Youth Dance Weekend, control, and privilege

I’m on the organizing committee for Youth Dance Weekend (YDW), a dance weekend (contra, English, even blues) in Vermont focused on facilitating greater community and leadership among youth in the folk dance world. This year we changed our registration procedure to be by lottery instead of first-come-first-served (FCFS). I won’t get into all the details, but I really appreciate the discussion that’s come out on the YDW Facebook group, so I’m re-posting it here. I think the big themes here are fairness (who has a shot at getting in), control (whether getting in or not is entirely in one’s own hands or not), and privilege (do people who are “in the know” deserve a spot?). I’ll leave the rest up to your interpretation.

Jordy Williams

Dear Youth Dance Weekend,

With all due respect, please eliminate the lottery from your registration process. I got in, for which I am grateful, but I know a lot of people I would have liked to dance with (10+ that I spoke to) didn’t even sign up because of the lottery. I felt frustrated and alienated myself by your choice to use the lottery system. Every instance I’ve heard of of the lottery system being used has ended in similar emotions from all participants. Burning Man 2012 being a major example. Long time Burners denied access based on random results.

I’ve had many long conversations about this and many suggestions were made for replacement systems that would be equally fair to first time YDW’ers, new dancers and people with schedules conflicting with the registration process. Systems that will allow for these folks to not be overwhelmed by the speed with which this very popular dance weekend fills up, while still allowing those who love the weekend and are determined to attend a chance to gain a spot.

Either way, I, and many others I spoke to, found the fairness of the lottery to be frustrating, alienating, and not the best solution to cultivating a community of as mixed and equal swath of people as possible. I would love to continue to attend this wonderful weekend, and would love to see the community grow and evolve. I feel there is a conversation(s) to be had about this as a community when YDW 2013 comes around.

♥ Jordy

Aaron Redfern

Many people were feeling frustrated and alienated by the way things were going with first come first serve too. What do you propose?

Jordy Williams

I feel like having several well-announced, staggered registration chunks (30-40 spots at a time) at different times of day over the course of a couple weeks would allow for the best spread of determined trigger-finger dancers, newbies, slow-to-sign-ups, unsures, etc. to get access to the weekend. 

It was also suggested that the registration date(s) be announced when the dates for the next YDW is announced. This is apparently how they do it for many very popular dance weekends in the lindy, swing, and tango communities.

And yeah I was lucky enough to have flexible computer access at the time that YDW reg. opened both last year and the year before. I watched it flood, and I agree that it would have been frustrating coming home from work planning on registering and being out of luck.


I too, got in, but feel that there are better ways to further the goals of YDW without resorting to randomness.

My proposal: Phased or bucket registration. Initial n(example 30) spots go to people that have never gone before. next n(example 50) spots go to people that did not go last year. then open registration.

I feel that randomness is a crutch that is there to make people feel like they don’t have control over the situation.

I was not going to apply to the lottery, but I found someone who hadn’t gone before, and know that I can influence the outcome of the weekend more by being there than standing on the sidelines.

Alex Krogh-Grabbe

Jordy: as I commented on your previous status to this effect, thank you for your feedback. When we were discussing how to address the problems with first-come-first-serve in last year’s registration, we discussed both a multi-stage FCFS registration and the failed attempt at lottery that Burning Man made. After weighing the pros and cons of the various options, we decided to go with the lottery we had this year. And we have definitely learned things already.

As I also mentioned previously, I’m sure there will be further discussions about this topic going forward, full of charts and graphs (!!). We all want the YDW sign-up process to be as fair as possible, and I’m glad you’re on board with that mission.


I needed a summary of the burning man lottery fiasco. Who better to explain it than Hitler?

Aaron Redfern

What you guys are saying makes a lot of sense, though I wonder if it’d just end up being three or four micro versions of what happened last year with people piling on all at once. Danner’s idea of phases sounds particularly reasonable though.

I’ve often wondered–and maybe Alex can address the feasibility of this–whether if we could get enough volunteers together to form at least a partial second board, then we could launch a second weekend either on a consecutive week or halfway around the year from the first. Are there easily 300 people wanting to go to YDW, or is it perpetually about 225 or 250?

Tavi Merrill

I post as someone who got screwed by FCFS last year (i was in rural NC and had no internet access on the date registration opened). I’d love to post a reasoned and useful response but brain is too fried for that at the moment.

Alex Krogh-Grabbe

Aaron: the idea of creating another Youth Dance Weekend has been bandied about for much of YDW’s existence. I think the discussion has largely centered around doing it elsewhere in the country, so people who live too far away to attend have an easier time. One thing we were excited to see this year was with less of a cap on registration (i.e. you’re more like to get in if you register 150th than through FCFS) just how many people would sign up. I’m not sure how many people avoided signing up because of fear they wouldn’t get in through the lottery (though I don’t see how it hurts to give it a shot), but we got about 160 sign-ups. I bet the market would support a second weekend like this, but also remember that there are a lot of other great dance weekends that already exist around the country, and it’s possible that there’s been a recent trend of lower attendance across the board.

That said, YDW has always been about encouraging youth leadership in the dance community, so if anyone wants to undertake their own dance weekend, I’m sure that would be applauded! As articulated at the Puttin’ On The Dance organizers conference 18 months ago, the important thing is “Vision Vision Vision”!

Allison Shapp

Could someone explain the feeling, apparently shared by many, of alienation created by the lottery system? I did not feel this, and would like to understand the reaction. Especially the decision not to sign up at all because of the lottery.

As for my perspective: I always got in successfully with FCFS, but didn’t know who else would, so I made the decision that I wanted to go regardless of who else would be there. I figured it’d be fun either way. I felt similarly with the lottery – if I get in great, and whoever else does will probably be awesome to hang out with.

Sarah Pilzer (also on the committee)

Thanks for the feedback, Jordy et al. I know I speak for both myself and the rest of the committee when I say we value your thoughts highly. We very much intended this year’s lottery to be a test-run/experiment and thus want to continue tweaking our registration process to better serve the various constituencies in our community. I agree that the randomness of the lottery is less than ideal and likely skews the population of folks who attend in undesired ways. We are planning to follow up with a survey to evaluate reactions to this year’s process, similar to our registration survey last year, and expect there will also be considerable discussion at the weekend itself.

I am a little surprised, however, to learn that so many people were considering not signing up as we heard barely a peep (one email, maybe a few FB comments) back when we announced the lottery. It was pretty hard to gauge public sentiment as we moved forward with the changes. All the more reason I am thankful you are sharing that information now so that we can adjust for the future.

I have a few questions about the specific suggestions so far, especially the scenario of having staggered multiple 30-40 slot openings. I would expect this would create an even more dissatisfying first-come-first-serve experience wherein people who didn’t get in during the first window would be even more anxious about getting in during subsequent windows. For those who oppose FCFS, wouldn’t having fewer slots available at each go just make the problem worse? I could see one way around this being that certain windows be restricted to certain groups, similar to what Danner suggests, but in that case, we’re back to the same problem of making sure the right people know when the right date is to register. Is it also potentially more confusing to have to remember multiple dates?

I like the idea of announcing registration dates at the same time as the event dates and think that would likely be possible for 2014. Good idea!

