October 2010

Happy October!

In less than two years, the Washington State Square and Folk Dance Federation will host the 61st National Square Dance Convention in Spokane. During the summer at Circle 8, the question was posed to a small group of callers: “What can or should we be doing today to make sure that our clubs are active and viable after the National Convention is over?” The suggestion was made that the callers take this question back to their callers associations then on to their clubs to generate some ideas. Some callers associations are more active than others. Many clubs in Washington do not have club callers so may not get the question asked of them. I am taking this opportunity to offer the question up for general discussion.

Many dancers throughout the state are quite excited that the State Federation is hosting this National Convention. Many have already volunteered for major committee responsibilities. Before the week of the convention, many more will need to volunteer to make it a successful convention. I have no doubt that the square dancers of Washington State will step up to share in the work to make it a successful convention. The question at hand is what happens afterwards, after the convention is over and we have all gone to Disneyland.

This is a concern because long time callers and dancers have seen clubs in other areas of the country fold as fallout from hosting a National Convention. There are stories of areas that supported 20 clubs and in the six months after hosting a National Convention 10 to 12 of those clubs had folded. To me that is an alarming number in a short amount of time. Losing even one club would be too many in some areas of our state.

Now, years after the fact, we don’t know the real reason why these clubs folded. We can only speculate. Was it because everyone went on vacation after the National Convention and forgot to come back to square dancing? After working on a National Convention committee for 3 or 4 years did the dancers tire of the politics and find something else to do? Did they work on a National Convention committee that was micro-managed and quit in frustration? Were the clubs not as strong as everyone one thought? Did a club decide not to have new dancer classes the year before and the year after the National Convention? I’m sure the reasons were numerous and we will never know them all.

Today, we need to pay attention to square dancing in our own state—our clubs, our dancers, our callers and our cuers. We need to be proactive to prevent dancer and club loss. We have already begun to see some impact from the 2012 National Convention at the local club and council level.
Beginning with the 2009 election cycle for officers for the 2009-2010 dance season, some dancers declined to hold club and council positions because of their responsibilities for the 2012 National Convention. When asked, they were quite frank that they were not interested in holding an office until after the National Convention is over, which means the 2013-2014 dance season.

One benefit of this might be that it gives those dancers who would normally be reluctant to volunteer for office the opportunity to say yes. It might develop new leaders in our square dance world. Many clubs and councils were already struggling to find willing volunteers to hold offices and be club leaders.

The challenge is to prevent any loss of dancers or clubs after the National Convention is over. We will naturally have some attrition as dancers age or develop health issues. What we don’t want to happen is to lose dancers or whole clubs because they were worn out from their committee work. Or they grew weary of club politics.

Be proactive! Start the discussion now! What do you need to do for yourself to balance work life, home life, and square dancing and square dance commitments? What does your club/council need to do to keep the social support and friendships in place and growing while doing extra work on National Convention Committees? What does your club/council need to do to support and encourage new dancers to keep dancing without being overwhelmed by club, council or bigger commitments?

Let me know what ideas you and your club come up with and I will share them in a future column in Footnotes. My email address is below.

The quote for this month...

"Either we are going to die together, or we are going to learn to live together. And if we are going to live together, we have to talk."
--Eleanor Roosevelt

Happy dancing,
Susan and Larry