tdjohnsn: (Default)
So, I thought about answers to comments on my last post about our recruitment efforts until that post was, in livejournal time, ancient history, so I will respond with a fresh post.

I take being president of Puddletown Squares really seriously. Probably a little two seriously, since in order to maintain and grow the club, I've realized that I have turned it into a part-time job. (unpaid of course.)

Even before I became president, I was reading as much as I could about both the history of square dancing, and the future. Interviews with the men who created what became Modern Western Square Dancing (MWSD), and Callerlab's reports and studies have informed much of the reason I am leading the club in the direction I am (and fuels my continuing frustration with our stuck in the past parent organization, Puddletown Dancers.)

1. The rush to higher levels has always been a problem.

2. There are too many other activities competing for people's time for MWSDing to seem like an attractive activity.

3. We are aging and not attracting younger members.

They are all interrelated. The rush to higher levels causes a lack of leadership around maintaining a vibrant mainstream program. Callers hang out with their friends who are interested in the mechanics of square dancing, which generally means other challenge dancers. Challenge dancing starts to seem like the -real- square dancing. When the leadership of clubs is made up of people who have the powerful mental "geometry engines" that challenge dancing requires, and have lives structured around making time to feed that interest, the needs of people who just want to -dance- a couple times a month and will never -really- understand Spin Chain Thru, seem far away.

But without someone to maintain that vibrant and active set of lower levels, those people who are capable of high level dancing, and would potentially fall in love with the challenge of learning new calls, don't get the support they need and drop out. Or they never join at all. Or they learn to hate square dancing because they are being forced through a compressed class and can't keep up.

The other factor in maintaining an active Mainstream level, is making sure that once people do get through the lessons, they can stop in anytime. If the whole club moves on to Plus while they are on a business trip, then we loose them as dancers. People have too many other drags on their time to expect them to keep learning levels. If they really love it, they will move on when they can. But if they just think it is fun and enjoy the socializing, then there should be a place for them too because even if they never move on, they may not only be a lot of fun, but they might eventually bring a friend who becomes a mainstay of the club.

Which brings us to number three. If we only recruit our friends, we will suffer the same fate as the straight clubs. Our friends are the same ages as we are, and as we get older, our peer group does too. Just in the five years that I have been in Puddletown, the club has aged considerably. The square are slowing down and the floor level keeps dropping. The average age of the membership is 50+. When Puddletown started 25 years ago, it was 25-30.

With Justin moving to Salt Lake (he and Ross are going to start a club there, so there is a silver lining as much as I will miss them...and I am really going to miss them. After Ron, Ross is the person I am closest to in Seattle.) I am now the youngest member of the club, and I am 43. Why would anyone in their 20s want to dance with a bunch of old people?

So, to answer [ profile] kent4str, It is a country wide thing that recruiting is so bad. There is too much competition for other things to do and their is no way to prove our value without getting people up and dancing. And if we can't tear them away from American Idol, we can't get them dancing.

And while [ profile] deege and [ profile] placeintheheart have good recruiting ideas aimed at getting people we know involved, they don't address the long term problem of keeping the clubs themselves young and growing. It just holds off the inevitable a little longer. (I like the idea that [ profile] fuzzygruf passed on of offering something for coming to open house events. I will have to think on that.) I feel like it is my job as president to think as long term as I can, and I don't like what I see in the future if we keep going the way we are.

We also have a huge hurdle to overcome, and that is the reputation of square dancing being a hick activity for old people in ugly costumes. The straight dancers don't do us any favors by holding onto the costumes that haven't changed much since the 70s. When we approach people at Pride to hand out flyers, they laugh at us. What could be more stupid than square dancing? And really, when your only exposure to it is seeing overweight, 80 year old women in a costumes reminiscent of something you would find in a fetish shop, sort of a cross between a cheerleader outfit and a french maid's uniform (what exactly goes on at those snowbird RV parks? Maybe I don't want to know...) all done in gingham and bows...well, who can blame them?

So, anyway, a long story to explain why I am pushing Community Square Dancing. Most people don't feel like they have time for another activity. But square dancing is really fun, whether you are in it for the dancing or the problem solving, or a little of both. If we can get them out dancing, even if it is a different form of our activity, it will start to change minds. Some people will want more and those people we can introduce to MWSD. It will also attract a more diverse, and hopefully younger crowd, which will keep the club itself young, rather than in decline.