Anyway, I look forward to continuing this conversation and looking for solutions that make everyone who wants to come to YDW happy. Please feel free to email the committee at, or just post to this group at any time with your thoughts/feedback/criticism/compliments/baked goods/etc. Thanks!

p.s. I feel like there’s probably some revolutionary new way of doing registration that no one has ever thought of before and that given how awesomely creative the YDW community is we’re bound to figure it out eventually…

Tavi Merrill

In response to Allison’s comment – i agree. I don’t want to offend anyone, but i think opting not to register because of the lottery system is perhaps tied to the intensely cliquey nature of some circles. Danner’s idea is perhaps a workable compromise (i don’t get what u mean by “randomness is a crutch” though).

Angela DeCarlis

As someone who has never been to YDW before, I liked the manner in which the first-timers were incorporated into the lottery, and I liked that friends could sign up in pairs. I agree with Allison in that I don’t really understand why so many dancers seemed apparently put off or even offended by the lottery system…perhaps the idea of feeling like you’d have to hitch with a YDW newb just to have a decent chance at getting into the weekend felt stupid? I dunno.

Table-top discussion??


Angela: There was no problem finding WONDERFUL newbs to partner with. I liked that part of the lottery. What I disliked is the randomness and alienation that comes from needing to blame a random number generator when you don’t get in, and get nothing for your effort.

Tavi, I say randomness is a crutch from sample modeling in statistics. (yay stats!) Say you want a sample to represent a population(YDW attendees are a sample of people who would go to YDW). You could pick a random sample of the population, and say that you have a good representation of the whole. But could you make a more accurate representation of the population or do it with less people? Yes, if you know something about the population and about your individuals that you can sample. YDW has said that having newcomers attend is a goal, (and it’s one that I agree with,) so lets use that as a test, and make sure that we get a good representation of newcomers to attend, maybe even a higher percentage than the rest of the population of people that might go to YDW. We can tune this system to get the right balance, even if we don’t know who exactly is going.

I’m getting sleepy, but the idea is stratified sampling of the population in order to obtain a more meaningful sample.

Angela DeCarlis

Gee, but I’d rather blame a random number generator than my lazy self, my availability, someone’s failure to inform me, etc. I did consider the effort:profit ratio argument: I recognize that in past years, effort spent to be available and ready upon registration opening would always result in reward, and that that feeling is probably a good one for those who have attended past YDWs as a result of exerting that effort. This year, though, I felt like registering really didn’t take very much work. We’d three weeks or something to do it, and it only took a few minutes.

Jordy Williams

I feel like the alienation comes from the same sentiment as Hitler had “some ‘tourist’ will get my spot”. Again, I be all for fairness, but it does kinda suck when you want so badly to go to YDW and there’s utterly no reward for trying to make sure that happens. While it may be somewhat selfish, I think it sucks to be a dedicated member of a community and then booted out of a big gathering because random. If you don’t get to go because you slacked, then you have yourself to blame. If you’re sitting at home while your friends are having the time of their life because random, that stings.

I feel that that sentiment is reflected in the 160 or so who signed up for 150 spots. In the past it’s been well over 200, amiright?

Sarah Pilzer

I will try to post some hard numbers about previous years registration and waitlists tomorrow or the next day, but I don’t think we’ve ever reached 200 registrations. Also, it’s more like 130 slots because of staff and crew.

Jordy Williams

well, I feel like there are several tweaks the weekend could do to registration to make it fit as many needs as possible and keep YDWers happiest.

A) The dance /could/ grow. I love the intimate nature of it and the size it has been in the past. That said, it could grow with demand. Maybe?

 Combine the phased reg. with the staggered reg. Let’s say 40 of the 130 slots are newbie preference. I.e. the first 40 newbs who sign up get a spot regardless. If 40 newbs don’t sign up, the remaining slots go to the general reg’ers.

C) Figure out the best staggering vs. slots to make avail. per stagger.

D) Giving plenty of warning and consistent emails/fb updates.

Bob Cook

More awesome people to dance with generally = more awesomeness. Especially if a venue like Farm and Wilderness could be found which could create a semi-private place to play in. I think the non-urban environment is definitely what creates a lot of the intimacy. So, I like Jordy’s option “A” the best, especially since it seems that the difference is between 130-200 (as opposed to 300). The trick would be finding the venue that would work for that larger size. Perhaps expanding a search for venues outside of New England? Upstate NY? Pennsylvania?

Dave Casserly

The Burning Man analogy makes no sense to me at all. YDW, unlike Burning Man, pays professional performers to come and entertain. The weekend’s going to be just as good regardless of which dancers get in, because the dancers are not really in charge of making all the entertainment happen. YDW is also small enough that the organizers can really foster a sense of community by their example. If Sugar Hill or the Mayapple Stomp went to a lottery, sure, that might be a problem, but it’s really not a problem here. I like the lottery, and I think it’s fair. I do wish there were some way for people who can’t plan that far ahead to get in– maybe get rid of the $10 cancellation fee before 9/1? But I like the lottery, since I don’t think YDW’s success depends at all on the mix of people who get in that year.

Emily Addison

Very interesting discussion above!  I know that my partner and I had a good time when we went to YDW once but we’ve decided not to go back because it did have more of a closed/clique/’everyone knows everyone’ feel than other weekends. (NOOOO offense meant by that, just our personal opinion.) Having a dedicated number of spots for first timers or people who haven’t been in a long time would insure some inclusion of ‘new people’, thus spreading the vibe & inspiration to a wider set of dance communities through a wider group of youth. Just a thought though as there certainly doesn’t seem to be a clear way to solve the issue and there are so many perceptions of the types of experiences sought after at the weekend.

Bradley Kennedy

I went to YDW once, and had no desire to ever attend again because it was so intensely cliquey. But I actually considered attending again this year because of the lottery. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it for other reasons, but I am totally pro-lottery.


I think the ‘everyone knows everyone’ bit is just that most of us are very inclusionary, not the other way around. Want to be in the ‘group’? Walk over the ‘group’, it’s that easy. I’ve found that people decide for themselves that they aren’t part of the community, not that anyone told them verbally or non verbally that they shouldn’t be part of a group.

I’ve felt immediately welcome with people I’ve never met before, and you would think we’ve been friends for years to look at us. Next time you feel left out, go over and ask “how long have y’all known each other” and I think you’ll be surprised.

Jordy Williams

^^^^^ I completely agree. While I understand how intimidating “cool”/clique-y groups can be, contra dancers are probably some of the friendliest. I love the dining atmosphere where people are mixed at tables based on what they want to talk about. I feel like no matter who gets let into a weekend, they’re going to gravitate towards their friends. I feel that the exercises employed at past YDW’s to build community have been amazing and very successful. And as Danner put it before, we can do more by attending the weekend than by sitting out on the sideline.

Becca Bosworth-Clemens

Something you said here and and on your personal profile is that people you would have liked to dance with didn’t even register…..does that mean that you feel that the people who are going could potentially NOT be people you’d like to dance with? ( 🙁 ) I feel it’s a little silly to think that spending the 10 minutes to register might be a waste because “I might not get in”, therefore i do not think that is the reason people didn’t register. I think they didn’t register because they didn’t feel their friends would be there if people were selected randomly. And, I think we’ll find that the people who did end up registering then really are the ones who want to go, think it’s worth it, and enjoy the experience regardless of who might be there.

