5 Tips When Bringing New Dancers To Contra

Most of us have had this experience. After a great night of dancing or a great contra weekend we’re glowing and looking to share the joy with others. And perhaps on another level we are looking to protect and build this tradition that is so dear to us by bringing in more people to be a part of it. For better or for worse, (but mostly better) we’ve become contra proselytizers.

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The questions are:

  • How can we bring people in effectively?

  • How do we identify folks who may connect with contra and help them have an experience where they want to come back again? 

Here are some tips to help you better spread the contra love.

Adjust the level of the adventure depending on the person. If your buddy gets serious motion sickness and anxiety about social events, don’t expect that bringing him to a weekend is going to be the experience of his life. To have a chance to get someone nervous on board just know that their peak experience will be met in a lower key setting. Go to a local dance firt and explicitly plan on leaving at the break to do something socially safer and familiar, like drinking and board games. Since you’ve planned to leave early in the first place, it’s not like anyone is chickening out. And also certainly seek out your friends who are thrilled by new experiences in the first place. 

Bottom line: Pre-plan exit strategies for nervous friends.

When possible go as a group. Contra can be overwhelming, not only because it’s a dancing, but because it’s social dancing. At some point you are going to interact with strangers. However humans tend to be pack animals---so invite a pack of friends who know each other when you can. You’ve just turned it into crew who are adventuring together, and you’ve turned down one of the stressors of doing something new by creating a safety net of familiar people. Just make sure they know to dance with the experienced dancers. :). 

Bottom line: New things are less scary with a posse.

Build on personal relationships and help with individual obstacles. So that single dad friend of yours is interested but keeps saying no because of childcare? Keep asking in a kind/friendly way and actively help him problem solve. Would the child want to dance too? Could the child bring a friend? Can we make a “kit” of kid things for the child to play with if they aren’t dancing? Do we know of free/low cost childcare options? 

Bottom line: Busy/stressed folks need help dealing with the details. 

If a special event is coming up, talk about why it is special. Maybe one of your favorite bands/callers is coming into town. Maybe there is a contra dance planned at a local music festival. Maybe there will be a contra dance in a lake. Whatever it is that makes this event stand out--talk about it and talk about how it’s a treat you can’t get any old time. 

Bottom line: Hype up the party.

Be genuine. Don’t worry too much. If you are honestly loving contra and sharing authentically about it to the people around you, those that are paying attention will start to build a positive association with it. People like to be around people who make them feel good, and if contra makes you feel good, you will make people around you feel good when you are being happy about it.

Bottom line: Just enjoy yourself.