Annual Branch program of dances


Message 28105 · 12 Nov 2001 18:47:31 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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Dianna Shipman has inquired as to how we compose our annual program of 50 or
so dances (re San Gabriel Valley Branch in Southern California).

Our system has been developed and refined over several years, and here, in
somewhat of a nutshell, is how it works:

In June the Branch teachers meet to choose the program that will run
September-August upcoming. This is our Teachers' Committee, which meets
regularly throughout the year as well. Dances chosen have a term limit of
three years. On the rare occasion that we find one that we really dislike (a
goof in choice from the previous year!), it can be booted sooner, but even
those that we love MUST go after three years, though they can be brought back
after a rest in a subsequent year. Given that, about 2/3 of the annual
program remain, and it is only about 1/3 of dances that needs to be

The selection process is part objective, part subjective. First and foremost
we are seeking a balanced program, i.e., a roughly equal count of J, R, S
(and perhaps a medley or two), and within each a roughly equal count of B, I,
A. Next we attempt to be certain that all basic set-types, progressions, and
figures are represented. If we are losing a dance with a particular figure,
we seek another that has that figure. Once we have covered the basics, we
have a somewhat open-ended situation. Teachers are encouraged to be on the
lookout for new dances, and we try to have them presented at a Teachers'
Committee meeting prior to annual selection day, as that is full enough
already. We try not to choose dances purely from written instructions; we
hope that any dance we choose some teacher has at least danced somewhere.
This is a guideline, not an absolute. A good variety of beginner dances is
sometimes hard to find, and we've not been unknown to just grab something out
of Pillings or some other source, particularly if we need a figure and if it
is a relatively simple dance. Another balance for which we strive is to have
a good mixture of RSCDS "book" dances and dances from other sources. We
attempt not to have TOO MANY four- or five-couple dances, nor TOO many of
anything. We like to include at least one dance, perhaps unpublished, by a
local composer. And so it goes, no doubt with much that I've left out.
We've, mostly the same teachers, done this for quite a number of years now,
so that we all seem to have a mutual understanding of what we're mutually
attempting to put together; happily we seem to work well as a group. Each
branch doing a similar thing probably has a somewhat different approach.

Additionally the teachers produce and distribute to Branch members a cuebook
of all
of the dances on the program; we aim for September to have these in members'
hands. Particular dance programs are devised by individual teachers in turn;
there is some latitute for choice, but also an accepted formula so that dance
programs are balanced individually and over the year: such things as
limiting the number of new dances from the annual program (generally three
per event), repeating newly introduced dances for the next two events,
limiting the number of times any dance may appear in successive programs, et.
al., this of course in addition to always balancing each event in terms of
J/R/S and B/I/A of each. It sometimes becomes a challenge to devise programs
toward the end of the dance year (late spring, summer), being cautious that
nothing has been overdone nor neglected, but it always seems to work out.
Given our careful choices in June, teachers can then, over the course of a
year, be teaching all the important general aspects of SCD while at the same
time be preparing students to dance the specific dances of each upcoming
event (which always seems to be THEIR overriding conern!)

Reading this description may give the impression of a system very restrictive
and limited; we actually find it not to be so, but one which gives us system
and order to our task, rather than chaos and randomness. Despite all of our
guidelines, our Branch teachers do not lose sight of the fact that above all,
we want and MUST have dances and dance programs that are FUN!

Robb Quint
Thousand Oaks, California, USA

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