Jordy Williams

A) No. I like dancing with everyone (especially at YDW), but I have created memories in the past with some dear friends. And of course I want them to be there. 

b}. And I got the sense that the people who didn’t register due to lottery were not because it’d be a waste of time, but that they felt jilted. I feel like the lottery system left a pretty yucky taste in my mouth, and I considered not registering out of protest. I ultimately decided I wanted to go and that it would be silly to get bent out about it. I feel it’s healthier and more productive to have a conversation about it.


Rebecca: If I feel the same way as Jordy, I’ve got about 400 people I want to dance with, so obviously some won’t get in.

Ellen Rothenberg

If the people who registered were the ones who really wanted to be there, why did they wait until the last day to register? As I recall, the YDW person cap wasn’t reached until the very last day. I know people who actually forgot to register until the end, or procrastinated because they knew it was a lottery. I really dislike the idea that people who really wanted to attend and planned for it were bumped out by people who waited until the last possible moment.

Jordy Williams

That result is heavily skewed by the nature of the lottery. A lot of people didn’t sign up at all.

Aaron Redfern

I don’t know anyone who signed up at any point who didn’t really want to go. If this thread is any indication, plenty of people who didn’t sign up really wanted to go too.

I think the main reason I’m in favor of the lottery is that no single event should have the amount of power over human psychology that this one seems to.

Caleb Smith

I didn’t sign up because of the lottery system. It’s not worth taking the few vacation days I “earn” at work for something I might not get into. Then I have to find something else to do on a long weekend 6 months later… a long weekend that I have because I wanted to go to YDW.

Logan Cate

One at Kinhaven and one at F&W? Twice the dancing, twice the fun!

Alicia Best

I read a lot of this, but not all…I didn’t sign up because I was offended by the lottery system, I figured you all planning YDW had discussed the ways to do sign up and decided on this as your best option. However I felt that I couldn’t sign up, as someone community from NC who wouldn’t be able to afford a plane ticket, i.e. looking for driving partners, the variables seemed far too stressful. Not knowing if I’d get in, or if anyone I could realistically drive up there with would get it was too complicated. I backed off. I look forward to attending YDW in the future, fingers crossed.

Sarah Pilzer

For those of you who didn’t sign up because it made planning more difficult, would holding registration earlier in the year make a difference? Is it just that July 1st is too late for getting vacation time/making travel arrangements? Pretend we stick with a lottery system, but you find out whether you’re in by, say February or March, would that give you ample time to buy your plane ticket, find a carpool, etc?

Also, would being able to signup in larger groups, of maybe 3 or 4, make carpooling logistics easier?

Emmalee Bastarache

My feelings are mostly with Caleb: registering for a dance weekend is not as simple as putting one’s name on a list and then sitting back and waiting. Time off from work, airfare, etc. require a significant commitment of time and energy.
On a previous occasion I was wait-listed for YDW, ended up canceling after not being able to wait any longer, and then spent weeks trying to get my refund back.
I’m not really sure that the lottery addresses the feelings of dissatisfaction that I have had with this experience. What I’m given to understand is that the lottery (and other methods of registration) was selected as an attempt to make the limited space and it’s availability more ‘fair’. This begs the question: If over 200 registrations have never been submitted, why not just change the venue to one that can accommodate 200 people?
And if the answer to that question is, “This is an intentionally designed, intimate event, and we are comfortable and happy with the number of dancers that our venue and experience can accommodate.”–I can respect that. What it means for me is that I will simply seek other experiences elsewhere. It’s not a boycott–it’s simply the most practical choice.

Angela DeCarlis

I’m curious about and intrigued by Sarah’s proposition: would holding a similar lottery sooner make it seem more do-able for those of you who decided not to register at all because the time spent in a state of uncertainty was too long for you to deal with?

I’m liking the idea of two venues, though obviously it would take a lot more work to get that under wraps and running. People had mentioned that founding camps in two different geological locations might be good, but I feel it’s also worth proposing the notion of having the weekend on two different dates, a la Dawn Dance.

Danner and Jordy: I take some issue with your dismissing Bradley, Emily, and her Partner’s experience of the dance being too clique-y. If that was an experience they had (at least three people, here), then it’s one that should absolutely be taken seriously. It’s just a fact that some people are more easily accepted into groups than are others and, speaking as a person who often finds it difficult to be included in those groups, it’s not really okay to say that they should have just tried harder to be included.

Caleb Smith

For the record, I have nothing against the lottery system… it just created a less than ideal circumstance for my particular situation. Having only gone to one YDW, I don’t have as much vested interest as someone like Jordy that has been several times

Renee LaGue

I didn’t register, but it’s not because I was offended by the lottery. In fact, I quite like the idea of the lottery and I know quite a few people who’ve never been before who are going because they never knew when those critical few hours were. I think it’s just time to let some other awesome people go- and I have no idea where I’m going to be in September. As for moving registration earlier in the year, it’s hard enough for some of us to know what we’ll be doing this far in advance. I can’t imagine pushing it any earlier.

Sarah Pilzer

I’m sorry about your experience with the waitlist, Emmalee, and totally get where you’re coming from re:practical personal choice not to attend. We have changed part of the policy this year so that you no longer have to pay to be on the waitlist until you actually get and accept a slot at the weekend. This hopefully makes it a little less painful to be on the waitlist, and will make refunds easier, but I’m sure there’s still many ways we could improve the waitlist experience.

Speaking of waitlists, yes you will still be able to join even if you did not register for the lottery. We’re currently doing some backend work to set that up (apologies for not having it ready earlier) but will let you know when it’s opening so you can sign up.

Renee LaGue

And I have also felt that YDW was very clique-y, especially the first time I went.

Caleb Smith

Well, there is a difference between a group of friends and a clique… snobby, not dancing with you, closed off and not willing to say hello? That’s cliquey. 35 friends hanging out because they all live on different sides of the country does not constitute a clique. I don’t know what y’all put up with, but I met a group of friends and left 3 days later with lots more friends

Angela DeCarlis

Also, Ellen: I can only speak for myself, but I know I didn’t register until the last few days that registration was open this year for a number of reasons: One, as a first-timer, it took me time to learn about the weekend, and the new lottery system that was in place; Two, I spent time finding a veteran friend who could commit to teaming with me so they’d be more likely to get in than they would otherwise; Three, I was at Pinewoods. God forbid I use internet to register while there  In any case, I would imagine that more of the late registrations were as a result of YDW-Veterans scrambling up willing-to-commit Newbs than of lack of zeal or interest in the weekend.

Jerrie King

From a dance organizer standpoint I read this thread with interest. Might I share an experience from another dance weekend? River Rendezvous has always been a popular weekend, filling up very quickly. My understanding of their registration process is that if you register, but do not get in, you are waitlisted. If you still do not get in then you are first on the list to get in the next year (provided that you register that year, of course). That might be one part of the solution you are looking for.

Abigail Hobart

I think it would be great to have a YDW equivalent on the West Coast just saying…. I would definitely be interested in helping organize that in the future. And since cliquey-ness seems to be a common concern among dancers, it could be a table top discussion theme.

