Setting Up a Dance Seminar and Ball
by Mistress Rosanore of Redthorn, OL
[ This article appeared in
volume 1 of
the Letter of Dance. ]
I admit it! I'm a dancing fool! I've always wanted to wear holes in my shoes
by dancing the night away. But there never seems to be enough time at events
for dancing. What to do? Have a ball! And, to be sure that everyone knows enough
of the dances, hold a seminar, too.
On a clear March Saturday in A.S. XXII, I got my wish! We held a Dance Seminar
and Ball in Jaravellir which was attended by about 125 people. Everybody had
a good time, I'm told. So, it's been suggested that I share with you some of
what goes into putting together a specialized event like this. This is not
meant to be a complete guide. I'm assuming that the reader knows about such
things as event announcements, seneschals' flyers, and reserving the date with
the Kingdom Chronicler.
I hope this helps you have a successful, enjoyable dance event!
- Setting Your Goals
- This should be what you do first.
- Define Your Audience:
- Is your seminar for beginners, intermediates, or advanced dancers, or is it
for some combination of these?
- Choose What Type of Dance Will Be Taught:
- This decision should be governed by the need to provide variety (so that neither
student or teacher gets bored!) and by the skill level of your students. Generally
speaking, bransles are easy, galliards are hard and Italian Renaissance dance
is harder than French Renaissance dance, while English Country dances come
in all difficulty levels.
- The Teachers
Your teachers should not be beginners at teaching. Many problems may come up
during the seminar which cannot be predicted in advance. For instance, you
may not be able to predict how many students will attend or what their skill
levels will be. Time pressures may cause a class to be deleted or force a teacher
to drop a dance from a class. Experience will help your teachers deal with
these pressures. Also, it is very important that each teacher is very comfortable
with the dances they will be required to teach.
- The Schedule
It is possible to teach too many dances. This can cause confusion and prevent
people from remembering what they've been taught.
- Having Two or More Classes Happening Simultaneously
- This will allow more dances to be covered in the time allotted. However, you'll
need to have enough teachers. You'll also need to schedule your teachers carefully
so that the contents of each class coordinate with what your teachers know
how to teach.
This setup also means that your classes will be competing with each other
for students. At the March seminar, I dealt with this problem by scheduling
advanced classes against the beginning ones and by not scheduling any competition
against a class that contained very popular dances.
- Sequence of Classes
- Starting with the easiest classes and moving on to harder ones as the day progresses
seems to work well.
Within a class, the easy to hard sequence can also be used. Or, you could alternate
slow and fast danes which could make life easier on you and your students!
- Length of Classes
- For most purposes, an hour seems to be about right. How many classes can be
taught in an hour? If they're really easy and short, like basic bransles, four
to six. If they're really hard, like Nonesuch, two dances per hour is sufficient.
For ordinary, run#of#the#mill dances, though, three per hour is just right.
- We found it to be helpful to begin the day with an hour for registration. At
this time, each student received a dance card and his or her class schedule.
It was also a time when people could socialize and buy their dance manuals.
- Lunch was not provided since classes were held in a university's student union
and many alternatives were available for eating.
What to do about dinner is another problem. Doing a seminar, a feast, and a
ball all on one day just seemed like too much to us! We also felt that the
students needed some time off to change and rest before the ball in the evening.
So, instead of having a feast, we scheduled a large gap between the end of
the seminar and the beginning of the ball.
- Running Late
- A seminar with tightly scheduled classes won't work on SCA time. Try to make
this clear from the start. (This won't be as much of a problem it your seminar
is more informal.)
The only way to deal with this problem is to have a cushion of time somewhere
in your schedule. In our case, our "cushion" was the large chunk of time between
the seminar and ball.
- The Site
- The seminar will need a small to medium sized room for each class while the
ball needs a large room, preferably a ballroom. It is important to be sure
that you have lots of room for the ball!
- If you can't find a site that provides both inds of space, you may need to
have a day site and an evening site.
- Other Considerations:
- It worked for us to hold two classes simultaneously in the ballroom.
Are the floors of the rooms made for dance? A dance floor should have "give".
If the floor has a cement foundation, it will not give and it could be hard
on your dancers.
- Good handouts will keep the memory of the dances alive long after the seminar
is over and the students won't have to worry about the logistics of note taking.
At the March seminar, a dance manual containing all of the dances taught plus
an accompanying tape of dance music was available for purchase. The manual
and tape were not included in the admission fee, but were sold separately.
- The Ball
- Live music is most preferable. It is more authentic, of course, and live musicians
are far more flexible than tape! For more on this topic, see "The Dancer and
the Live Musician" [elsewhere in this book].
- Sets seem to work best if they are short, three or four dances long. It helps
to alternate fast and slow dances. You'll need small breaks (5-10 minutes)
between sets and at least one long break (half hour) during the evening.
- Setting up the Dances
- Your ball will run more smoothly if you have someone to place groups of dancers
on the floor when needed and to serve as a liaison between the musicians and
- Dance Cards
- The surprise hit of the March event was the dance card! This was simply a list
of all of the dance sets with space to write the name of a partner after each
dance. It was small enough to be tied to the wrist and a cord was provided
for this purpose. The dance cards were handed out at the beginning of the day
so that partners could be signed up all day.
- Food and Refreshment
- Dancers get hot and dry and they'll drink up a river! Simple is best here.
We served water with lemon slices floating in it, and apple cider. Several
kinds of cookies were served. They were devoured! Even a good dinner doesn't
seem to last through a whole evening of dancing. I strongly recommend having
little meat pies or something like that in addition to the dessert items.
In addition to your teachers, you'll need people to run the registration table.
If you decide to decorate the ballroom, you'll need people for that. You'll
also need a setup and cleanup crew, and, if you have one site for both the
seminar and the ball, you'll need someone to stay behind and watch the place
while people are at dinner.
- I strongly recommend that there be one person in charge of the dance seminar
and ball (setting up the curriculum, scheduling, getting the teachers and musicians,
getting the site and date, handling the event announcements and flyers) while
another person be in charge of the physical nitty-gritty (registration, setup
and cleanup, security, ballroom decoration, refreshments at ball, troll and