Bringing Young People into the Square Dance Activity…

Teens in our Square Dance activity.

Over the years, as a Kiwanis member and adviser to young people, I have noticed several points, that maybe we could use to attract young adults into Square Dancing, which is often thought of as an “old people activity”.
Lets explore some ideas as to why.

I think it’s kinda simple: We try to get them to do what “we” are doing and, in so doing, they resist. As a rule, we are always trying to get others to do what we are doing, probably more for the companionship than to grow the activity. Birds of a feather flock together I am told. I’m not to sure if its a matter of safety in numbers, or a simple human emotion, it’s that need for companionship… Or maybe both, that we humans tend to come together as a group.

Is it that simple? Since the beginning of time, young adults have had an innate desire to pull away from their roots, to wander off and strike out on their own. Young people have traditionally experimented with new “things”, sometimes just to be different. It’s in their DNA. Teenagers are constantly looking for something to differentiate themselves from their elders. It seems that good clean fun runs contrary to a teens natural urge to have fun. The fun is in doing something differently.

We have all observed in movies and various media, where the youngster does not want to be seen having the parent “drop them off” in front of the school. Obviously the teenager’s peers can see the atrocity of being dependent on an elder to get to school. Think about it…. Independence is the key here.

Perhaps Square Dancing needs to be setup as “Forbidden Fruit” where the simple act of “Temptation” will draw in the young crowd. I believe, that to attract young people into the square dance atmosphere, it would be good to set up a competition and have young people “qualify” by their peers to join such a wholesome activity. Just how to qualify, needs to be explored.

Perhaps we adults should use reverse psychology on them? (You may have heard of the negative sell?) Since the natural tendency for a teen is to do the opposite, why not give them what they want to hear?

“You can’t do that!”
“Square Dancing is to complicated for the younger Generation!”
“You’re not socially ready to learn to Square Dance!”
“Can you handle being socially intimate with 7 other people in the square?”
“Working together to accomplish a group task is beyond the Teen mind!”

From most of the previous statements, we all know that young people can outdo us in the speed of mind and body. (though, not experience.)  But the opportunity of learning proper social skills in a group activity is uppermost here.

Young adults have the same problems as teens, but add in the element of not enough time, either looking to higher education or just busy trying to make a living.

As adults, we may see (with all of our wisdom) a complete social and family atmosphere, whereby the “Teen” sees it as being dependent on someone older for their personal enjoyment and not able to try new things just to be different. AND… In our parental sub conscience, we are thinking that we need to “control them for their own good”. (as any good parent would think)

In the Kiwanis Club of Merced, we have young adult groups that flourish at all levels of school. The Key Club or the KIWIN Clubs are sub sets of the Adult Kiwanis clubs in High Schools. The Senior members of the Kiwanis clubs set up an atmosphere of having young people learn to govern themselves as the actual activity that we promote. Kids flock to join because the organization is made up of their peers. Leadership is elected from within their peer group and the required Kiwanis members in attendance are only there as a mentors for proper guidance.

As a youngster, I learned to Square Dance while I was a Jr. in High School. The local college Square Dance club, “The Poly Twirlers”, had lessons which were open to the public. I joined (a no brainer for me). In my Senior year, I started learning to call. The year after I had graduated High School, I became the Caller for the Poly Twirlers.

Since the Poly Twirlers was a College Club activity, there was the required adviser (who by-the-way, was a Square Dancer) that was responsible for club guidance. The club itself was run by existing members of the Poly Twirlers. Independence was the key theme here.
As “Poly Twirlers”, we were independent and enjoyed our peer companionship. When we decided to visit any other club, no matter the age group, we felt the common peer companionship at any other club we visited.

I would like to round out the above thoughts and examples by suggesting that we revisit how we might approach a segment of our population that could benefit greatly by our guidance in their development into adulthood. I know I did when I was young.

I am looking for ideas, possibly using some of the concepts above to help this along. More than likely, youngsters, will never join a group with adults. It is more likely to happen if the group is comprised of their peers. A separate club sponsored by any given single club or association, such as the local service organizations have done for their sponsored youth.

Keep in mind, for our activity to continue into the future, our youth must bring it up with them. For Square Dance to survive, we must teach our young what it is, and to enjoy it. Bring any ideas up with me and if we can start something, please volunteer to help any way you can.

A list of advantages for Teens: Group dating atmosphere – Learn social skills – Keeps the mind busy in a positive and constructive way while dancing – Promotes healthy conversations – Safe environment to gather socially – Chaperoned – Physical exercise – Western Facsimile of dress is fun to emulate. – Long term coordination and muscle memory exercises that will help young people into their future, such as balance and positional awareness. (A learned skill that Square Dancing has to offer.)