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128 New Couples in 1 Year!
by Keith Rippeto, Callerlab RPM Committee

The RPM Committee (Recruit, Promote, Maintain) has been very active the past four months. We (the committee) feel we're making things happen as far as recruiting new dancers is concerned. Our committee has nearly one hundred dedicated callers working for the common good of square dancing. Our committee is open to anyone interested in working for the good of the square dance activity. Using CALLERLAB's Voice-Mail system, we've established communications that we never dreamed possible. We're able to record our ideas and allow others to listen to them in hopes it will help recruiting. I'm very impressed with the results so far and I'd like to share some of the ideas with you. I'm also painfully aware that by the time you read this, our traditional recruiting "window" may be past. Who cares? We can start lessons anytime! Right? Let's do it!

Listed below are several ideas that have been taken from the RPM Committee's Voice-Mail box. If you choose to use them please, let us know the results! I've listed them in no particular order, but the one idea getting the most press is the Ten-Plus-Ten Program, a year 'round learn-to-dance program.

The Ten-Plus-Ten Program
Several professional promoters, advertisers and marketeers have told us that we don't have a product to sell because we only offer lessons once a year! They have also stated that no matter how much advertising money we throw at it, the results will never be worth the amount of money we spend! Plain enough? Why is it that the hardest things to see are right before our eyes?

Several callers are now using a program they refer to as a Ten- Plus-Ten Program. Many more callers plan on using some form of the program this fall. The callers who've tried it, report very positive results. The idea is to start a new class every ten weeks. This will require at least two different levels of classes on the same night. One caller we know of conducts three sets of lessons on the same night. Ten weeks is only a suggestion. You can use as many weeks as it takes. Whatever the number, make sure it's workable for you and don't wait too long between classes. One of the best things about this program is that it makes lessons available year 'round. I assume we'll be able to sell it then. Right! The program works something like this, using ten weeks as an example.

Start your class at 7 o'clock in the evening (Sunday evenings you can start at 6 o'clock if it doesn't interfere with the area church schedules). Let's say you only have four new couples (eight would be great, twelve would be out of sight). Encourage experienced dancers to help you get started. Don't let only four couples get you down because they're going to be the foundation of your new one hundred and twenty eight couple club. Be enthusiastic! When you get things rolling, make sure you continually mention that you're going to start another class in a few weeks so your new students can start talking to their friends. A cookout on about the fourth week would do wonders for your new students. They should be encouraged to bring some of their non-dancing friends. On the eighth night, inform the students that you're starting a new class in three weeks (week eleven) for their friends and anyone else that may be interested. Strongly suggest that each one of them bring at least one couple out for lessons. Make them feel important by telling them they'll still come in at 7 o'clock, but it'll be to "Angel" the new class. It's also a good time to mention that they can use this as a refresher course to brush up on some of the calls they're not sure of. Now you have them dancing with their friends and you're only into week eleven! Make sure your ten-weekers understand they'll be continuing their dancing and education at 8:30 and that the new class is welcome to stay and watch if they like. Are we building a strong group or what? Don't forget to visit with them as much as possible. Become their friend, it's very important!

What happens next is quite exciting. You have students that have had only ten weeks of classes coming in at 7 o'clock to help the new dancers. This creates a win-win situation for you and the "Angels". They feel important and you're building a strong relationship with them!

If you analyze this progressive program, you can see that those in the first class that may have been having problems now have a chance to go back through the first ten weeks without feeling like they're inferior and dropping out never to return. Wow! Where was this program when what's-his-name was taking lessons, but dropped out because he was a little slow, or missed too many nights?

I feel there are many benefits to this plan. It doesn't change the teaching order or the list. It simply splits the pie into more pieces, but you still get the whole pie. It also allows a repeat class without any hassle. It also provides a stopping point for the individual that is satisfied with a program that only requires ten to twenty weeks to learn. Some people simply enjoy the lessons and never want to move any higher. Most of all, our activity becomes available to the public all year long!

One other thing that will happen, or should happen, is the creation of MAINSTREAM clubs in areas where there are none! It's predictable when you look at what's happening when you reach week twenty. You've got another new class coming in at 7 o'clock and the ten week class moving to 8:30 and going till 10:00 p.m. What are you going to do with the ones that have now completed twenty weeks? Unless you can convince them to stay after 10 o'clock, you're going to have to go to another night or send them to a club that dances their level. What a dilemma! We've got too many dancers and we're going to have to start up another night! If you do a little math, and assuming everyone brought out at least one couple for your first three sets of lessons, you now have sixteen couples (four squares) in lessons on your twenty-first week! At the end of one year it's possible that starting with only four couples initially, you can have one hundred and twenty-eight couples using ten weeks as the approach for lessons. Is it legal to pyramid square dance lessons?

