How to Host a Dance and Have a Ball

I, along with 100+ other people had so much fun at the dance last night that I decided to give you the how to so you can do it, too. Actually, I’m going to give you the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of hosting your own dance (though not necessarily in that order!)

Why?

Because it’s fun.
OK, we got that one out of the way!
No, seriously – dancing is a fun, great exercise, and can provide a environment for healthy social interaction between people of all ages. It’s a great time to renew old friendships and forge new ones. It can unite a room full of strangers and give a really good time to a crowd of long-time friends. It can – ok, I said enough. It’s just plain old fun.

Who?

There are two ‘whos’ to think about – your guests and your caller. You need both to have a dance.

a ball held in a local hotel

1. Your Guests are the easiest part – just call up all your friends and tell ‘em you’re having a party. Be sure to call all your friends because if you only invite 50 people, maybe 40 will come, and of that, usually 25% won’t get on the dance floor (party poopers!). That leaves you with only 30 willing dancers and that is bare minimum to form many of the more popular dances. 75 to 150 is a good amount of people for a dance, more than that and you will want to make sure you get an extra large room. (More on the room in a minute). Remind your guests that they need not know how to dance to come and have fun - that’s where your other ‘who’ comes in -

2. Your Caller is the key to everyone having a good time. It’s essential that they know how to teach a dance to a large group of people, and let you have fun while you’re doing it. Because, honestly, that’s what you spend most of an evening doing – learning the dance, so you can then dance it. With a good caller, your guests will enjoy the whole process. 

Jeremy calling for a group of 200 in PA

Find a caller by contacting a folk, square, or contra dance group in your area. See who they recommend, and, if possible, attend a dance called by him/her, so you can see how they call and if the dancers are having fun. Ask for rates and availability. Give him/her and idea of how many people you have coming and what their experience level is (ie. complete novice, or some square dancing experience). Tell them how long your party is and how much of the time you want to spend dancing. Then you can settle on a date, place, and rate.

I honestly couldn’t tell you what callers usually run. I can tell you that, taking into account travel time, prep time, equipment costs, and the actually calling, my husband usually charges $250 for an evening of dancing (2-3 hours). If you charge each guest a few dollars it should cover the cost. Or, if you foot the bill yourself as host, that’s pretty cheap for entertainment for a party of 100 for 3 hours! (Oh, and need I mention he’s an awesome caller? Last night, with a group of beginner dancers he taught the Lancer’s Quadrille, and they had so much fun, they broke into cheers and applause at the end of every dance!)

Where?

As I said, you’re looking for a room that will comfortably hold 100 or more people – not sitting or standing but dancing, which takes more room than just visiting. Think big, like:

a Christmas dance in a local firehall
  • barn
  • church sanctuary
  • school gym
  • community building
  • fire hall
  • hotel ballroom

We have held lovely dances in all of the above.You need at least a 12×12 ft. space for each set of 8 people to dance a square dance. 30-40 feet would be the minimum width of a room big enough for dancing – you wold want at least that in length. If you are planning on refreshments, it’s nice if the place has a kitchen. But really, all you need in addition to plenty of space is restrooms and some chairs around the outside of the room. Book it for the date you want, with time in advance of your party to set up, and time to break down and clean up.

When?

Oh, any time is a good time for a party! Jeremy is usually booked for fall and spring dances, as that is when the weather is nice for dancing (too hot and you have to make sure you have a well-air-conditioned room; middle of winter means iffy travel in upstate NY). People love to have harvest dances, dancing at weddings, Christmas Balls, dancing at a special birthday party, homeschool proms, and just good-old-fashioned hoe-downs.

The dance we called last night, in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, was called a Fezziwig Party, after Dickens’ character in “A Christmas Carol”. The ladies wore wide skirts and bonnets and wore their hair up fancy, the men wore dress pants tucked into long socks to resemble trousers, and vests and top hats. It was a lovely idea for a Holiday Get-together.

As for time of day, Jeremy is usually booked anywhere from 6:30 to 11:00 pm – evenings are best for most people.

What?

What kind of dance are you going to have? Don’t miss the chance to make the most of your party! Ask you guests to come in costume! Choose a theme -

A Midnight Masquerade, New Year’s Eve, 2005
  • Perhaps you are studying American History in your homeschool – have a Civil War Ball! Ask guests to do their best to come in costume from the 1800′s – ballgowns with hoops for the ladies, top hats and suits for the men. This can be a great culmination of a unit study. 
  • A summer time birthday? A traditional Square Dance is fun! Pigtail braids and twirly skirts, Cowboy boots and hats, and haybales for seating. This is a fun theme to carry with decorations and food!
  • Regency Dance. Recreate the beauty and elegance from your favorite Jane Austen movie! English country dancing has had a revival recently, it shouldn’t be to hard to find a caller who can teach you authentic dances from this period. Send out fancy, formal invites!
  • Weddings! Make your reception memorable with fun, organized dancing that includes all your guests (not just the one’s who don’t mind doing the hokey-pokey in public!)

