By Dick Oakes
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IN THE BEGINING
Originally, folk dances developed naturally in many ways through festivals, religion, customs, etc., and have, in some instances become the national dances in the countries of their origin. At times, the steps of different dances of a particular region are combined into a set pattern for demonstration purposes. The resulting choreography is known as a "character dance." However, they are generally considered to be "folk dances" for convenience.
Folk dancing in the United States is now, as in the beginning, an educational social recreation, embodying personal fitness, self-assurance, fellowship, understanding, and, above all, enjoyment. A common interest in folk dancing is sufficient for individuals to get together to dance.
Although a group of people may form a folk dance class for the express enjoyment of dancing, there are other aspects which must be considered: a place to dance, time, the instructor(s), what is to be taught and danced, finances, equipment, and the dancers themselves and their responsibilities.
Many service organizations are willing to sponsor folk dance groups by furnishing them with a place to dance for little or no rental fee. Schools, playgrounds, or in the beginning even a large basement are very good. Check for available dates of the prosepctive location, selecting the day and time best suited for the group's needs. It is important to obtain a hall with enough floor space, unobstructed by pillars. The hall should permit comfortable dancing and allow for expansion of the group. The floor should not be sticky, nor should it be "ballroom slick." Permission should be secured from the landlord for any proper treatment of floor surfaces.
Sometimes a folk dance teacher will start a class. Other times the selection of a teacher is necessary. Most areas have capable folk dancers who would be willing to teach at the ability of a class such as beginner, intermediate, or advanced. A good program for beginner dancers is instruction in dances that illustrate basic steps, formations, and positions, and other fundamental skills.
A class, even if sponsored by another activity, should be financially independent. This can be achieved in various ways. If the hall is rented, a charge may be made at the door. If, however, the location is a school, playground, or recreational facility, you may have to ask for donations later, depending upon the rules of the sponsor and/or landlord. Some sponsors would gladly help to defray the costs of the class to get it started, but this should not be a continuing policy. Whatever the arrangement, the teacher must receive a fair payment for services rendered.
A group that forms a class usually has among its members at least one person who owns a computer with folk dances or a record player and records which the class might be allowed to use at first but be sure not to abuse the privilege. Playgrounds and recreational centers often have equipment that can be used. Later, when sufficient funds have become available, the class should purchase its own equipment. At this point the class begins to feel the satisfaction of being "on its own."
There are a few essentials or responsibilities needed to keep the class on its feet. They include:
- Regular and prompt attendance.
- A mixture of fun and hard work.
- A prevailing friendly atmosphere.
EVOLUTION OF THE CLUB
When a class has shown a promising degree of stability, it will probably wish to become a "club." The organization usually depends upon the members forming the club.
The Democratic Club or "Co-op"
A group of persons with the same ambitions, desires, and friendships could form a club along co-operative, democratic principles. Such a group elects its own officers, conducts its meetings by Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised, and forms a constitution or bylaws and standing rules.
The Director-Headed Club
Occasionally, a very capable and popular leader will form a club along the lines of a "benevolent dictatorship," managing and directing the group, and at times assigning various responsibilities to other members.
Open or Closed Group?
A club may be "open" to anyone without invitation, or it may be "closed" to some persons for a variety of reasons. Deciding factors may be:
- The size of the hall, necessating limitation of the size of membershhip to a set number.
- Level of ability of its members.
- Amount of experience of its members.
- Age of its members.
- Objectives of the group.
Whatever the type of club is to be formed, the purpose should always be to encourage the enjoyment of folk dancing and related arts, and the promotion of a spirit of friendship.
As a child needs help and guidance to allow it to grow and attain maturity, so will a club need a uniting outline or guideline to keep it on the right track. Following is a sample outline of a constitution and bylaws for a folk dance club. It is a suggested format that may be adjusted to meet the requirements of individual clubs.
Article I Name
The name of this organization shall be ________________________________.
Article II Purpose
The purpose of this organization shall be to encourage the enjoyment and promotion of __________ folk dancing and related arts in a spirit of frienship.
Article III Membership
Section 1. Membership shall not be denied any persons because of race, creed, or color. Section 2. Membership shall be valid as long as dues are paid. Section 3. Members shall at all times abide by the Constitution, its Bylaws and Standing Rules, and the general practices of the club. Section 4. Because the club is operating in the best interests of folk dancing, members are asked to maintain proper social behavior at club functions. Appearance at club functions while under the influence of alcohol shall be cause for expulsion from the club.
Article IV Dues
Membership fees shall be $_______, payable (weekly/monthly/yearly/etc.).
