This compilation of posts on welcoming dance club members has been collected by
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Andy Bouman)
Subject: Re: Dance Clubs: Welcoming beginner and new members
Date: 1 Sep 1995 00:14:41 GMT
email@example.com (JFC47) wrote:
>As part of a WCS dance club, we have problems gaining new members and
>making those who come feel welcome. Our club does do some mixers and
>snowballs--I feel not enough. Please club members, all types of dancing,
>please add suggestion to how we can encourage new dancers and make them
>feel welcome. Too often dancers do not want to dance "down" for good
>reasons, yet the beginners can't improve. It's a Catch 22. Any
>suggestion to encourage new dancers---Please respond
> Jacky, Novato
As the membership director of a WCS dance club, gaining and keeping
new members for our club is one of my top priorities. We have several
types of outreach activities. At our dances, we not only have dance
mixers, but we also have volunteers who serve as "designated dancers"
whose job is to look for people who are newcomers or seem shy and
ask them to dance. We also have people who volunteer as "greeters"
to welcome people at the door. Other club members, although they don't
officially volunteer, enjoy dancing with people at all levels of
dance ability and circulate quite widely at our dance events.
Off the dance floor, we make efforts to be welcoming and to let
people know about us. We have a club hotline with information about
the club and upcoming events. We have an information packet (which
includes a complimentary monthly calendar, a welcome letter with
information about the club and the benefits of membership, and a
membership application form) to mail out to anyone who inquires
about the club. We give all members a "Dancers Directory," listing
the city of residence and phone number of all club members (except
those who have asked not to be included). About four times per year,
the club sponsors a welcome dinner for new members who have joined
the club in recent months, giving them an opportunity to meet other
new members, talk to veteran members, and learn more about the club's
history and activities. We try to make information freely available
to all members, not just those who are "in the know," by publishing
a monthly calendar of upcoming events in the Bay Area (not just our
own club events) and a quarterly newsletter highlighting local,
regional, and national dancers and dance events. In fact, many
people (including out-of-towners) join our club just to receive our
calendar and newsletter.
To recruit new members, we have made arrangements with WCS instructors
and studios in the San Francisco Bay Area to distribute flyers announcing
our upcoming club dances, and we encourage instructors to bring their
classes on "field trips" to our dances. We promote interest in WCS in
the community by performing at street fairs and by supporting members
who teach swing dancing to high school kids and persons in a drug
addiction treatment program. There's also old-fashioned word of mouth:
many of our new members are friends or relatives of veteran members.
One of the best ways to recruit new members for your club is to invite
people you know to come to a dance, and be sure to introduce them
to some of your favorite dance partners.
Andy Bouman Membership Director
firstname.lastname@example.org The Next Generation Swing Dance Club
San Francisco Bay Area Club Hotline: (415) 979-4456
From: Gary Maxwell
Subject: Re: Dance Clubs: Welcoming beginner and new members
Date: 1 Sep 1995 16:30:05 GMT
If you've got a big enough dance floor, split the floor and call a
beginner dance on one side and an intermediate/advanced dance on the
Have your dance lessons alternate between beginner dances and the latest
Have your experienced dancers introduce themselves and offer to help
beginners if they are having difficulties with a particular dance. This
goes a long way towards breaking the ice.
(from a neophyte dancer who found instructors and clubs that did the
above and made my wife and I feel welcome.)
From: email@example.com (Edward B. Jay )
Subject: Dancing in L.A. revisited
Date: 10 Nov 1995 21:08:52 GMT
In private email, Debbie Ramsey wrote:
>We are trying a new type of mixer: We are going to start a" Hot Dancer"
>list (A "Hot Dancer" is anyone over a low Inter. level) The dancers who
>want to participate will sign up... and we will give them a
>name tag. We will be giving dance coupons to all of our lower level
>classes. They will give these coupons to the "Hot Dancers" (they're
>recognize by their name tag) and the "Hot Dancer" with the most coupons
>at the end of 4 weeks gets $25.00 cash. A new incentive for a mixer!
