by Loui Tucker
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This article first appeared in the February 2009 issue of Let's Dance! magazine.
I am willing to bet you have a few folk dance-related t-shirts in your closet. You have t-shirts from Stockton Dance Camp and Balkan Camp and your local club and various dance teachers, right? Where do you usually wear them? To dance class, to dance workshops, to dance camp...
Do you wear them when you're out running errands? To the company picnic? How about your homeowners or neighborhood meeting? Attending a cooking class at the community center? Visiting the local farmers' market? When eating at your local restaurant?
I ask this because we miss so many opportunities to advertise and talk about folk dancing! Why wear your dance-related t-shirts to dance class? Everybody there already knows that you enjoy folk dancing and they do too! Those t-shirts need to be seen by non-dancers.
This year, make the decision to wear one of your dance-related t-shirts to a non-dance situation. See if you can get just one person to notice it and ask about it.
Have you ever had someone invite you to do something at the same time that you usually go dancing? What do you tell them? Does the conversation go something like this?
"Oh, sorry! I've got a class that night. Can we do it some another day?"
"I didn't know you were taking a class - what are you taking?"
"Um, it's a dance class...."
"Really!? I didn't know you were a dancer. What kind of dancing? Salsa?"
"Oh, just dancing. It's mumble-mumble-mumble dancing."
"Oh, never mind. It would take too long to explain. Let's just pick another day."
The way we hide what we do, you'd think we participated in something illegal, or something spooky like an off-brand religious cult! Why are we so reluctant to engage people in a conversation about international folk dancing?
This year, resolve to explain to someone who asks just what it is that you do, and talk about it with pride!
Your neighborhood or local community is putting on a fair or festival or jamboree or swap meet. There will be booths available and a stage for entertainment and raffle opportunities. Asked if you might have something to contribute, your mind goes blank. Who, me? Something to contribute? I don't have anything to sell, I have nothing to offer for a raffle and I don't do anything entertaining...
What??? You belong to a dance class or club! Surely you can get a handful of dancers to agree to wear something festive, meet at a specified time, bring a CD of music to play on whatever sound system is available - and dance! You don't have to develop any complex choreography or make coordinated costumes. Just show up and dance to some of your favorite tunes. Take the microphone and tell the audience what they are watching, how much fun it is, how it is good exercise and they can make new friends – and invite them to come to your class. Ask for audience participation. Pass out some flyers - either the ones for your own dance class or use the ones from the Federation website. Pass out coupons for a free dance class!
ASIDE: Bev Wilder once told me that his wife Ginny took him to just such a performance. After watching the dancing for a while, she asked him: "So, what do you think, honey? Doesn't that look like fun?" When he confessed that it did look interesting she said, "Good. I thought you might like it. I've signed us up for a local class and it starts on Tuesday."
This year, look for an event that will allow you and your group to showcase your dance class and then make it happen!
Did you mention your folk dancing in your annual letter to friends and family? Is folk dancing listed under "Other Interests" on your resumé? Did you clip the flyers out of the last three Let's Dance! magazine and post them on bulletin boards in your neighborhood? Is a flyer about your own class or club posted at the facility where you dance? Do your co-workers, doctor, dentist, massage therapist, priest/minister/rabbi, financial advisor, attorney, and mechanic know you love folk dancing?
Somebody out there is waiting for their life to be changed by folk dancing - just like yours was! Don't make them wait any longer!