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 Post subject: Nurturing a New Scene
PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 2:22 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 11:11 am
Posts: 264
Location: Durham, UK
This has been on my mind for a while.

Some background:
We're a new scene, with two venues in neighbouring cities - one venue has been going for nearly a year, one for four months. There were very few experienced dancers in the area, so most of our dancers were new to Lindy when they came to us, and we've very much had to start from scratch.

Currently, each venue is getting around 40 customers - sometimes more, sometimes less, but on the whole, the numbers are slowly growing.

We run a fairly standard format of classes (beginner / bridging / intermediate) followed by 1 - 1 1/2 hours of social dancing.

Which brings me to the DJing side. I'm currently trying to accomplish two things:

1) Retain more people in the social dancing section. We have quite a high drop-off rate after the classes, especially in the newer venue where there are less confident dancers.

2) Gradually acclimatise people to dance to faster music. It's incredibly easy for me to fall into the trap of only playing music that's well within everyone's comfort zones - but there's also a lot of dangers in that which I don't think I need to spell out. Some of this is going to come down to the teaching, but the DJing clearly plays a huge role.

My normal pattern is to start with slower tracks, build in speed and energy to a peak (depending on how people are responding), then drop down to something slower, rinse and repeat. I've found that this works extremely well when DJing for a floor full of experienced dancers, but I've found it hard to tailor this to our weekly venues - I try gradually push people with the upper speeds, but it's not always successful.

This week I've been trying a different approach, which worked a lot better
1) Keep the energy high throughout. People are more inclined to leave during lulls.
2) Keep the song pattern less predictable.
3) From time to time, jump to a speed well above most people's comfort zones. Then drop back a bit to something that's still faster than people are used to, but which seems slow in comparison.

Anyway - the results were better - this week saw perhaps the best atmosphere to date, with more people staying a lot longer than normal - which is encouraging.

I'm curious to know how other people have tackled this one - any suggestions or ideas that could help with the process would be extremely welcome.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 3:33 am 
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Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 8:20 pm
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Location: Perth, Australia
I like the second approach too for this type of crowd. Especially dropping in the faster track randomly: this has the effect of raising the energy level of the room and also allowing the more experience dancers to show off what's so great about lindy; a source of motivation for newer dancers.

When I started out I was too shy to dance but I'd still go every week just to enjoy watching good dancers busting it out.

I also make sure I put in more vocal and catchy tracks than usual, without compromising on my standards ;)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 4:09 am 
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Joined: Tue Nov 09, 2004 5:36 am
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Location: London
So you want to get more people staying for the social dancing, and help them get comfortable with faster music.

I've never taught a class or run a whole evening like this, but I've spent a lot of time in other classes and evenings and thought about what works. Here are some ideas:

1. Mix up the music and the classes. Play music while they are coming in. Have gaps between the classes, and play music. You might have to shorten the classes to do this.

2. Try a few simple line/jazz routines like a shim sham or stroll, or create your own routine just for them. Keep it simple and find some really fun music. A lot of people who are intimidated by the thought of social partner dancing will get up for these.

3. Involve them in the music. Ask them to bring music they like and play it for them. Involve other DJs, or live music if you can.

4. Turn the lights down for the social dancing

5. Provide other ways for people to socialise. Help them get to know each other - is there a bar? tea/coffee?

6. Play over-played 'floor-filler' songs like C Jam Blues

7. Play songs with a good tune and vocals. Example: Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen by Ella Fitzgerald from 1937 is 160 bpm, which is fast for complete beginners, but because they hear a familiar tune they like, they don't notice the tempo as much. Flat Foot Floogee (170 bpm) by Slim and Slam is another example.

8. Involve more experienced dancers, make it attractive to them to come - (cheap entry/reduced price for dancing only?)

9. Last but not least, hand out questionnaires to your regulars with questions like: "What do you think of the music? Is it too slow, too fast, or about right? Any comments?"


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:57 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 11:11 am
Posts: 264
Location: Durham, UK
Haydn wrote:
1. Mix up the music and the classes. Play music while they are coming in. Have gaps between the classes, and play music. You might have to shorten the classes to do this.

