The International Square Dance Magazine

Mike Seastrom

Demonstrating our Dance

Showing our dance to others is a great way to update our image, demonstrate the fun and team spirit of our unique dance form, and interest others in joining our recreation. Yet, to really be effective in using demonstrations as a means of bringing new dancers into our activity, it has to be done right and with a plan.

How many times has your group been out to a mall, a fair, a chili cook off or some other event? You had a great time doing a demonstration, but only had limited success encouraging those in the crowd to join your next new dancer program or class. I’ve spoken with many club and association leaders over the last 25 years who have said they still do some demonstrations, but they hardly ever get new dancers to join their group. Many clubs have just stopped doing them altogether.

The following suggestions are my opinions only. They come from personal experience and by talking to those who consistently succeed in bringing new people into their new dancer programs by doing these demonstrations. I’m not talking about the times we entertain people with our dance in convalescent hospitals and the like. I’m talking about those events where others can see us and be excited enough to join.

1. Music: Think about the age of the group you would like to target and have your caller program the demonstration to what would appeal to that age group. You’ll also need to consider that the age of the dancers in the demonstration can’t be too far off the group you are targeting. If all your demo dancers are in their 70s and 80s and you are trying to appeal to people in their 40s and 50s, you won’t be as successful, even if you use music that they like. Be realistic, but definitely consider the age and music preferences of those you want to attract.

2. Dress: If all your dancers come to the demonstration wearing their fancy square dance clothes, most of those watching will think you are all professional dancers and that they could never be as good as you are. They will also immediately think that it takes lots of time to be that good and will enjoy watching you, but will not participate when your caller asks all of you to go out and bring in volunteers to dance an easy number. It is my opinion that most of your group should wear clothes that your target audience would have in their own closet at that moment. It’s much easier for your targeted group to imagine themselves dancing if they already own the type of clothes that your dancers have on. If a couple of your members absolutely have to wear their traditional clothes, then so be it; but I personally feel it can have a negative effect.

3. Non-Participating Participants: I know this sounds a little shady, but having some of your group in “plain clothes” can really help the success of your demonstration. Appoint several of your own people to dress in the same attire that your targeted observers would be wearing at the event. As they mingle on the outskirts of your demonstration, it makes it look like there are people watching already, so others will be more apt to stop too. It also is a great way to get your audience to join you when the caller stops and requests some of the audience to join. Your “non-participating participants” gladly volunteer to join in an easy dance. This helps provide some additional incentive for others to join. Believe me, it works. How far you go with this is up to you, but people are more likely to join your demonstration when they see others jump at the chance.

4. Names, Addresses, Phone and Email info: Plan a way to have people sign up for some kind of a contest or raffle. Print tickets on your computer that has the information on your next class or new dancer event. Have the other part of the ticket be your copy asking for names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. This information gives you the ability to follow up by mail, phone, or email and contact these interested people with further information about the next opportunity to join you. This leads us to the next point.

5. Hold a Raffle or Prize Giveaway: Decide prior to your demonstration, what might appeal to your target audience. Some examples are free dance lessons, movie tickets, theater tickets, tickets to a sporting event, or a theme park. Use your imagination and the resources of those in your group. Don’t miss out on this golden opportunity to provide an incentive to get personal information. Then be sure to follow up and personally contact those that have shown interest. These are important steps and are critical to your success. There may be some rules and regulation in your area dealing with prize giveaways, so check them out first.

6. Dancing: Be sure to have your caller keep the dancing easy and use movements that flow and look good. Your audience needs to picture themselves participating and if you’re dancing figures like Relay the Deucey and Spin Chain the Gears, it can be a little intimidating to your observers and diminish the success of your demo. If you get too complicated, many will think it will be too hard for them to learn.

7. Smile and Have Fun: This point is pretty self-explanatory, but is often left out. Dancers should make eye contact with each other and with some of those in the crowd. Your success will go way up if you’re having fun.

There may be some points that I’ve missed and I would love to hear about other things that have worked for you. Feel free to send those suggestions or “Winning Ways” to CALLERLAB at or email me at

CALLERLAB wishes you great success with your demonstrations! 

Fun set to music!