A masquerade, Harvest party, sweet 16, 30th anniversary, all are great excuse for a party and can inspire their own theme for attire, decorations, and refreshments.

How?
  1. Set date, time, and place, book caller.
  2. Invite guest via word of mouth, or a more formal, mailed invite. (Or dress in costume and deliver by courier as Jeremy and I did when we hosted our first ball as a married couple!)
  3. Plan Refreshments. Minimum – Plenty of water for thirsty dancers and a few snacks to keep their energy up. Maximum – a bountiful buffet of hors-de-vours, desserts and bowls of punch. Easiest – ask each guest to bring a plate of something to share, and you provide the drinks. 
  4. Get your costume together. Sew, rent, borrow or beg to complete your ensemble. Be sure it’s actually comfortable for a night of dancing, and hem skirts several inches off the floor to avoid accidents. (this is totally authentic, BTW)
  5. Arrive in time to set up and greet your guests.
  6. Dance the night away and enjoy yourself!

If you have any more questions about hosting your own dance, or booking Jeremy as a caller, feel free to email me at trintjerenae@gmail.com 

Cinderella Dilema

 Yikes! I just looked at the calender this morning (feeling sufficiently recovered from the Christmas weekend to do so) and saw that we are booked to call a dance tomorrow night! That’s all I knew, ’cause for some reason Jeremy and I hadn’t talked about it further. (Maybe all the Christmas business?) So, when he came home for lunch he showed me the emails with all the information he had so far and then I called the host of the party and asked for more. :) ‘Cause I needed details. And I needed to find out if it was all right to bring our whole brood, ’cause that’s usually the way we roll.

Anywhoo, I found it was indeed a family-friendly event, they would be delighted to have us all come, and, in answer to my question, yes, they were going to try to dress up and would indeed be delighted if we came in costume. I thought, “Hooray! I haven’t been to a costumed ball in ages!”

Then I thought “I haven’t been to a costumed ball in ages – WHAT SHALL I WEAR?????”

Because, you see, I haven’t been to a costumed ball in ages (sorry, did I mention that already?) and I have no idea if any of my ballgowns will fit me. I mentally rifled through my costume closet (mentally ’cause most of my costumes are stored in my in-law’s storage building) and looked for something from the right era….that was nursing friendly.

Yeah, good luck, girlfriend.

I thought of this one…

 I always’ loved this one – not ’cause of the color, but ’cause I had payed so little for it as a thrifted bridesmaid’s dress, and had been so ingenious in converting it to civil-war-style ball gown.

 And it was the ball gown I wore to most of the events the year Jeremy and I were engaged.

But it’s not nursing friendly.

Then I thought of this one…

…which is another favorite, but it isn’t nursing friendly, and neither is it the right era. And, it probably wouldn’t fit right now, to be honest. :)

So, where does that leave us? I do have several nice regency gowns that are nursing friendly…but it bugs me to wear the wrong era to a ball. (the lady said they were wearing hoops)

  • Should I wear a skirt and blouse with a hoop (less dressy, but authentic to the period)?
  • Should I wear a regency dress I know I can nurse in?
  • Should I wear the 1830′s (think “Wives and Daughters“) gown I made that’s nursing friendly?
  • Should I forget the whole dress for a ball thing and wear my go-to, dressy outfit of the month that involves a nice pair of dress pants that are perfect for chasing 3 small children in? 

Fairy Godmothers, Please Advise!

DANCE!!!

Jeremy got so many great pictures of the dance recital last night, I built another slide show so I could share all our favorites with you! We were so proud of all our sisters and our brother as they did excellent in all their dances. Also, there was a special guest appearance by the girls’ Irish dance teacher, an original member of River Dance! It was an amazing evening!

We have another dance-related event tonight – the annual square dance we call at the B’s farm! I can hardly wait. I love dancing…

The S.R.H.B.D.

For those of you have have wanted to know more about our dancing – hope this answers some questions!

The dancing all started when several homeschooling families in our Church were doing a unit study on the civil war about 5 years. They decided to put on an authentic ball as part of the study. So the young people set about researching and learning dances, and the girls began sewing ball gowns as well as outfits for their brothers. Actually, whole families were involved, and the much anticipated evening was a wonderful time of fellowship and fun.

In conservative circles, the fun – and exercise – in a traditional squared dance has often been judged as too worldly. We learned that dancing was not just a sensual experience that happened in bars, but COULD be a healthy, fun social activity for the whole family. That realization inspired us to start “The Society for the Restoration of Historic Ballroom Dancing”, and we spread the word that we would be willing to come and teach dancing to other homeschool groups, as well as call dancing for various celebrations, such as graduations and weddings. We emphasized proper etiquette and discreet hand-holds, making our dances not romantic events, but rather just a good time for everyone.

