Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Introductory Workshop

I put a lot of work and thought into my Introductory Workshop.  I realized that when I called a ONS (one-night-stand, like for a wedding or other venue where there are few or no experienced dancers), I wanted to get folks dancing as quickly as possible.  I didn't want them stand and listen to me teach for very long before they started moving to the music.  I have an easy dance called "Glowworm Mixer" that I can teach to non-dancers in less than 30 seconds.  People reluctant to dance see it and think, "Hey I can do that!" and they can join in at any point after the dance has already begun.  

I wanted my Introductory Workshop at a regular contra dance to be just as welcoming and encouraging.  I base my workshop on the work of George Marshall.  He is so good with beginners and I wanted to know what he considered the "bare essentials" that the dancers need to know before we could actually line up for a contra dance.

I have attended many Introductory Workshops where all the basic moves are taught and then the newbies are thrust into the first dance without ever having moved to the music at all.  In my experience, they won't remember 10% of what happened in the workshop when the music is playing and the caller is saying "Blah blah blah" and dancers are all reaching out to try to point them in the right direction. 

I am so grateful to have a large group of "Dance Angels" in my home community in Gainesville so it's always great to teach there where there are so many experienced dancers willing and even eager to help new dancers learn.  Even in other communities, I always ask for the experienced dancers to partner with a newcomer and we don't start the workshop until every newbie has an experienced dancer partner.  If there are not enough experienced dancers, I treat it like a ONS dance until there are.  I know that while we callers *think* we're teaching the newcomers, it's really the experienced dancers that they learn from mostly.  My job is to let them know that they can do it and that they'll have fun.

I teach new dancers to listen for the 8-beat phrase of the music, having them clap on beat one as the band plays a tune.  I teach them to give weight and we circle in 8-beat phrases. I teach them to swing, including the buzz step.  Then I line them up, teach the directions, identify neighbors/partner, progression and what to do when you are out at the end of the line and we dance "Broken Sixpence," a dance where every move is exactly 8 beats.

When the "real" dance begins, each dance will teach a new move until by the end of the first half, the newcomers will have experienced most of the basic moves and had a great time doing it. The experienced dancers have done what they do best - guide the newcomers to have a blast and enjoy the dance.

Glowworm Mixer - a traditional circle mixer.  It is only 16 beats so the dance repeats four times during a 64 beat contra dance tune.

(4) With your partner, promenade in ccw direction 4 steps.
(4) Face your partner and back away 4 steps
(4) Face the person to the left of your partner and walk towards that person 4 steps
(4) Allemande left with this person and end in promenade position ready to start the dance again.

Broken Sixpence - Don Armstong
Improper Duple
A1 - (8) Neighbor Do-si-do, (8) Men Do-si-do
A2 - (8) Women Do-si-do, (8) 1s Swing in the center of the set
B1 - (8) 1s between the 2s go down the hall in a line of four, (8) Turn alone and come back up.
B2 - (8) Bend the line to a Circle and Circle L, (8) Star left. 1s look down and 2s look up to see a new neighbor ready to start the dance again.

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