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Hunting for Fresh(man) Meat

Luring In New Dancers

By Seth Westlake

The hardest part of getting people addicted to ballroom: convincing them to try it. Rarely, if ever, have I seen or known someone that quit the sport spitefully.

"Never!" a disgruntled dancer yells. "Never will I dance with nice people or move elegantly again!" Shoes are thrown vigorously across the room, landing just shy of the wastebasket.

It's an incredibly fun and engaging hobby and unfortunately the one nobody imagines themselves being a part of. Certainly Dancing with the Stars put ballroom in the spotlight, but when asking fresh dancers, "What brought you to ballroom?" the most common answer isn’t "‘Cause it was on TV," but rather, "For a wedding," or, “Because of our New Year's obligat—” Smack! “Resolutions.”

When attracting new participants, especially in a sport that we're so confident others will enjoy, the most difficult aspect is getting people to try dancing just one time. Resisting the urge to compare ballroom dancing to amphetamines, we believe and practice this one-taste-and-you're-hooked methodology. This makes advertising a much more direct and quantifiable process. How many people can we convince (trick) into trying this sport, and what, above all else, is the best way to do that? One experiment at a time, we're determined to find what makes normal people tick.

Advertising for the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club is always a new and interesting challenge. The majority of our members join at the start of the school year, so not only does it become important to advertise hard at the start of the fall semester, but we also have to develop new, flashier ways to attract new members during the rest of the year (shiny objects, jingling keys, etc.). A few examples include our tactical flyering efforts, a beautiful tablecloth, and mentioning ballroom in every conceivable conversation ("Well, I'm certainly not going to disagree with you, officer; I was most definitely jaywalking. But have you tried ballroom?"). We also offer deals to previous members that invite friends to join the club, reducing the cost of dues to as low as zero dollars for the entire semester.

Like anyone devoted to dance (e.g. our lovely instructors), our ultimate objective is to get more people involved in this beautiful and welcoming community. It's a hobby that lasts a lifetime, full of caring and interesting dancers all learning together as one big family. Many students attending the university for their first year often find that ballroom is a grand and beautiful place to make friends. The support that this sport provides is unforgettable and vital to people feeling welcomed and connected to everyone in the community.

For the good of the Club and the people who join it, we're always working to invite and include new people. Our goal is to spread—like the nastiest of colds—the infectious love for all things dance and ballroom, whatever it takes.

Even if that means writing articles for prestigious dance publications.