academie: Fwd: dance scheduling at events (fwd)

Edvard Gayer scavard at
Wed Oct 4 07:30:46 PDT 2000

How odd.... the first forwarded message appears to have become lost.  Here 
it is again:

----Original Message Follows----
Date: Tue, 23 Feb 1999 15:13:58 -0500 (EST)
From: Meredith Courtney <meredith at>
To: sca-dance at
Subject: dance scheduling at events

Some things to think about, for those who run dancing at both small and 
large events:  (this is a sort of follow-up to the postings re: Estrella 
ball getting turned into a concert)  If some of this seems uncomfortably 
familiar, maybe the next time you're involved in running dancing at an 
event, you might want to invest some time in discussing expectations with 
the autocrat.

When event schedules get tight, it's almost always the dancing that gets
squeezed first and most.

Dancing has the interesting property that while official schedules deal with 
it in large blocks of time ("dancing 8:30 - 10 pm"), in practice it is often 
treated as a variable-number sequence of much smaller time-units.  Each unit 
is the time to set up, optionally teach, and execute a single dance, and the 
fact that the units vary somewhat is much less important than the idea that 
you can stop at the end of any one of them.  (Or, much less often, add on an 
extra dozen.)

This flexibility is very useful to experienced autocrats coping with
scheduling disasters (dinner 2 hours late and the court that was supposed to 
be 30 minutes long is at 90 minutes and still going ...) and to enthusiastic 
but inexperienced autocrats who've overcommitted their schedules.  Also the 
autocrat suddenly confronted with the request to add something to the 
schedule at the last minute.  Especially for people accustomed to taped 
music, which I think is still the norm for much of the Society, I think 
there's often a feeling of "if the dancing gets cut down to 20 minutes, or 
eliminated altogether, that's ok".  The handful of people who *really* like 
to dance will be disappointed, but most guests at the event will be 
satisfied with the alternative use of the event time, or at worst will 
grumble about the endless court rather than grumble about the lack of 
dancing, and the boombox doesn't care if it gets used or not.

1) The balance changes when you've got live music.  Musicians like to play 
music, if they're asked to play for dancing and the dancing gets squeezed 
out, that's a disappointment.  If it keeps happening, you lose them. There's 
still some flexibility - 30 dances scheduled which turns into 26 is probably 
not too bad - but you really can't let 30 dances turn into 4.  Live music 
changes dancing (from a scheduling point of view) from a series of small 
units offered by 1 person, to a large block of time that a group of 
performers has prepared for.

2) The flexibility can lead (even in Carolingia, if we stop paying
attention) to people running events regarding dancing as "the backstop
entertainment".  By that I mean something that's always there when you want 
it, in whatever quantity you want it, and can be rescheduled on the fly, 
without regard to the plans and preferences of the people who make it happen 
(musicians and dance teachers).

3) Dancing is a high status activity in some places, and in others ... well, 
over the years I've been to some events where people might as well have run 
up a billboard announcing that dancing was a marginal activity kindly 
provided for those losers who aren't cool enough to hang out with the 
fighters.  Avatar was astounded that anyone would consider turning a 
scheduled ball into a concert (and so was I, but I'm a Carolingian).  But if 
someone has been picking up on indicators that dancing is a low status 
activity, that person might plausibly (unconsciously) assume that dancers 
would be pleased to have their entertainment upgraded by substituting a 
special performance for a big chunk of it.  I'd expect that as soon as that 
assumption got hauled into the open and looked at, it would be discarded.  
But it won't happen if we don't talk about it.


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