Why a forum? - revisited

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Why a forum? - revisited

Post  denismurf on Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:49 pm

Obviously life went on undisturbed during the almost 2 months when I could pay no attention to this forum.

Question now is, should it continue? It's certainly worth it from my perspective as a Balkan/ethnic dance teacher since I learn something from every posting. My next community college class starts Feb. 25, and I hope to get some collective wisdom from you on how to run a class of half total novices and half veterans of one 8-week class that ended way back on Nov. 19.

Also, how do you measure success? Of the 10 who finished the class, 2 have attended at least one live music event at the main Seattle Balkan group. None went to a regular weekly Balkan party or to any of the weekly classes and parties run by the international group that does a lot of couple and set dances.

And how do you measure whether a forum like this is successful?

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Yes, let's continue!

Post  Sonia on Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:38 pm

Hi, Denis,

Welcome back and congrats on your new home.

I've missed connecting with people on this forum, and I hope the conversations will continue. I also learn from every post.

Is there something specific that concerns you about your next class? I know you've run classes and added new people before, so I assume you already have a sequence of gradually harder dances, and you ask the veterans to act as mentors for the new folks.

Definitions of success are pretty personal. Sounds like part of your definition includes recruiting committed dancers. My own definition for my group includes: Did people have fun and feel welcome? Did I have fun? Do people come back? Did I learn something? Someone told me recently that it was reassuring to see me miss a step at the head of the line, since it made the group feel more accessible and welcoming for her. Sometimes even messing up is success! Smile

For the forums here, I'd measure success by continuing conversations and new posts, as well as the same questions above for my group. How about you?

Sonia

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Integrating beginners

Post  Jeremy Hull on Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:20 am

Hi Denis,

You asked for feedback on running a class with some novices and some people with one class under their belts. I probably won't say anything you don't already know, but within our IFD club it is the norm that new people come out to our group throughout the year. There tend to be more novices at our annual Open House in September, but people keep bringing out friends and acquaintances throughout the year. Some of the them keep coming although most may just come once or twice and then call it quits. In part it depends on how strong their connection is to an established member of the group (such as spouse, relative or co-worker). What we do is try to teach a range of dances each week that include some beginner dances as well as some more advanced ones, and we teach the same dances for 3 weeks in a row as a rule, and repeat the dances during the evening program so that people get another chance to practice them. We also have a certain amount of teaching on the fly during the evening program if we think the dance is one that novices could try with a bit of help. We try to make it a fun evening and meet newcomers half way - if they are willing to give the dance a try we will try to help them with it, or if it's a harder dance, someone will try to help the novices behind the line. I think the crucial part is getting people to feel comfortable with the group, and then the learning can happen fairly naturally and organically as part of the social setting.

People are all different in the way they approach the idea of dancing and learning the dances. There is one group of 5 or 6 20-somethings who show up as a group periodically, join in most of the dances, have a great time, and add to the energy of the evening. Everyone enjoys this, and no-one seems to mind when we occasionally slow things down to go through a dance. Other people are cautious about joining in, even if they are quick to learn. Other people will jump in without much encouragement, even if they don't know the dance, so we try to give people a preview of how easy or difficult a dance is likely to be.

We tried this past fall to offer an actual beginner class for 45 minutes before our regular program began. We had a bunch of people at first, mainly those invited by members, plus some who had already started coming but were unsure of their skills. After about 6 weeks there were only a few people attending, and they were people who were probably going to come out to our regular dance program anyway. So we ended the beginner class in December with the option to do it again, but only if there was a clear demand for it. We will consider it again next fall. I would also consider running a totally separate class through the community's leisure activities system, but I don't really have time for it and it seems that no one else does either.

So for our group the main thing is to have a welcoming social setting and a sensitivity to any new dancers who may show up. We're probably operating on the model of a village dance party where anyone can and does show up, and the whole activity is set in the context of people being part of a community of some kind. It's not really a village-style community of course, but there are enough social interactions outside of dancing that it goes beyond just showing up for a weekly class or activity. I don't know if it would be possible to make a weekly class into something like a weekly dance party?

Not that this works for everyone. People come and people go, not everyone takes to dancing. We usually have about 60% women, and most of our regulars are over 50. But the regulars enjoy themselves, a few new people become regulars each year and the group keeps growing slowly.

Jeremy Hull

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Why a forum - revisited - rambling reply

Post  Dansingsal on Tue Feb 17, 2009 1:57 pm

This forum is valuable to me for the reason that these (all of you) are the people who, like me, are passionate about folk dancing, teaching, leading, learning, following, sharing, trying new ideas, listening to other ideas. I've been absent from participation for a few months due to an overbooked dance calendar and membership in a few too many boards! But I'm back now and will try to make a more regular appearance.

Theme nights: When I first started dancing in Tulsa, we had Quarterly Birthday Parties and everyone wore ethnic costumes of choice. Then we got a party chairman who instituted theme parties. We had great parties, decorations, and food - Mardi Gras, Dog Days of Summer, Valentines Day, Western, Under the Sea, Green - but never another chance to wear our ethnic costumes. So that's the down-side of theme parties (unless you are doing country themes or ethnicity themes - in which case, not everyone has a costume for every country).

Welcoming newcomers: My husband and I had a bad experience several years ago in visiting a dance club in a city where we were visiting family. It was not IFD, it was Israeli, and we had contacted a person ahead of time, who was very eager to have us come. That person was unable to attend the night we went, and *not one single person* greeted us or spoke to us; our requests (chosen from their list) were not played; we were completely ignored. We stayed for an hour, then left, fuming. However, I came away with a resolve that I personally would at least speak to each and every visitor who ever darkened our doors (even if they came with one of our members, and even if other people from the club were engaging them), and I have tried to do that ever since. So all in all, that's the lesson - speak to every visitor, and preferably at least say "Good evening" to every person in the room, even if that's all you interact.

Hm, I guess that's all my rambles for the moment. Until the next one.
Sally

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