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Henry J. Neeman)
Subject: Re: beginning ballroom
Date: Sat, 1 May 1993 20:37:13 GMT
I taught our ballroom club's beginner classes for almost two years, and I
have a very different philosophy about how beginner classes should work.
First, I believe that a beginner class should be a loss leader. It's not
important whether you (1) make any money from it or (2) actually teach anyone
how to dance. What's important is that people have a good time, so that they
come to associate ballroom dancing with happiness. I consider it my job,
whenever I teach a beginner class, to be fun and entertaining, rather than to
get people to learn a lot of complicated patterns.
I suppose I consider the purpose of a beginner class to be the same as passing
out heroin laced chocolate at the schoolyard. Once the kiddies get addicted,
they'll keep coming back for more -- and pay through the nose for it (8-).
Second, it's a hard fact of life that beginners simply don't understand *that*
they have to practice, let alone *why*. Now, in my mind there's three things
you can do about that: (1) force them to practice somehow; (2) let them fall
by the wayside or (3) get them to "practice" in class, by constantly reviewing
the old patterns.
The result of (1) is that the students have no fun. I took three semesters of
ballroom dancing from an instructor who had this philosophy. These classes
were run by the University, so they were graded and appeared on our report
cards, meaning she could coerce us into showing up for practice. But we
weren't all that happy about it, and her retention rate from semester to
semester was awful.
The result of (2) is that you lose people very quickly. You might start off
with a large class, but since you're not reviewing in class and very few of the
students are practicing on their own, they quickly get lost. Once they're
lost, they aren't having any fun any more, so why should they keep coming? So
this is a great way to drive people away.
The result of (3) is, at worst, that some of the more talented and/or dedicated
people get a bit bored. But if the instructor is entertaining, then they don't
get all that bored. And then even the people who either dance badly or don't
bother to practice can keep up.
Again, to me the goal of a beginner class is to get the students hooked on
ballroom dancing. After that, you can start cracking down.
Now, once they're hooked, how do you get them to practice? By bribing them!
We have a weekly practice at the local studio, and last year we couldn't get
people to show up, so no one knew the material being taught in the classes, so
the classes couldn't progress and were very tense. Then, last summer, our
coach suggested that we bribe people by having free short (fifteen minute)
lessons at the beginning of each practice. It worked! We now typically have
between a third and half the club at every practice, where in the past we were
lucky to get a quarter. Initially they come to take the free lessons, but they
soon come for the practice itself -- and the social atmosphere.
So, I think you should give people what they think they want so that you can
slyly slip in what they actually need. (8-)
From: email@example.com (Henry J. Neeman)
Subject: Re: Student Groups - Recruiting?
Date: Sun, 2 May 1993 05:47:50 GMT
firstname.lastname@example.org (Thomas E. Kunselman) says:
>I was just informed last night that the UK Ballroom Dance Society may have
>to break up... all of the students are graduating....
>How do y'all advertise the existence of the group? I was on campus
>about 5 years, before I even knew it existed. I'd like to see
>it get built back up. Any suggestions appreciated!
You don't say whether your local ballroom class(es) are run through (1) the
University, (2) the club or (3) an outside studio. I'll take the cases one
(1) The University runs some of the ballroom class(es).
I'd suggest you go to the last few meetings of the ballroom classes and
ask the instructor whether you can talk to the students.
Explain to the students that there's a ballroom club on
campus but that for it to continue, you need their help, and so on.
If the ballroom class is already over, ask the instructor to contact
likely candidates for you.
(2) The club runs all of the ballroom class(es).
maybe your club has old member or participant lists, from which you
can contact defunct members. Explain the situation to them and ask
for their help.
(3) Some ballroom classes taught by an outside studio.
Talk to the local pro instructor at the studio. He or she may have some
idea of who the local student ballroom dancers are, and may be willing
to help you contact them.
it's a lot easier to sell if you talk with people one on one. If you have
to go to the indirect approach, I'd start with advertising in the campus paper.
Maybe have one of your more experienced members teach a short class over the
summer, and get your students that way.
