Houston Area Traditional Dance Society

Anatomy of a Dance

By Dorcas Hand

Have you ever thought about what it takes to make a dance happen? It is nice to decide at 7:00 pm of a Saturday evening that yes, tonight you can get there, and yes, that would be fun. Hop in the car, pay your money and dance until you decide to leave. Enjoy the icy water and a few snacks between dances; learn a new figure and meet a new friend. Promise to come again soon and fall asleep smiling.

So let's take a minute to consider what went in to making that dance happen. First, enough people had to be interested enough in contradancing and knowledgeable enough to host one in the beginning. They had to teach a floor full of new dancers, and make it enough fun that those new dancers would return because one dance is never enough. Once it became a series of dances, there were more arrangements: a regular hall with rent to be paid, a commitment by music and caller who would like at least gas money.

Eventually, the original caller/musicians got tired of doing everything alone so they asked the community to step up and help. A dance group is born with bylaws, elected leadership, and bills to pay. Oh, and members, the regular dancers who want to be sure the dance continues. Members pay dues, a small amount to support the organization. What could the organization need the money for? In the old days for paper and postage, for flyers and newsletters, but nowadays for web hosting and maybe advertising. There is insurance required now by most halls of any renter. And there is unofficial insurance: money to cover any bills that come up when dances don't break even for a period of time.

The elected officers are also constantly considering how to get the word out that the dances are happening so that new dancers will come, so that the group will grow not just in numbers but in energy and community. They are wondering what will make membership more attractive to dancers so that the group is not constantly wondering if they are viable, wondering how to convince dancers that taking a turn as Dance Manager or board member is not only helpful but also fun and an important piece of the dance community. They are looking for the best hall, one that suits the size and bank account of the organization in a convenient location with whatever amenities the group feels essential.

The money taken at the door is intended to cover the cost of rent, musicians and caller, but sometimes it doesn't. The organization needs to cover that expense sometimes to be sure the dance continues. There is lemonade, cups, ice, napkins—“dancer comforts.”

The leadership is also responsible to be sure someone will be there to open the hall, to play the tunes, to call the dances, to watch the door. Someone needs to arrive early to be sure the hall is ready for dancing—no tables in the way, air conditioning turned as cold as possible, sound system ready, water in the cooler. And someone needs to stay after the dance ends to reset the hall as expected, to put away the sound system and water coolers until the next time.

Back to that original question: Have you ever thought about what it takes to make a dance happen? Now you have some small sense of what it takes to keep the HATDS dances going twice a month, year in and year out for over 25 years. Only a few of the original leaders are still active, and it is definitely time for some new blood.

The next question: Have you ever thought about stepping into HATDS leadership? Come on. Have some real fun with us making HATDS one of the most vibrant dance groups in Texas!

Dorcas smiling

See the Getting Involved page for some ways that you can make a difference in HATDS! Sign up for a specific dance at our SignUp Genius page, or contact the board of directors now and let them know that you're ready to help.