POTD1 Session Topics

Page last updated:  November 9, 2011.

Puttin’ On the Dance ~ Northeast Dance Organizers Conference

November 11-13, 2011 ~ White River Junction, VT

Session Descriptions as of 11/9 (subject to change)

We are building the conference program around what it takes to build a successful dance series including the following elements. (For easy cross-referencing, session numbers below correspond with the sessions listed in the Schedule.)


1) Vision: First Things First (All-Conference Session)
Bob Henshaw, David Millstone and Delia Clark
It may not be explicitly articulated, but every dance series has a vision.  Clarifying our vision is crucial because it guides us as we make decisions, large and small, which in turn shape the character of our particular series.  How can organizers formulate a shared vision?  What is your group’s vision for your dance, and how does it manifest?  Together we will explore these vital questions, generating answers to inform and guide our participation throughout the weekend.

BUILDING OUR VISIONS: Healthy Dance Organizations

2) Organizing Your Committee
Nancy Turner
This session is designed to help organizers of any committee — old or new — to get themselves organized. We will share how one contra dance committee got itself organized when the old guard retired and new volunteers stepped up to to steward the dance.  We’ll cover how we defined volunteer roles and what we expect of our volunteers; our annual goal setting to strengthen the dance; how we established a new mission statement; and we’ll describe how we created an information sheet for performers that gives them an idea of what we expect to happen at each dance. Even in our eighth year of working together, we still find things to talk about at the five or six committee meetings that we hold each year.

3) Building and Sustaining a Healthy Volunteer Base (All-Conference Session)
Delia Clark
Our dances run on volunteer power!  We need a powerful base of diverse volunteers with energy to get up and do what needs to be done!  We’ll tap each others’ best ideas and most promising practices in such areas as identifying, training and retaining volunteers of all ages and skill sets; incentives; communication; working collaboratively; community-building; and sustaining morale.

4) Leading Effective Meetings
Lisa Sieverts
Many people consider meetings a necessary evil, but meetings can be enjoyable and wildly productive. Learn a few simple tools and techniques that will change your dance group meetings from mundane to marvelous. There will be time for brainstorming solutions to real challenges you’re facing in your groups. Lisa Sieverts has been leading great meetings for companies and non-profits since 1993.

5) Dance Money Mechanics
Rob Lindauer
Your series is bringing in money – what do you do with it?  Rob Lindauer, treasurer of the Hartford, CT Community Dance, will gently lead you through some ins and outs of money management for your dance series.  Topics covered will include: setting a budget for your series; controlling cash at the event; tracking event income and expenses; producing event, periodic and annual financial reports; preparing required governmental reports (1099s for callers / bands, Form 990 for the organization overall).  Rob will provide sample income / expense categories, event and annual spreadsheets, and reports for you to mull over.

7) Formalizing Structures: Non-profit Status and Insurance
Nancy Turner and Bob Elliott
Governance and administrative systems require routine updating as organizations evolve. In this session, three dance organizers will share how their dance committee manages governance structures and the systems that form the administrative and decision making foundations for a dance. Some topics that we plan to cover include: the pluses and minuses of registering as a non-profit; how to get liability insurance; setting up your bank account; what are the bylaws or articles of incorporation; who is responsible for the dance?  We’ll share some issues that we are currently addressing at our dances to generate discussion, and open up the floor to any issues that you might be tackling in your own dance community.


8.) To Market, To Market… Jiggity Jig
Chrissy Fowler and Lisa Sieverts
A dance organizer’s heart swells to see a sea of smiling dancers, just as an entrepreneur is gladdened when her business attracts happy customers.  But how do we pull in those dancers and customers?  Together, we’ll venture beyond the proverbial flyer table, discovering practical tactics for marketing our series, from the well-crafted press release to preaching to the converted.  (Note: Online marketing is covered in Session 10.)