Or you could just advertise that you want to have such a club and need students
to be involved. The problem with this approach is that, just as nothing
succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure. In other words, if people
know you're desparate for members, that makes it sound like there'll be no one
to dance with anyway, so why should someone join. So it's much better to paint
your group as active and happy, at least long enough to get some students in
and signed up. In otherwords, exaggerate.
start *immediately* planning for the future, because (1) you want the club
to grow and prosper and (2) you don't want to have to go through this crap
again next year.
The most important thing you're going to need is activities. If you have a
small population to start with, then you'll need activities that will dip into
the pool of potential new members. And that pretty much means beginners --
people who've been dancing a long time are already familiar with the club and
have already decided whether participating suits them.
So how do you attract beginners? Well, there are two things beginners want, or
think they want, anyway: social dances, and to learn more dances and more
patterns in the dances they already know. You have to dance a year or more
before you start to realize that leading and following, technique and so on are
important at all, let alone more important than patterns.
Now, if the area offers plenty of good, cheap or free social dances, you're out
of luck there. A small group with little funding has no chance to compete with
a well established professional organization in social dances. But if the
local social dances cost a bit -- i.e., more than a dollar or two for two or
three hours of dancing -- or they play bad music, or too many foxtrots/polkas/
whatever dance you don't like, or they have them rarely (less than weekly),
then you might have a shot there. I could write volumes on how to run social
dances, but we'll leave that for another time.
So, offer cheap or free lessons. Now, if you're dependent on local pros who
don't want you competing with them, under the assumption that that would take
money out of their pockets, you're going to have to proceed carefully. If not,
jump right in with both feet. All you need is a space to hold the classes in,
a campus gym for example, a few good songs of the appropriate type(s), a
boombox to play them with, and someone willing to be the instructor. I'd
suggest you get someone who (1) has at least a year of ballroom experience and
(2) is entertaining. The second one is more important than the first, because
no matter how much someone knows about dancing, if they're boring you'll lose
everyone; whereas, if they're inexperienced but fun, people will hang around
just to have fun, even if they don't learn much.
A good idea is to offer lessons in dances that the local classes don't cover
at all or in much detail. Nightclub classes are good -- hustle, swing,
nightclub two-step -- because they appeal to a wider audience than waltz or
rumba do. I've had a lot of success teaching total beginners these dances, so
you might want to give it a try. The nice thing about them is that they're
danced to music that's on the radio right now, so your students can identify
with them more readily than with, say, the "Pennsylvania Polka" or the
You might also want to look into finding space to hold dance practices in.
You can get people to come by offering them free short lessons, say fifteen
minutes at the beginning of each practice session, in various dances. They'll
come for the lessons, but once they're there, they'll stay if there are enough
Anyway, I've gone on for a good while here, so let me just close by saying that
all of this is doable, it just takes a bit of creativity and a *lot* of hard
work. But if you're dedicated, you can probably make it happen. Keep us
posted on how things are going!
From: email@example.com (Henry J. Neeman)
Subject: Re: Starting a college ballroom club
Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1993 17:22:50 GMT
>I am assisting a friend in starting a ballroom dance club at a private
>university. I would like to ask for any advice that ballroom dance club
>participants / officers can give in order to make a successful organization.
>1. Have group outings to various local studios.
Absolutely. And "local" can range as much as four hours, depending on how much
ballroom activity there is in your area. Field trips are a lot of fun and
a great way for new people to get to know the group, especially if you all
travel in one or a few buses/vans/cars.
>2. Hold special on-campus seminars / classes that local studio instructors
> can teach.
Remember, the first thing you have to do is get people hooked on dancing.
The best way to do that is to sell it to them in a way that makes it look
like something they can use. Nightclub (two-step, swing, west coast swing,
hustle) and Latin (particularly mambo and merengue) are two kinds of
dancing that people can be convinced to buy; it's a lot harder to sell
waltz in a short seminar.
