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The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)

Attracting and Retaining New Folk Dancers
By Mindy Belli, 2018

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BACKGROUND

Information: Based on lessons learned and shared by Loui Tucker and Jan & Marc Rayman.

Perhaps because beginners are now so out-numbered by experienced dancers, we have discovered that when someone bravely shows up to try folk dancing at a folk dance group, they will feel more comfortable and be more likely to return if the teaching and program are modified to accommodate them. Those modifications can be frustrating to the typical music programmer (and teacher), and boring for more experienced dancers.

This problem is even worse in a large group or one constrained by rules and traditions, because flexibility is more difficult. In addition to those problems, beginners are likely feel intimidated if surrounded by advanced dancers, even if those dancers try to help them. But there are solutions.

For many newbies, an hour or an evening dedicated to beginners is more likely to keep 'em coming. It is also likely to frustrate more experienced dancers or frustrate the programmers and teachers. Below, you'll find tips for attracting newbies (to support a special hour or evening), based partly on the new media available today.

Whether you dedicate a special time to newbies, or simply want to better accommodate them in your current group, you might benefit from the following tips. They are a blend of the advice given by Loui Tucker at Stockton Folk Dance Camp and given by Jan Rayman to describe what she and Marc learned from their group for beginners, the Foothill International Folk Dancers in La Cañada, California.


TIPS FOR TEACHING BEGINNERS


PROGRAMMING FOR BEGINNERS


PUBLICIZING A DANCE GROUP


Thanks to Loui Tucker for the advice she gave in a lecture at the Stockton Folk Dance Camp. Additional thanks to Marc & Jan Rayman and for beginning a new group specifically to teach beginners how to dance AND to teach themselves how to attract and retain beginners; the Foothill Folk Dancers in La Cañada, California. Finally, thank you to Jan Rayman for honestly reporting in detail what worked – and what didn't.
–Mindi Belli


DOCUMENTS


Used with permission of the author.
Printed in Folk Dance Scene, March 2018 under the title "Ideas for Attracting and Retaining New Folk Dancers."


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