Let’s Talk About Reentry, Part 6: Prioritizing Safety at In-person Dances
February 28, 2022
CDSS Executive Director Katy German had a conversation with three contra dance organizers who have resumed in-person dancing. They described adjustments they’ve made to their “normal” processes, what impacted their decision to resume, what they’re asking of participants, and what they recommend to others. We also presented a new online resource: Groups that Have Resumed In-person Events.
Our brave panelists:
- Sherry Nevins, Seattle, WA
Coordinator – Lake City Contra Dance
- Eric Schedler, Bloomington, IN
Co-organizer – Weekly community contra dance, Bloomington Old-Time Music and Dance Group (BOTMDG)
- Janine Smith, Glen Echo Park, Glen Echo, MD
Organizer – independent contra dance series
- PowerPoint Slides
- Additional materials from our guests:
- BCP Contra: Event Announcement Email
- BCP Contra: Day Before Event Email
- BCP Contra: First Follow-Up Email with Survey Link
- BCP Contra: Final Follow-Up Email
- BCP Contra: Possible COVID Exposure
- BCP Contra: COVID Exposure Follow-up
- BCP Contra: Customizable Post-Event Survey
- Lake City Contra: Flyer for Vaxxed Events
- Lake City Contra: Registration Form for Dances
- Lake City Contra: Follow-up Email for Dance Attendees
dance, people, mask, dancers, events, vaccinated, questions, dancing, pandemic, sherry, week, eric, callers, community, person, test, required, bloomington, slides, janine
Eric Schedler, Sarah Pilzer, Katy German, Sherry Nevins, Janine Smith
Katy German 00:01
Welcome, everybody. We are so glad that you’re here tonight. I know people are still joining, and we’ll just kind of welcome them in as they come. But we are really thrilled to be talking with three fantastic organizers tonight and hearing about how they are prioritizing safety and holding in-person events. And I know this is on a lot of folks’ minds right now. We are going to, let’s see, let’s advance to the next slide. Great.
So here’s the format for tonight. We will have a little bit of logistics. I’m going to share some opening thoughts. Then we’ll move right into the panel discussion portion with Sherry, Eric, and Janine. Following the panel discussion, there’ll be a Q&A. And there are a lot of us on tonight, so we’re going to stay muted. But you’ll be able to submit your questions via the chat bar, and then staff will read it out. And we’ll get as many in as we have time for. Following the Q&A, I’m going to talk about some resources. And I know that’s kind of a standard spiel for us. But there’s something a little bit special and exciting tonight. So I’m not going to tell you what it is. I’m going to ask you to stick around until after the Q&A and hear about a new resource that we are working on. And then we will say good night in a timely fashion because we are dancers and we always end on time, don’t we? So without further ado, I’m going to toss it to Sarah, who’s going to talk about tech tips for tonight.
Sarah Pilzer 01:39
Great! Hello, everybody. Welcome and…um, Crispin…I realize one of the first things that I’m going to talk about is, we have spotlighted Katy and Eric and Sherry and Janine so that their videos should show up next to the slides on your screen. If you want to change that view, so you can see other people besides the four of them—including myself, maybe—you can go up to the corner of your screen where it says view, and you should be able to switch between speaker and gallery there. But we do recommend keeping it in speaker view during the presentation so that you can see all of our speakers. There’s a vertical bar between the slides that are being shown and the speakers’ videos. If you want to enlarge one or the other, you can drag that bar to the left and to the right to change the size in case the slides are too small to read or you want to see the big videos.
Other than that, standard Zoom etiquette: Please remain muted. The chat currently is set to only go to hosts and co-hosts. So that’s myself, the other CDSS staff members. And that is how you should submit your questions for the panelists, and then as Katy said, we will read them during Q&A later today. So feel free to put your questions in at any time during the panel, but we’re going to be answering them all at the end during Q&A. And yeah, lastly, we are recording this. So if you don’t want to be seen, just keep your video off. All right, back to you, Katy.
Katy German 03:15
Thanks, Sarah. All right. Next slide, please.
So some opening thoughts for me. I want to just talk for a minute about what this conversation is and what it is not. This is not meant to represent every possible choice out there. This is a focused conversation, where we are hearing from people who are holding in-person events and taking measures—making adjustments—to prioritize safety. There are people out there who have been holding events or are holding events without these adjustments. And there are people out there who are not ready to start holding events—do not feel that it is right for their area or their community right now. We know that this is not where everybody is right now. So this is for people who are considering or have started in-person events. And I just want to be really clear about that.
The panelists are all also from urban areas, and they may not be dealing with the challenges that smaller towns and rural areas face. [This was] definitely also pointed out by Penn Fix—I don’t know if you’re on here, Penn, but thank you very much for that—that in the areas where these folks live there’s a lot of political alignment and support for vaccination. And in some areas, not only is there not any support, or not as much of the social, general, public support for vaccination and masking, but there are states in which it’s actually illegal to require masking at events that are open to the public.
So again, this is not going to speak to those challenges. And I am sorry that we can’t talk about holding dances in those areas tonight; we only have an hour and a half.
CDSS is still not able to provide anybody a formula for determining the right time or when it’s safe to return to dancing. That’s not what this is meant to be. What we can do is share experiences that everybody’s having, so that we can learn from each other.
And that leads me to what we’re going to talk about after the Q&A, which is a way that we can all work together, that you can help us, you can help everybody learn from each other’s experiences. It’s hard when we’re not on the same page, but it’s not hopeless. I’ve talked before about how I think of all of this post-pandemic or pandemic decision-making as kind of a clinical trial where we’re choosing which path we’re on, we have to be able to listen to each other and learn from experiences. And we’re not going to be able to do that if we’re fighting the whole time.
So this is really meant to be a space where we’re talking about holding in-person events, with safety measures. This is not a space for attacking, for condemning, or being rude. I will not tolerate it. So we’re just not going to do that. Finally, if you’re thinking about starting up again, CDSS is recommending that you take steps to reduce the risk of transmission. Again, what you’re able to do is going to be different depending on where you live, whether or not you can hold public events. There are groups that are working around that. I know that we’ve heard from folks in Florida who are hosting private events, but that’s a different conversation. That’s not this conversation. Please do continue taking steps to keep your community safe.
Okay, so, without further ado, I would love to start hearing from our panelists today. Next slide, please.
So today’s guests are Sherry Nevins from Lake City Contra. Hi, Sherry. Eric Schedler from Bloomington Old Time Music and Dance group in Bloomington, Indiana. Great. And Janine Smith from Glen Echoes “Take Hands Four, Please,” an independent contra. Wonderful. And I would just like to point out, just for a moment, this little map. I would like to say that none of these folks, or me, are in New England. Okay, that’s it. We’re doing our best. Okay, next slide.
So our first question tonight: What key factors determine your decision to reopen? And we’re going to start with Sherry. And I’d love to hear about your thoughts leading to your decision to reopen.
Sherry Nevins 08:02
Sure. First, I’ve got to say a huge thank you to Katy and CDSS for doing this, because the previous web chats about reentry were very helpful to me and, I’m sure, for a lot of other people. And CDSS also made it possible for us to stay dancing in some way with all the virtual dances that went on and are still going on with the pandemic. However, what we were seeing with the virtual dances is that there was a pretty solid community that was turning out to just about all the virtual dances, but not a lot of our local dancers, callers, or musicians. So there was a lot of concern.
We all had that same concern: What’s going to happen when we can dance again? Are those people going to just bounce right back? Are they going to go off and have found other hobbies, or what’s going to happen? And so that was a big factor.
