|October 6th, 2019|
I've been thinking a lot about it. If you had asked me ten years ago whether BIDA would ever do advanced dances I would probably have said no. A major goal with BIDA is to be welcoming, especially to newcomers, and a dance where people aren't welcome unless they already know how to dance seems antithetical. So why do I think having one is good for our community?
Over time I've gotten a better understanding of the different roles contra dancing plays in people's lives, and a common pattern is that someone will start coming, get excited about it, dance a lot for a while, come less often, and then stop attending, over the course of about five years. The pattern is not universal, but it is pretty common, and one driver is no longer finding contra to be as interesting as before. Some people stop dancing much, others move on to more complex styles.
This is where I see an occasional advanced dance fitting in: when you have a hall where everyone already knows how to dance the caller can choose more interesting dances. Or run more no-walkthroughs and spend less time teaching. The dancers spend less time helping people around them learn to dance, and more time coming up with interesting variations. People also want to be at dances with their friends, and if you have a pool of people who only want to come a few times a year they'll normally not see much of each other. But an advanced dance can bring coordination, where many of them attend at once without a "how about we all come to this specific dance" discussion. A community where people stay involved longer is a healthier one, and helping people maintain ties they formed dancing is good on its own.
On the other hand, this needs to be a rare event. Not only does it lose its coordination power if scheduled too frequently, but if advanced dances started to take the place of regular dances then new people wouldn't be able to get into contra. The thing where you can walk in off the street and start dancing, without attending any sort of lesson, learning entirely as you go, is one of the best things about the dance; it's really important that we don't lose this. So for now this is a one-off event, but we may have others if this feels like it's meeting a need.