It is also for selfish reasons. I really love square dancing, and I think MWSD is really really fun. But I am tired of shuffling around the floor. I want to MOVE. And if that is going to happen, we need a younger group of people that we are not reaching at all now.
tdjohnsn: (troy and ron)
I was just updating the Puddletown Website's blog, when I realized I had not mentioned here that we would be out and about all weekend, both in the march Saturday, and the parade on Sunday, as well as working the booths at both festivals.

I chatted briefly with [ profile] muddy_feet today. While we have seen each other before, this was the first time we had actually met, so that was nice!

Also chatted with our friend Stuart (the nice thing about posting entries is that you couldn't see me stop writing for a few minutes to rifle through [ profile] theoctothorpe's photos to find that picture. I seems like a totally seamless process!) for a little while. We don't get to see him nearly enough.

Dancing in the march today went okay. It did not pause very often, so we did not get to dance (as versus the stuff we could do while walking) as much as we would have liked. The little demo/get interested people dancing bits we did went okay. We were really near a stage with stuff going on on it, so we had to cancel one of our planned dancing bits. The others were during things we would either not be interrupting (a techno DJ) or that we were perfectly glad to create a diversion from (lesbian anger poetry) so that was fun.

We are very tired now though.

We will be in the Parade again tomorrow, and at our booth in Fisher Pavilion for most of the day, so if you will be downtown, stop by and say hi!
tdjohnsn: (Default)
Well, actually it is early day 11. We fly out at noon, so of course we have to leave for the airport at 9:15.

Yesterday was pretty low-key. After we said goodbye to [ profile] bjarvis, [ profile] cuyahogarvr, and [ profile] kent4str we toured around a little more. The firemen's museum was closed, but that was just as well. I doubt they had any firemen on display.

We came back to the room and discovered that the room had not been cleaned yet, and since we wanted to take a nap, we went down to the lobby and asked for it to be cleaned and hung out in the lobby for half an hour. The hotel has free wireless, so that was not too painful, thought we had been really looking forward to that nap. The only other chance we had had in ten days to have the room to ourselves was also spent waiting in the lobby for the maid, so we were really looking forward to that nap.

For dinner we went to BD's mongolian grill again, but this time we went with [ profile] dr_tectonic, [ profile] kung_fu_monkey, and [ profile] saintpookie. It is always fun to meet people in person that you only know from LiveJournal, and it is always fun to see how you did at extrapolating what they would look like in the real world based on a 100 x 100 pixel icon. I had imagined that [ profile] dr_tectonic and [ profile] kung_fu_monkey would be about the same size as Ron and I and that [ profile] saintpookie would be short and stocky. I was completely wrong. [ profile] saintpookie is a big guy and was the tallest of all of us. [ profile] dr_tectonic is a little taller, while [ profile] kung_fu_monkey is a little shorter. I did pretty good on voices though. [ profile] kung_fu_monkey especially sounded like I thought he would.

They were funny, charming dinner companions and were a lot of fun to hang out with. It is a shame that opportunities to see them more often are so limited.

Anyway, we leave for the airport in 5 minutes, so I better post and pack the computer away.
tdjohnsn: (Default)
We hauled out of bed to get in line for pre-registration, but we didn't make it. Fortunately the boys had gone on ahead and called us to let us know there were already well over 100 people in line, so we diverted to breakfast just in time to run into [ profile] dr_scott and [ profile] excessor outside Sam's #3. They are both funny and smart and completely charming dining companions. They also know lots of good dish. (and I couldn't help but notice that [ profile] excessor's biceps are even more impressive than those of my childhood Big Jim action figure.)

When we got back to the convention we danced a few tips to Bear Miller then wandered about visiting. Brunch was at 11:00 and I was really glad I had had breakfast since there was little I could eat. The meeting went a little long, but it was mostly painless. DC's presentation for the 2009 convention was really fun. [ profile] kent4str did a great job. Afterwards we ran upstairs for the LiveJournal tip then we were out about town to run some errands (we were trying to find a credit union ATM and ended up tromping all about town before finally being direct to the one on the the Auraria Campus.

When we got back to the convention, we decided that our feet hurt badly enough that we were done with dancing. I was to the point that I was limping pretty badly, and I was pretty sure that the blisters that I had been getting for the last few days were starting to get pretty good sized, and we had been dancing everyday since Monday, so we were pretty done. Apparently this was to be the day of meals with gorgeous men. We were settled in the lobby at the bar to people watch when [ profile] otterpop58 came by to see if we had dinner plans. On our way out he ran into two old friends of his. Now anyone who follows his journal knows that his friends are to a person really good looking and smart and funny and all the other adjectives that make me really self-concious. These two guys were no exception.

