New Signs

We love BIDA, and we love our inclusive welcoming community.  The signs we put up on the walls each dance cover a wide range, from how to have a good time at our dance, to protecting yourself and others, to helping the dance run smoothly.  We recently had a bunch of conversations with people all over the dance community around what kind of signs would work best, and we decided to update our signs. The original ones have served us very well over the years and now we're improving them. We're keeping many of the original ones, tweaking some, and adding some new ones:

  • Ask about volunteering if you'd like to help out.
  • Ask different people to dance.
  • Ask partners what roles they like to dance.
  • Ask people sitting out to dance.
  • Dance so others feel comfortable.
  • Dance with people of all ages and genders.
  • Dance with the whole set.
  • Everyone makes mistakes.
  • It's ok to say no.
  • Share your enthusiasm with the band and caller.
  • Take your time finding a partner.
  • Talk to others about what makes good dancing.
  • Try dancing both roles.
  • Talk to the organizers if something is bothering you.
  • Welcome and encourage newer dancers.
  • We're happy you're here.
  • You don't have to dance with anyone you don't want to.
  • You don't have to wait to be asked.

These just came back from the printer; look for them next time you're at BIDA!

We've heard that other dance communities have also experimented with similar signs.  If you've been involved with this we'd love to hear from you!  What signs do you use?  Do they seem to have an effect?  We're also happy to share our template (open in Inkscape) if you're thinking of making something similar for your dance.

See you on the dance floor!


  1. Is there a consensus that people are really this infantile?

    Call me old-fashioned, but these messages seem to me more appropriate in a kindergarten classroom, colorfully addressed to five- and six-year-old children who are beginning to read, and to learn the basics of social behavior.

    If this is the sort of thing of which our generally adult, public dance community needs to be reminded, then probably I belong somewhere else.

    1. People come to contra dance with a wide range of social skills along with a similarly wide range of experience and expectations about the intimate physical experience that is dancing. As countless dance organizations (of all types) have learned, it's very important to express expectations up front; if not people will consciously or unconsciously cross boundaries. These signs set the tone and the basic expectations of behavior in a light and encouraging way that makes people smile, especially those who have repeatedly been on the receiving end of poor behavior. It would be a false assumption to assume that everyone who walks in the door has the same background, experience and perspective as you.

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  3. @Happiness and Light--good point--thank you.
    Occasionally people show up who need to learn the basics of social behavior.

  4. As I'm helping to organize a new gender-free dance in Halowell, Maine I would love to use these messages to augment and put our Kennebec Contra Dance logo on them. Is that okay? Should there be a credit attributing the choice of language to BIDA?

  5. Is that permission general? (That is, may I or anybody else using them go ahead and use them without getting special permission? (And if not, may I have permission to use them for the Palo Alto contra?) Thanks!


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