((I myself, as a somewhat shy lady, felt very lonely at my last YDW. I didn’t get asked to dance much at all. Maybe my own social habits perpetuate that…))

Just a thought — I think it would be great to have a meet n’ greet for those interested – some sort of activity/space for people specifically interested in meeting a bunch of people that they don’t know.

I personally like the lottery, and think it works.


Abigail: more ‘dance with someone you’ve never danced with before’ dances might be cool. I do find that I am asked to dance by lovely people that I already know much of the time at YDW, but haven’t danced with for a long time, so I can’t really justify saying no… Actually, you’re one of those people too. 

Contra is inherently good at meeting and dancing with new people-what’s different about YDW? All the lines are good, no popular set syndrome, and yet I still am not even neighbors with everyone at the dance.

Jordy Williams

I don’t feel like encouraging shy people to talk to the clique-y folks is dismissing the issue. I understand being shy very deeply, which is why somewhere like YDW is the perfect place to try and combat the fear. YDW is a very controlled environment with very nice people, all of whom (I would imagine) are willing to dance with just about everyone. I feel like everyone should feel the encouragement to reach out to everyone. 

Abigail Hobart, the idea of more “meet n greet” activities would be awesome. Having a big circle at the beginning of the weekend where everyone gets up, says, their name, where they’re from, and what makes them special (or something) would be awesome. I always like the mixed dining situations and open discussions.

That all said, people are going to naturally hang out with their friends. And no matter what registration system YDW employs, there will always be friends there and there’s no way to force them to hang out with people they don’t know the whole time. That’s not fun, nor is it really community building. I take issue with the idea that groups of friends is not community oriented. I’ve never met many “contra assholes” or people unwilling to extend themselves. Or at least say yes to a dance when asked by a stranger. I feel like I’m dismissing shy people just as much as lottery supporters are dismissing my interest in attending the weekend.

Angela DeCarlis

Jordy: That’s great that you feel that way! Obviously we all want to spend time with our friends, etc, and I don’t think anyone suggested that doing so was disruptive to community building. I think the only point we were trying to make here — in relation to YDW as well as to other dances — is that those who feel included in established social groups have a unique opportunity to identify, acknowledge, and include newer dancers into those circles. It’s not actually an easy thing to do, sometimes, and so I won’t act like it is, but it sure feels good afterwards, for all involved!

I just want to reiterate that five individuals in this thread alone share an experience of feeling left out at YDW. Two others have taken the time private-message me in response to my comment addressing this issue, which so far has 10 “likes.” Regardless of whether one has ever experienced feeling left out at YDW, I think we can all agree that this phenomenon is not one any of us care to perpetuate. 

[PS: I’m editing this comment as those numbers mentioned continue to increase]

Tavi Merrill

(We might want to start an offshoot thread on perceptions of cliquishness…) So y’all who know me know i’m a pretty social person. I’m not shy at all, but i do have a loner countercurrent (most comfortable interacting in groups of 4 or less) that makes groups of ppl who already know each other very intimidating to me (that’s why i rarely dance at the Scout House, along with the fact that i don’t want to have to choose between dancing with older folks and dancing in an overcrowded set). What Abigail said – perhaps for some of us, our social habits perpetuate a disconnect between ourselves and the larger body of youth dancers. 

Jordy i love your point that people are naturally going to hang out with their friends. Perhaps the fact that i haven’t yet experienced YDW (& that i’m not a veteran of the FCFS system), combined with my perceptions of some of the youth dancers in communities it draws from make me dismissive – or at least less understanding – of people who were ‘offended’ by the lottery system. #grainofsalt 

I do agree with whoever said that registering for an event too far in advance can be as large an obstacle for potential registrants as not enough lead time. No single system will serve/please everyone who wants to attend. 

I’m REALLY looking forward to the opportunity to get better acquainted with many of you and build those contrelationships i’m so envious i see the folks around me having. And @ Danner, thanks

Rachel Garner

Danner, Jordy – I think the fundamental disconnect between your feelings that YDW isn’t cliquey or exclusive and the experience of a number of other people on this thread that say otherwise (myself included, here) is that you’re looking at it from thePOV of people who are in high-demand as partners. Just from my own observation, you don’t generally have dances you’re not asked to dance by someone – even if you choose to sit out. That isn’t meant in any way to attack you, but to point out the uniqueness of your viewpoints. When you come into the YDW community as an outsider or a less-known dancer, in past years, it’s been an extremely unwelcoming environment. 

Contra may be “inherently good at meeting and dancing with people” but YDW has not been, in the past. Abigail and I both came in as long-time two years ago and felt completely ignored for most of the time – even when we’d ask people we didn’t know to dance – because we weren’t known entities. I too almost refused to attend again. Last year was only marginally better, and that was even after we’d gotten to know a number of people in the returning YDW group. Groups of people attended who wanted to see each other, generally only danced together, and left those of us who weren’t part of the groups on the sidelines. If a dancer wasn’t comfortable doing a certain style of dance, or wasn’t as good as the rest of the group, they were pretty much ignored. I spent a good portion of my time watching dynamics both this year and last, and at least to someone used to watching behavioral pattern, it was obvious there were a number of people just rotating around the periphery because the larger groups had no idea they were included. 

I think the largest reason I support the lottery is that YDW is not, supposedly, entirely about coming to a dance weekend and dancing just with the people you want to see. That’s a perk, yes, but not the mission of the weekend. It’s about fostering leadership/connection/community through dance, and by registering year after year, people are keeping other, newer dancers from going – people who will benefit much more from the intended experience than tenured YDW-goers who just return for the social aspect. To some extent, it seems like people are feeling entitled to return. YDW should be a place where everyong has just as much value to the dance community and gets the equal opportunity to participate – which hasn’t been happening in past years because of (likely unintentional, but still prevalent) social dynamics. That’s why the lottery works – it keeps a great amount of turnover in the population. It does break up some of the really tight friend groups – but that means that the social dynamic is more fluid, and it’s a safer, more open experience for everyone involved. 

I think the question here comes down to not ‘does the lottery make people happier than other methods of signing up’ but ‘does it further the mission of YDW’. I think it does. We need to make sure we’re serving the needs of the larger community, not just those who have already been lucky enough to come. If the purpose of YDW is to encourage new young people to come and become more engaged in the larger organizational contra community, then stacking registration to allow for the same people to return year after year just to dance with their friends in a high-caliber environment seems directly contradictory to that goal. 

(Also, seriously. I don’t get how this FCFS registration thing got to be so important, but most of the major and really popular dance weekends on the west coast are done by lottery and the communities are okay with that. So maybe let’s give the weekend a chance to run, with the group picked by this new system, before we jump down the hard-working organizer’s throats? Lotteries are not the end of the world. They’re just different, and they remove a lot of privilege.)

Nathan Johnson

While I have never felt left out or excluded (even going back years), I have talked with many people who did, worse at YDW than other places. I think the weekend would benefit tremendously from a set or two dedicated explicitly to dancing with those youve never danced with before. Interestingly, all of the people I have talked to about feeling left out were follows, which may reflect on the people I talk with or may reflect on attitudes toward asking others to dance or role balance of the weekend or I don’t know.