Some will say this is too much commitment on the callers part, not to mention the "Angels" commitment. To some extent I must agree. But may I suggest that where possible, callers get together and share the workload by combining classes. They should at least agree to relieve each other when needed. I'll bet a Yellowrock to a Reverse Wrap-A-Round Back Flip The Diamond, that if the program works, most callers won't ask for help! Let's see 128 X 5 - rent = $$

Let me reiterate that nothing changes as far as the Basic, Mainstream and Plus lists are concerned... or the time required to teach them. The real change is the dancers will decide what level they want to settle into. Is it possible this could double the activity in one year? YES! One other thing... while I've used only callers as an example here, I see no reason why clubs that really want to work can't do the same. They must commit, however! I have to say that this particular program has "charged me up" and I'm looking forward to getting my own class series started! Hope we don't run out of hall space with all these new students.

Charts
At least four weeks before lessons begin, have each club member write down, on a chart, the names of at least three couples or singles that might be prospective new dancers. Next, give a copy of the chart to all the club members and have them read it. It's very likely you'll find that several club members know some of the same prospects. Ask all dancers that know each prospect to contact them and ask them to come out and learn to dance. Even better, why not call all the prospects and invite them to a cookout with all the club members. I can't think of a better way to get acquainted or a better time to talk about square dancing. A casual approach beats the almost demanding type approach that most of us use today for recruiting.

Flyers & Sacks
Make up flyers that contain all the required information for a new dance class. Be sure to emphasize the good things; fun, exercise, etc. Leave out any mention of lesson duration! They'll be dancing the first night, so it only takes one night to learn to dance. Right? If each class night is treated like a dance, then they're dancing. Anyway, take the flyers and go to the local supermarkets and ask them if you may stuff a flyer in each customers grocery bag. Maybe I should say sack? At the same time, have some of your club members man a registration table so you can take the names and phone numbers of prospective new dancers. You'll be surprised what one Saturday will do for your recruiting. You might even "bag" a few yourself. Sack!

Halls & Rent
If hall rent or availability is a problem, go to your local Community Education or Recreation Director and ask them to sponsor lessons. Generally they'll be more than glad to. They'll also provide a free hall and do the advertising in most cases. Great way to get youth involved! Community Colleges are always looking for dance instructors.

Go to your local Public Utility Company and ask them to sponsor your lessons or club dances. I personally know this works! Just this year, we lost a hall that we had danced in for several years. We were unable to find another hall. Desperate, I wrote a letter to the local Public Utility Company, asking them if they would sponsor our club by allowing us to use their auditorium. I made it a point to emphasize the benefits of square dancing and I suggested that lessons could be set up for their employees. I also listed the names of a few club members that were employed by them. For my troubles and proof that I had liability insurance, I got a fifty- five square, air conditioned hall with a large stage, beautiful wooden floor, kitchen facilities, free janitorial service (although we don't need it) and the pleasure of dealing with some of the finest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Large corporations are very public minded and you'll be surprised what they'll do if the right approach is used.

Bribes
One caller association is offering to donate ten dollars to the local school system for every student that enrolls in his classes. Another caller is offering free lessons to any teacher that enrolls in his class. One caller offers free lessons during the summer (slow time) for anyone enrolling.

Why not hold a free spaghetti dinner or soup, bean and cornbread night for the non-dancing public? Have an impromptu dance during the dinner and get the non-dancers involved. Have everyone register for a door prize (10 weeks of free lessons) so you'll have names and addresses of prospective new dancers.

Offer one year of free dues to the person bringing out the most new dancers.

Advertising
Some inexpensive ideas for advertising are to use the promotional signs in bowling alleys, city buses, cabs and paper place mats in restaurants. I particularly like the place mat idea. I could be designed so that the reader could learn of the many benefits associated with square dancing. Phone numbers should be listed for those interested. They could be paid for by the local dancers and provided free to restaurants that would use them. The local restaurant that dancers patronizes after a dance would be a great beginning. Another good idea is to erect "yard signs" on each square dancers lawn to expose the public to our activity. The sign would say something like "We Square Dance and Love It! Ask Us!" or "Mentally and Physically Fit. Square Dance Is It". A block on the bottom of the sign would provide space for a phone number. I have asked the CALLERLAB Foundation to look into funding this particular project so every square dancer and club has access to them.