9) Promoting Youth Participation: Ideas and Practical Tips
Max Newman
Former CDSS Youth Intern Max Newman will share some ways to increase youth participation as dancers, callers, musicians, and organizers. Topics covered will include: “youth” vs. “new” participation; children, the forgotten youth; and who to have as your group’s Facebook czar.

10) To Facebook and Beyond: Online Marketing for Dance Series
Emily Addison and Alex K-G
Alex and Emily are keen to talk online marketing tools – debatably the most powerful form of marketing we have at our fingertips.  They’ll share best practices on a wide variety of tools including everything from websites and social media to cross promoting with other organizations and using other event listing sites.  There will be lots of room for sharing of ideas within the room and there will be handouts. Come talk online marketing and find out how it can be a key piece to developing and supporting your dance community!


Working with Dancers…
11) Shaping the Dance Experience
Lisa Greenleaf
This is a discussion of ways to influence dance style and manners through community and leadership involvement. What kind of dance experience do you want your series to promote?  Once you define this and apply it to your particular series, you can take steps towards educating newer dancers, raising the level of intermediate dancers and satisfying experienced dancers.

12) Positive Solutions for Problems in your Dance Community
Chris Weiler
What do you do when someone is assaulted at your dance? How do you respond when people complain about that “creepy” dancer? When someone is dancing in a manner that is putting their partners in danger? How do you do it and still maintain the goal of being a welcoming, tolerant community? It’s best to be prepared before it happens to you. We’ll discuss these issues through role play, sharing experiences and thoughtful discussion.

13) Intergenerationality: A Big Word — A Big Value
Max Newman and Mary Wesley
We’ll examine a common, but sometimes unspoken, value.  Is a community with lots of young folks “intergenerational”?  What does it take to foster intergenerationality at our dances?  What does non-intergenerationality look like?  And, finally, is there a shorter word we can use?

Working with Callers and Musicians…
14) Booking and Working with the Talent
Lisa Greenleaf
We will go over many of the issues related to hiring bands and callers, from the business side to artistic expectations, and how organizers can communicate with performers before, during and after the event.  Included will be a chance to hear the performer’s side of the experience.

15) Developing and Nurturing English Country Dance Musicians in Your Community
Robin Hayden
The music is *such* a crucial factor in the success of your English dance community!  Do you have a flourishing inter-generational community of musicians?  Tell us about your journey and share your hard-won expertise.  Starting from scratch building such a community?  Share the obstacles you face and develop a “next steps” strategy for getting there.  By supporting and communicating with each other, we strengthen the overall field of ECD musicians and the quality of our dance experience.

Working with Sound…
16) Sound Systems 101
Tony Hernandez
This session is designed primarily for the organizer who needs to know something about sound systems but does not yet, and for volunteers who are learning the basics.  For those who are already operating sound systems, it is a good review. We’ll start with a brief description of the basic physical components of a sound system, how each piece operates, and ways to deploy them on stage.  We’ll focus on sound systems typically found in the local contra dance scene (bring a list of your gear and I’ll try to incorporate specific details when possible – bring the actual gear if you don’t mind hauling it!)  I’ll also add information about what additional tools are out there. Finally, we’ll make the initial connection between organizing and sound systems/operators.

17) Sound Plus
Tony Hernandez
This technical and non-technical session is designed to bring your sound system knowledge to the next level. You’ll learn how to listen as a sound system operator, focusing on what to listen for and what to to.  We’ll discuss how many of the instruments used at dances actually function acoustically and how to tweak to your advantage. Included will be additional subjects that sound folks deal with, from musicians and dancers to electronics and physics – even things completely unrelated to the actual sound system. Bring lots of questions!

