Square Dance - Ideas
Abandoning Graduation Ceremonies?
Most likely you had a graduation ceremony. It may
have been the serious Candlelight Ceremony or it may have been a
fun night of sorts. Either way, chances are you received a
diploma and/or a big deal was made over the fact that class was
There are a number of reasons to consider abandoning official graduations and the simplest reason is that the plain fact is that they are not done learning. Really learning to square dance doesn't come by simply going through class. The real education comes with dancing to many callers and with many different dancers. To graduate them, to imply that they are done learning, and then tell them that they will continue to learn only ends up sounding like more work. The other option is that they finish class thinking that they know it all and that's not a very good option either.
Still, the major reason to abandon graduations is the change in today's society. If you attended a ballroom class you would "graduate" and rarely think about joining a ballroom "club". You would use your experience to entertain yourself on the few occassions you go out dancing. If you learned Country Western dancing the chances are high that you would never consider joining a CW club despite the number of clubs there are available. "Joining" and becoming "committed" to something is not preferred these days. We want to experience and hang around as long as we want to and we want the freedom to leave the experience unencumbered. Granted, there are those few that become devoted but the mass majority in any activity are the "dabblers."
Unfortunately, our activity is built around "clubs" and "belonging" to clubs. We have structured ourselves so that getting committed members has become more important than the pleasure of dancing itself. We are always going to find that we have higher drop out rates than committed dancers. Square dancing has always been that way and it will always remain that way. So we must take advantage of the "dabblers."
Graduation night says learning is officially over and that they are now free to pursue a "career" in square dancing or move on and go learn something else. The majority will go learn something else. While you may have personally stuck with square dancing, what other things have you learned and experienced that you simply never returned to?
Instead of graduation there should be just a gradual melding into the club. Clubs should not expect every person to join, pay dues, and hold offices. There should be a fee structure where dancers are made to feel welcome to attend regularly and make dues something that those who feel the desire to put in a little work can save a little money.
Of course, you will need to recognize (in some small way) that official lessons are over so that dancers know that they are welcome to explore the world of square dancing but instead of a big class party night the celebration can take the form of a visitation or as a group to special dance. Their experience at completing class should take them in the direction of going places to dance rather than a big to-do within class about the completion of lessons.
If your class was on a separate night than your club night then start preparing them ahead of time for the move to your club. Invite them a couple of times beforehand. Simply tell them that dance night will continue on such-n-such night and don't make a big fuss about it being the end of class. If they will be unable to make the change to a different night then find a way for them to attend another group that meets on the night(s) they have available. When it comes time to make the move out of class don't make them feel like they are heading towards a "new" experience as they had to overcome that feeling just to learn square dancing. They have just learned to feel comfortable in square dancing and to make a big deal about graduation can end up making them feel apprehensive about some "new" experience. They don't know that it's just more of what they've already been doing. Even if you tell them as much they will automatically feel as if they are headed for another culture shock.
You've spent all this time and effort to make them feel comfortable. After the first couple of weeks of class they should feel as if they "belong" (because they do) and they should never be made to feel any differently after that.