Article V Officers
Section 1. Elected officers shall be: President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Section 2. Appointed officers shall be: Membership Chairperson, Program Chairperson, Publicity Chairperson, Social Chairperson, Refreshment Chairperson, and Historian. Section 3. Duties of the officers shall be: President: Shall preside at club and executive board meetings; be a member-ex-officio of all committees; appoint and/or remove appointed officers; act in emergencies. Vice President: Shall assume the duties of the president in the absence of the latter; act as Parliamentarian; keep a record of all club property and its location(s). Secretary: Shall keep a correct account of business proceedings; keep a list of standing committees; handle all club correspondence; keep a constant check of members for correct mailing list; give notice of business or executive board meetings as required. Treasurer: Shall be custodian of club funds; collect all monies; pay all bills; give financial reports at business meetings; prepare a budget; prepare written financial reports at the end of the term of office. Membership Chairperson: Shall handle smooth induction of new members; keep constant watch for absenteeism, etc. Program Chairperson: Shall be in charge of dance programs; provide for proper maintenance of club equipment, recordings, indexes, etc.; purchase recordings when necessary; appoint someone to handle the program each dance session. Publicity Chairperson: Shall be in charge of all club publicity; be in charge of the club bulletin. Social Chairperson: Shall handle special events such as parties, club trips, etc. Refreshment Chairperson: Shall handle the club's refreshment supplies; appoint refreshment committees for each dance session; follow through on committee progress before, after, and during the dance session. Historian: Shall maintain the club documents, scrap book, and library.
Article VI Election of Officers
Section 1. Officers shall be elected by a majority vote for the period of one year. Section 2. Officers shall be nomnated at the October business meeting. Voting, by secret ballot, shall be at the November business meeting Section 3. Officers shall take office on January 1st and hold office for one year, until December 31st.
Article VII Amendments
These Bylaws can be amended only by 2/3 majority vote of those present. The entire membership must be notified in advance that an amendment is to be considered at a business meeting.
RUNNING THE CLUB
With a guideline to follow, a club still needs a way to run itself smoothly. This can be accomplished at business meetings. Such meetings may be held at a regular dance session or on another specified date. Alternate meetings could be held at the homes of members. A copy of Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised should always be at hand for reference.
Meetings begin on time with the president calling the meeting to order. The secretary then reads the minutes of the previous meeting after which the minutes are approved as read or amended. Then follows the reports of the treasurer and various chairpersons of standing and special committees. Next in order is unfinished business followed by new business. The meeting may be adjourned after the date, time, and location of the next meeting are fixed.
There are various methods for choosing the name for a club. Here are some:
- Area where the club meets (China Lake Desert Dancers).
- Level of the dancers (Intermediate Folk Dancers).
- Name of the founder or teacher (Kayso Folk Dancers).
- Fun names (More the Merrier Folk Dance Club).
- Ethnic terminology (Narodni Folk Dancers).
- Region of dance specialty (Skandia South).
- Day of club's sessions (Tuesday Gypsies).
CLUB BADGES AND EMBLEMS
To show association with a club, or as a means of identifying members of other groups and meeting other people, the club badge with the club's own emblem is frequently a prized possession. Plain name badges may be best for the new group just getting started, but later on, custom badges with name slots and jeweler's pins can be purchased at relatively small group expense. Club emblems could be designed around the group's name, dancers in action, etcetera. If the club is fortunate to have artistic members, it has taken care of the larger half of the process. Most badge manufacturers, however, have their own artists who can develop any idea inexpensively.
SPECIAL SOCIAL EVENTS
Parties and special events can add much interest to a club schedule. Some groups might want to hold a regular monthly party session, sending publicity to other clubs. If the group serves refreshments at regular dance sessions, the refreshments for party sessions could be a bit more elaborate. The group may wish to go "en masse" to a picnic, the mountains, an ethnic restaurant, a festival, or on a hay ride. Such a trip can be made more enjoyable and exciting by chartering a bus, which would free all participants of driving tensions. Other special events could include teaching by well-known experts in the folk dance field.
Occasionally, due to poor attendance, lack of interest, moving away of the main leader, loss of dancing facilities, etcetera, a club reaches a point where it is no longer practical to continue its activities. A fair and equitable arrangement should be made in the club constitution for the disposal of the remaining treasury, equipment, and recordings. A merger of the group with another, pooling resources and equipment, might enable remaining members to dance with their friends without the burden of keeping a dying group alive. If that doesn't work, donation to the sponsoring organization might help another group to start again one day.
Used with permission of the author.