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Thoughts of the Lady in the Tower

2004-05-15 - 3:53 p.m.

This is from my locked journal, but since there was a request to put it in a shareable format, I'll putting it here. I'll write about my trip in a bit.

Got back from New England today to find a HUGE discussion going on about SCA participation, recruitment, retention, and such. Some reading links:

Siderea: So, I got my Minuscule today... about Carolingia�s activity level. Also:

Other changes noticed


Critical mass

An interesting thing happened on the way to the Globe

cellio generalized a bit with waning SCA groups

I commented here and there, but some of my thoughts don�t really latch on to the earlier comments and some just belong here.

I found the discussion about the functioning of Carolingia�s guilds and groups fascinating, since I just attended their Dance Practice (from what I understand, this is the social dance group instead of the dance geek group). Lots of stuff was very different from how I�m used to running/participating in stuff. Not that any of it was wrong, or that our ways are better, but here are some observations.

Carolingia�s Dance Practice and my thoughts on Retention/Participation (from an outsider to the group).

First, an outline. Started with group stretching. I�ve never seen/heard of it as a precursor to dancing. Then, 4 easy bransles (of the step, step, step, kick, step, step, kick variety; nothing challenging, but I don�t remember their names either; is that information available somewhere? I noticed the dance mistress writing on the board). From there, almaines (3 I think), 15th century Italian (2 or 3), 16th century Italian (1), and ECD (3 or 4 before I left). In the middle was �story time� (read from one of the Italian dance master�s manuals; I missed the name).

All dances were run in the �we�re doing XYZ, everyone remember it?� (usually I was the one raising my hand; I think there were 4 dances I was familiar with done that night) �quick talk through and let�s go.�

I was stunned. No, stunned wasn�t even the word, it�s not strong enough. Gathering Peascods didn�t get even a talk-through. My effort to do it at Challenge this past weekend was a failure as far as dance goes (though people seemed to ENJOY it; technically it was a DISASTER).

I hope I wasn�t too annoying. I was struggling. To struggle like this at a dance practice astounds me. I hope this doesn�t sound conceited, but I am generally accounted a good dancer and am an INCREDIBLY fast learner. I�ve ended up teaching dance so much because I learn and retain fast (it�s a quirk I have; very fast muscle memory; especially when aided by music).

Let me reiterate: I�m considered a decent dancer and a FAST learner. I was struggling.

For me to go home and tell Richard that I was struggling astounded HIM. He takes much longer than me to learn dance, and I can only be GLAD he wasn�t there Wednesday (he�d have given up and gone to watch the heavy fighters; not the response I think the organizers want).

To elicit that sort of response and frustration from someone who has been dancing for YEARS (both mundanely, in a folk dance group that resembles the bransles that we started with, and in the SCA). . . . I�m not really sure what to say. It�s hard for me to reconcile what I experienced on Wednesday with trying to attract and retain new people.

(Don�t misunderstand me; I really enjoyed dance practice! I�m more often challenged on a physical (this space is too HOT to be doing this) level than a knowledge/learning level and I really, really enjoyed this challenge).

I know people from Carolingia read this journal� I don�t want this to seem like an attack. But I am stunned and wanted to share an outside viewpoint.

I don�t know that things should be changed, I�m not even recommending change. But I would recommend that you consider the level of your activities.

For instance, I almost NEVER do Italians (mostly because Richard doesn�t like them, and I�m content to let my feet rest a turn or two). The steps weren�t taught, or demonstrated. I shrugged and decided to be in the right spot at the right time; I didn�t know how to do more without slowing the group).

Some later thoughts:

I have a background of several years in flag twirling (Amalia, from PA, calls it 'silks'; I'm not sure what other names it may be called further north). I've learned how to commit stuff to musically-aided muscle memory; I use those techniques for learning and teaching dance. And I didn't see them used At All at dance on Wednesday.

I think that's why I really DON'T think it would work as a recruitement/retaining activity; it's not ABOUT teaching and remembering. Focus is placed more on doing a variety of dances. 12 or so dances were covered in a 1.5-2 hour period. I'm more used to doing a warm up dance, 3 'reminders' (walk through, and dance two or three times), and one 'new' (teach, walk through, dance three times or so).