Our Southern California area calls the Basic Program (1 and 2) Halfway Level. The entry level to the square dance activity in Southern California is ostensibly the Plus Program after a nine month class. Area clubs host Halfway Dances when new dancers have been exposed to all the calls up to Ferris Wheel – i.e. the Basics.

At Halfway Level, new dancers have not mastered the basics, and it can be argued that the average club dancer is not particularly skilled with all of the basic calls either. This is rather disappointing; the basics serve as the foundation for all that follows in square dancing. The sad fact is that typical attrition in most classes occurs after the halfway point, and ironically, nearly all dancers seem to have a Rip-Roarin’ Good Time at the Halfway Dance! After the halfway point, callers are forced by lack of remaining time to teach Mainstream and then Plus calls to usher dancers to the required entry level threshold. At the halfway point, the typical new dancer has not had much time to become comfortable with all the basics and their deeper mysteries. Many are ill-prepared for Mainstream, but could be allowed to grow and have fun with the basics if the pressure to move beyond them was removed. Moreover, if dancers were allowed to master the basics before moving forward, the transition to Mainstream would become far less demanding.

 

Convincing existing clubs to adopt the Basic Program as the new entry level, and to provide Basic dances to nurture crops of new dancers, may be a forlorn hope. Clubs seem driven to continue in a failing model of hosting extremely small Beginner’s Classes that more often than not create strain upon rather than strengthen a club’s treasure. Clubs seem to be withering and finally vanishing all together. It seems logical to alter our collective thinking about making the activity accessible to a larger candidate pool and capitalize on one of our successes – Halfway Dances … i.e. the Basic Program.

Halfway Level can stand on its own two feet. For the average dancer, there is plenty of opportunity for light to moderate challenge. Even without extended or exotic application of the calls there is enough substance in the Basics alone to throw most “Plus” floors for a loop. If this is not enough, at more frequent Halfway Dances throughout the year, callers can introduce disposable calls to add additional variety, train dancers to be ready for anything, and train them to listen and trust the caller. 

There is room for all dance programs, and dancers suited to some and not others. It is perfectly fine for experienced dancers to wish to gather together and dance new material, or a higher program, but they have to be willing to settle for smaller numbers. This is what is already happening, but not where clubs wish it to be. Our collective expectations just may be a bit out of proportion. The primary argument against providing an easier entry path is that the club dancers will quickly become bored with a lower program. Callers avoid showcasing the merits of any particular program because dancers are not really prepared to successfully dance any full program. Dancers are eased up to the buffet table of calls and taught to nibble at each without really tasting the richness of flavor and combination that the table has to offer. The elephant remains in the room, and high attrition is destiny.

Consider that experienced dancers are often flabbergasted when they are confronted with something new from a particular program. Reactions stretch from horror to delight, but the point is, all programs, including the Basics, hold more mystery than most dancers imagine. In the hands of a capable caller, no one need be ashamed of dancing Basics.

If you think there is any merit what-so-ever in restructuring the activity for more inclusivity, meet me Halfway, and we’ll have a Rip-Roarin’ Good Time

Full article with sample Basic Modules ...

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