The other thing was we were getting kind of tired of Zoom, and the Zoom audiences were shrinking and shrinking as people were getting kind of tired of being on Zoom. And also, once vaccinations were possible, it was time to start thinking about how can we do this? So we started talking to our communities and started talking to our health professionals. And that’s the next question: What indicators did we use? But it was pretty much wanting to see how to get our way back to the dance halls.
Katy German 09:35
Great. Thank you, Eric. How about you?
Eric Schedler 09:40
Well, hello, everybody. Thanks, Katy, for organizing this discussion. I think our dance group in Bloomington, Indiana, was a little bit unique in that during the pandemic, our official dance group, Button and Board, organized our online dances. So we stayed active as an organization throughout the pandemic, and we have been a weekly dance, a Wednesday dance. And we continued weekly in the pandemic. And so for us, it was a decision of when do we transition from online events to in-person events because we were pretty much committed to doing something every week.
And we actually reached that decision last June before delta, when it seemed like everything was safe if you had a vaccinated group. And we did hold a community meeting with our membership a few weeks before that point to talk about [whether] this was at the point where everyone who had been coming to our online dances had been vaccinated. We held a community meeting to see where people were at with getting together again. And we decided to move forward without really committing to full-on contra dancing. We just initially said we were going to have bands come and play, and people could sit and listen to it, or people could come and bring their pod to dance with, which people were already doing in houses on our Zoom dance.
And it turned out, after a couple of weeks of that, people were ready to dance in a contra line together. So Zoom fatigue factored in for us, for sure. Engaging our local talent was a big reason to go back to in-person events because we had only one or two bands and callers from our community that were able to perform. And we had brought in people from the region, but we really wanted to get our local callers and musicians going again and bring back dancers who didn’t attend the Zoom dance. We had a fairly regular group of Bloomington people, but it wasn’t everybody. There are people who just weren’t going to come to the Zoom dance.
Katy German 12:04
Right? Right. And you all actually applied for support from CDSS. For a caller training session, right?
Eric Schedler 12:13
We did. So when we resumed dancing, we found that we had lost half of our callers that we had before the pandemic. So we really didn’t have quite enough to keep going with a weekly event. We had three callers, I think, at the end of that. So we turned right back to CDSS and asked them. We wrote a grant, which we received, to bring in Duke and Murphy to train a new cohort of callers to keep our dance going. And it was fabulous. We trained seven new callers, and all of them are calling at our dances. A bunch of them have now called their first full evening by themselves. So that was great. And our situation with callers is healthier than it was before the pandemic thanks to the training and the new cohort.
Katy German 13:10
That’s fantastic. Janine, how about you?
Janine Smith 13:13
So our situation is a little different in that the two organizations that typically run dances in the DC area, the Friday Night Dancers on Friday and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington on Sunday at Glen Echo Park, were still kind of very wary about starting up and they got a board of 10 people. It’s really hard to have a unanimous “let’s do it.” But I noticed that and another dancer who was very enthusiastic, like, why aren’t we dancing?
Around Labor Day, Glen Echo Park reopened for dancing. They had a big splashy Day of Dance in the bumper car pavilion, waltzes started up twice a month, swing dances were going on, you know, every week. It started in the bumper car and kind of migrated to the ballroom, which is a much bigger venue. And another dancer here, who has a ballroom in her house, they were having English dancing once or twice a month. And all these and also a great big venue in Baltimore was having swing dancing weekly, and no one was reporting any sort of cases or transmission. And they were all vaccinated events. They were all masked events. Everyone was being very careful. So it was like, Well, okay, why don’t we?
So I had conversations with the organizations existing here. They just weren’t comfortable yet. So I kind of looked into it. And I thought, well, gosh, they’re renting these at bargain-basement rates, the ballroom and the bumper car. And I amazingly found out that I could become a CDSS Affiliate, to get the required insurance. Plug for becoming an Affiliate! It’s amazing; one person can be—I had no idea. [I] got the insurance that satisfies the requirements for the rental agreement. We just went from there. Was very careful about the first one, making sure it was all, you know, a lot of things to learn—how to do it. Because of the park requirements by preregistration, you could not exchange money at the door; everything there is being handled as a private event. It’s like it’s a wedding; you wouldn’t be giving money at the door at a wedding. So it’s kind of their charade to defer liability a little bit—the park—but that makes it possible for us to get all the vaccination cards at a time and saves a lot of time. So that’s how that all started.
Katy German 15:47
Great. Great. Thank you. Before we move on, will each of you just kind of, in that same order, say about how many people roughly are coming to the events you’re talking about? Sherry?
Sherry Nevins 15:59
Okay, me first. When I started, well, there’s a factor that I didn’t mention. And that was a really key part aside from the health department, which we’ll get to later. But it was the facility. Just like Jeanine found the bumper car pavilion was a safe place to be, and Eric was able to have dances outdoors in a park pavilion. The hall that we use—which is in the pictures there—has windows on both sides of the room that can open and big doors up to the lobby. And it’s big. It’s a 300-person-capacity hall. And the hall management, I had met with them, met with the hall manager back in June. I started talking with health department people in May, I believe, and they were willing to give us a very significant discount on the rent. He helped us get going because they wanted us to create. So that was a big factor.
The first dance, one of the hardest things about starting up was not knowing whether we would get 20 people or 200 people. And that was: How do you plan? And so we planned our first dance for the end of July. And I was thinking, Oh, I’d be perfectly comfortable with 50 people. Well, we got 50, 60, 70, 80, and the registrations kept coming in. I cut it off at 100 and started a waitlist. And then delta started, and I was quite nervous about 100, even though that would have been a third of the hall capacity.
But then delta showed up, and cancellations started happening, and no-shows. There are people who just didn’t show up. We wound up with 72 people in the hall, including musicians, caller, sound tech, everybody, volunteers. And it felt fine. It was not crowded at all. There’s lots of space, there’s lots of air. But delta kept climbing, so we cancelled reps. We were going to do one a month. We canceled August, and by the end of September, I decided to come back with alternating dances and concerts.
Katy German 18:19
Hang on. I think you’re getting to the adjustments part. So I want to save that bit for later, if you don’t mind, Sherry, okay. Okay, great. Average 60 dancers now. Perfect, perfect. And the images you see on our screen right now, those are images from Seattle. Great. Eric, Janine, how about you? Numbers?
Eric Schedler 18:40
We have average 28 total attendees in the current calendar year, and it has come up a little bit in the past few weeks to about 34 on average.
Janine Smith 18:53
Okay, the bumper car pavilion at Glen Echo has a capacity of 350. So to make it more airy and more comfortable and more space, we capped it at 175. And the first two dances—we started in November, which was the sweet spot. It was after delta and before the mighty omicron came up. And so people were really hot to trot. We sold out. We capped it at 175 and sold out two weeks ahead of time. And same with December. It was sold out a week ahead of time. And so we’ve had 175 each of those two dances, and then we postponed January’s because of omicron. And then the two that we’ve had in February, we had about 130-140 each time.
Katy German 19:41
Great. Okay, thank you. So some variance in size here. Let’s move on to the next slide. Next question. Okay, what indicators or data are you following to inform your decision, and let’s mix up the order this time. Let’s start with Eric, and then Janine, and then Sherry.
Eric Schedler 20:03
Yeah, so we definitely pay attention to and discuss as a board, a lot of times our county rating on the state website and the CDC website. And the factors, we kind of discussed the factors too, which are the percent positivity cases per 100,000 and our local hospital capacity. We ultimately never did create a threshold: If we reach x, we will cancel. And I think that’s because the vaccinated people seemed pretty well protected from severe outcomes with omicron, which is when we would have potentially reached those thresholds if we had created them.
