Croakers Square

Not long ago I read an online article where the author was talking about the need for an Internet Bill of Rights: an updated set of regulations and protocols that would help ensure data security in the internet era. Given the number of high-profile data breaches we read about in the news these days, that might not be a bad idea.

It also got me to thinking about what folks expect when they come to a dance studio such as we have here. I’m not sure a “bill of rights” is necessarily required, but I was able to jot down a few things that anyone—first-timers or old pros—should be able to count on when they walk in:

  1. What happens at the studio stays at the studio

No matter how experienced you are (or you aren’t), square-dancing requires remembering a lot of different moves called out very quickly, and then performing them in time with the music. Stands to reason that even the best dancers sometimes get their wires crossed, and the results are quite often comical.

And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

Square dancing is about fun, and sometimes there is nothing more fun than busting a gut with your friends, whether you’re laughing at your goof-up or somebody else’s. BUT—in order for that to happen, there has to be a certain layer of trust. You have to trust that folks are laughing WITH you, not at you. And part of that is knowing that your misstep isn’t going to turn into dirt for the gossip-mongers (or the internet … we’ll get to that in a moment). It’s fine—healthy, even—to enjoy a hearty laugh with your friends; telling tales out of school, on the other hand, should be considered taboo. Ain’t no one else’s business.

  1. You have the right to sit out

Many of us, when we go to dance we go to DANCE. We want to squeeze every last step we can out of each session. But that doesn’t mean YOU have to: us being out on the floor every time the music starts in no way implies you can’t take a breather whenever you need one. And you shouldn’t be made to feel obligated to dance if you don’t want to, although I have sadly seen this in a few other studios.

We don’t play that game here. Sure, it’s polite to finish a dance once you start it, but if you can’t make it, just say so. We’re an understanding lot.

  1. This isn’t going on your permanent record

In case you haven’t heard the news, the internet is forever. Once posted, even the things that DON’T go viral are online for good. So we make it a rule: no pictures or recording allowed without the person’s permission. Period. And that goes triple for anyone under the age of 18. Put the cell phone away—you came to dance.

  1. We don’t do bullies

Sadly, there always seems to be that one person who can’t help kicking others when they’re down. You don’t dare make a misstep while that sort of person is watching: you’ll never hear the end of it.

Around here, though, getting all up in someone’s face is a good way to get ganged up on real quick-like. Sure, we understand that good-natured ribbing will happen, but there’s no excuse for demeaning others just to make yourself feel good. As Aunt Eller said in Oklahoma, “I won’t say I’m no better than anybody else, but I’ll be danged if I ain’t just as good!”

  1. No one here is keeping score

Some people take to square dancing like Tiger Woods took to golf. Others of us tripped over our own feet for years before we really started getting proficient (and a while beyond THAT before we started feeling confident about it!). The point is, you can trust me when I say that no one is counting the number of times you miss a move. We’re human, and we’ve been there: the only way we learn is by experience, and the only way we gain experience is by screwing up.

Well, there you have it. Five things you can reasonably expect from a dance group—whether it’s this one or some other one. These are good rules for dancing, but going back over the list, they’re also some pretty good rules for life. Of course, outside of a controlled environment like the dance studio, you can’t expect everyone to play by the rules…but then, I always figured that other people’s behavior wasn’t an excuse to alter my own. And being true to your own code might just rub off on others. Like they say: be the change you want to see in the world.

Or on the dance floor, as the case may be.

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