Square Dance Nebraska - Ideas
Ways to Help Your Class
and the New Dancers
Most of all, smiling, being friendly and making the new dancers feel welcome is the best help you can give to your class. Sometimes it's the little things we don't think about that cause new people to feel unwelcomed. If you are walking around frowning because the refreshments aren't right or some other club function is in demand of attention, chances are the new dancers are going to think that it has something to do with them. It's little things like this that are important to keep in mind with the new dancers.
Besides being a good angel in the square, be a good angel after the tip too. If you noticed a particular problem during the tip ask the new dancer how they felt about it after the tip. Sometimes they get the concept but just could master it that tip. Sometimes they are totally confused. Assure them that mistakes are all part of the fun and then offer some help. Don't hesitate to get the instructor to help during breaks. Unless you've been through many classes and know the exact defintion of the call, you could easily "train" the new dancer to think of the call only one way and inhibit their ability to learn the call from another position.
Inclusion but not
At first the new dancers want to remain a bit distant. This is a new world for them and most are more anxious to get to know you before they want you to know them. Give them this space. In time they start to feel more relaxed, they've made a few friends, and they feel like this night really belongs to them. While they aren't ready to have a big responsibility thrust on them, they often start feeling like they'd like to contribute to the nights refreshments, or sit at the door and sell the 50/50 tickets, whatever. Break them in with small jobs and if they refuse your offer to help the first time let them off the hook freely and check back with them in a few weeks to see if they are more receptive. Some people will never feel comfortable with a responsibility and if you pressure them too much they will stop coming to class out of guilt.
Hold off on the Recycle
While we may love our petticoats and dresses able to clear off tables, they can be intimidating. The club should dress like the class members for as long as possible, wearing petticoats only about the last third of the class.
You want them to fall in love with square dancing and have a desire to wear the outfits. The majority of women I speak to in class are either worried about their first outfit as being too funny-looking on them or actually believe that they will never get into "that thing". It's a very small percentage that are anxious for it. Give them time. In the end, even the strong-willed have freely given in. To "force" them to give in only gives them a reason to not come to class one week, and then the next, and then the next.
When you finally do have that Recycle Rack -- throw out those stained and ratty looking outfits! With each item you put out say to yourself, "would I wear that?" By displaying overly worn outfits you are only telling the new dancers that getting into the proper dress and petticoat is more important than looking neat and clean in what you choose to wear.
Does your club have a
Single's Policy or a Youth Policy?
Some clubs will accept singles or kids into the class but then refuse to allow them to join as club members. Some won't even tell their class members until after class is over. This is so detrimental to square dancing that any club that practices this is more interested in their one little club over the best interest of square dancing. There are other ways to deal with this that still gives the club what they want and makes the new dancers feel welcomed into our activity. After all, the people you discourage from square dancing won't be coming to your special dance nights either!
You may not want them as club members but chances are that some other club would like to have them! Make a plan to include these new dancers in our activity even if your club is not willing to allow them as members.
The best option, the one that is in the best interest of the new dancer, is to direct them to the club that will teach them AND accept them after class. Your class members make friends with each other. There is a kinship that is formed by those that learn in the same class and it's that feeling of kinship that encourages new dancers out to their first special dance and their dedication to square dancing.
If the club that would accept them isn't having a class this year then arrange for the other club to send and angel over to make friends. Encourage their club to have a special night where they invite the new dancers and then your club send a few members with the new dancer so that they know someone.
The one thing you should never do is "surprise" the class members with your club policy upon graduation. While your club may have made a small amount of money off of their lessons, it will take a strong personality to take such an insult and then go find another place to dance. Their first reaction will be to stop square dancing altogether and deem us all as rude. Let them know all along the way that even if your club has certain policies regarding membership, other clubs have different policies and they are definitely welcomed in this activity and there are many places they can go where "membership" is not even an issue.