Dance Community Hospitality


UPDATED 23 June 2007


We are very fortunate to be a part of the rich treasure of dancers and musicians that live here in The Connecticut River Valley. Together we form a community that greatly adds to the quality of life for all of us here at The Guiding Star Grange. Being a community means the fellowship and common ownership of the music and dance as it belongs to each and every one of us. Dance groups have a long tradition of welcoming new dancers and including all that attend in the evening events. Dance has long been a great form of both recreation and exercise; a chance to literally “re-create” oneself after a hard week at work.


In recent times that tradition has been threatened in some dance groups as certain individuals decide to “Book Ahead” to insure they are not left out when there are gender imbalances and too few dancers. This has often become a problem at urban contra dances. As a result often the “regulars” get to dance while anyone else is left sitting out. Even if you get up to ask someone to dance, the partners are already gone within thirty seconds or less due to aggressive individuals. This became known as “The Greenfield Whoosh!” Aggressive behavior of this type is not a part of the folk dance tradition as a few “elite” dancers take much more than their fair share of the dance, while many other people sit out.  Aggressiveness steps on the toes of others (pardon the pun) and takes from others what is not theirs to have. What ends up happening is the people who pay at the door, are left out while paying for a “private party” other people get the benefit of. It causes people not to come back to the dance. This kind of thoughtless, selfish, and uncivil conduct will cause the demise of all dance groups in the future as no group can survive without new blood.


I have heard reliable reports from Glenn Echo, Maryland (Metro Washington DC) of some dancers even having booked ahead by EMAIL during the week! I really hope these reports are not true, but from what I have seen at Greenfield, it could very well be. The jury is out with me on this one. One dancer told me about how he took vacation time and flew from Los Angeles only to be shut out by booking ahead in Glenn Echo. All that expense for just two dances is the bottom line of his account.

One dance organizer told me the practice of booking ahead comes and goes “in phases.”


Please ask a newcomer to dance, and take the time to show this new person the steps and dances. We were all beginners once and each of us can thank the experienced dancers that took the time and effort to give to us. Every new dancer is a welcome visitor we need to become a long-term member of the dance community! When you book ahead, new people are forced to dance with other newcomers, which can cause problems in the line! Our future depends on new people for the support to maintain the building and keep the dances thriving. Please dance with both the experienced and new people. New people bring life to any group!


Booking ahead hurts the dance community as the “regulars” often tend to pair up with the experienced dancers and their friends. Booking ahead shuts out shy members of our community and new dancers. It sends a message to people of not being welcomed or belonging to the community. Booking ahead can make a person feel unwelcome and not return, diminishing fellowship. Often times it is done without thinking about these bigger issues such as hospitality; it is learned by example without considering the long-term effects. Both men and women dancers both suffer as a result. It is all too easy to get caught up with familiar friends and experienced dancers and the center set. It ruins the dance for those not part of the elite clique. Please ask someone on the side to dance. Even thoughtless actions can have the same effect as deliberate actions as people think this is normal and learn these dysfunctional patterns of behavior to survive. While one dancer described booking ahead as “self defense,” it is really a form of cancer that rots the dance community.


I just ask you to think about this and put the ideas into practice, breaking the cycle of “booking ahead.” It is rude to ask someone else for the next dance, while you are still dancing. If you know a dance where this is a problem, leave some copies of this web page out at the dance.


This has been less of a problem at Greenfield in recent months, as the people who do book ahead only do so one dance ahead. Try going on Monday or Thursday nights to The Scout House in Concord, Massachusetts where almost everyone books ahead for the best part of the night. Lets keep up the good work  in Greenfield to keep the balance of men and women, which really will eliminate much of the problem. Bring a friend!


If you are traveling or plan to attend a dance known for this objectionable practice, I can suggest you bring your own partner(s). At least you won’t get shut out.




Guiding Star Grange, Greenfield, MA





I have received regular and reliable reports of serious “Booking Ahead” issues about the following dance groups. This list is updated as needed. Your reports are welcomed at 




The Scout House, Concord, MA : Monday & Thursday evenings (bring your own partner)

Glenn Echo (Washington DC)

Glenside, PA (Philadelphia)



Mark Gaines RN RRT