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Independent Dancers Could Change Face of Square Dancing

I’m meeting increasing numbers of dancers who have chosen to go independent rather than belong to a square dance club. Who can blame them? No dues. No kitchen duty and door duty. No cooking or buying potluck food before a dance. No arriving at the hall two hours early to decorate. No meetings to attend. Just pick your favorite venue, pay the $5, and dance the night away.

Square dancers “star through” at a dance.

A long-time square dancer and club member recently told me, “I’m tired.” Square dancing was one of the areas she was considering dropping. Contributing square dance club members face an increasing amount of work as clubs shrink and members grow busier, become older or die. A quick tour of the Boring Barn’s walls tells the story of dozens of once-thriving clubs that have folded and now are just a pennant on a wall, a name, a memory.

If the trend of shrinking and dying clubs and a growing population of independent dancers continues, the club model for square dancing could end. Instead of club members banding together to sponsor dances twice a month on competing nights, two or three for-profit venues in a city would host weekly or bi-weekly square dances. Entrance prices would have to go up. Food, drinks or snacks would no longer be free. But all dancers would have to do is show up.

The advantage to this scenario is that dances would be better attended because fewer venues would exist. Shrinking clubs would no longer have to worry about recruiting new members for lessons, planning and advertising dance themes, and wearing themselves out. 

The disadvantage? You decide. The choices the square dance community is now making are actually a vote. Is the present club model superior to a for-profit square dance model? Are the benefits of club membership worth the work? Should the club model continue? But if square dancing were to become a business, would it survive?

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