There are exactly two important concepts in attracting new (non-dancing)
recruits to your recruiting seminars:
(1) Advertise. In every venue you can find. Use the campus paper, local
coupon rags, flyers all over campus (especially the dorms, gyms and
union/student center), as well as the local Internet newsgroups. Try
to stretch your advertising budget by going to places that give
student groups discounts; you may even be able to get some advertising
for free. (Local papers often have a weekend "what's happening"
column where you can advertise for free.) Typically, there'll be
other social dance groups on campus (folk, contra, Latin) who you can
talk to for advice about this.
(2) Make the class fun. All people remember at the end of the day is
whether they walked out smiling. It doesn't matter whether they
learned the steps, or even learned them wrong; it only matters that
they had a good time. Once they come to associate dancing with fun,
they'll keep coming back. So make sure your instructor is
entertaining and knows how to keep the class moving. It doesn't even
have to be a pro; if you're low on cash, an experienced club member
can teach beginners perfectly well.
>3. Open up the participation to not only the students of the university, but
> also the faculty and staff, as well as faculty of other schools and the
> general public.
I agree, but with some cautions: first, not every school can open its clubs to
the community. Our club, the Dancing Illini, is required by University rules
to limit its members to students, faculty, staff and their spouses. On the
other hand, MIT's club is open to the entire Boston community. Second, make
sure you know who you want the club to emphasize, because generally students
have different needs from non-students. MIT has struggled with this problem,
because the students are transient, while the non-students are permanent, so
it would be easy for the non-students to take over the club.
>4. Hold dances once a month and a big semi-formal special event at the end of
> the semester/quarter and/or for Christmas.
You can do this, but it's a *tremendous* amount of work. Not to mention it can
be very expensive. You may want to start on a smaller scale, with a few tea
dances or something.
>5. Develop a database of members.
And keep in touch with them. A monthly newsletter, listing upcoming events,
is very helpful.
>6. Compete or make arrangements for activities with other local university
> ballroom dance clubs.
Cooperation is generally more profitable than competition. Especially if you
want to start a new club when another exists; most established clubs have the
power to crush upstarts.
Some other points:
7. Run regular classes, increasing the number of levels as the club expands.
We currently run four classes a semester, from beginner to advanced, and it
takes three years to complete the entire cycle of material. (By that time,
most people graduate anyway.)
8. Have regular practice sessions. Of course, having practices doesn't help
if no one comes, and few people -- especially beginners -- understand that they
need to practice. So bribe them to come. For example, you can give free mini-
lessons at the beginning of each practice, or serve refreshments, or something.
9. Find a place, or places, for regular (i.e., no less than weekly) social
dancing. Some clubs -- for example, U Wisconsin, Madison -- do it themselves,
while others (like ours) have a local ballroom with a weekly social dance.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Waldemar Horwat)
Subject: Running a ballroom club
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1993 20:48:59 GMT
I've been president of the MIT Ballroom Dance Club for 18 months; I retired a
couple of months ago. I have the following observations on running a ballroom
The most important activity is recruiting new members. Ideas:
Frequently advertise on the college campus bulletin boards.
Take advantage of the school's activities midway (a place for freshmen to
browse through the school's extracurricular offerings)
Dance in conspicuous places; offer to do a demo if some other
organization is holding a ball (if you can't do it yourself, invite dancers
Get the local media interested in what you're doing (not that hard to do
if you happen to have good dancers; as an alternative, you can invite good
dancers to do a demonstration). Once you get one story, others may come
and seek you out. We recently got featured in a number of local papers and
on Chronicle (a local television newsmagazine) this way.
Many people are shy and think that they won't be good dancers. It's best
if you can offer a friendly atmosphere without commitment to beginners. We
let anyone take our classes. By becoming a member, one gets discounts on
our activities, but membership is not required for our activities.
The second most important activity is recruiting new officers. This is
quite different in a new club than in an established 20-year old club with
300 current members. When starting out, everyone will know everyone else;
try to involve every member in some, possibly very minor, part of running
the club. Also, make sure that responsibilities are designated clearly;
otherwise, some necessary things likely will not get done.
