Learn to Square Dance with El Camino Reelers
Congratulations to the graduates of our "GREEN" Blast Class, who have just completed the calls on the Mainstream and GDP lists!
Following the May Blast Class, we'll continue dancing at the Mainstream/GDP level during our weekly Wednesday club nights. A follow-up Blast Class will be held later in early summer until everyone is dancing at the Plus level.
We will start a new round of Blast Classes in the fall. If you are interested in joining the next class, come to one of our monthly Fun Nights, say hi, and sign up.
In the meantime, we encourage our Blast Class grads to join us at our Wednesday club nights to polish their new skills. And we will continue to build the momentum with more monthly Fun Nights.
Blast Class FAQ
- What's a "blast" class?
Typically, new dancers need at least 12 weeks of classes for 2 hours each week to learn the basics of square dancing. A "blast" class is an accelerated format where 12 weeks of teaching is compressed into a single weekend of about 12 to 16 hours.
- How hard is a blast class compared to a regular class?
A blast class isn't any harder than a regular class, it's just more consolidated and held at a faster pace. Both classes teach the same calls in the same order.
- Blast class sounds pretty intense! Why would I take this instead of a regular class?
Folks here in the Bay Area are typically pretty busy people! The biggest impediment to learning square dancing we hear most often is that the time committment (12 weeks, 2 hours a week) is too much for people to spend. A blast class happens over a Saturday and a Sunday, and is a more efficient use of time for many people. A blast class happens over a single weekend (Saturday and Sunday) or over a pair of consecutive Saturdays and Sundays. It's a more efficient use of time for many people, and it's a lot easier to plan in advance to spend a Saturday and Sunday learning something than for a 12 week class.
- What level will I dance when I finish the blast class?
We've organized our Blast Classes into three levels, with the intention of offering each sequence twice a year.
Level 1: SSD-50. This is also called "Sustainable Square Dance", and it's a halfway point to full Mainstream dancing. We will offer Blast Level 1 graduates at least six weeks of free SSD-50 dancing at one of our weekly club nights, to give them an opportunity to practice and refine their new skills.
Level 2: Mainstream/GDP. Graduates at this level will dance at the Mainstream and GDP levels. Mainstream is the first of the internationally-recognized square dance levels. At IAGSDC Conventions, the large "fun" events (Bear Tip, Women's Tip, Fun Badge Tour, etc.) are all Mainstream. GDP stands for "General Dance Program", which includes several calls from Plus, and is a popular regional level.
We're teaching Blast Class Level 2 with Mainstream AND GDP to maximize dancers' potential dance opportunities at local clubs as well as national dance events. We will offer Blast Level 2 graduates at least six weeks of free Mainstream/GDP dancing at one of our weekly club nights.
Level 3: Plus. this is the next internationally-recognized square dance level after Mainstream, the minimum level required for full membership in the El Camino Reelers, and the main dance level for many California clubs.
- Will I be a member of El Camino Reelers when I finish the blast class?
You will be an Associate member of ECR (no voting rights) when you have graduated the Level 1 Blast class. Once you have achieved Plus level dancing at the end of Level 3 Blast class, you will qualify for full membership.
- Learn square dancing in a single weekend?! That's such a wacky idea! Where did you come up with this?
We based our program on a similar program hosted by a much larger club, Chi-Town Squares, in Chicago. They came up with the concept of using blast classes to bring new dancers into their club.
- Who's teaching at this shindig?
ECR club caller Kurt Gollhardt will be our blast class instructor. He will be assisted by experienced dancers, called "angels", who will pair up with students to help ensure a fun and successful blast class.
- I don't have someone to dance with!
In LGBTQ square dancing, you don't need to bring a dance partner. Just bring yourself dressed in comfortable clothing, sensible walking shoes, and a smile. We'll pair you up with angels and other students so you'll get to dance with different folks in every tip! (A "tip" is a roughly 15 minute dance set.)
- But I want to dance with someone specific?!
For purposes of learning, we strongly suggest that students pair up with an angel whenever possible. However, please let the instructor know if you really want to dance with the same person repeatedly. We'll do our best to accommodate your request.
- What about food?
We will provide lunch, light snacks, water and soft drinks both days.
- How should I dress?
There's no dress code in LGBTQ square dancing. Instead, the key concept to focus on is "comfort". Dress in loose clothing that allows you to move around easily and comfortably. Wear sensible shoes that are comfortable for standing and walking for long periods. Some folks like to wear especially thick socks for dance classes, to cushion the feet. Jeans and t-shirts are just fine, as are sweats, skirts, shorts, and slacks. Please, no strong fragrances.
- What's this "Green" business?
In the not too distant future, we hope to have two sets of Blast Classes running at once. The students attending our very first Blast Class series will be polishing their Plus skills while our next Blass Class will just be getting started. To minimize confusion, we've decided to adopt the terminology of some other clubs and refer to each group of students by a color. Our current class (started January 2018) is our "Green" class; our next class (Fall 2018) will be our "Blue" class, and so on around the rainbow.
Casual dress - Come solo or with a partner - No experience required
Club nights are Wednesdays from 7:30 to 9:30 pm. at St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Palo Alto, with a rotating lineup of club callers.
Wednesday club nights feature class-level dancing once the first Blast class takes place, as well as full-Plus level dancing with workshops on more difficult calls, and an A2 star tip for more experienced dancers ("angels").
Club nights are really like a dance party. You'll be having fun the whole evening with a bunch of new lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, and straight friends, all the while polishing your square dance skills. Learning is the fun of square dancing!
Congratulations to our January Blast Class grads!
Our first Blast Class was held Saturday and Sunday, January 27 and 28, 2018. Ten students completed the class, coached by instructor Arlene Kaspik from Chicago and assisted by a squad of ECR angels.
Resources for Learning Square Dance Calls (Kurt's handout for the 2018 Blast Class)
For more info on square dance calls, concepts, and customs, see the Information for Students page.
More about how (and why) El Camino Reelers is changing the way we run our beginner classes:
- Original Proposal for Restructuring El Camino Reelers' Classes (PDF, 5/29/2017)
- How We Restructured El Camino Reelers' Classes (PDF, 4/14/2018)
- Notes from "Circle the Wagons": Northern California Regional IAGSDC Club Summit (PDF, 1/11/2015)
- Club Retention & Recruitment Session from Swing & Mix Convention (PDF, 7/2/2017)