European Association
of American Square Dancing Clubs e.V.

Friendship is Square Dancing's greatest reward


EAASDC-Bulletin September 2011

Help and Advice

Planning a Demonstration

By Christine Helwig, Country Dancers of Westchester
Reprinted from Country Dance & Song Society "NEWS"

You and your group have been invited to give a demonstration. Naturally you were pleased, and probably flattered, to have an opportunity to show others what your group is all about and you probably accepted on the spot. Undoubtedly you immediately ascertained all of the following facts:

1. When, where and why have you been asked to demonstrate? Is it a special celebration? A special event for an organization? A special attraction for an established facility? Or are you simply entertainers?

2. What kind of demonstration should it be? Is your group the whole program? Are you part of a large demonstration involving many other groups or are you part of a fair or pageant in which the dancing is incidental?

3. How long a program will it be? How many people will be needed or accommodated? (Space is often a problem).

4. Are funds available to reimburse you for out-of-pocket costs? What about transportation and hospitality if a meal or overnight stay is involved?

5. What about conditions for dancing and other facilities? Will you dance on a floor, on grass, on a parking lot, in a platform or stage? Will you dance rain or shine? Is a sound system needed? Is one available? (Don't forget to check about extension cords!) Will spectators be seated or wandering around? Are there facilities for changing? Will your dancers / musicians (if you have live music) be given passes and parking privileges? (Don't laugh - all of the above and many other details are vital for your performers' comfort and your own peace of mind)

6. Who will handle the publicity? What is up to you and what is up to your sponsor? Will you be given the courtesy of proofing any releases or programs to be sure that credits are properly given and that everyone's name is spelled correctly? Are pictures needed in advance? If pictures are to be taken, can you have copies for your records?

There may be other questions that your group will ask - e.g., can others not in the demonstration attend and will passes or other privileges be extended to them? Can they join in some of the dancing, if your program includes audience participation?

It is always wise to visit the site if you can and check out the details personally. There may be special circumstances that you would not think to ask about and there may be special attractions, such as a picnic area or other special events that will make your dancers' participation a gala occasion for your whole group.


As the leader you are concerned with an ongoing program and the well-being of a group of dancers. It is essential to ask yourself the following questions and perhaps to consult the dancers as well:

1. Is the kind of program or demonstration you have been asked to give compatible with your objectives? What will be the effect on your dancers? Will it increase their interest and pride in being part of the group?

Some positive effects: It is good public relations especially if you are doing something for a community organization to help their program or special activity. It focuses attention on your own activities and may attract new participants, especially if the program is designed to entice the audience to join in. If you handle publicity properly (and do a good job) you reflect credit on the activity as a whole. And finally it can be a lot of fun for your group and provide an incentive for your dancers in improving their abilities.

Some potential negative effects: Will mounting the demonstration involve a lot of extra time, work and expense? Will "putting on a good show" involve exploitation of your dancers by using regular meetings for rehearsals? Will selection of a "demonstration" group cause hard feelings? (Very probably, unless there are opportunities for everyone to participate in some part of the activity). Will a special burden be imposed on the dancers in the demonstration, such as extra rehearsals, costumes?

2. What kind of program should you plan? This is often determined by the invitation.

Some Suggestions from Experience

1. Consider your dancers:

Be sure that you do not ask them to do a program beyond their capacity - no matter how much you know or want to show. If your dancers are relaxed and are enjoying what they do, their enjoyment will be communicated to the audience.

2. Consider your audience:

Be sure your program has interest and variety that is apparent. No matter how interesting subtle differences are to you, they escape the casual spectator. Plan a variety of formations. Remember that brevity is a virtue. A dance should be long enough for the audience to grasp the pattern and special quality, but attention will wane after too many repetitions of the same figure.

Some commentary or explanatory remarks can increase the enjoyment and understanding of the spectators. Your commentary should be to the point. A connective commentary can also give the dancers a chance to catch their breath and regroup, both physically and mentally.

3. Consider the overall impression you want to create: Are the dances something that everyone can do and enjoy?

The perspective of our group has been that we want to show our dances and music as part of a living tradition and we don't believe that watching other people dance is what we are all about! This is why we prefer demonstrations with audience participation. If this is your objective, your dancers don't have to be "performers" and this should be made clear to your sponsors ahead of time. Usually a sponsoring organization is delighted to know that your dancers will invite spectators to participate with them at an appropriate time and it has been our experience that the audience enjoys the opportunity. Obviously, you have to present some very simple dances that everyone can do for this part of your program!

Be sure to have information about your group available for those interested. We hope that our experience will help you to enjoy the opportunity (and avoid some 'of the pitfalls) when you are invited to give a demonstration.

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