Standing in the shoes of new dancers

Elena and Tomoko dance Barbara’s Strathspey at the Johnsonville Annual Dance 2019

We were all new dancers once, but it’s easy to forget what it was like actually being a new dancer.

The further on we progress in our dancing, and the longer we are part of the dancing community, the more difficult it is to imagine ourselves in the shoes of a new dancer.

It’s hard to remember that as a beginning dancer, all you see is club night, and you have no idea what else is out there waiting for you.

You don’t know about tartan nights or annual dances, or region classes. You may not realise there is more dancing to be had at other clubs nearby, let alone farther afield in the region or throughout New Zealand and the world.

Extending new dancers’ awareness

To try to extend our new dancers’ awareness, we first focused on promoting the opportunities that exist at region level.

Subsequently quite a few of Johnsonville’s newer dancers attended the Wellington Region’s Basics and Beyond Basics classes, as well as Maureen Robson’s Reels class.

They not only gained skills and knowledge, they became familiar with other tutors and met dancers from other clubs.

Next we included items in our newsletter sharing members’ experiences dancing at different clubs, at weekend schools, at Summer School and at Saturday night dances.

Pat at the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Weekend Scottish Country Dancing school in Katikati

Building on that, we then focused on encouraging our newer dancers to attend our annual dance.

In 2018, only two of our new dancers came along, despite our best efforts at supporting them from beginners’ classes onwards.

It was clear we needed to see what we could do to turn that around.

Promoting our Annual Dance

We decided to try a few different ways of promoting the event, while also informing and encouraging our new dancers.

We announced at club that this was the premiere event of the club year and emphasised that it was for all members of the club – not just experienced dancers.

We followed this up with a series of e-news mail-outs focusing solely on the annual dance.

It contained a combination of practical information (like what to wear, where to park, etiquette), encouragement from our tutor Rod, and a clear message of the fun to be had on the night.

Committee members personally approached new dancers at club to encourage them to attend, and we talked at club about experienced dancers buddying up with newer dancers to make sure they had partners.

Finally, to relieve any concern about “not knowing the dances”, Rod and Jeanette, as joint MCs, decided to walk all dances.

A really good turnout

In the end, a lot of different things contributed to a really good turnout of Johnsonville’s newer dancers.

On the night, fourteen of our dancers with less than two years’ dancing experience took to the floor and were part of a really happy fun night.

For the majority of them, it was their first time at a Saturday night dance, and they had a ball.

Thanks to all those experienced dancers from Johnsonville and also other clubs who supported our new dancers on the night.

See lots more photos of our Annual Dance here

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