6) Saturday Sound Lab
Rick Barrows
See the PA that looks like the inside of the Space Shuttle!  (That’s how fiddler/caller Amy Cann once described it.)  This hands-on session gives participants the inside scoop on doing sound for the mega-band Northern Spy, and various insights gleaned over two decades.  Convening at Tracy Hall, we’ll hook everything up so it works properly.  Then, after a break for dinner, we’ll make both the band and the dancers happy – at the same time, if we can!  Once the band sound check is complete, Rick will take his place on stage, and you can take turns telling him what you think needs to be changed.  Remember, there’s always one more knob you can turn!


18) Successful Family-Community-Barn Dances
Paul Rosenberg and Delia Clark
Whatever the billing (family dance, community dance, barn dance), this sort of series helps traditional dance make deep inroads into the general population.  Why do we love organizing these dances?  How do we best meet the needs of dancers aged 2 to 92?  What are the unique joys and challenges of a series that’s so community-based and absolutely accessible to neophytes? What successful strategies can you share? Let’s talk!

19) Building Community Through Gender Role Free Dancing
Chris Ricciotti
Historically, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) people have created their own social structures as a way of defining and building community. The development of gender role free dancing has helped to create a new vision of dancing from a global perspective and provide a context for social dancing that continues to be relevant, inclusive and welcoming. This session will include a brief history of the modern-day gender role free dance movement followed by a discussion about how this dance form can transform a dance event and create opportunities for community-building. We will also explore the potential of this philosophy for adding new people to the richly diverse traditional dance scene of today. Each attendee will receive an informative manual containing some of the research we have done on the fascinating history of gender and dancing.


20) The Dancing We Do: Past, Present and Future!
David Millstone and Max Newman
What is our history and does it matter? Was there a time of peaceful coexistence between contras and squares? We’ll trace the course of country dancing from French quadrilles to techno contra, from Henry Ford’s Orchestra to Perpetual e-Motion. As we do this, we’ll consider what our history means for our present and reflect on our future.

21) Carrying On the Traditions: Cultivating New Callers and Musicians
Mary Wesley and Linda Henry
Investing in new leaders is a valuable way to ensure that the traditions we love continue to thrive. In what ways can our dance communities provide supportive environments for growing new musicians and callers? Some organizers in our region are actively building this aspect into their dances. In this session we’ll explore different models for encouraging new talent. Sharing their experiences will be Mary Wesley, co-founder of the Mad Robin Callers Collective, a group for up-and-coming callers in Burlington, VT and Linda Henry, who is creating a welcoming sit-in scene for musicians at the Amherst, MA Community Dance. Joining them will be several conferees with their own stories to tell about supporting musicians and callers in their home communities.

22) Organizers Unite!
Linda Henry and Chris Weiler
This conference will undoubtedly generate many new connections and resources for us participants. In this session, we’ll explore how to continue these connections and share these resources with other dance organizers throughout the Northeast and beyond. Facilitating this session will be Linda Henry, CDSS Outreach Manager, who is actively working to bring ongoing support to dance organizers throughout the U.S. and Canada. Also on deck will be Chris Weiler, founder of Shared Weight, to lend his expertise about online networking.

23) Bringing it Home (All-Conference Session)
Delia Clark, Chrissy Fowler, Linda Henry, Mary Wesley
After this time of learning and inspiration, we want to translate the momentum to our home communities. How can we carry home ideas and energy that have come alive this weekend, and help them take root for future growth? What helps us integrate new thinking into our existing organizational teams? How can the community we’ve created here help us to sustain our commitment to dance organizing? What will maintain our network? We’ll leave the conference with tools for bringing it all home.

And last but not least, there will be time to create your own sessions!

24) Open Space (All-Conference Session)
Delia Clark and YOU!
Harnessing the power of self-organization, this session will give you an opportunity to identify juicy topics you are most eager to discuss, and delve into the conversations you see as most pertinent. These might be topics that aren’t already explicitly on the schedule, and they might be ones that come up in the moment.  Working together through a quick structured process, we will create an agenda based on these topics, and invite each other into dialogue, deep, far-ranging, or wherever you take it!  Note: no preparation required – we’ll do it all on the spot.


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