Janine Smith 20:49
Okay. Again, looking at the county website, county data on the CDC for the percent positivity and the cases per 100,000. We are so lucky to have a resident epidemiologist, Michal Warshaw, who actually works for the Arlington County Health Department contact tracing department. And, so, honestly, I think I spoke with her every day, just about “What about this? What about that?” Vaccination rates are very high here, quite high in this county. And then also, I work at a hospital that is associated with Hopkins. So I can actually go online and log into the system and see how many people are in the two local hospitals that are connected with Hopkins, and how many people are in the ICU. And I followed that daily. So now there are five people with COVID at a hospital or community hospital with 281 beds. And, uh, you know, so it’s really… I followed that. It was 90 in January, which is like, hm, might be a good time to postpone that dance, you know. So that little insider info really didn’t hurt.
Katy German 22:06
That’s great. Thanks. I am seeing the questions coming in to me directed at chat. I’ll try to keep up with them. And some of those are going to be answered in the Q&A portion. Just letting you folks know, we’re gonna keep this train rolling. Thank you. Let’s move on to the next slide. Oh, right. So this is where we’re getting into the meat of what adjustments did you make to your normal procedures? I know it’s a little bit of a small font, but we tried to consolidate our conversations into this table. And Janine? Well, no, you get the next slide, so we’re gonna save you for last. Sherry, will you kick it off? And kind of just do a quick overview of what you all did?
Sherry Nevins 22:51
Sure. Well, at the very beginning, I did an online registration form rather than a survey that had a few questions on it, like, Would you only dance if we kept attendance? Would you only dance if everyone is vaccinated? And after a while, I didn’t need those questions anymore. But that’s it. And now we don’t. And then after a couple months, we didn’t do preregistrations anymore.
I also had a printed registration form at the door, which is what we still have. Once we did not collect people’s vaccination documents, but once we checked their documents physically, had a spreadsheet of everyone who had preregistered. And then we added names to that as people came without preregistering. We checked the column on the spreadsheet that we have verified their vaccinations, so they’d only have to show the card once. I didn’t want there to be any problem with people giving away their documents.
And that has been working very, very well. It’s a little more paperwork because I have to update that verified document every week. But that’s worth it. So we’ve got the checking—checking vaccination status—providing masks. We started providing KN-95 masks when omicron really started kicking in. And all the windows and doors stay open even when it’s below freezing. People warm up when they dance, and we bring a little heater for the band on stage if they need it, but they usually, they don’t often want it.
We started wondering if people would be weird about touching each other, and so I started with name tags with a little colored sticker they could put on with a green sticker for full-on swing and different colors for two-hand swing or for no-hand swing. Everybody was taking the full-on swing green stickers so I didn’t keep doing that after a while. People were fine with the touching and it really is airy. The aerosols were the bigger concern. We don’t provide any food other than some individually wrapped chocolates that are spread out on a table so you don’t go pulling through baskets.
Other than that, the other dance itself is shorter by half an hour from what it used to be. It used to be too long anyway because it was a weeknight, and each dance was run shorter—not as short as the Zoom dances, but not as long as the pre-pandemic in-person dances. And the only other thing that was really different is lots more communication. [Unclear…], but also talking with people.
Katy German 25:32
Great, great. Yeah, Eric. So it looks like you did a lot of the same things. But you did a few things differently.
Eric Schedler 25:38
Yeah, so we started again, we started in June last year. And we found a public park with a bandstand, that [had] a big enough plywood stage that the dancers could be on the plywood stage. Well, for our small group, and for the size that it’s been. We had never had an outdoor dance, except in the group’s distant past history, they used to take park shelters. And we also eased our dancers into contact, I think that is kind of an important thing. And maybe even now, that’s still true, even though we are accustomed to more contact than we were last year.
But we held our first dance, where people had to bring a pod to dance with. And having the community meeting ahead of time also was really good for people to be able to hear where other…dancers were at and talk about their concerns openly. And then we also had different colored wristbands for the first couple of months, I think, so people who didn’t want to do a closed swing would wear a different color wristband.
Yeah, let’s see, I don’t want to say everything that’s just in this table. But oh, we decided to, when we restarted in-person events, to only have members be allowed. Now we do allow people to join at the door, so in that sense, it’s still a public event. But the membership is a sort of our way of making sure that their vaccination status has been checked, we have their contact information, they’re on a permanent printed list so we can mark who came to which week’s dance. And then we can contact people if there’s any outbreak, or any positive test.
That might be all that I need to say. We moved indoors in November. So we were outside for a bunch of [sound cuts out]. Masks are required. No food, we asked people to even step out of the gym to take a drink from their water bottle or use a water fountain if it’s running. And our dance is also shorter.
Katy German 28:15
Connection there back.
Janine Smith 28:17
You’re back. Good.
Katy German 28:19
Eric, I’m sure…
Janine Smith 28:26
I think Katy’s frozen, so I will just charge ahead.
Katy German 28:29
Janine Smith 28:30
Okay. So basically, we are in the bumper car pavilion. It’s an open air pavilion; we’re so lucky to have this resource. Most of the plastic curtains roll up, so there can actually be lots of airflow. But there are radiant heaters in the ceiling that really keep everybody toasty warm. We limited the capacity to half.
We decided to just do proof of vaccination only, no provision for testing out. I just thought that was way too complicated. That leaves it up to the door person, and what kind of test is it, and just too much back and forth. It’s just… there’s a chance that that person may still be infected. So depending on what they did, right before they got there or two days before. So we just did that.
We asked people to email their vax cards ahead of time. Preregistration was because of the park requirements; phone numbers were collected. We required masks at all times. And we upgraded the masking as omicron came in and we decided no gaiters. No, you know, that kind of thing. No, no masks made of a sock, which was kind of at the beginning of the pandemic. You can make a mask out of a T-shirt. Okay, it doesn’t work. But people would show up in these crazy chemical things that look like they were about to clean up a Superfund site. And we’re like, you know what, don’t wear those because they make other dancers uncomfortable. So you have to spell everything out.
I think the biggest thing, I feel like the most important thing, was the pre-dance letter to all registrants because we knew who was coming. Yes, that thing. Yes. Eric, that thing. Okay. Um, yeah, that scares people, when they’re coming at you to balance and swing. A lot of people came up afterwards and said, “Could you do something about that?”
So every dance, we learned something, but the letter that we sent basically specified, when you get there, here’s how you behave. “You put your mask on; you go up to the door volunteer; you check your name off; when you’re inside the pavilion, you do not remove your mask; you can sip some water through a straw or underneath,” but the expectations. So you’re setting the expected safety behavior. “If you’re approaching the band, please make sure your mask is on,” that kind of thing. And then what counts as a mask, what doesn’t count as a mask. Also, if you have these symptoms, and we just listed every single one in order, please don’t come, wait till next time, or if you’re awaiting results of a COVID test, don’t come.
So I feel like that letter, that contact, was the most important thing. Before each dance, we would have a mask-wearing demo. The caller would go “Okay, here’s a mask, you must put this [on] and mold it to your nose.” Because even though we’re two years into this, people still don’t get it sometimes. And then I would empower the dancers to self-correct. Say, if you see someone with a droopy drawer and their mask is down here, it’s okay to say, “I would feel more comfortable if you would pull your mask up, and then we’ll have fun dancing,” and just kind of explain that.
Also really stress that, if there were any symptoms, once they got home, get a PCR test, contact us at the same email address. And then, that’s the pep talk. It’s like, “Are you with me?” “Yes, we’re gonna have a great night!” So really kind of get everybody on board. We’re doing this safely. So we can keep doing it. We all want to take care of each other and pretty much empower everyone to kind of not really police it, but police it.
