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Promenader Editor‘s Message — Summer, 2017

Welcome to the Promenader for summer, 2017. This is traditionally one of our “bigger” issues, since it contains articles and photos of numerous things that happen in the spring.

In this issue:

One highlight of every spring is Rochester‘s annual dance festival, Dance-O-Rama, and we have photos and features to prove it. We cover the dancing, the basket raffle, the awards, and most important of all, the graduates.

Other events of interest are also covered in this issue, including two milestones at the Cloverleaf Squares: Prom Night and Class Graduation. The Shamrock Squares celebrate the 90th birthday of Shirley Dickerson. Doing their part to help alleviate the growing caller shortage, the Village Squares introduced five new voices at their Amateur Caller Night. The Copy Cats mark Troopon Donations of nearly $123,000.

In this issue we also mark the changing of the guard, with new officers at the Rochester Area Federation of Western Round and Square Dance Clubs (RAF), announce availability of assistance (from Leon Smith) in posting club schedules on the international website “Where‘s the Dance,” and we repeat a valuable column on how to be a Good Angel.

In the Club News section you will find specific news and announcements from each club in the Rochester area.

Be sure to check you club‘s listings (click the blue “OUR CLUBS” button on the RAF Home Page) and let us know if we‘ve missed anything! We try to keep up with changes in officers, but we don’t always receive notification.

In Memoriam: In this issue we remember John Benesch, Debbie Bennett, Gerry Thompson, Randy Muecki and Twila Leach.

Rochester Area Federation:

Before handing off to Jim Gotta, Warren Olson‘s final comments as president of the RAF can be found by clicking the “President‘s Corner” button on the Federation page. An article introducing the new slate of RAF Officers is found in “Photos and Features”.

Editorial Comments: Challenges in New Dancer Development

Last summer and fall we made a big push to welcome graduates into a wide range of dances and other dance-related social events, in hopes of increasing the chances that they would stay on the path to becoming “dancers.” In three clubs that I know best (Copy Cats, Cloverleafs and Belles ’N’ Beaus), the retention rate has been at least 25 out of 45 — i.e. almost 56 percent. And that‘s a conservative figure because I‘m only counting people I know for sure are still dancing. That‘s a lot better than the estimated 20% that has been considered the norm, so kudos to clubs whose extra efforts paid off. (This year, the number of graduates is down, so the importance of retention is even higher.)

That‘s step one, and we need to continue those efforts with 2017 graduates. But equally important is step two: helping graduates become dancers. As we all know from our own experience, that takes a lot longer than any of us envisioned when we started. Remember those first few years, feeling like we were dragging down one square after another and we were afraid to dance at unfamiliar clubs?

This is where experienced dancers make a huge difference. Dancing is a social activity, and feelings of uncertainty about dancing translate all too easily into feelings of rejection. So, it takes an extra special amount of encouragement on the part of experienced dancers to put new dancers at ease. They need to be able to focus on learning without equating it with social pressures that get in the way. (And, by the way, this happens at every level. It is not just new graduates. We are all learning, and there are always better dancers in our square.)

From what I‘ve seen over that past year, clubs have done amazingly well at welcoming new dancers and fostering a comfort level that promotes learning and retention. Part of this has been from personal welcoming attitudes of experienced dancers, and part of it has come from adjustments to the dance program — such as by reducing the number of unfamiliar or unusual calls.

But I am coming around to see both of these as mixed blessings. Here‘s why.

Let‘s start with the dance program. One way to adjust the program toward new dancers at a “Plus Club” is to take out the more challenging calls or position variants and stick with what most plus dancers are familiar with.

The positive side of that approach is that it reduces breakdowns and keeps more people dancing more of the time. But on the negative side, it risks leading strong dancers to think about where else they can go to find lively dancing at their own level.

So, to keep experienced dancers engaged we need to be careful how we adjust the program. One way to do this is to make a clear division, either tip-by-tip or by dividing the evening into segments, to separate “learning” from “dancing.”

During a learning tip (or time period) experienced dancers will (to the best of their varying abilities) pay attention to learners in their square and help to minimize breakdowns and/or speed up recoveries.

But during at least some of the “dancing” tips it‘s reasonable for experienced dancers to want to square up together to dance at a level that requires all their attention to be focused on their own dancing, and to be in a square that‘s not so likely to break down — or at least one that recovers quickly when things get out of whack. (See the article on breakdowns elsewhere in this issue.)

In the “good old days” this was accomplished by “cliques” or pre-arranged squares that excluded less experienced dancers. This form of segregation caused feelings of social rejection and led many potential dancers to drop out or look for a more welcoming club — which gets us to the personal aspects I mentioned earlier.

There‘s another way to look at the “segregation” problem. Most new dancers recognize that part of their comfort level is the result of more experienced dancers paying attention to them — reaching for the correct hand, or gently steering them in the right direction by a light touch or sometimes just a word at the right moment.

It takes effort for experienced dancers to help them through a tip. In designated “Full Plus” tips or time periods, new dancers can express their appreciation for this by holding back for a tip or two — or perhaps only a square or two — in designated “Full Plus” tips or time periods, to allow experienced dancers to square up together.

A criticism of this approach is that it might deprive learners of the chance to dance in more challenging tips that would help them progress. How are they supposed to learn if they are excluded from the “hot hash” or the “real Plus” tips?

Maybe the answer to that is for learners to square up anyhow, but in their own square — perhaps including willing volunteers with more experience. It’s always a good feeling to get through a “Full Plus” tip without a serious breakdown! And there are many experienced dancers who will gladly square up with dancers of any ability in a Full Plus or a Hot Hash tip. It’s all dancing, and the more we all dance the more comfortable we all get.

As usual, these are just my thoughts.

If you have other ideas on how to keep everyone happy as new dancers develop their skills, I hope you will share them with your club leaders.

Peter Emmel, Editor

Quarterly Chuckle: Limits Of Authority

A rancher was minding his own business when an FBI agent came up up to him and said, “We got a tip that you may be growing illegal drugs on the premises. Do you mind if I take a look around?”

The old rancher replied, pointing to one of his fields, “That‘s fine, but you shouldn‘t go over there.”

The FBI agent snapped at him, “I‘m am a federal agent! I can go wherever I want!” With that he pulled out his badge and shoved it into the ranchers face.

The rancher shrugged this off and continued with his daily chores. About 15 minutes later he heard a loud scream from the field he had pointed out earlier. The FBI agent was sprinting towards him with a large bull on his heels.

The rancher rushed to the fence and yelled, “Your badge! Show your badge to the bull!”