I don’t like the lottery for 2 main reasons. 1. I want to pay to go to a dance, not pay for the chance to go. 2. I like to feel like I can increase my chances of being able to go by doing something i.e. planning to be online at go-live. Maybe it my competitive nature. 

I agree with the people that stated that releasing in smaller groups is just multiple fcfs with no real fix. I like the “reserve x for new dancers” or the “those on waitlist get first go next year”. Haven’t really thought through multiple weekend. I completely agree that decisions should be made not by “what I like” or even “what seems fair” but by “what aligns with the goals of the weekend”.


Here’s an interesting prediction/doomsaying/discussion topic (Not that I want this prediction to be true): YDW will still be just as cliquey feeling, and the lottery doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t even matter who goes, there is always a social curve. While you might change where you are in the curve, it’s still there, and a portion of people are going to feel left on the outside.

Much more will need to be done to counteract the situation if you expect things to be different. I am all for it! I think the organized systems, like the ‘dance with someone you haven’t danced with ever’ might work well. Please think of more inclusionary organized solutions too, It’s a great chance to show creativity. 

BTW, My pattern is that I am quite abrasive on the internet, and I just want to make sure that people know that while I intensely argue ideas, I never am targeting anyone personally.

Alex Krogh-Grabbe

Danner: I agree. I think registration policies can’t change that cliqueyness, and we need to do a lot more to address that. In the end, I don’t think we can completely get rid of it, because as been mentioned above, people will always want to dance with their friends, and that’s not a bad thing.

But I also want to point out that eliminating that exclusivity is not the point of the lottery. The point is to make the weekend more accessible to a wider range of people, and give everyone an equal chance. There are some really great points made above, but I think the balance of evidence still tells me that the lottery has been successful at pursuing YDW’s mission.

Bronwyn Woods

I have not yet attended (or tried to register for) YDW, mostly because of logistics. However, one reason why it hasn’t been worth overcoming scheduling and travel complications for me is the (admittedly second-hand) impressions of cliquey-ness that I’ve gotten. I do hope that some year I get the chance to attend and that these impressions are proven wrong. 

However, people getting really upset about an admissions lottery reinforces the cliquey appearance. I add my voice to those saying that they are more likely to attend (again) with a lottery system. 

After having read most of the posts here, it sounds like the main objection to the lottery is that there is no way for people who are more ‘serious’ about YDW in some way to get priority for attendance. For those who dislike the lottery, is that a fair summary? If not, can someone help me understand what the objection is?

I understand the frustration with not being able to do something to improve your chances of getting in, but it also makes me uncomfortable to classify potential attendees into ‘serious/dedicated’ and ‘not serious/dedicated’ and say that one group should have priority on getting in. It seems to me that it’s best to trust anyone who registers to have thought about it and made the decision that they want to attend. Especially since it seems hard to separate out being serious about attending from the confounding factors of being more well informed and having a flexible schedule. As has been mentioned several times, registering for a dance weekend takes a commitment of vacation time, travel funds etc. and I don’t think people do so frivolously.

I’ll just add that a lot of my interest in this thread comes from being involved in organizing other dance events, and I am very much interested in understanding different perspectives on the process.

Sam Auciello

I wanted to register that like Jordy, the lottery left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth even though I got in. I think the reason for this has basically been said here but I would emphasize that it’s not a desire to keep out the newcomer “tourists” but rather perception that kind of positive experience I had at YDW this past year might have been a result of the passion to go that drives people to go to the trouble of being at the computer at the right time to register. It was my first year and I felt a bond with everyone there because I knew they all had to have been as excited to be there as me because they had gone to the trouble of registering in the first 24 hrs (or however quickly it sold out). Of course this was just my experience so if other’s feel differently that’s fine too. Somebody mentioned the idea of fcfs with a certain number of spots reserved for newbies and that seems like a good idea to me. Ultimately it seems strange to me that we are worrying about how we decide who gets to go; it seems like people feeling excluded is inevitable. Why aren’t we looking for ways to let more people go. If 160 or even 200 people signed up that doesn’t seem like it would rob the event of an intimate feeling. Is it possible to find a bigger venue? Are there other barriers to this?

Bob Cook

A proposal: every person who comes is given a number (3? 5?) tokens which must be exchanged with someone who they’ve never met. There could be a contest to see who collected the most tokens at the end of the weekend. Perhaps the tokens could be creatively prepared to give some interesting info about themselves? It’s a little gimmicky, but perhaps it could help to resolve some of the concerns about cliques? 

Alternative: adopt the 19th century notion of the “dance card” for at least one of the sessions. During this session you must try to fill your card in some creative way (which could be contrived so that you mostly dance with people you haven’t met). 

I hear people’s concerns about dance exclusivity at a weekend where the intent was to work on youth leadership in contra, and at the same time am sympathetic with people wanting to mostly dance with people they love and haven’t seen in a while. 

I still think the best solution is to hold the event at a larger venue so that everyone who wants to come can come. And then to work hard to build in activities which encourage mixing so that new folks don’t feel left out.

Bronwyn Woods

I really like all the ideas being thrown around about how to integrate people once they are at the weekend!

I realize it’s probably totally logistically impractical, but I really like the idea of a weekend that was mobile. Each year it would be held in a different region of the country (kind of like many academic conferences). You would have the continuity of a weekend with established leadership, policies and goals while also having the diversity that would come from a different set of people having the weekend convenient to them.

Alex Krogh-Grabbe

I wasn’t on the committee at the time, but I recall the switch from F&W to Kinhaven feeling nigh miraculous. Also, my impression is that identifying F&W was extremely difficult in the first place. Finding a venue is extremely complicated, because there are many factors that go into making a place work well. Just to name a few factors: it has to have a dance hall, it has to have a kitchen near space to eat, it has to have places for people to sleep, it has to be available for our use, it has to not be too expensive, it has to be in the right region for the organizers (I believe the original search encompassed all of New England?), it has to have the capacity we want, it has to not have any prohibitive policies…the list goes on.

Also, I would like to speak up in favor of keeping YDW the same size. I think it’s a great number of people to get the community feel we’re going for. Of course people don’t get in, but whether you’re able to get into one dance weekend one year should not be life-shattering. There are many other great dance weekends, and there are other years of YDW.

Caleb Smith

Going back to the social curve idea from Danner, is eliminating that curve even what we want to do? For that to happen, everyone would have to be the same… same caliber of dancing, same social persona, etc. Nothing is learned from this. To build, grow, and foster community, you have to learn to work with other personality types and dancing abilities. 

I’m a loud, boisterous person and it is difficult for me to relate to shyer, more introverted people sometimes. This thread is a perfect example of that; I didn’t see the weekend as cliquey because of my personality and how I perceive/act in those situations. Someone who is more quiet would (and did, it seems) have a completely different perspective on YDW because of this. Part of the weekend could be about teaching loud people (like me) to include others, or tone it down a bit, or whatever else to mitigate the chance that someone in the community has a bad experience because of how I acted. At the same time, we should be helping the more quiet people ways to do the opposite, to go out there and put themselves forward (again, this just a guess?). 