Katy German 32:31
That’s great. I’m kind of back. But I don’t know how long I’ll be back.
Janine Smith 32:34
Okay. And that was a picture of someone there. Melissa Chatham, a caller, demonstrating the mask, the mask demo.
Katy German 32:43
Wonderful. I am not sure where we are. I think we’re ready for the next slide. Yes. Fantastic. Next slide. So Janine, tell us what we’re looking at here.
Janine Smith 32:57
That is the bumper car pavilion at Glen Echo Park. And you can see that it’s…you might have to really look in there. But the red lights on the floor there are the reflection of the radiant heaters and beautiful twinkle lights. And Jamie Platt is over there getting the sound set up. He and I are now offering these dances in coordination. He did the second dance, and then we joined forces to kind of do these. Because it takes a lot of work between the registration, the vaccination cards, the email, all that stuff, it really is more than one person can handle.
But you can see that those panels, two of those panels, are open there. And some of those curtains don’t quite work. They’re very fragile. They’re kind of rigged like a ship where you kind of have to pull up block and tackle. But that is the bumper car pavilion with some of the curtains open. So we would try and open pretty much all the ones that are functional. That’s great for airflow.
Katy German 33:58
It sounds like each of you really were relying on open airflow, outdoor air. But did any of you try any filtration systems or deal with internal systems in filtration?
Janine Smith 34:18
We actually tried to have—oh, sorry—we tried to have fans at the first dance blowing air out, but they were not really functional. The fans were broken. They were just sitting there not, you know—we couldn’t get them to work.
Sherry Nevins 34:34
Now I can’t because there’s lots of lots of air in that hall. There is the Northwest Dance Network that puts on swing and waltz dance events. They have a hall where there are no outdoor windows to open. The hall itself had updated their HVAC system. So I did go to a few of those events. And they are also doing the same thing: taking vaccinations and masks and all of that. And they have had a good track record as well.
Katy German 35:05
That’s great. All right. But we’ll keep moving along. I want to assure everybody, if I drop off again, you’re in good hands. I really don’t do much of anything around here. All right, next slide. So here’s your next question. What post-event participant follow-up are you doing? Or do you do? Let’s start off with Sherry. And then to Janine, then, Eric.
Sherry Nevins 35:30
Yes. Since we keep track of attendance at each dance when we check people in, then we have their email addresses from the registration form, which I can make available to everybody. I don’t think there’s a slide for that. So about three days after each dance, I sent an email to everyone who was at that dance, but blind copy just in case that people don’t want their their email addresses splattered all over, thanking them for coming, blah, blah, blah, and asking them to, if they have any symptoms at all—I list the symptoms—to please get tested and to let me know whether it’s positive or negative. And just also let me know what the symptoms were, when they started, how severe, that kind of stuff. Some people who get tested regularly for work even without symptoms have been really good about just letting me know, “Hey, I’m negative.”
Katy German 36:30
Sherry Nevins 36:31
And so far, we’ve had… Do you want me to? Are we talking just yet about what do you do if there’s a positive?
Katy German 36:41
No, not yet. Not yet.
Sherry Nevins 36:43
Not yet. Okay.
Katy German 36:45
This is just what is the new routine after the events? What are the things you do? Yeah. So Sherry, you mentioned that you have a form that you would share. I can see everyone tonight has some templates and communications and surveys, things that they’ve used, that they’re willing to share. So when we upload these slides, by the end of the week, on our website, we will also share those very generously shared items.
Sherry Nevins 37:15
Okay, if I can backtrack a bit, I didn’t get a chance. You didn’t have me talk when we’re talking about what data and indicators we use. It’s pretty much the same thing. King County Public Health has a very good, detailed website that’s been cited in the New York Times, among other things. And they’ve been tracking data very thoroughly. So I rely heavily on that. And May of last year I had started having periodic conversations with someone at the health department and basically ran through everything I was thinking of doing and asked for their evaluation of that. And I’ve got nothing but encouragement and validation for what we’re doing. The other thing is that they started putting on their website, a relative risk information, comparing the risks of people who were vaccinated against unvaccinated and the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations and the number of deaths for each of those. And that has really been important guiding me because even if caseloads are rising really high in the general population, which is mostly the unvaccinated people, we are all vaccinated at this dance. So I was putting more attention into what’s happening, relatively, for vaccinated people. Right? Not that I was ignoring all the other information, but I was looking at it in that context.
Katy German 38:45
Absolutely. And Sherry, I believe you also routinely share with everybody who’s at the dance. Whether people are positive or not.
Sherry Nevins 38:55
Yes, the website for the dance, which is at seattledance.org, has a little rundown of every week, “no COVID reported” or whatever. Whatever came back to me I report without anybody’s names. I don’t want to identify anybody just to make sure people want to give that information to us. It’s great. Anybody can look at it.
Katy German 39:20
Thank you for expanding on that., Sherry. I’m sorry I skipped you. Okay. Yeah, so Janine, how about you?
Janine Smith 39:30
Oh, again, it’s more communication after the dance. During the dance saying, if you have symptoms, get a PCR [and] let us know right away. The first dance, I mean, I was psycho about it. I sent an email to all the registrants the first day: Is everybody okay? The first three days after: How’s everyone doing? A week after: This is your final call, has anyone gotten sick? and also sent a survey with about 20 questions. Just asking people, Did you feel safe? Would you do this again, if we went inside to the ballroom? Do you have any suggestions? Just all kinds of different aspects.
And the results were fascinating. They were amazing. But people were mostly expressing just joy and saying, “I cried all the way home, it was so wonderful,” and just so enthusiastic, and just very positive results. But so now, I’m not doing three different emails, but maybe one kind of summary, and then introducing the next dance and saying, we decided not to allow registration until one dance was over because we kind of want to see, what if there’s any fallout, and then open it up to the next dance. So contact, constant contact. Yeah.
Katy German 41:00
And then just one of the images on the side here is the Take Hands Four, Please. That is actually the survey that you mentioned. So we’re going to get a clearer version of that to share with everybody.
Janine Smith 41:14
Great, yeah, Joel Bluestein devised that and it was brilliant.
Katy German 41:18
So how about you, Eric?
Eric Schedler 41:23
Yeah. So for our Bloomington dance, we don’t send out an email every week to people who came, but we did make all our members agree to the policy of informing the dance board immediately of any positive tests if they had attended an event [within] 14 days of their tests. I know that’s kind of a bigger window than we really need, but we thought the five was maybe a little sketchy, that we sometimes hear about now. So anyway, yeah, we just asked people to report if they’ve had a positive test and definitely to get tested if they are not feeling well. And I guess I can add that, you know, our group is small, our attendance is in the high 20s, low 30s. And everyone who comes knows everybody else, We’re all we’re kind of all friends like everyone is taking care of everyone else. So there’s a good level of trust there that people are gonna check themselves out if they’re not feeling well.
Katy German 42:30
Okay, so here’s the question that I’m getting a lot in the chat. I’m sure the other CDSS staff are. Next slide, please. Have any participants reported post-event positive results? And if so, what did you do? And it would be helpful if you could give us a reminder of how many dances you run, this is how many people [if] this has happened. Just so we stay a little bit grounded in numbers as much as we can. Oh, sorry. Janine, why don’t you go first?