Operating a large club tends to be more formalized (but only as much as
necessary)--various officers have clearly defined roles. An important
challenge is to preserve the club's insitutional memory while at the same
time constantly trying new things.
In a large club, you'll get a series of "inner circles". Our tightest
one is the set of the 11 current officers of the club, followed by the
inner social circle (50-100), members (300), and people who just
occasionally show up (???). We constantly have to make sure that the club
doesn't get too stratified. We have several outgoing regulars who invite
others to join the social circle, and we encourage our advanced dancers and
amateur teachers to seek out beginners and ask them to dance from time to
A great way to encourage opportunities to outsiders to join the social
circle if they wish to is to organize regular outings. Our club sponsors
outings to local studios and ballrooms once every 1-6 weeks (the studios
and ballrooms love the attention, too!). Furthermore, during the semesters
we usually get an informal group of members who go out to dinner after our
workshops and gossip on just about anything. We've also done things like
go to an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet at a fancy Boston hotel.
Our club holds regular workshops on Sunday afternoons 1-5:30PM when
school is in session. There is a beginner workshop 1-2PM, intermediate
2-3:30PM, free general dancing 3:30-4:30PM, and an advanced workshop taught
by a professional 4:30-5:30PM (many professionals are eager to teach at a
club because of the exposure and free publicity they get. Several of the
ones in the Boston area get a steady stream of new students from our club;
it helps that our club is open to outsiders). The workshops are staggered
so that if a beginner workshop is in waltz, next week's intermediate
workshop will be in waltz, etc. We also offer continuing group classes on
Our club is a social dance club and has a competitive and formation dance
team as a subsidiary. The team is financially self-supporting and hires
its own coach for its lessons. The team recruits members from the club.
Most administration for the two is separate, although they are branches of
the same club.
We occasionally hold large workshops with out-of-town professionals as
fundraisers for the team. These are fun to organize (and profitable) but
take an immense effort for advertising, processing registrations,
logistics, etc. Don't try one unless you feel brave and have several very
We hold parties twice a semester, including a semiformal with a live
band. These are also fun and help keep the club together; however,
organizing these takes a bit of an effort. A live band (that actually
knows how to play ballroom dance music correctly) is a major expense, and
you are likely to lose money on it. Most of our dancers don't mind
Of course, we have a database of members for our newsletter and other
mailings. Anyone can be a member of our club, but some officer positions
are restricted to current MIT/Wellesley students. We don't advertize to
the Boston community at large, but almost all serious dancers in the area
have heard of us through other means. Students tend to have less time than
others, and most of them graduate after a few years. Nevertheless, some of
our longest-standing current members are former MIT students and staff who
have stayed in the area and keep on coming to the club; this provides a lot
As the club progresses through the years, you'll likely find that you can
get increasing moral support and help from alumni. Many of our former
members became professionals, and some, such as Dan Radler, frequently
teach at our club. (Incidentally, it can be fun to go over the club's old
membership files and figure out which famous dancers were once members;
this has yielded some surprises for us already. Make sure you save your
Our club interacts with other college clubs and other organizations in
the area. Other colleges are a great source of opponents for competitions
as well as experienced dancers, mentors, and amateur teachers. There is a
local student-run league in New England that offers plenty of opportunities
to compete and travel to each others' colleges for extremely reasonable
rates ($10 for an all-day competition, etc.); the number of competitions we
can enter is limited only by the time we have and the distance we're
willing to travel. USABDA and MASSABDA also help.
From: email@example.com (R. Gray)
Subject: Organizing dances: food for thought
Date: 7 Mar 1996 16:06:21 GMT
The following material is from a handout I picked up at a discussion for
dance organizers at the recent Dance Flurry. I offer it up for general
discussion, or simply for individual introspection. (Note that some of
the references within relate specifically to the contradance/traditional
I resisted my impulse to copyedit the text!
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
Creating a sense of community:
Making dances "special"
Experienced dancers workshops
Why do people come?
How do you deal with the gender ratio?
How do you deal with the age mix?
