September 2010

Happy New Year! Welcome to the 2010-2011 dance season!

Before I begin, let me introduce myself. I am Susan Morris, the new Square Dance Editor for Footnotes. My husband, Larry, and I live and dance in the Greater Seattle area, specifically, on the Eastside. I have often told new acquaintances that we dance from Vancouver (WA) to Vancouver (BC). You can most often find us at a dance in Mt. Baker Council. Though we do show up other places from time to time.

I began calling in 1997, studying with Bill Metz, locally, and attending Cascade Callers School with Daryl Clendenin and Jerry Junck in 1998. I have attended two other Callers Schools. I attend the annual Callerlab Convention as often as I can. Currently, I teach for the Happy Hoppers (Marysville) and Samena Squares (Kirkland).

I've always thought that September was a better time for a new year to begin than January. After all there are lots of beginnings in go back to school...a new season, Fall, begins...there are new shows on TV. And in Square Dance Land we start a new dance season.

Many clubs take the summer off from hosting club dances. Dancers have the opportunity to dance at festivals and special weekends around the state and to different callers at Circle 8. September means that our club dances begin again. Since this is the start of the dance season let's take a few minutes to review a couple of things that occasionally we forget about. Or we take for granted that they are happening.

Are guests and club members greeted at your club's dances? Is there a designated couple to greet guests as they arrive? Do you take turns doing this? Does the Club Treasurer greet guests while taking their donation and helping them get signed in?
Some clubs take greeting their guests very seriously. There are always one or two friendly faces and a welcoming hug to greet you as you arrive. Unfortunately in some clubs this is not happening. We have all seen or experienced the Greeter or Club Treasurer, who continues the conversation they are in the middle of while automatically taking our money and handing us a pen to sign in with. A hand comes out for the money and there is little to no personal contact. Does anybody know you are there? If this happens to you are you likely to come back to this club, soon or often?

We also need to make every effort to say good-bye to these same guests. This gets a bit trickier because everyone else may be dancing. It would be nice if everyone stayed until the end of the dance and we could have one big group thank you and good-bye. Then one or two couples from the hosting club could be by the door to give more personal good-byes as guests leave and the rest of the club cleans up. I think it is a fact of life that there will always be staggered arrivals and leavings. The point is to make every effort to greet your guests warmly and then thank them at the end of the evening as you say good-bye.

Now I've talked about the beginning and end of the dance but what about the middle. You (that is all of you) need to be talking to these same guests in between squares and rounds. They are like guests in your home. You wouldn't invite 24 people to dinner and not talk to them. Maybe you aren't comfortable talking to people you don't know. Well, the truth is they might not be comfortable either. Good conversation starters if you don't know someone are the weather, the traffic getting to the dance, or any sports team that is playing that month. Or you can always talk about the Caller - “Can you believe our caller,
fill in the blank, finally got a new patter record. I liked it. Did you?”

We've been talking about paying attention to how our clubs welcome and take care of our guests at dances. I would like to make a suggestion that we also keep the kitchen open until the end of the dance. It helps our guests feel more like we want them there and want to make them comfortable and not so much that we are anxious to have them leave.

The start of our square dance season also sees the start of lessons. We need to be as welcoming to them as we are our guests at dances. Make plans now to include them in your clubs activities this fall. Set a good example, jump up when the music starts and invite them to join you in a square.

I want to mention just one more thing this month. Several dancers have asked me how to get people to be more gentle with handholds. I suggested that they talk to their caller so that he/she could mention it at the start of a dance or at lessons. I decided to mention it here so that everyone can be aware. There are several members of our dance community who have arthritis in their hands so it can be quite painful to dance with someone who squeezes tight or holds on too long. Actually it can hurt even if you don't have arthritis. One result of tight grips or holding on too long is that someone could get hurt. It could even be you. Another result could be that even though you are a really nice person and you did remember to use your deodorant, no one will square up with you or your square is always the last one filled. If you are not sure of the correct handhold, ask your caller. They will be glad to help you figure it out. If there is someone in your club who holds on too tight and doesn't know their own strength, talk to them. Or ask your caller to talk to them. No one means to be hurtful. They might just not know their own strength and that they are hurting other people.

A quotable quote for this month...

“Do more than belong: participate.
Do more than care: help.
Do more than believe: practice.
Do more than be fair: be kind.
Do more than forgive: forget.
Do more than dream: work.”
—William Arthur Ward

And don't forget to DANCE! Make it a great start to your club's 2010- 2011 dance season!

Until next time...

Happy dancing,