Janine Smith 43:09
Okay, so we’ve had four, we’ve had four dances with, like I said, 175, twice, and then about 130-140, twice in February. And I was feeling very proud. But then we had a positive test, on the last dance, which was the 24th, last Thursday. And it all went…, thanks to Michal Warshaw, it was brilliant. I don’t know why we didn’t have a letter ready to go ahead of time, but she drafted one brilliantly, in a couple of hours. And as we got a report on Saturday morning that someone had some symptoms. They went and got a rapid test, a rapid antigen test and a PCR. The rapid antigen was positive; they were waiting on the PCR test. So we sent this letter out to all the registered participants. Then when we found out the PCR was positive, we sent out a follow-up letter, telling them exactly what to do. And that can be something that a template will be available to any group. And it’s really just, “here’s what you should do”: wear a mask for 10 days, if you have symptoms… It really told everything. So I would say [my] advice is [to] have a letter ready to go. So you aren’t going “oh, no!” when it does happen, because it probably will.
Katy German 44:36
So you’re gonna share that one with us, right? Yes. Great. We can have your letter ready to go.
Janine Smith 44:43
Katy German 44:45
Thank you. Sherry, how about you? Any reports?
Sherry Nevins 44:48
Well, we’ve had 21 in-hall events so far. Three of them were concerts and the rest were all dances. Attendance has been… the smallest was 34 and that was one of the concerts. And then the biggest was 92 people. Average, about 60. We had three, three separate times, someone had reported that they had tested positive. Just looking at the timing of when their symptoms started, it was not likely that they had been either contagious or had caught it at the dance. I reported it anyway on the website and let people know. But nobody else after each of those instances, nobody else reported having any positive test.
Then early in February, February 10, I think, one dancer started feeling symptoms on the way home from the dance. Was fine at the dance. Immediately, like got tested the next day, and let me know it was positive. I sent out an email alert to all the people who were there at the dance with the reminders that we send in the follow-up, but just to let them know, and I didn’t do as much. I think there’s enough information out publicly about what to do if you’ve been exposed. So I didn’t really run through all of that, but asked them to be careful and lay low, to be cautious because that one person could not have caught it at the dance but was definitely contagious. Getting symptoms on the way home, that was probably at peak contagiousness, and that person was dancing the entire time.
So you know, contra dance, it means you’re dancing with everybody. That person did his own work-specific contact tracing for people he knew he partnered with, and nobody else got a positive case. One other person had some mild symptoms and took a rapid test and a PCR test and was negative. Several people, at least a dozen of us, waited a few days. I did recommend that people wait a few days before testing because if they were just exposed, they might not have built up enough virus level to show up on the test. So a number of us tested ourselves, a number of us twice, and all were negative. So even though we had a known peak exposure, we’ll of course mask, everybody was very fully masked there. Nobody else got it, even the person who rode in the car with the one who was showing symptoms did not.
Katy German 47:35
Great. Great. Thank you. Eric, how about you?
Eric Schedler 47:40
Um, we have had one dancer tested positive after a dance. And again, it was five days after the dance that they attended. So we didn’t think it was terribly likely they were contagious at the dance. They could have caught it at the dance. So we did contact everyone who attended that event, since we have our list of who came and saw everyone to report if they’d had either symptoms or positive tests, and we didn’t have anybody else who had anything. So we were not able to draw any conclusions about it being connected to the dance. There have been a bunch of dancers who got omicron. But we were all being so careful. I think in most cases, people knew that they had a family member in the house who had COVID, or they knew they’d been exposed somewhere. So none of those people attended a dance like within a week of when they got sick. They sat it out, knowing that they had a chance of catching it. So again, people taking a very considerate approach.
Katy German 49:00
Yeah. Thank you. Okay, let’s move on to our next slide. Then we’re getting close to the Q&A portion, and boy, do we have a lot of questions coming in! Um, last question. This can be quick. Is there another event on your horizon? Are you going to keep going? And if you are, are you going to do anything different that you haven’t been doing? Eric, let’s start with you. Then Janine, then Sherry.
Eric Schedler 49:31
Yeah, so we have a weekly dance. And in the past, pre-pandemic, we had a quarterly Saturday dance, which isn’t always more well attended than our weekly dance anyway, but we think it would be now that most of the nearby communities are still not dancing. So we are considering having that quarterly event at the end of April. And of course, we’ll be keeping an eye on COVID spread continuing to go down before going ahead with that. And we also have our group’s 50th anniversary coming up. Actually, this whole year is our 50th anniversary. So we’re looking at doing an event sometime in summer or fall, and bringing back people from all the different decades of Bloomington dance history.
Katy German 50:19
That’s wonderful. Cool.
Janine Smith 50:22
So, we are planning two more dances in March. Jamie—Jamie Platt—and Dancing Planet and myself and a square dance, all square dance, at the Glen Echo bumper car pavilion, this weekend on Saturday night. We’re also planning the Dare to be Square weekend in May. Thank you, CDSS insurance! And it’s unclear really when the other organizations are gonna start up. I know there’s conversations about they had written up metrics, they’re kind of getting together to discuss those. I know there’s a lot of communication between the Friday Night Dancers and Folklore Society.
So we’ll just kind of keep plugging away until something definite happens because I’d really like to just dance, you know, and call and not necessarily always sit in front of a screen and write emails to the dancers. Although it’s been really our pleasure to do that. I think part of what we need to do is to still educate the community that, you know, gee, we’ve dropped our mask mandate, why are you all still requiring masks? And it’s just because you know, even being outside and you know, requiring good quality masks and all that stuff, vaccinated, boosted. If someone still comes to the dance who is infectious, you have to protect yourself. You still have to wear a mask. So a part of it is still education.
Eric Schedler 51:55
I don’t even think you need a reason at your square dance. “Just because!”
Janine Smith 52:00
Yeah, well, people ask. I mean that, the county. Haha, “just because” I get that. Okay. County dropped the mask mandate Monday, and we had our dance Thursday. So people were asking, “Why are we?” So, yes.
Katy German 52:15
All right. Sherry, how about you?
Sherry Nevins 52:18
Yeah, we are going to keep the masks and the vaccination proof. Like, it’s a little interesting. Washington state is dropping the mandate but allowing localities to keep it, and King County is keeping it to see what happens with COVID, really. So that makes it easier. Also, I think the contra dancers—we don’t get pushback against this. People are very, very glad. So many people have expressed gratitude that we take all the steps to try to… You know, we can never guarantee safety, just like we can never guarantee that people won’t get a cold or a stomach ache or something after going to a dance pre-pandemic. But we can do everything that we can to prevent transmission, as Katy said, and people are very supportive of that.
And I totally intend to keep the masks if there’s anything that is likely to transmit aerosols, it’s contra dancing. Although they think about it for every swing, which is the closest thing we do with each other. You’re only swinging for a matter of seconds, and then you’re gone. But still, and we’re all human fans during the air around. But still, we’ll keep the masks going. There was something else I was going to say but I forgot.
Katy German 53:47
Well, great. I think you know what you’ve talked about today, but [what] you all have shared is an enormous amount of extra work to put these on. And I know that you’ve said you’ve had team support, you’ve had help. So to you and all your teams, I think one question a lot of folks have in mind or had in mind—I certainly had this question in mind going into our last camp season—Is it worth all that effort? You know, like, is it possible? Am I gonna wish we hadn’t?
Sherry Nevins 54:18
Yes, yes, yes. Yes. Yes. You’ve gotten really excited by that question. It is so worth it. It is just so incredibly worth it. It would be worth 10 times the amount of work for me. The amount of joy that comes out of people when they’re able to dance after two years. And it’s just amazing.
Janine Smith 54:39
Yeah, agree. Yeah.
Katy German 54:44
All right. Well, we are just a smidge over where I wanted us to be at this point. But I think we did really good, all things considered. We have so many questions coming in, [which] Sarah Pilzer has been collecting. She’s been trying to consolidate them. So a lot of folks are asking the same questions, we’ll do our best to get to them all. If we don’t have time to get to them all, we’ll keep…a list. And I’ll reach out to the guests tonight. And we’ll post answers to those questions with the other materials. So I’m going to pass the baton back to you, Sarah, and take it away.
