Thoughts on leading dances for novices

Here are the rules I use when putting together a program for a group of novice dancers (such as at a party or for the freshman orientation at Knox College). These are developed from a combination of experience and (what seems to me to be) common sense. Here is a proto-typical program of the sort I have used successfully in the past.
  1. 1 or 2 longways whole set dances such as Galopede or Cumberland Reel. This gets them used to moving with the music, introduces several figures and the idea of progression.

  2. 1 or 2 simple Sicilian circle dances such as Sanita Hill Circle. Introduces taking hands-four. Progression is by passing through with neigbors and meeting a new couple. Since they always move in the same direction they don't need to turn about at the ends.

  3. Some simple contras such as Jefferson's Reel and Haste to the Wedding. These are of course very similar to the Sicilian circles, but add in waiting out at the ends and changing from 1's to 2's and vice-versa.
This is the basic structure that I use for programs. In addition I will put in a simple circle mixer or two, a simple square dance or two, a waltz or two, and maybe a polka or a schottische (the schottische is pretty easy to teach). Depending on who the band is I may also use some English Country dances.

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Last updated on May 15, 2008