Yes. 'Flow' is very important to us - we find it's crucial to keep the energy high at any kind of evening or event, and never give the atmosphere a chance to drop.

Haydn wrote:
2. Try a few simple line/jazz routines like a shim sham or stroll, or create your own routine just for them. Keep it simple and find some really fun music. A lot of people who are intimidated by the thought of social partner dancing will get up for these.

On our to-do list. I think we've delayed this one because we ourselves aren't really into strolls, but I agree that teaching them would bring a lot of benefits.

Haydn wrote:
3. Involve them in the music. Ask them to bring music they like and play it for them. Involve other DJs, or live music if you can.

I'll have to disagree here. I am courting potential DJs, and we have one new DJ starting soon, with one other potential slowly gearing herself up for it. On the whole though, while I don't get a great many requests, most requests would take me further from swing than I'm willing to go. This may sound like I'm going against what our customers want, but since the beginners' music thread on here, I've been noticing that we get the best atmosphere by sticking to swing.

I used to dilute the music more, to gently ease people into swing... and strange to say, that didn't work as well as when I keep it pure.

Haydn wrote:
4. Turn the lights down for the social dancing

Fully agree, and we do just that.

Haydn wrote:
5. Provide other ways for people to socialise. Help them get to know each other - is there a bar? tea/coffee?

Yes, yes, yes and yes. One of the things we're immensely proud of is that people often comment on how friendly and welcoming they find out evenings / events. We've tried very hard from the start to establish that ethos, and it seems to be paying off.

Haydn wrote:
6. Play over-played 'floor-filler' songs like C Jam Blues

One of the great things about starting a venues from scratch, with brand-new dancers, is that overplayed tracks are still new to everyone...
Although I'm probably in danger of overplaying C Jam and Lavender Coffin et al.

Haydn wrote:
7. Play songs with a good tune and vocals. Example: Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen by Ella Fitzgerald from 1937 is 160 bpm, which is fast for complete beginners, but because they hear a familiar tune they like, they don't notice the tempo as much. Flat Foot Floogee (170 bpm) by Slim and Slam is another example.

Yes - good advice. I do this a little (Love me or Leave me is another good example, although it's only 149), but should really seek out more tracks that I use in this way.

Haydn wrote:
8. Involve more experienced dancers, make it attractive to them to come - (cheap entry/reduced price for dancing only?)

The only problem with this is persuading them to move to our area. While there have been sporadic attempts to start something before, there was no established scene here when we began. Hence - there are only a small handful of experienced swing dancers in the area - and most of them do come.

Haydn wrote:
9. Last but not least, hand out questionnaires to your regulars with questions like: "What do you think of the music? Is it too slow, too fast, or about right? Any comments?"


And here we come back to one of the key issues - in a nutshell, do new dancers really know what's best? I know that most of our dancers would be quite happy if the speeds were kept low, and they stayed within their current comfort zones. What I'm trying to do is find ways of encouraging them to dance faster than they are currently used to... and to enjoy it. Clearly it's important to teach them the technique, but I also need to establish a social dancing scene where I can play a whole range of tempos, rather than sticking to those that people are currently happy with... and to do it in a way which keeps everyone happy, and doesn't scare people off.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 12:38 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:26 pm
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Location: menlo park
in my experience, it's been the beginners that are more likely to leave directly after their class. the intermediate dancers stay around longer.

at the venue i go to most, the class order is reversed: intermediate first, then beginner. the intermediate dancers are more likely to wait out another class. they are more motivated to stay for the dance, and they know more other people there already, so they have someone to chat with.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 5:29 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 01, 2009 11:29 am
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Location: Nashville, Tn
I'm so glad I happend upon this site. We've got a great little group of dancers here in Nashville, TN, but we're also trying to grow our scene as well. We've got a group of perhaps 20 or less advanced dancers and we're sharing the responsibilties of growing the scene. The dance I help with has two dance rooms, one for blues exclusively, and one for lindy, balboa, charleston. Generally I stick with the DJ'ing blues room, but I"ve ventured into dj'ing in the other room.

I'm reading all the posts/threads and getting some great ideas and new concepts.

:)


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