I don’t think anyone becomes a pillar in their dance community if they can’t play that social game, and I don’t know of a better place to practice these dancing social skills/make yourself uncomfortable than YDW

Sam Auciello

Thanks for clarifying that Alex. It just seemed like a natural solution to the how do we not make people feel excluded problem but I can see how this makes it difficult. Anyway I appreciate the effort you guys are making to make the process as satisfactory for everyone as possible. The several stages of fcfs might work and as long as we’re tossing ideas around what about having 75 fcfs slots and 75 lottery slots? Anyway, I can’t wait and I’m sure it will be a fantastic weekend.

Dave Casserly

@Caleb perhaps you also didn’t see the weekend as cliquey because of your gender privilege. Just something to think about.

Caleb Smith

I completely agree with that, and the fact that there was a largeish crowd from Asheville that year contributed as well. That, like personality differences are still something that you can never eliminate, so we might as well learn to work around it.

Sam Auciello

I’m really curious to see whether the weekend is perceived to be more or less cliquey as a result of the lottery. Danner’s prediction seems likely to me but who knows. In any event I really like that YDW considers these things and is transparent about it. I’m also really curious since there was a perception that a returning YDWer would need a newcomer buddy to have a chance and I didn’t have one and got in anyway, as to what proportion of people did the buddy thing and how many people got in without a buddy. Sounds like an excuse for more charts and graphs to me!

Bob Cook

Alex, I don’t think anyone is claiming that not getting in is “life-shattering”, just a major bummer. And if this bummer could be avoided if the venue were bigger…

I know that finding a venue can be a pain (I was living with one of the people who was doing the venue search for the first YDW), but it’s not impossible. 

And I think I disagree with the size of YDW being optimal as is. I think that a bigger event would give first-timers (and shy folks) more chances to meet people and to connect with youth leaders in the contra world without really sacrificing the intimacy (which I would argue is mainly created by the seclusion of the venue – e.g., Flurry is huge, but I don’t have a problem finding intimate spaces to connect with friends there; however, it obviously has a much different feel because it is in a city). fwiw

Andrew Stout

I’m not feeling “someone is wrong on the Internet!” passion about most of this, but since this thread has turned in to something of a thermometer for the YDW community, I figure I’ll do my part to make it representative. 
My perspective: I attended YDW last year and three years ago, this year I’m hoping to get in off the wait list. I’m disappointed to have not gotten in, but I have trouble thinking of a fairer system or one that better serves ydw’s mission. I’m conflicted by the talk of pairing with a newbie to improve one’s chances–that feels a bit like gaming the system, but I can imagine the argument that it still fulfills the purpose of the newbie spots…but it’s a trick less available to married folks, for one thing. I initially found the talk of the “work” of entering the lottery to be risible, but I’m recognizing some of my privilege there–geography, travel time/expense, time off aren’t the barriers for me that they evidently are for others. That said, three months is a reasonable amount of lead time, and $25 is a reasonable deposit. I got my refund today.
I’m also conflicted about size…making room for more people has lots of appeal, but I know what a PITA a venue-search is, and as a somewhat shy person I find I have a harder time at larger dance events.
One thing I would like to emphasize is that the YDW organizers have been remarkably transparent, open, thoughtful, and hard-working. They deserve mad props.

Sarah Pilzer

Another consideration in regards to size is that having 40 extra mouths to feed would add some amount of stress and expense to the weekend. While the difference between 160 and 200 might not seem like that much if we’re already making tons of food, it actually has a sizable effect on the effort required to cook and serve the meals. I think making YDW larger would negatively impact the kitchen and our ability to feed y’all. The community dining experience is, in my somewhat biased opinion, central to the YDW experience and I would hate to see it suffer for the sake of a larger weekend.

Jordy Williams

But wouldn’t you have 40 more people’s money to pay more staff to make more food? That seems like a problem that would take care of itself (i.e. there are plenty of 200 person dance weekends that figure out how to feed their dancers).

Also I had a venue suggestion when F&W fell through that would be awesome and would hold 200 people handily (if memory serves).

Sarah Pilzer

You’re right that having additional income would help offset costs. And I suppose we would also have the additional hands as everyone volunteers at YDW for at least an hour. I’d be interested to know which dance weekends serve meals for 200+ folks because I’m always up for geeking out about techniques to serve large groups and I’d like to hear how they accomplished it. I guess I personally wouldn’t really want to cook for that many people, but perhaps it’s not as logistically difficult as I think it is.

Do you recall the name of the venue? The problem with most of the places we looked at was that they were twice or more as expensive as either F&W or Kinhaven, meaning we’d have to raise the minimum price significantly which we were unwilling to do. Many places also wouldn’t allow us to cook our own food, which as I stated before, is pretty important to us.

Jordy Williams

Well, soiree has a catering staff. I can also see how kitchen size/dining space would have an effect. And I know not many dance weekends have full meals provided. That is one of my favorite aspects of YDW (among many). But if YDW did choose to expand, this is the venue I would suggest. It was the summer camp I went to in Wolfeboro NH, on Lake Winnepesaukee. It was utterly beautiful, has a huge dining hall, big nice dance floor with a stage, cabins, lakefront, privacy, tons of hiking and activities, all facilities close together, and could easily support a 200-250 person dance weekend. Also the drive would not be that much further out of anyone’s way. it’s actually closer to Boston than Kinhaven.

Jerrie King

Sarah – Pigtown Fling easily feeds hundreds of people all weekend long with a kitchen staff of between two and five. We do not actually prepare meals, instead we put out fruit and veggies that we wash and cut up, along with other snack foods (hummus, crackers, cookies, etc). It fills about four to five 8 foot tables. Brunch on Sunday morning is a potluck with people bringing egg quiches (of course any other food donations during the weekend are accepted) to supplement oatmeal, bagels, etc. The final meal on Sunday is make-your-own-sandwich. I always leave the weekend with more food than I brought. I can’t remember the exact pricing but I’m fairly sure the weekend was less than $50, with full scholarship being four or so hours of work. I seem to recollect that price per person for food worked out to be $5 or less.

Abigail Hobart

I personally would rather keep eating the full meals cooked at YDW (as they are delicious!!) than eat snack food…

Ryan Carollo

I just want to bring up that there are actually statistics about how many newcomers there were at each weekend in YDW history. I seem to recall that it declined each year, but that it was around 45% newcomers even last year. This is not an argument for or against the lottery, but clearly adds to the discussion. Sarah, can you post those numbers again?

Alissa Mott

[Ellen M. Rothenberg: “I really dislike the idea that people who really wanted to attend and planned for it were bumped out by people who waited until the last possible moment.”

I know what you mean, but I would point out that really wanting to attend and registering at the last moment are not mutually exclusive. Frankly, as a card-carrying scatterbrain and procrastinator, I appreciated that I didn’t have any less of a chance of getting in just because I forgot when registration was.]

I also find it really frustrating that some people who have attended many times seem to feel this makes them somehow more entitled to return. I attended only the first YDW, and in part because of difficulties with registration, I have not been able to attend since. And I really have been dying to. It irritates me to know that some folks who are regulars and even got in via the lottery (which I did not, and honestly I DON’T feel jilted, guys) have their britches in a bunch about this year’s registration experiment.