Media
Start sending press releases to your local newspaper, radio and TV stations! Anything that puts square dancing before the public eye can only help. An article announcing that "Mr. John Smith a nationally known square dance caller from Hollywood, California, will be featured at the 35th annual Buckwheat Festival at the Happy Valley Conference Center, Anytown, Anywhere USA this coming Saturday, April 21st. Non-dancers are welcome and encouraged to attend. Refreshments will be served. Come out and see America's best kept secret!"

Make sure the media understands what you're doing and make sure it's good news! The point is to start using our media friends as a means of reaching the public. If you meet resistance, start a write-in, call-in campaign like some of our fellow dancers did when a local newspaper refused to put their schedules in the Sunday paper. The dancers won and their schedule still appears in Sundays paper. I'll bet there's several people in every club that would write an article for you. START IT NOW!

The following ad was placed in the Tulsa, Oklahoma newspapers. Shane Greer says he came across it in St. Louis. Thanks for sharing it with us, Shane. I've modified it some and you're encouraged to change it to suit your needs and have it run in your local newspaper!

America's National Dance
HEALTH, TRAVEL and FRIENDSHIP. America's best kept secret! What is it? Western Square Dancing! One and one half hours of square dancing equals 30 minutes of aerobics. When you're square dancing you won't think of those everyday problems, or let the work day brain drain bother you while dancing a figure like "Spin Chain and Exchange The Gears". Square dancing keeps the mind active and the body fit without strenuous workouts. You gain endurance muscle instead of bulk. By combining the mental and physical exercise square dancing offers, it's a win-win situation for you! There's no consumption of acholic beverages during Western Square Dances. You can dance any night of the week, anywhere in the WORLD because it's called in the English language only. Learn here and dance anywhere in the world! Square dance festivals and conventions are offered at the local, state, national and international level. If you square dance, you're sure to dance with people from all over the world sooner or later. Dance directories are available for clubs throughout the world. There are over 20 Square Dance clubs in this area alone. Square dance vacations abound at places like the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri; Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Lolo, Montana; and many more. Ocean cruises and tours to Alaska or Hawaii are very popular with square dancers. You can still leave your valuables unattended at a square dance, a festival or a convention and not fear they'll be stolen. Just ask any of the 21,000 dancers that attended the 43rd National Square Dance convention in Portland, Oregon. As a social mixer it can't be beat! It blends people from all walks of life. You never meet a stranger, you simply make new friends for life. We like to think a smile is a curve that straightens out a square. We hold fund raisers and sponsor charity events, all the while having good fun! That's what it's all about, just relax, laugh, dance, make a mistake, but most of all, HAVE FUN. The SUPERDUCKS SQUARE DANCE Club of Anytown, Anywhere will hold a beginners square dance with a FREE soup, bean and cornbread supper October 3, 1994, 7:00 P.M at the Anytown Community Building, 007 Connley Drive, Anytown. WE CHALLENGE YOU to come out and see if you can learn to square dance (Everyone else does!).

Video
Several people have produced videos to promote square dancing. Most recently a four part series of articles appeared in American Square Dance magazine by Harry L. Gerwin. In his articles Harry guides you through the mechanics of producing a video. Harry even mentions another individual, Carl Fowler, that has produced his own video. They experienced the same problems many of us did when we tried to get the CALLERLAB videos "aired" on our local TV stations. The stations either refused entirely or did not play them often enough to get the desired results. I'm POSITIVE that if we had the videos we could band together in each local area and have a write-in, call-in campaign to persuade the stations to run our videos. I don't know either of these gentlemen's address or phone numbers, but I invite them to get in touch with me and join our committee. We need your help and square dancing needs your videos!

If you're excited (at least fired up) and willing to work, why don't you join me and the RPM committee in making this year the best ever for square dancing. Even if you don't wish to join, but have an idea or have used something that worked, please share it with us.

As mentioned previously I've asked for and received permission from the Executive Board of CALLERLAB to include anyone on our committee that is willing to work for our goals. This includes all non- CALLERLAB callers, cuers, prompters, instructors, dancers and anyone with the square dance activity's interest at heart. If you feel the urge to become a member, simply drop me a note or call me. I'll send you the necessary information. I ask only that you are willing to dedicate one year to our committee, that you'll work for the betterment of our activity and that you'll respond when asked.

We've all said, "if you want it done, do it yourself". It's time!


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