Sarah Pilzer 55:28
Great, thanks, Katy. Yes, there are many questions coming in, and some that came in even before via email. So we’re going to start with those. And there was actually multiple of the same question, which is, Have you thought about or had to deal with people trying to use a fake vaccination card? And what are your thoughts on that? [Pause] Looks like nobody, that hasn’t come up for anybody. Any thoughts about [that]? Are you worried about that happening?
Janine Smith 55:57
Because I’ve actually been giving vaccinations throughout the pandemic, through my hospital, that someone will run a vaccination card by me and go, does this look legitimate? And I can tell. I mean, you know, that, like, you can tell where, what CVS it was, where it was located. Because there are various things. There are stickers, there are, you know, writing, but there’s a code. And I guess if somebody really went to the trouble of figuring out what the code for the CVS in Fairfax, Virginia, is, you know… but I don’t think we’ve really come across any that we knowingly like really looked sketchy.
Sherry Nevins 56:45
You know, we check their IDs as well, when they show us the card.
Janine Smith 56:51
Sarah Pilzer 56:54
Thanks. Um, another. Speaking to the numbers at your dances, can you talk a little bit about how the numbers you’re seeing now compare to the numbers you were having before? And if they’ve changed at all, are they up? Or are they down? Apologize if we’ve we would have had already, but…
Sherry Nevins 57:17
It’s turning out to be not all that different. Some of the dances have been a lot smaller than our usual from before. A number of them have been pretty much in the same ballpark. Not…yeah.
Sarah Pilzer 57:36
Follow-up to that. No, sorry. Go ahead, Eric.
Eric Schedler 57:38
I think ours is a little bit smaller than it was. But it isn’t that different. And it’s starting, it’s growing back now. I think we had dips with omicron, and we had some difficulty getting people to our outdoor location because it was actually outside of Bloomington, so it required transportation. And the membership kind of does limit somewhat, although really, we have some great members who have been bringing, finding friends, new people to bring in who are willing to join just to come to a dance.
Janine Smith 58:13
It’s great. I would say ours are a little smaller, but we limited the capacity. So it’s hard to say. I think overall, there was kind of a little bit of a decline, even pre-pandemic, in attendance at Glen Echo. It kind of goes up and down. But generally, yeah, they’re smaller.
Sarah Pilzer 58:37
Great, um, have you seen the average or mean age of attendees change since getting back together? Do you notice any like…are there any major demographic shifts? That’ll actually cover a lot of these questions.
Sherry Nevins 58:51
Well, I can answer a little bit of that. We’ve had, which has been a very lovely surprise, we’ve had a lot of young dancers who have moved to the Seattle area within the last two years. And they’ve been there, people who’ve danced in other places, and they’re delightful to have and they are in a lot of our slides there. And we’re really happy to see them. It’s been kind of surprising, because some of the usuals, the old regulars came back, and a lot of them haven’t, but we’ve got a whole influx of new people who are wonderful. So that was something we wouldn’t have anticipated.
Eric Schedler 59:36
I’d say our demographics are in the same range that they have been, which is, there’s people who’ve been dancing for up to 50 years. And there’s been varying contingents of young people that ebb and flow over the years.
Sarah Pilzer 59:57
Janine Smith 59:58
Ours is about the same. I would say the demographics are pretty much the same at Glen Echo.
Sarah Pilzer 1:00:07
One of the things that comes up is with kids at dances, and I know none of you are running family dances specifically, but provided they’re vaccinated, are kids welcome at your dance? How are you thinking about younger children, who aren’t able to be vaccinated, coming to dances?
Eric Schedler 1:00:30
Kids are welcome at our dance if they’re vaccinated and the parents have shown their card. And we’re in a school, so I was probably the one person who brought unvaccinated kids before they were eligible. And I sent them upstairs into a hallway to hang out while we were performing.
Sherry Nevins 1:00:54
Since our dances are on a Thursday night—which is, for better or worse, a school night—so we really don’t get people bringing kids. In the registration form and in the promotion for the dance, we stated very, very clearly that anyone who is at higher risk or in regular contact with anyone at higher risk, including unvaccinated housemates, or young children who were unable to be vaccinated yet, should not attend. We did have a couple of older kids who were fully vaccinated who came with, and we were very happy to have them, but it doesn’t happen very often at our dance. I would love to see more kids, if they’re vaccinated. And it just hasn’t been an issue for us. But it would be fine to have kids as long as they’re vaccinated.
Janine Smith 1:01:42
What Sherry says.
Sarah Pilzer 1:01:46
Great. Have you found that masked dancers tire faster? Or is there a noticeable change in their stamina? And there’s a follow up to that as well. But start with that.
Janine Smith 1:02:00
I don’t think it has anything to do with the mask. It has to do with the fact that you have not danced for two years. You may think it’s the mask. It’s not the mask. It’s the COVID-19 pounds that you gained. So that’s just all I’ll say,
Sherry Nevins 1:02:15
Yeah, I second that. Because when we first started up, people were just oh my gosh, I’m so out of shape. But week after week, since we’ve been doing it every week, we don’t get that as much and people are able to dance longer, and they’re not not having to leave as early and yeah, it’s exactly what Janine said.
Janine Smith 1:02:37
You can get used to wearing a mask for eight hours, I have to do it at work. It’s, you know, a lot of people do have to wear it at work for many hours and you just get used to it.
Sherry Nevins 1:02:47
Fortunately, I don’t have to. But I found that once those endorphins kick in, you don’t think about a mask. You’re just too happy.
Eric Schedler 1:02:56
We had some people who had difficulty dancing in masks in July in the Indiana heat. But I think that was mostly heat-related. It hasn’t been a problem since it’s gotten cold. Yeah.
Sarah Pilzer 1:03:13
Yeah. The follow-up was how rusty are the dancers in terms of skill-building and even endurance. So I think you’ve addressed that as well, though.
Sherry Nevins 1:03:23
I think they think they’re rustier than they really are. It comes back.
Sarah Pilzer 1:03:29
Great. Um, okay. Turning towards bands and callers Are woodwind and or brass instruments… instrumentation, uh…musicians allowed to play without masks at your dances?
Sherry Nevins 1:03:46
That’s a good question. Well, we haven’t had any woodwind or brass players asked to play and they’re pretty much self-selecting out at this point. For us, we’ve had… masks are required when the musicians are off stage and optional when they’re on stage, because it’s got a big, high stage that’s apart from the dance floor. It’s separated from the dance floor. And I’d say most of them are choosing to keep their mask on. A few of them have chosen not to, but once they leave the stage, they have to have their mask on. And oh, I’ll add a little bit. I don’t know if anybody has asked what about callers calling with a mask. “You can’t understand them.” Well, you actually can if you’ve got a really good sound tech, because they know how to boost the high frequencies and it comes through loud and clear. To the caller themselves, they sound muffled, but not out on the floor.
Eric Schedler 1:04:43
I think also the kind of masks the caller wears can make a difference. So those KN-95s that are not touching the face are actually better than people trying to wear cloth masks that they’re starting to suck on.
Janine Smith 1:04:57
Right? And I kind of make it a conversation between the band members and the callers if they kind of agree that the caller doesn’t have to wear the mask to call, and the band is okay with that, they’re like isolated in a little bandshell kind of thing. Also, you can get masks for flute players, it’s a little thing that goes out, you know, you can get, actually, masks for wind instruments, they’re specialty things, but you can actually get a mask that goes over your mouth like that at the end of the flute. So there are accommodations you can make.
