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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 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.
Flyers & Sacks
Halls & Rent
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.
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.
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
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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