I was pretty intimidated. Guys that sexy are not a part of my everyday life (well, except for Ron of course....) And they weren't just sexy. They were funny, smart, and interesting. I tried to concentrate on not saying anything stupid and kept telling myself, "Don't try to be witty, you are completely unarmed!"

It was actually very fun though, and it was great to get to spend more time with Andy.

After dinner we went to the drugstore to buy stuff for my blisters (huge and ugly, but not quite as dramatic as last year), then came back to the room to crash.
tdjohnsn: (Default)
Today was not a good day (at least so far) so I am too cranky to dare write much.

The one-armed asshole from New York was abusive to one of our new Plus dancer today so that started me off badly. Every year he manages to get someone so upset that they consider never dancing again, and that is just people in my club. He seems to think people don't like him because he has one arm, but that is so far down the list of reason people don't like him that it hardly even registers.

Then I made the mistake of going to the Dance By Definition( DBD) tip in the Plus level hall. DBD stresses me out since I get really stressed when I screw up, but I try to force myself to do it anyway since I want to be a strong dancer. Well. No more. I keep forgetting that DBD dancing brings out all the people with control issues who think they know everything. We squared up and everything crashed every time. There were several weaker dancers in the square, so that did not help, but while frustrating, that just is. What was bad was the woman who was sure she knew everything who kept pushing people (usually into the wrong place) and then when we square back up made sure to (incorrectly) assign blame for what went wrong. She commented that in 17 years of dancing she had never been in a successful DBD tip. My reaction time is not great when I am concentrating and the other dancer are wandering around, and this woman decided that I was the retarded one and the sourced of all the problems in the square. Did I mention that she was my corner? Anyway, the caller gets us into a Z formation and calls (of course) Peel the Top. I peel and she grabs my hand and tries to make me turn 3/4. I completely lost my temper and screamed at her, "what the F*ck are you doing!?! that's not where I go!" Fortunately it was the signer. My concentration was completely blown but I stumbled through the rest of it rather than bursting into tears and running from the hall. I did go sit in the lobby for the rest of the hour. It was too late to burst into tears but I probably would have felt better if I had. It is nearly 3 hours later and I still don't care if I ever square dance again. At the very least I will never do DBD again.

A funny thing happened today too though. Just before the club picture, Keith passed the Club Megalomaniac bar on. To me. Yeesh. No wonder I am tired all the time.
tdjohnsn: (Default)
I'm behind on posting. The days have been long and I haven't felt like typing when I got back to the room.

Today was the Grand March. I am not a fan of the Grand March, but it is fun to see everyone in their Club Uniforms. Well, everyone except Puddletown. I don't know how many years ago our uniform was selected, but it was a compromise then, and now things have devolved into incoherence. And of course, no one dares bring it up since it will turn into a DISCUSSION with no resolution and injured feelings. I swear half of Puddletown arrives at any given dance looking like they dug something they bought at salvation army out of the bottom of the dirty clothes pile and it really shows at events where we need to dress up. Yeesh. Our club pictures always look like they were taken at a homeless shelter.

Anyway, some observations.

Don't-walk signs are apparently taken as just suggestions in Denver (and to a lesser extent red lights.) It seems to work though. I would love to compare the pedestrian/car accident statistics for Denver and Seattle. Denver pedestrians operate under "Stop, Look, and Listen." Seattle pedestrians operate under, "Pedestrians have the right of way." The effect is that in Denver, they look both ways and if there are no cars coming they walk. In Seattle, pedestrians wander into the street talking on their cell phone without even a glance either direction to see if a car is coming. I suspect I know what the statistics would show.

Also, Denver drivers use their turn-indicators. This is becoming increasing rare in Seattle.

[ profile] dr_scott has the most amazing eyes. He really doesn't need to do all that working out for any reason other than health with eyes that beautiful.

[ profile] excessor has amazing biceps and his back goes on for days.

Some pictures from caller school:

Gary Studies the agenda
[ profile] fuzzygruf Studies the agenda (isn't he cute?)

[ profile] rlegters during a caller school session.

Arlene and Ross
Arlene and Ross being serious about something. That is so unlike them.

