How To Run a Successful Tape Group

by Bill Heimann

This is an outline for a seminar at The Academy for Advanced and Challenge Enthusiasts in Louisville Kentucky in June of 2001.

The following are ideas and strategies that have worked in our workshops.  They may not be appropriate in all situations.


My Dancing Background

    Lessons in Fall of 1975

    Been a C4 dancer for many years

    Attend about 130 live dances a year

My Workshop Background

    Current C4 group started in April 1977 - only weekly workshop I'm presently involved in

    Led another C4 group for 5 to 6 years

        Taught C3b to a group in the mid-80's

    Various workshop weekends

    Many discussions with people around the world - workshopping is my favorite square dance subject

    Visiting workshops around the country

Unique Aspects - Some of the things we do - and don't do - that may be different

    Organizational Aspects

        Workshop lasts 2 hours - same as most dances 

             More than this may be counter productive

            If dancers' attention begins to wane, quit early


    If 10 or more people, we take one 10-15 minute break - If less than 10, we break twice

        Sign-in as we get there; then sit out in reverse order of arrival

            We don't use a mixing chart, and don't have one to recommend

        Opposites  - we don't worry about who's opposite whom

            People who insist on being opposite a good dancer are only hurting themselves

            However, it might be advantageous to the workshop as a whole


            We have a calendar out at all workshops to indicate, in advance, dates people can't attend


            quality tapes - reel to reel ones - versus (cassettes or minidisks) See Bruce Roe

            Bruce Roe's "Ultimate" tape recorder

            the equipment is kept in excellent condition and is always ready at our start time

            assess members for repairs, and for blank tapes

        Stress fundamentals

            Form habits of doing things correctly, especially little things, like cast 3/4's and roll

            Isolate trouble spots and create strategies to prevent them - examples, fan the top and flip calls

        No short cutting

            simulate live dancing conditions

            exception - stop promenade at nearest head or side position

        High Energy Level - maintain this throughout the workshop

        Assign responsibility for various tasks

            selection of tape, breaks, who's out

        Keep the tape running

            questions at the promenade

            anyone can request to return to some problem spot

            get everyone in that position, repeat the call, then pause for everyone to think

                often they see the mistake themselves - teaching themselves preserves ego

            repeat entire sequence when requested, or whenever there's a doubt

            tape only stopped by the leader - for consistency

        Practice sequences

            I write sequences to theme trouble spots

        Designated Leader

            one person speaks at a time - usually the same person, one who has leadership qualities

            the leader doesn't have to be the best dancer

            the leader decides who answers questions

        All participants regularly attend live dances

        Talent - don't ever underestimate this aspect!

            I've been fortunate to have spent my entire career workshopping with some of the best dancers on the planet

            Learned a great deal from them

Potential Problems in Other Workshops

    Use inferior equipment - poor quality tapes, sound quality, breakdown time with player

        These are controllable problems, so control them

    Casual about start times - leads to casual atmosphere

    No pre-determined termination point of the workshop

        If I were starting a new workshop, it would have a predetermined termination date

    Consistently dance tapes that are too hard

     Many workshops have dancers who only workshop and don't attend live dances

    Stop the tape too often -

        anyone can request the tape be stopped

        inconsistency with different people running the tape and making stopping decisions

    No designated leader - leads to inefficiency and chaos

        The leader doesn't need to be the strongest dancer, or even a strong dancer

        Must be someone with leadership skills

Miscellaneous Workshop Issues

    Teach tapes - I've never used them, so I have no recommendations

    Marks on the floor

        We used them for many years; don't now

        Provides discipline - most dancers leave too much room, especially laterally

        When we used them, the 16 spots were 27 inches apart

      Pay callers for tapes

        We don't pay callers if any dancers from the workshop attended the live dance, even if they didn't tape

        If the caller is charging, we pay him, even though we received the tape from someone else

        We make an assessment of workshoppers to pay for the tapes

Studying Calls

    Don't plan on workshop being the only place to learn or perfect calls

    Fill dead times - doing your hair, driving to work, or exercising (walking)

    Verbalize the definitions

        if you can't verbalize the definition, you will get burned sooner or later

    Best time to study calls is at a live dance, especially one at a lower level

    Concentrate on the first part of the call to allow yourself thinking time

    Mental Image practicing -

        Lead end of right-hand waves - flip back - finish as trailing center in right-hand waves

    SD program - it's a great study tool!

Bill Heimann