab Mainstream through Challenge programs for those that dance one or many times in a week.
Consider these thoughts as you enjoy your dancing experience.