20 Years / 20 Jahre Square Dance (IV) -eine persönliche Bilanz-
Hartmut Heiber, Colonia Swingers
Reprint from / Nachdruck aus dem Square Up 63, August 2009
Part 1 compare Bulletin Dec 09 page 55
Part 2 compare Bulletin Sept 10 p. 69
Part 3 compare Bulletin Nov 10 p. 46
There are a lot of specials in Germany, every weekend something is going on anywhere, of course there are regional differences. In North Rhine Westphalia you could, without much expenditure for travelling, visit a special on three Saturdays a month. Also the craze of club foundations has continued, that means that the number of clubs in our region has increased tenfold within the last 20 years. Also the new clubs are ambitious to organize their own special dance even if not yearly. Many specials have less visitors than before, some traditional specials have the same number or higher numbers. Many dancers “pick the cherries”, i.e. they only attend specials with famous and wellknown callers, but also club nights offering those callers. Often guest callers are invited at club nights, and those nights are attended by higher numbers of guests without doing much publicity, verbal propaganda is really effective. During specials many dancers are present at special parts of the program only, often you meet them at the cake and evening buffet, at the evening program they have disappeared already. The participation of clubs is not the same as before: Often there are e.g. 80 dancers from 40 clubs, often those are “intensive dancers” who are members of 2-3 clubs. Workshops at special dances are more the exception as you are obliged to dance all the tips in order to be able to follow the callers’ instructions. Many dancers attend the Mainstream and Plus specials for “social reasons”, in order to meet friends etc., often they dance half the time only. On the other hand the following afterparties are not much demanded any more where you could have the possibility to chat with your friends. The afterparties today are a poor imitation of the afterparties in the past, except if there is the evening buffet and a band is playing or you have live music. Ballroom dancing also is the exception nowadays.
The structures in Square Dancing have been stabilized nowadays. There is Square Dancing, Round Dancing, Clogging (established in our area in the 90s, in North Rhine Westphalia there are existing even 3 steady groups), and also Contra Dancing and traditional Square Dancing, but with comparatively small dancer numbers. The clubs have adopted other habits concerning the callers. Formerly nearly every club had a regular club caller who cared for the club night, who built up the dancing level of the dancers concerning their abilities, and who also was responsible for the regular beginners’ class. This has changed in many clubs. Against that, often changing callers are invited to the club nights, on a regular or irregular basis. Many good callers have called at least one time in numerous clubs of the area, and they will be invited again if they had had success. The system of replacements is working well, if the club caller is unable to attend, as there are many callers in areas as ours, it’s only necessary to engage him in time. There are only disadvantages for the clubs in so-called “diaspora” areas, i.e. areas with a minority of clubs, where the clubs are far from each other. As the density of clubs in North Rhine Westphalia meanwhile is satisfactory, that means area-wide, there are also efforts to look for cooperation between neighbor clubs and to coordinate dates of dances, classes etc., in order not to “queer someon’s pitch” and not to take dancers from the other club or not to entice them away. All these measures of course were not necessary in the past.
The average age of dancers has increased and is now at about 50 years, more dancers in the pensioner or retired age have joined the square dancers. The dancers of the first “Storm and Stress” period of the 70s and 80s slowly disappear. Many club members today are not holding their membership for a long time, for instance there is no active member now in my club, the “Colonia Swingers” (founded in 1981) who is a foundation member.
Certainly, there is another development, since about 2005, that shows, here and there, some positive perspectives: Again there are more children and teenagers who are coming to join the square dancers, they are also supported by their parents. At every special dance you see again teens and twens who enjoy dancing and mingle among the old dancers. There are again youth or teen classes now and then.
We have many clubs in our greater area NRW who are very active in general, but also those who just get along with a few dancers, one or two squares, and some must finish their activities due to lack of members or dance motivation, but not as in the USA or in England due to advanced age of members, but solely because there is no more enthusiasm or no caller who could be found and paid. Of course, negative trends having started in the 90s cannot be reversed quickly: The racing to higher dance programs and levels has not slowed down, many long-time dancers now are dancing Advanced and Challenge and less MS and Plus. Many dancers who had criticized and complained for years the decline of the training level of callers demanded remedy, and so ECTA, the European federation of callers and cuers, introduced the EEP (ECTA Educational Program) that offered a possibility to callers and cuers to participate in a training program with a final examination and so be able to produce a certain qualification. The former caller exam and the White Badge of ECTA were abolished in the 90s.
Concerning these new developments we certainly can have a look more confident to the future of our pastime.