Pittsburgh Area Callers and Cuers Association

Gold Rush Square Dance Productions 2015

Save Your Club With

Sustainable Square Dancing!

Year after year MWSD continues in a downward spiral toward its inevitable demise, while callers remain silent and dancers remain uninformed about how to save it. This is our last attempt to get the word out before it’s too late in the hope of salvaging what is left of the existing dance community. To put this into a perspective that can be easily understood, we will look at the current structure of our clubs and why that structure continues to fail.

How many of you were introduced to square dancing by attending a fun night and taking lessons at an Advanced or Challenge club? The answer, of course, is none. This is because Advanced and Challenge clubs do not offer entry level fun nights for new dancers. So why do Plus clubs? Are you thinking, if we combine the two programs into one and don’t tell the new dancers, that no one will notice?

Callerlab states clearly that the two programs are separate and should not be combined into one for a very good reason. The reason is that only 25 to 30 percent of new dancers will want to pursue Plus level dancing. This does not mean that we can trick, fool, force, intimidate, or bully the other 70 to 75 percent of new dancers into dancing Plus. The end result is still the same, 70 to 75 percent of new dancers choose not to dance Plus and simply leave the activity when clubs offer only Plus dancing. If you don’t believe this, do your own research and prove Callerlab wrong.

If you are a Plus level club, and you are taking new dancers on a regular basis, and graduating them at Plus, you are part of the problem, and your club will die. If you want to save this activity and preserve the integrity of the Callerlab programs, then you need to follow the Callerlab recommendation and graduate your dancers at the Mainstream level, not Plus. You need to offer your dancers the option of Mainstream dancing or send them somewhere that does.

If after graduating your new class, another club stepped in and said that 75% of your new graduates would be joining their Mainstream club, you would not be very happy. You would have no problem, however, with them  leaving the activity altogether after only a short time, as long as they did not go somewhere else.

How can we fix it?

Stop kidding yourselves. What you are dancing is not Plus. It is soft Plus, Plain Vanilla Plus, or Standard Application Plus, as it is referred to by the Callers who call your clubs. Go back to Mainstream and learn how to dance it. Talk to your club officers and tell them to bring back Mainstream dancing by offering alternating Mainstream/Plus tips if necessary.  

Require callers to call the Mainstream tips using the extended application doctrine currently under development at Calllerlab. Start graduating your dancers at Mainstream again, and then introduce the extended applications before moving them on to Plus. If and when they wish to move on, provide them with workshops and blast classes to get them there.  If necessary, require callers to call more tips with shorter breaks to facilitate both sets of dancers and encourage your dancers to dance the Mainstream tips so they will become familiar with the extended applications of the program. Graduate them at standard application Mainstream in 12 weeks and start another class to provide more start windows for new dancers.. Have the Mainstream graduates angel for the new class. These are the first steps toward saving your club.

What is around the corner if we don’t?

Expect more clubs popping up in your area with younger dancers and stronger floors focused on Mainstream dancing. While this may be a good thing for square dancing, remember, that it may not be such a good thing for you or your club.

While these new dancers will certainly be able to dance your Standard Application Mainstream program, it is unlikely that you and your club will be able to dance at the level of extended application they will be accustomed to. The 25 to 30 percent of these new dancers who will ultimately start new Plus clubs in your area will expect a level of proficiency far beyond the current Plain Vanilla Plus currently being danced. The result is that you will have a weak floor and not be able to dance with the new dancers, or at the new clubs.

Is it too late?

If you change now, you can prevent this from happening to your club by being part of the solution. If you get on board with the current direction of Callerlab and sustainable square dancing, you can still save what’s left of your club.

Contact the Callers in your area involved with Sustainable Square Dance (SSD) programs, such as the Modern Pattern Dance or the Club 50 program and find one that’s right for you. Ask them to provide your Caller and Club with the material necessary to implement and sustain the program, and begin the process of rebuilding your dance base.

If you choose to take no action, that is fine too. Callerlab’s direction is clear, the bottom line is that change is coming now, with or without your clubs involvement. For square dancing to survive, it must adopt a sustainable solution.

Scott Brown