Eric Schedler 1:05:33
The woodwinds haven’t come up; none of our regular local performers play them. So that would definitely be a board discussion, because we do require the performers to stay masked.
Sarah Pilzer 1:05:47
Given that you’re maybe having lower attendance at your dances, have you reduced or changed the way that you’re paying your bands and callers? If you have a guarantee, for example.
Janine Smith 1:06:02
Actually, we’re paying the bands and callers much more than they would have normally made. Because the hall typically would charge a percentage of the door 35%, you know, 40% of the door. Now it’s a flat fee. So we’re actually…they’re getting paid more than you know, they actually can even believe so it’s really a nice opportunity to kind of make up for some of the, you know, dry times during the pandemic.
Sherry Nevins 1:06:35
Well, we were lucky to have a couple of individuals make some very generous donations to help us get going. And so that’s helped [us] be able to pay musicians. Nope, no musicians are paid what they’re worth, ever. But, I think it has helped.
Eric Schedler 1:06:56
We moved to donations only during the online dances, just how most of those were run. And people did better on those than they had been doing for our weekly local dance before. And we kept that system through the whole period of time that we were dancing outside because we were also not paying rent for the shelter. We only once got preempted by somebody. But then when we moved back to our regular venue in November, we went back to paying a flat rate. And you have a little bit lower attendance, but I think we’re taking in about the same amount of money that we used to take in per dance because we kept the pay at the door for the attendees whatever you want to pay. Whereas we used to charge $4 for members and $5 for non-members, and we just have a jar, and when you tell everybody you know, this is how we’re paying. And I think it’s averaging out slightly better per person who comes than what we used to charge.
Sherry Nevins 1:08:13
Wow, the cost of living must be a lot lower in Bloomington.
Eric Schedler 1:08:16
So we have…it’s too much to go into. But we subsidize our week. We lose money on a weekly basis and subsidize with an annual event, which we haven’t had in two years. So that’s something we’re all watching.
Sarah Pilzer 1:08:32
There are several questions all along the lines of doing preregistration. Can you talk a little bit about the systems that you’re using to do that? Are they spreadsheets, some sort of registration system? How are you taking payments online, if you are? Just a little bit of nitty gritty? What’s the backend look like?
Janine Smith 1:08:55
We looked at when Joel set it up, Joel Bluestein, set up the first thing and now Jamie and Betsy are taking care of it. We went with Eventbrite because it was just very easy. You just plug everything in. And there’s a small fee that the user pays, like $1, something up to $2 for the professional Eventbrite system. And it ends up to be a spreadsheet, and you can update that. It collects all the information for you. And…another person took care of the vaccination cards, because it was a lot of work to do. And we just added that as a column on the spreadsheet from Eventbrite. So it’s all done through Eventbrite. The money flows into your bank account. And then we had whoever’s getting the money to pay, write a check for the band and caller.
Sherry Nevins 1:09:59
I guess it’s my turn. When it first started, I had never done anything like this before. But I used a Google Doc and put together a registration form. The most important thing that I wanted to include on that is health guidelines, which spells out a lot of things. I’ll make that document available. And it collects the email, the name and email address, and has people initial that they’ve read the health guidelines, and they agree to all the stipulations. And the Google Spreadsheet wasn’t comfortable for me to use. I was used to using Excel spreadsheets, so I would just transfer the information to Excel spreadsheet. And I updated with that. So I just came up with a format of spreadsheet that I use.
And then after a few months, I didn’t bother with the preregistrations anymore, because we had a pool of people who were coming back. So I could relax about whether we were going to get 20 or 200 people because it was organically ending up at the right amount for what we were wanting to do. So preregistration isn’t happening anymore. We’re not doing electronic payments; it’s cash at the door. We don’t collect the vaccination documents ahead of time. It’s just show it at the door, we mark the checkbox, and that’s it. So that makes it a little more straightforward. There was an English dance that started up in Seattle before we did, so I took some of the procedures from what they were doing. And I was glad I did because that really worked well for us.
Eric Schedler 1:11:38
We don’t do registrations because our dances are for members.
Sarah Pilzer 1:11:45
Do you have a system that you use to track membership?
Yes, we have some kind of database that the Membership Coordinator handles. I’m very thankful that we have a full board of volunteers, and I don’t see it. And I don’t know how it works. But the Membership Coordinator does have all that stuff.
Sarah Pilzer 1:12:05
Great. Here’s one that came up a couple times. Are any of you requiring folks to sign a waiver to attend your dance?
Sherry Nevins 1:12:20
Well, I already answered that. The registration form that I had everybody initial at the end that’s in place of a waiver. It just shows that they have understood the terms and they agreed to them.
Eric Schedler 1:12:34
We did include a COVID liability waiver as part of renewing your membership for 2022. So we didn’t actually have anything in the 2021 dances, but we finally did include that as something people have to agree to when they renew.
Janine Smith 1:12:53
No waiver. I just thought it was enough. And people can sue [for] all kinds of things without a waiver. So if there is a waiver, even so.
Sherry Nevins 1:13:09
Yeah, a lot of it comes down to relationships with your dancers. They have to trust us. And to some extent, we have to trust them. We can’t go policing what they do when they’re not at the dance. We can require them to be vaccinated, we can require them to wear masks and wear them properly. But we don’t know if they’re going to bars unmasked—well, now they can’t be unmasked, but generally. You know that certain type of trust has to go both ways and dancers respond to that. They respect it I think.
Sarah Pilzer 1:13:47
Okay, so speaking of mask requirements, currently, a lot of you know, that’s being controlled by regulations in your areas. But do you have any thoughts about when you would feel comfortable dropping that requirement? Like what sort of criteria beyond like, if it was dropped in your region? When would you drop it for your dance?
Janine Smith 1:14:16
Not for the foreseeable future here.
Eric Schedler 1:14:18
So the last day for masks here in Indiana is Thursday. At least that’s the last day that any county can require masking. Ours has been the only county requiring masking for like the last six months or something, but we are not ready to have that discussion as a board when we would drop the masks. We aren’t ready to think about it.
Yeah, when we first had our dancing at the end of July, at that dance masking was optional. This is before delta. And ever since, it’s been required, and the local regulations here is that it’s considered a private event if anybody can’t walk in off the street unvaccinated and go to the dance. So that makes it a private event. And for private events, you’re allowed to set whatever requirements you want. So I think it would be way too chancy to not wear masks at this point. And I think we’ll just have to see if the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations and deaths all go way down rock bottom and stay there. Then we can go back to optional masks, maybe, but it’s the stay there, I don’t want to be clobbered by the next variant that rears its ugly head.
Janine Smith 1:15:43
Right and true. And I actually keep going back to one of the web chats that you all presented with Kimby, saying, you know, after the dance is over, can you honestly think you have done everything possible to make this the safest possible event? And I think wearing masks is part of that. And I joke that WWFD? What would Fauci do? He would want us to wear masks when we’re dancing right now. So yeah.
Sarah Pilzer 1:16:14
Eric, you mentioned early on, you were even asking folks if they wanted to take a sip of water to step out of the hall. What are other folks’ policies on brief demasking for various things, taking a breather or taking some water? How do you deal with that?
Sherry Nevins 1:16:33
Well, I haven’t seen anybody abusing that. If they need to drink water, they’ll do it very subtly, or they’ll walk into the lobby or somewhere. I don’t see anybody sitting there without a mask. Sometimes people come early and they bring their takeout food. And there’s a separate second lobby downstairs that’s very spacious and comfortable. And I just asked them to go take their picnic downstairs. And that’s handy. The question about people’s mask wearing: We don’t do quite as much education about proper math mask wearing as Janine does. But at first, there were a couple of times I saw somebody with the mask low and immediately said, “Pull up your mask.” And they said, “Oh, yeah.” They didn’t even realize it. And then this hasn’t been a problem after the first couple of times.