Bill Eyler
[ profile] billeyler demonstrates the correct position for greeting fans.
tdjohnsn: (Default)
Or, so as not to offend anyone:

"...and your (only in the relational, freely chosen sense, and not implying any sort of patriarchal based property association unless in a consensual role-playing scenario freely entered into by both parties) different sized but equal in spirit (not to imply endorsement of any particular religion or belief system) persun of canine identity, too!"

Fly-ins are a lot of work, even if you are only peripherally in charge of things. Especially if the people who are in charge did not delegate well so everything is vaguely behind and out of control behind the scenes (to be fair, I understand completely why Justin does not delegate. Having control issues myself, letting go of things is really hard, and especially as you are getting the hang of it, the negative reinforcement makes it hard to stay the course. For example, Justin asked someone to make signs for him. The person could not find a pen so he just didn't do it. I think all of us who expect things to be done "just so" experience that over and over again...making letting go of control that much harder the next time.) As a result, by the end of Rain Festival, I am completely exhausted. I think I would actually be less tied If I was in charge of things.

In any case, the event seemed to go well and everyone had a good time. We graduated 4 students (this is the third year in a row that we have started out with 9 or ten people and ended with 3 or 4...gee, could we need to make a change?) and a lot of Portland's about to graduate students were up so I think they all had a really great time.

We didn't get to dance to Sandie much, maybe one or two tips. She only called A and C most of the weekend and we missed her Plus hour since a piece Ron wrote debuted that night and we were off at the concert (I am sure he will write more about it, but lets just say that the chorus who performed it was enthusiastic and leave it at that....) Local caller Stephen Cole is a lot of fun to dance too so we weren't hurting for good dancing. He is really supportive of the new dancers, and super passionate about square dancing and we all find him a pleasure to dance too.

As much as I hate being told to "think of the definition" during a dance, (to which my internal response is "jesus H christ, what definition? why the hell are we standing still?") I love workshops, and it was really cool doing "Coordinate" from waves during Stephen's Plus workshop.

The church location worked out okay. It is not the most attractive space, and the second dance hall was kind of small, but it was cheap (you might almost say "chirpy chirpy"! sorry..inside joke) and had a great kitchen, so unless something better comes along I suspect we will be using it again.

The dangles and t-shirts (which I was in charge of) turned out really well. I got some early registrations for the Hallowe'en fly-in too, so that was nice. Scheduling the GCA tips was a little fraut since there were very few GCA callers in attendance and I had a lot of spaces to fill. For the most part everyone stayed within their fifteen minute allotment of time. I had one caller head to the restroom right when his tip was supposed to start, but other than that everyone stayed on schedule.

I wish we had had the energy to go out to the bars with people afterwards each night but we just didn't have the energy.

Anyway, it is over now and a good time was had by all. Next years Rain Festival committee is pretty on the ball so the scheduling and registration part of things should go better for next year, and now I can finally concentrate on the Hallowe'en fly-in, first order of business getting contracts out to both the 2006 and 2007 callers, and then getting a location booked and then getting packets of registrations off to all the clubs.
tdjohnsn: (Default)
Don Wood calls for us this Saturday at Mt. Baker Park Presbyterian. If
you haven't danced to Don before, you are in for a big treat. He is a
really fun caller with a great selection of music. The dance starts at
7:00 and runs til 9:30. Since the weather is starting to get nippy, and
the slopes are already starting to open, the potluck theme this month
is "Ski Lodge."

I would especially encourage the new dancers to attend this dance since
we are unexpectedly dark this Friday due to Veterans day. You don't
want to get rusty, and Don is a lot of fun!

Also, don't forget that Squares Across the Border is hosting "Weave the
Rain" at the end of the month. SABT puts on a great fly-in and an even
better potluck, so you don't want to miss this one. The callers will be
Anne Uebelacker and Barry Clasper. Mainstream through C (and did I
mention the potluck?)

That's it for now,

See you on the floor Saturday!


tdjohnsn: (Default)
Well, our first Taste of Square Dancing went pretty well. We didn't have a lot of new people (though practically all of Puddletown showed up!) but with it being the start of a holiday weekend, that's to be expected. Everyone who was there had a great time. My friend Stuart was there which was fun, and there were lots of women there which was nice to see. We had a lot of women show up for the Taste of Events last year too, but they...well, seemed to find having to interact with men distasteful. The women last night all seemed okay with interacting with men (and visa versa...that can be a problem too), and we had lots of women members there so that helped.