Since then, through hosting a few balls or square dances a year, the word has spread, and we have traveled all around our state to call a wedding reception, prom-alternative dance, a father-daughter dance, etc. When we go to teach a large group we usually take a few of our siblings along to help teach, but Jeremy is usually the caller, and has worked on learning more dances each year to add to our repertoire.

The Society has a fun (though outdated :)) website where you can read more about our mission statement and see pictures from several balls.

Below, our original society members at the NY State Homeschool convention, where we did a live presentation of our dances and shared our vision.

left to right: Elise, Nevin, Trina, Jeremy, Alyssa, Nico, Anja, Micah, Olivia, Jeff, Joanna, and Nathanael.

Wedding Photos, part one: Square Dance

Friday evening, after the rehearsal dinner, Jeremy called a square dance for a large group of family and friends of the bride and groom. It was a great evening of fun and fellowship, and a chance for the family to relax and forget about wedding planning for a little while! :)

Alice (Maid of Honor) and Elise clapping along to the music, Anneke in the forground.


Emma Jane (6) :) – the adorable flower girl.


The Bride and Groom.


Jeremy.

Thanks to Micah Valine for the photos from the evening.

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Of Dragons and Dancing

“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”
(I love this quote!)

So begins your typical Monday morning post from me – random news and fun!

On Saturday, Jeremy and I traveled out to Bergen, NY, to call some square dancing at a wedding reception. We just love it when we are asked to call an event – especially a wedding. A wedding is a celebration, and what better way to celebrate than to get everyone dancing! It was a really fun group, as they had been a dancing family for years – they actually knew how to polka! I was impressed – usually when Jeremy puts a polka on the play list, the only people who know what to do are Anja and Olivia – who go cavorting around the room with glee to the fun music. The bride did the polka with her dad and her sister, the matron of honor.

Our friend, Katie, made the cake – it was beautiful and yummy! We had fun hanging out with her and her brothers and sister as they were the only ones we knew at the wedding! :) Katie caught the moment of Jeremy and me waltzing.

We also did Cotton-Eyed-Joe, The Electric Slide, The Chicken Dance, The HokeyPokey, as well as lots of squares and circle dances from Jeremy’s repertoire.

This was the first of three weddings we shall attend in 4 weeks – what fun! This Saturday, Joel and Martha will tie the knot, and we are excited to be able to participate in the celebration on several levels: On Friday, after the rehearsal, Jeremy will be calling a square dance for all the out-of-town guests and family members. It will be great fun – even Monique is invited! (What, you don’t know who Monique is? How have I not introduced you to Monique yet? Ahh, just you wait!)

On Saturday I will be filling the role of wedding coordinator. I also get to make all the bouquets and corsages and boutonnières! I am so excited at this opportunity, and can hardly wait to get my hands on those 8 dozen roses. Ever since I started learning floral design when I was 15, I have wanted to do weddings myself!

So, that’s what will keep us busy this week. There will be lots of fun pictures taken and shared in the coming days, I am sure.

This week one of my Tipi Tales was published on YLCF – Natalie has asked to republish them on her blog as I write them. It’s always a fun surprise to visit one of my favorite blogs and find the content written by me! If you haven’t read the Tipi Tales yet, you should! I’ll be publishing the next installment soon!

The girls asked me to let you know that they don’t have any internet access this week, as Dad has left on a photo shoot and had to take the aircard. He’s in the Dominican Republic assisting Chip with pictures like this one.

Finally, welcome to our new readers! Lizzie and Mrs. KAOS – thanks for stopping by!

More Dancing

This is one of the moves in the dance, “Jingle Bells’, which involves an intricate style of ‘ring-around-the-rosy’ with your partners. It’s called ‘making a basket…

…and turning it inside out!’ This one gets people laughing, especially when there’s big height differences!


Jesse was such a good boy all evening, passed from one person to another.


By 10:00 he was a zombie and just ready for bed! :)


Now that you have seen how much fun we had, maybe you’ll come to the next dance we have?
Or, hire my husband to come call one near you! :)
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Let the dancing begin!

“Square your sets! The dance is starting!”
Here are my father and mother-in-law, ready to dance Jingle Bells

I love this picture of Sarah and Alice trying to figure out if they’re standing in the right place. :)


Anja and Alyssa reach a hand across the set as Jeremy calls to the tune of Jingle Bells,
“Head couples half right and left,
Side couples do the same
Swing your partners all and listen while I sing!”


“Promenade, Oh promenade, promenade with joy.
Oh what fun it is to dance with the handsome boy!”
(or in this case, a pretty girl!:))
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Preview of What’s to Come

I don’t usually post on Sundays, but I wanted you to get a taste of what’s to come, for I am going to swamp our readers with pictures tomorrow of the fun square dance we hosted last night…

The caller…


The dance floor…


…and Aunt Elise warming up the dance floor with her nephew.


More to come tomorrow!
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