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 

4 responses to “How to Host a Dance and Have a Ball”

  1. Kateri Avatar

    I can't wait to see the dress you wore as well. My husband doesn't dance–flatly refuses no matter what the situation is. I've never really had a opportunity to dance like this, but this sounds like fun.

  2. Jessica Avatar

    It sounds like a great time! I'd just be happy to dress up in a costume and ballroom dance (which is what we do).

    I remember square dancing in elementary school…most people I talk to are still traumatized by that. It would be fun, but I don't know as I would have the guts to do it.

    Can't wait to see your costumes: I love the ones you posted pictures of!

  3. Belle Avatar

    What fun! I love to dance and I love to dress up. A party like this is perfect.

  4. smoore2213 Avatar

    That looks awesome, but I could never convince my husband to do it. Dancing with me twice to a slow dance at our wedding was enough for him, and he would never ever understand why people dress up and dance in any form.

    Oh well. One of those things I will watch from afar…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *