Ten Reasons Not to Book Ahead

10 Reasons Not to Book Ahead

Why is the practice of “booking” a partner for the next dance during the current dance so well-established in many dance communities, despite its many negative consequences? Perhaps it is because many dancers are unaware of those consequences and don’t realize that the effects of booking ahead extend beyond the person who asks for the next dance and the person who accepts.

This list is intended to create a better awareness of what booking ahead – both the asking and the accepting – does to a dance community.

Primarily, booking ahead is bad for the dance community...


1.    Booking ahead begets more booking ahead. When dancers who don’t book ahead encounter a situation in which booking ahead is common – at the end of a dance, everyone around them “already has a partner” – they are powerfully motivated to begin booking ahead as well. If they don’t, they are likely to have to sit out involuntarily.

2.    Booking ahead creates a kind of class structure in the dance community. Those who ask ahead and get asked ahead form an in-crowd or clique; those who don’t ask ahead and don’t tend to get asked are forced to the margins and excluded. The resulting class structure is contrary to the inclusive, community spirit of contra dancing, and it becomes self-perpetuating.

3.    Booking ahead means a group of dancers monopolizes the fun. The social dynamics of widespread advance booking reduce the size of the “fun pie,” while the class structure of advance booking ensures that the advance bookers get a bigger slice of that pie than do others.

4.    Booking ahead turns off new dancers. When a new dancer experiences a contra dance as a popularity contest, he or she is far less likely to return. In many areas, there is a direct correlation between the prevalence of advance booking and declining dance attendance!

5.    Booking ahead gives new dancers fewer opportunities to improve. When booking ahead is prevalent, the less-experienced dancers – who form a disproportionate segment of the ‘lower class’ dancers – have few opportunities to dance with the experienced dancers who can teach them the most.

6.    Booking ahead exacerbates any problems created by a gender imbalance. A gender imbalance can mean that        there are some people sitting out involuntarily; if most of the opposite-gender folks are already booked when the dance ends, it can become more difficult for those sitting out to get into the next dance.    
And booking ahead is also bad for you...

7.    Those who book ahead risk offending people. It is impossible to always remember your advance bookings. And you know what happens when you don’t remember – you make one person angry, and at least one other person ends up thinking you’re a cad (or the female equivalent of a cad).

8.    Those who book ahead restrict their social networks. If you are always pre-selecting your partners, you are less likely to dance with new and unfamiliar people who could be potential new friends.

9.    Those who book ahead close the door to the joys of chance and spontaneity. Dancing with someone because he or she ends up in your vicinity after the end of a dance means being open to immediacy, possibility, and diversity of experience. It teaches you to see the positives in every person and situation, to give up the need to always be in control.

10. Those who book ahead take themselves out of the here-and-now. When you participate in the culture of advance booking, your mind is engaged either with remembering who your next partner is or figuring out who you should ask for the next dance (those who book more than one dance ahead may be doing both!). With part of your mind so occupied, you can’t be fully in the present, enjoying the pleasures of the dance.
What you can do
•    If there are people with whom you absolutely must dance, then ask them to be your partner before the dance begins or during the break.
•    If someone asks you to for the next dance while you are dancing with him or her, simply say, “I’d love to dance with you, but I don’t book ahead.”
•    Make a point of dancing with newcomers and people who sat out the last dance. Do everything you can to make a contra dance an inclusive, welcoming, cooperative, community-oriented experience for everyone.


Source: Foothill Country Dancers; composed by Eric Engles. Minor modifications by TDOGS.
Subpages (1): What is Contra Dancing?
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