And if it’s true that some returning dancers were able to raise their chances of getting in by signing up with a newbie, I think THAT is kind of unfair.

[Angela DeCarlis: “It’s just a fact that some people are more easily accepted into groups than are others and, speaking as a person who often finds it difficult to be included in those groups, it’s not really okay to say that they should have just tried harder to be included.”

I feel exactly the same way, Angela.]

[Rachel Garner: YES. All of that. Very well said.]

Jordy Williams

While this may be a separate discussion, how do we better include newbs/shy people? I guess I say “we” partly as part of the clique and partly as a royal we. I ask new people to dance all the time and still get harangued for being an exclusive dancer. While I understand I am a fairly visible person, I try quite hard to make sure I balance my dance time with new dancers, new-to-me dancers, and my favorites/friends. I completely sympathize with new/shy people and understand how difficult and painful it can be to be in that position. YDW seems to be a weekend that has put FAR more effort into mixing it up than any weekend, and I have GLADLY participated in that experiment. Yet (not playing victim, here) I still get somewhat vilified or hassled for dancing with my friends. Whatcha want me to do? 

I feel like YDW is and has a unique opportunity to force a reaction (in the nicest way possible, of course . I feel like whatever the registration becomes won’t really change the weekend much. If the newbs/shy get in, they still have to conquer the clique-y barrier somehow. Is it unfair to ask them to meet the clique-y group halfway? I somehow feel like I am arguing for trickle-down economics here, but I am definitely open to whatever exercises YDW wants to do to encourage mixing.

And yes, my britches were in a bunch about not having a way to influence my acceptance into the weekend. I’ll gladly admit that I am seeing more and more merit to the Lotto as this conversation goes on. If I had nothing to do with this weekend, I would probably say “yeah! The lotto is the fairest way!” but that I had/have a horse in the race, I’m on the fence. For future YDWs I feel like the registration aspect might be less important and more about seeing if we can get everyone who wants to attend in. Again I’ll suggest North Woods camp, which would be an /incredible/ spot that could easily accommodate the demand of a growing dance weekend while never feeling too big or un-intimate. I think the intimacy of the weekends in the past has been awesome, but I don’t feel it would get lost if the weekend expanded. Summer Soiree, for example, is roughly 250 people and has the most loving, warm, intimate feeling. On the flip side of that, I feel like I don’t get to meet every person per se, but I definitely make new friends and dance with new people every year. I also feel a very strong sense of community.

Growing the dance would be a big talk, but I don’t think it would hurt YDW. I feel like there are a ton of budding young community members and the more of them we can get together, the better.

Sarah Pilzer

Since one of the central goals of the weekend is to develop a cohesive community over the three days that we are together, I would argue that keeping it small is important not just because having an “intimate” feeling is nice, but because we really do want to be able to have a conversation with the ENTIRE room and feel like we are unified as a group. I’m not saying we’ve necessarily achieved this goal yet, as there is clearly evidence for cliques etc. that probably detract from the feeling of togetherness, but I think making the weekend larger risks diluting the sense of there being ONE community at the weekend rather than two or more factions. There’s something magic that happens around the 150 to 160 number where it’s just large enough to have sub-groups but still small enough to come together as a whole for bigger discussions, meals, dances, etc. (I suspect there is actually academic research supporting this, but I don’t have it at my fingertips). I haven’t been to many of the larger dance weekends, but at the ones that I have attended with more than 150 I’ve often felt like I do when I’m in a city vs. a town – sure there are moments of intimacy but it’s not that same thing as recognizing all the faces on the floor, even if you’ve never actually talked to them.

Abigail Hobart

@Jordy Williams ” If the newbs/shy get in, they still have to conquer the clique-y barrier somehow. Is it unfair to ask them to meet the clique-y group halfway?”

Why does there have to be a clique-y barrier? Why should there be a barrier?


Abigail Hobart: If I’m understanding it correctly, the barrier lies within the shy person at least partially. I’m cool with using organization techniques to lessen that internal difficulty, but that it’s rather tough to break down internal mental barriers, esp. from the outside. There doesn’t need to be a barrier, other than the fact that we’ve already defined a shy person.

Ryan Carollo

Outside of dance events, I’m usually a fairly shy person (much reduced thanks to dancing!), and I recently had an interesting experience at a wedding where I was the “plus one” and didn’t know anyone. There were a few other plusses around, and I decided that I should go talk to them. After mustering up the resolve I went over to them, but the conversation never got off the ground. At first I thought they were stand-offish, but then I realized that they were just shy *themselves*.

Basically, this leads me to believe that there will always be an internal barrier to shy people interacting, even with other shy people. Which is not to say that efforts can’t be made to ameliorate it – scheduled “dance with someone new” sessions could definitely help.

Bronwyn Woods

I’m sure there’s something to this ‘internal barrier’ thing, since I think that’s more or less what being shy means. However, it’s also the case that the same shy person can find one weekend/event to be cliquey and another not – which suggests there’s definitely an external component as well. I’ve had the experience of attending events where I don’t know anyone and feeling welcomed and attending events where I don’t know anyone and feeling excluded. I wish I could put a finger on exactly why.

Sam Auciello

I have felt that too and at YDW I felt incredibly included. I suspect it is more complicated than that and that different people find different settings more or less welcoming. No matter what happens there will be some people who aren’t going to enjoy YDW. Frankly if what we really want is an intimate feeling with only a few people then making the event have limited appeal (by, for example, scaring away the people who are inclined to feel shy at YDW) might not be such a bad thing. Mind you I don’t think I’m actually for this but on some level I’m not sure we can have it both ways. If we want to have an intimate event with only 160 people and more than 160 people are interested then people will be excluded thus creating an exclusive “cliquey” feeling. Ultimately I feel like if this is inevitable anyway, then a FCFS system might better select for the people who are really into it. Mind you, there seems to be real consensus that making YDW a (in some ways) welcoming event is important and I’m just concerned that that may not be fully possible if we are committed to staying small. I also think there many good compromises that are possible but I think it’s important to notice the inherent tension here.

Jordy Williams

I have always felt really welcome at YDW and have always felt like any clique-yness or cool-hip dancerness on my part has faded to make way for community. Same thing happens at Summer Soiree. 

I feel like this conversation has (and I’m THRILLED about it) kind of revealed some underlying feelings in the community that have been bubbling for some time. I’ve been approached many times about clique-y-ness and extending myself to newbs/shy/older set dancers. I have felt though that the conversation should included everyone, in hopes of breaking down the fears any group has of each other. I’ve always felt bewildered that anyone is intimidated by the “cool kids”. I would love to see a breakdown of “the wall” by realizing that it’s not really there.

I hope that at this YDW we can really focus on that since it seems to be a majorly dividing issue. Maybe YDW is extra cliquey in part because it’s just youths? It’s hard to shake our high school ways?

Tavi Merrill

ooh!!!!! Sam’s idea of a half&half fcfs/lottery system!! and Bronwyn’s idea of making a dance weekend that happens in a different geography annually… both AWESOME (not necessarily as solutions to the current YDW discourse, but as ideas that really should happen somewhere, sometime!)

