Parent-Friendly Dance Weekends

March 19th, 2024
beantownstomp, contra, kids, organizing
We just finished the 2024 edition of Beantown Stomp, a contra dance weekend I helped start (but no longer organize!) in Boston. There are a lot of things I like about the weekend, but one thing I especially like is how parent-friendly it is.

The big thing here is childcare, during the day on Saturday and Sunday. It's included with registration, and typically staffed by one paid person and one volunteer. Several families brought books and toys, and it also served as a nice place for families to hang out. Some feedback this year:

Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped out this weekend. My kids had a great time, and it allowed both me and my partner to go to this dance weekend. I haven't been dancing much since becoming a parent, and it always feels like a rare and wonderful treat whenever I do.

Thank you for making Beantown Stomp inclusive and accessible to families!!

My understanding is it used to be somewhat common for events like this to offer childcare, but most weekends stopped after the children of the initial organizing cohort didn't need minding anymore? The only other dance weekend I know of that includes childcare is Sugar Hill, on an all-volunteer model.

We also do a family dance, Saturday morning. Pretty informal: acoustic open band, lots of easy dances. Unlike the rest of the weekend, the family dance session is open to people who haven't registered, since even with childcare many young families aren't going to want to make a whole weekend out of it.

Here's Nora dancing Sasha with me while I try to play in the open band:

We also invite people who came for the family dance to stay for the first session of contras. Saturday morning we're never close to capacity, and even getting in a few dances together can mean a lot to parents who otherwise aren't going to be attending the weekend. This might have been my first dance with Julia since NEFFA last year?

Many dance communities see people drift away around when they have kids. Which isn't surprising: the main social events start around little-kid bedtime and the activity itself is more complex than most kids can handle until they're 5-9. My parents used to dance, but stopped when I was born except for annually at NEFFA. I'm really glad that NEFFA was family-friendly enough for our family that they kept this connection. I'm hoping that Stomp can help provide this for other families, letting parents keep their toes in during a time when they have a lot of other things going on in their lives!

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