Jubilation Beyond the Classroom


How Quickly Should Beginners Join In?

By Ron Macnaughton

"If "classes" had been my only exposure to SCD, I mightn't be dancing now. Seeing the jubilation possible beyond the classroom can be a great motivation to improve. Beginners are welcomed, but are expected to know their limits. Instructors announce whether each dance is "easy" or for the more experienced set."

-- Genevieve Moore, Asheville, North Carolina

"How long a beginner? A long time, if you stay in a "beginners' class" where the only model is the teacher."

-- Martin Sheffield, Grenoble, France

Last summer, it was interesting to talk about Scottish Dancing with people who took Branch classes. Karen Freedman and I did a phone survey for the Membership Development Committee. One theme was how beginners are encouraged to grow as dancers.

The Strathspey Internet Newsgroup electronically links Scottish dancers and teachers around the world. I asked them for comments as to how long they suggest that beginners should wait before joining other dancing activities like social groups, monthly dances and balls. I later asked how their experienced dancers reacted to the presence of beginners. I was surprised how consistently the responders mentioned the same ideas:

If you want to look at all 26 pages of reactions, email me at macnr@interlog.com. Below are some comments or paraphrases.

"My teacher encouraged me to attend monthly parties after I'd been dancing for several months. She told me which dances to try. We have separate basic and general classes from 8:00 to 9:30, but then dance together for the last half hour."

Ellie Briscoe, Virginia, USA

"The Ardbrae SCD'ers invite beginners to attend the second monthly social. Their teacher prepares a list of the dances that they can do (with instructions), and the program is designed so that they can dance at least half or more. Our best success (such as it is) is by stressing the social nature of the dancing."

Chris Collin, Ottawa

"Having beginners at major dances depends on the group. If the rest are reasonably experienced and willing to help then it is not a problem."

Seonaid Mairi Gent, Stirling University, Scotland

"I've had people after only 5 weeks successfully go to socials (giving them a list marking which ones not to try)."

Dianna Shipman, Houston Texas

"New dancers should be shown the importance of preparation and a cost effective reference source such as Pillings for the dances."

Bryan McAlister, Linlithgow Scotland

"I don't think many experienced dancers have stopped coming because they don't want to dance with "beginners"."

Bob McNaughton, Saskatoon

"There was little resentment from experienced dancers; people know where the new dancers come from."

Peter Hastings, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, Scotland

"We can't get young people to join a social group who look more than 10 years older than they are. We do keep the raw beginners who are in the same age group if they have friends in the group."

Priscilla Burrage, Vermont, USA

"How long one dances depends greatly on how many nights a week one dances. In my case, the latter made all the difference in the world."

Michelle Nogales, San Francisco, USA

"We were all beginners once, and only ceased to be beginners thanks to the patience and understanding of our fellow dancers. It's a pity that such reminders are necessary, but some beginners can be discouraged so easily by impatient gestures and remarks from others."

Martin Sheffield, Grenoble, France

Ron Macnaughton Bolton Ontario
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Last modified 8-10-02
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