Jordy Williams

and Abigail Hobart i use that term “barrier” as reference to where the relationship currently sits. I feel like there is a feeling of a line in the sand (not one I wish to perpetuate). So…assuming there isn’t actually one, but there IS a sliding scale of newbs/good dancer and shy/outgoing and dare I say “cool”/”uncool” or in clique/out of clique. What do we do? Whatever metaphor is used for it, there are people who feel difficulty blending with others.

I feel like the responsibility lies on everyone. If you feel new/shy/uncool/out of clique, then the ball is in your court to try and extend yourself to meet new people. And don’t be upset when people don’t come to your doorstep.

If you feel like you are experienced/outgoing/cool/in clique, then the ball is in your court to extend yourself to the bench-riders. And don’t be upset when the new people ask you to dance. Say yes. Ask them. Be nice. Participate.

And if you’re somewhere in the middle, have fun watching the melée

Angela DeCarlis

I just want to jump in real quick and say that this conversation has been the most rewarding discussion I’ve partaken in, maybe ever. I love that while there are several pretty polarized issues being discussed here, everybody has been open-minded and willing to strive for both solution and compromise. I’ve received countless private messages and emails stemming from this thread, and engaged in mini-discourses on some of these topics as a result. So many points of view have been considered and represented, and I feel that people (both those who are partaking, as well as those who have been following along) are not only learning more about the people they share this community with, but also more about themselves. Bravo, all.

Jordy Williams

^ hell yes

Tavi Merrill

It’s an interesting melée for us middles. I definitely feel that whatever “barrier” exists for me is more based in my comfort level interacting (which is higher in small groups and lower in big ones); that’s not something i can change but navigate with each new experience. Which is of course different for everybody. I do have to say that i thoroughly agree with Rachel on the question of certain individuals speaking from a space of privilege, but at the same time both those individuals have been outgoing and made an effort to include me, so there’s truth in both perspectives. Oh yay middle. And i too really appreciate the fact that YDW’s registration experiments have raised the clique/shy issue in a new and more open way. Looking forward to the tabletop discussions!

Rachel Jawin

I think YDW has a particularly difficult time because there is no ‘home’ scene to welcome the visiting dancers and dilute the cliques that form. Every face is someone you havnt seen for a few months and therefore it is imperative that you spend as much time with them as possible. There just isn’t time to meet all the new folks. And this makes the new people feel alienated. Should there be a cap on how many times you may attend YDW? Should we assign random people to be mandatory dance buddies or meal buddies? Should we create a social ‘sponsor’ system where an experienced YDWer takes a new person under their wing? These are things we as responsible community members should probably do on our own, but I personally am still developing the social skills and confidence needed. Ultimately, I think that the clique problem has a lot to do with YDWs best feature – the presence of so many young people who are still figuring life out. 

Could we bridge the social gaps by teaching folks how to lead/follow/do the flourishes we see preformed on the floor? The Rock Star clique tends to be the people who are often seen as the problem, either because we have a hard time getting a dance with them, or because we don’t feel comfortable breaking into that social circle. I know flourishes are not what contra is all about, but dance gives us shy or non-verbal people another way to communicate and to speak without words. This is how I got my in, but I realize its not for everyone.

Chris Lahey

I don’t have much of an issue with the lottery, though of course had I not gotten in, that might have been a different story.

I do have an issue with the idea that I could have influenced my ability to get in by finding someone who had never been before. And in particular, that I didn’t realize I could influence my ability to come. It also bothers me because this seems like it will give a disadvantage to folks who are shy and thus don’t find a new attendee.

I also had an idea for the lottery, though it may be too mathy, and I’m not even sure I like it. Specifically, make it so that there are different things that affect your probability of getting in. The first example I thought of was time. If we have a function that decreases over time, that would allow the chance for anyone to come (if they sign up within the window) but also allow for you to influence your probability.

One less mathy way to think of it is that you get a certain number of entries into the lottery based on when you sign up. Say you sign up on the first day, you get 100 tickets. The second day you might get 95 tickets. If you sign up on the last day of the lottery, you might get 50 tickets.

One thing this does is make it so that you can affect whether you get in by paying attention to what day registration starts. It also makes it so that which minute you sign up doesn’t matter as long as you do it that day.

You can add tickets if you’re a first timer (or you just automatically get in) or if you didn’t get to go last year.

I don’t know if this is a good idea, but it occurred to me, so I thought I’d throw it out there.

Angela DeCarlis

Chris, thank you so much for mentioning that lottery idea; I’d been waiting for someone to bring up a similar proposal. I kept thinking about the Hunger Games, and how different-aged youth all nervously asked each other, “How many times is your name in this year?” The idea of having a formula in place which would increase or decrease one’s chances of doing well in the lottery is definitely worth exploring, I think; though, admittedly, the main reason I hadn’t brought it up before is that it was a bit too complex for me to wrap my brain around on my own, and it’s something I would love to discuss in person.

Abigail Hobart

Good ideas Chris! Also I wanted to second what Angela said – this has been a marvelous discussion with lots of different opinions. I applaud all of you for being so well-spoken and level-headed (I know it’s easy to take things personally in a discussion like this). I, personally, have gotten A LOT out of this conversation. Thank you.

Chris Lahey

I’m also a bit concerned about the paying to be in the lottery thing. Why was that done? For me having $25 tied up temporarily wasn’t a big deal, but I can imagine it being so.

Sarah Pilzer

Newcomer percentages for those interested (excluding 2008 because everyone was new that year!):

2009: 66%
2010: 52%
2011: 48%
2012: 40%

This year, of those who people who got in during the lottery roughly 53% have never been to YDW before. I am working on putting together a more thorough report for the YDW website and will make a post to this group when it’s up.

Tavi Merrill

screw the interest/dedication factor

Sarah Pilzer

I’m not sure I get your meaning, Tavi?


Tavi, I’m leaning towards that, but there’s this thing about interest, and how it gets you whipped up and really gung-ho about something. When you work for something, it means more to you than if it just gets placed in your lap. Kinda like the jobs at YDW, they make you appreciate the infrastructure more.

Tavi Merrill

Sarah, Danner, i was making a tongue-in-cheek reply to Angela’s *shrug*, to the effect that people with a higher interest/dedication factor might actually think about signing themselves up 5 times, given available funds and appropriate relationship among WTP, lottery fee, etc… Chris’s “Hunger Games” strategy is indeed an interesting one for motivating folks who are indeed interested but struggle chronically with procrastination (*points to self* “now, when was that deadline?”) since if you’d be dedicated enough to want to sign up 5 times, you’d probably be the first to sign up and raise your chances of attending. Would that be enough to mollify folks ‘offended’ by the lottery approach? 

I don’t think interest/dedication is the sole factor in determining how quickly folks sign up – given the existence of the simply scatterbrained (me, this year), or those traveling/without internet access at key times (me, last year) or those who might not at a given moment have the funds available to register (me, anytime) but can secure them if they have a window to work with. What can i say, i’m a mess, but that doesn’t mean i lack interest/dedication. #onbehalfofallthemessyones : )

Stacy Dickerman

Okay. Fine. Y’all finally got me to comment on this thread. If I get off the waiting list, I will gladly do a lunchtime workshop on “How to be the Welcome Wagon You Wish to See in the World.