Other folks (e.g. students, seniors, gays, other cultures, races)
Events before and after dance, e.g. potlucks
Your dance or theirs?:
Handling problem behaviors (e.g. violent swinging, excess twirling, sweaty
tee shirts, boozer, etc.)
Communicating with the caller/musicians ahead
Making strategic decisions:
Vision and mission for your dance
Big dance=better dance?
Small crowds and small budgets
Right-sizing your dance
Bring back the ceilidh (variety)
Dance format varied weekly/seasonally
Dances with other formats
Modern complex aerobic dances vs. old chestnuts
Local callers and musicians vs. experts from afar
Recruiting and appropriate uses and treatment of volunteers
Publicizing your dance:
How do you reach all of those would-be dancers?
(e.g. flyers, posters, newspaper, e-mail, other)
Must we be lily-white?
Will publicity hold your present dancers?
WHY WE HOLD DANCES
We the Dance Organizers of the Capital Region believe that:
* Our dance is a community where people of all races, ages and persuasions
trust, respect, and support one another like we wish would happen
throughout life. Dancers welcome newcomers and accommodate each person's
special needs and abilities. When others goof up, they offer
encouragement, not criticism, remembering that we all slip up frequently.
* Our dance is a respectful place where women and men feel comfortable
coming, and leaving, alone, as a couple, or in a group. It does not serve
as a lair for swinging singles.
* Our dance is a group experience where each person provides support,
spirit, and energy, and where each person enjoys pleasing others as much
as deriving pleasure from them.
* Our dance is a traditional art form which thrives when it is shared and
others join in. Recognizing that precursors of this dance trace back for
hundreds of years, dancers enjoy perfecting their skill and finesse in the
dance form. Dancers value grace, good timing, mastery of steps and
formations while accommodating other's individual styles and expression.
No matter which of the countless dance forms, dance satisfies the soul as
much as the body. We dance to achieve that.
* Our dance is a place for enthusiasm and appreciation. Hugs, applause,
and compliments are always in order
* Our dance is a safe place. If a dancer behaves contrary to the intent
of these general concepts, we accept our responsibility to intercede and
to take appropriate measures. Further, our dance is drug-, alcohol-, and
* Our dance is a collaborative affair. Dancers, musicians, caller, and
organizers are all essential. You can't have a dance without each giving
We welcome all who share our view of dancing.
From: Lori Wong
Subject: Re: C. W. Welcoming beginners
Date: Mon Sep 23 20:59:44 CDT 1996
Guy Potucek wrote:
> Andy said:
> > You are correct that the best way to get beginners hooked on dancing is
> > for more experienced dancers to notice those beginners and ask them to
> > dance. People are more likely to come back for more if they have a good
> > time and don't spent a whole event watching and feeling left out. I've
> > never forgotten the dancers who asked me to dance when I was a beginner,
> > and I always try to practice hospitality myself now by seeking out some
> > However, I'm not a competitor or instructor, and I think it might be
> > unrealistic to expect the top competitors to do much social dancing
> > with beginners. Everyone wants to dance with them, so even intermediate
I, too, agree! Andy has put this most eloquently!!!
> The club had designated 'angels' who identified themselves with a ribbon
> that would dance with partnerless people. From what I remember, the
> volunteers rotated. This may be an idea for not only dance festivals but
> also c/w or swing clubs. (am I allowed to mention swing clubs here :)
This also reminds me of an experience that has had an impact on me:
When I joined The Next Generation Swing Dance Club (of which Andy Bouman
is now president, but at that time, he was the membership director),
I was treated to a rare thing. The club has a welcome dinner for its
new members where new members can meet other new members as well as the
officers of the club. A little bit of club history is given, and
introductions of officers and new members are made. It made me feel
very welcome, helped me to know that I was not the only new face, and
also gave me an understanding of what TNGSDC is about. After dinner,
the group proceeded to a swing dance, where now, somewhat familiar
faces made the dance a little less intimidating. (I even got a dance
with Andy!!!) I have never belonged to another club that has done that.
I belong to c/w & swing clubs, but this club really knows how to develop
a supportive environment for its new people!!!
-- Lori Wong