Galen Suave was the caller and he has been calling since he was ten so he really knows what he is doing. He calls a fun, energetic dance and really has great interaction with the room and the new dancers. He is not hard to look at either.

He called a Plus demo tip that was so much fun I could hardly believe it. It has been a long time since I danced really good, really challenging, really -fun- full speed choreography with a square that was actually up to it. With the exception of Squares Across the Border who also have a high floor level, it seems like we are always dancing with new dancers or with clubs that teach straight through Plus so it is always a wonderful reminder of -why- I enjoy square dancing when Puddletown gets to cut loose with a really great caller.

In any case, I had a lot of fun. It is strange how you can do "dosado--Back to back! Right and left GRAND!" all night to a great caller and leave the dance bouncy and energetic, while with other callers you can dance through the full Plus list and spend the evening counting the minutes till it is time to go home.

Anyway, that's it for now.
tdjohnsn: (Default)
So, I just send an e-mail to the club with a "cut and paste" letter to send to all their friends, so I thought I should do as I say, not just expect other people too...I know it sounds kind of stiff and formal, but it is 90 degrees in the house today, and this was as creative as I could get. The basic jist is sincere though. It's fun! Come dance with us!


I'd like to invite you to come to Puddletown's "Taste of Square
Dancing" events that are coming up at the beginning of September.
Puddletown Squares has been dancing for over 20 years and we are always
looking for more people to join in the fun.

Puddletown will begin the season of beginners' classes Friday,
September 2nd, then again Friday September 9th with our "Taste of
Square Dancing" events which are a fun way to give Square Dancing a

The gay square dance association web site says that Square dancing

· Fun, mental stimulation, pleasant exercise--and it's easy to learn!

· A great way to expand your circle of friends.

· A worldwide square dance organization with clubs all over the United
States and Canada and throughout the world.

· An annual 4-day convention, as well as many
shorter conventions and other activities.

but mostly, it is just a lot of fun.

The Taste of Square Dancing will be held at:

University Heights Center
5031 University Way NE

Casual Attire
Singles and Couples Welcome
No Experience a plus!

Tastes are on the 2nd and 9th, and lessons begin September 16th

I hope you can join us!


Best of all, we now have "Taste of Square Dancing" t-shirts based on the poster I need to go pick up at Kinko's today.
tdjohnsn: (Default)
We had a lot of fun last night. Puddletown had a get together out at Steve and Bud's house in Fall City (up I-90 about 20 minutes...just before the pass to Eastern Washington) and it was really nice. Steve and Bud live in a huge cedar home right on the river all nestled down in the trees. Most of the regulars were there and we got to meet Jeff's boyfriend. Our new member who just moved into the area brought her little son and he and Bud and Steve's granddaughter ran around with all the dogs, though the children were slightly better about staying out of the river.

The women in the club played various lawn games and us guys sat about and sampled whiskies, then we ate (Ron and I brought deviled eggs...I finally got a tip for the pastry bag that will do smashed egg yokes, so they were nice looking for a change) and set up to dance on the new deck. Did I mention the house was huge? There was room for two squares on the new deck (the old deck where we were all sitting and chatting is even bigger) and it was really fun dancing outside. Ron performed his new singing call --Carlolina in the Pines--that we bought from the GCA record swap and everyone had a great time.

I did get a little depressed when I had to go through the house to get to the bathroom. The whole house is comfortably furnished and decorated with cool stuff collected on their travels. It makes our house look like we furnished it by shoplifting from Salvation Army. I managed to stop that train of thought before it affected my mood though. The apple pie and brownies on the dessert table helped.

Eventually it was quite dark so they lit a bonfire next to the river and we hung out watching the fire and groaning at Keith's bad jokes. All and all it was a really lovely time.

(an aside...I know some people who have me on their friends list live in Colorado...([ profile] dr_tectonicfor sure, and I think[ profile] tundracowboyas well) there is a new gay square dance club forming in Fort Collins if anyone live within an easy drive of there...I can find out when their intro nights will be if anyone is interested. IAGSDC gives a lot of support to groups forming clubs, so if anyone wants to form a club...say, in Salt Lake City, you could get a lot of help from people who know how to do it. It is really just a matter of finding people who want to square dance and finding a caller, neither of which are insurmountable, no matter where you are.)


tdjohnsn: (Default)

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