International Folk Dance Programmers
By Dick Oakes
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An international folk dance evening can be made or broken with its programming. Here are a few suggestions that may or may not work for your group, but at least it's a starting point upon which you can build. Of course, a Balkan dance evening or a Scottish country dance night would have its own set of suggestions.
- Make sure you are familiar with the equipment to be used.
- Use an informed assistant when possible.
- Play the music for the teacher if required.
- Keep about a 50/25/25 percent balance among easy, moderate, and hard dances.
- Keep about an 80/20 percent balance between line and couple dances.
- Try to keep 80 percent of the dancers dancing 80 percent of the time.
- Set the first 6 to 8 dances at an easy level to keep beginners interested.
- Use a good sprinkling of easy dances throughout the evening so that beginners can stay involved, not get bored, and leave after the first hour.
- Include a number of advanced dances toward the middle and end of the evening to keep advanced dancers happy.
- A good rule-of-thumb is to move from easier to more difficult dances as the evening progresses.
- Play a good crowd pleaser after each esoteric dance to keep the beginners spirit alive.
- Include five to seven requests.
- Have the requests written on a request sheet with a two-dance limit and use it only as a guide for your programming.
- Program dances taught previously for the next three weeks (unless they simply didn't go over well).
- Program popular dances from recent workshops in the area.
- Select a time for announcements (and make a donation collection with the donation jar if payment is not made at the door, unless there is no donation).
- Try not to do the same dances, even popular ones, every week by checking previous programs to see what has been done (there are hundreds of great dances and they all cannot be played in a three-hour evening).
- Keep time between recordings to a minimum.
- If you try playing a rather esoteric tune that is not being danced, pull it and revert to the more familiar one.
- Dispense with teasers — they slow things down and dancers can usually pick up the dance on the go.
- If there is a setup time, such as for a square dance or contra, then a teaser can be played.
- Select enough dances so that you are at least five or six ahead of what's being played.
- Use a greenboard or large notepad, for example, to notate the dance being played (and be sure each is spelled correctly with the correct diacritic marks) and keep up to six ahead.
- Draw a line through a dance once it has been played.
- If the crowd is not dancing, you should revise your programming strategy.
- Try to keep a balance between national areas.
- Play one of a selection of "standardized" dances at evening's end.
Copyright © 2011 by Dick Oakes