Eric Schedler 1:17:24
I’ll just piggyback on that last little thought. We did include information that we give to all of our callers about how to talk to dancers to help them talk to each other about masks. So encouraging and sort of setting a norm that it’s okay to ask someone to pull up their mask. And please do ask someone to adjust their mask if it’s not on properly. That kind of thing. Yes.
Janine Smith 1:17:54
Yeah, setting the expectations of the culture that we’ve created of safety is really key.
Sherry Nevins 1:18:04
And thanking people for complying with that. That’s important, too. A couple of times, and some people walked in with their mask upside down, KN95s. With those pieces around the chin? And I said, “Excuse me, your mask is upside down.” “Oh, is it?” Then they’d go out and fix it and come back in.
Sarah Pilzer 1:18:29
Katy, how much time do we have?
Katy German 1:18:33
We are right at the time where I hope to be transitioning. So maybe just one more question. If we can keep it [unclear]. Oh, my gosh, so many questions just popped up in my chat.
Sarah Pilzer 1:18:44
And a reminder, we are collecting all your questions, so we will try to get anything that’s not answered live tonight followed up on after the web chat. All rright, I think we’ll finish with this one. Eric, you mentioned that you have, in the past at least, held a big event or not a weekly dance event. If you have another weekend, like a longer dance event, how do you think your protocols would be different? Or would they change at all for larger events? And anybody who might be organizing; Sherry and Janine, if that would be something that would come up for your group, feel free to answer as well.
Eric Schedler 1:19:27
Well, it’s probably a good time to dodge the question and emphasize that it’s really important to nurse your weekly local dance back to health first before focusing on your big dance weekend. And so we started dancing in June, and our big event is usually at the end of August, and we said we weren’t going to do it last year, even though we’re already dancing even though we depend on it for sustaining our group financially. It’s just really important to engage your local talent and there’s a lot of rest there. Get people calling and get people playing music again and get your dancers out there again, rebuilding your community. It’s really important to do that first, I think. So we are not going to have a big event like that until there’s not much need for concern, I think.
Janine Smith 1:20:26
And we are having our square dance weekend in May and basically again have to be boosted, vaxxed, masks worn inside when dancing. Luckily, there are a ton of picnic tables outside the dining hall. So pray for no rain, but we can eat outside, with open air and lots of circulation. We’re going to do a lot of fans drawing air out in the dance hall. There are tons of windows there. So pretty much the same things. High quality masking.
Sherry Nevins 1:21:06
I have no involvement in running any weeks or weekends. And I know some weekends and weeks camps are starting to pop up. The closest one to here that I know of I think will be the June week at Lady of the Lake camp, and their registration is opening March 1.
Eric Schedler 1:21:26
Oh right, so I’m involved in organizing two dance weeks this summer, not through Bloomington however. And both events are because you know an event like that—and a weekend could do this too—kind of ask people in addition to all the things that we’ve already discussed, can ask people to test themselves before coming.
Sherry Nevins 1:21:47
I should mention that the Northwest Folklife Festival is being planned for a hybrid in-person and on-site. I just scheduled the contra dance bands on that part of the festival, the overall festival planning, but they’re planning to do it. And hats off to them.
Janine Smith 1:22:07
Eric, what’s one of those weeks that you’re planning?
Eric Schedler 1:22:12
Oh, we have two great weeks. One is in Tennessee. It’s called Cumberland Dance Week. It’s run by the Lloyd Shaw Foundation. And the other one is Cascade of Music & Dance. That’s a CDSS week in Western Maryland. And guess who is going to be one of your callers?
Janine Smith 1:22:30
I don’t know!
Eric Schedler 1:22:33
The one with the purple lights.
Janine Smith 1:22:35
I’m bringing my twinkle lights.
Eric Schedler 1:22:37
Janine Smith 1:22:40
Hey, all right, shameless plug.
Katy German 1:22:42
I’ve got so many more of those. But I’ve also got an unexpected one. So don’t go anywhere, everybody. I am so sorry that we didn’t have time to get to everybody’s questions. Like I said, we’ve been trying to keep them all in a consolidated list. And so things that were asked that we didn’t get to touch on, I will send to our participants, and we will try to create an answer document.
I do want to urge you all, though, to trust your instincts and trust your community. Listen to your community, maybe that’s what I should say. Listen to your community, listen to the people around you, listen to the medical professionals, and figure out what works best for you.
I said at the beginning—and I had a lot of people asking, so I know a lot of people didn’t get the beginning—but this conversation today was really focused on people who are holding in-person events and taking measures to reduce transmission. That’s not everybody. There are lots of folks out there who are not ready to come back or who are dancing without these measures. Those are different conversations. That’s not what we were talking about today. So those questions are not going to be answered. I’m not going to ask the panelists to talk about anything other than their events and their experiences.
Okay, so a few quick plugs, and then we can go. Oh, so here’s the fun thing I wanted to tell you all about. We’ve had a lot of folks over the last year ask if CDSS can be a holding place for information for groups that are doing in-person events. Yes, we want to do that. We are also overhauling our entire website. So we’ve gotten this started. It’s not perfect. It has some bells and whistles, but we will continue working on it. Basically it’s a survey for anybody holding in-person events, and it will ask you some of the questions that our panelists answered today. How big is your event? Does it involve singing, dance, music? What are the requirements? Are you asking to sign up? Are you requiring vaccination? Are you asking people to sign a waiver? A lot of the standard questions that we get.
Right now, it’s going to be presented as you see on the screen. So when you see it on the website, you can click on, let’s say, I could click on the Wild Rose English Country Dancers there, and I would see all of their responses. But as more and more of you all help us out and enter this information, it’s going to get harder to sort through. So we do have some filtering capabilities. Up the little green section above the Wild Rose English Country Dance block is a filter, and there’s a sort. It’s not super shiny and perfect, but it functions right now.
And right now what we need is input. So right now, if you all help us and focus on answering the survey, I’m going to put the link in the chat. And I’m going to do it while I talk. Because that’s how multi-talented I am. Let’s send it to everybody. So anybody who is starting back, whether it’s a one-time event or series, we would love to hear how it’s going for you.
There’s also questions about well, you’ll see, I’m not going to tell you what it is; I want you to go look at it. And I really want you to fill it out. A great problem to have would be that we have so much information that we outgrow this current display. We’re ready for that problem. We’re going to work on it. We’re working on our whole website. So timing is always a fun, fun, fun, fun event.
So I also wanted to remind you that we do have a community events calendar. It’s online, but it is open for any events now, and you can indicate whether your event is an online event or whether it’s an in-person event, whether it’s an outdoor event, etc. So you can start putting your events back on there. During COVID, for a while, it was just online events only. Next slide please.
All right, so there’s some things coming up that are really exciting I want to share with everybody. There’s a great film festival. It’s all online. It’s the Portland Roadhouse Independent Film Festival, PRIFF. Doug Plummer is involved with this festival and helping make it happen. Doug is a former CDSS board member. Doug also did this fantastic documentary on a CDSS Centennial tour stop in the Pacific Northwest in 2015. And the impact [that] a small group of very dedicated volunteers can have on their surrounding community through community dance and song. And the cool thing about this film festival is that it’s really focused on community art, participatory art, not just performing art, and that makes it kind of unique. So we hope you’ll check it out. Part of the proceeds will be coming to CDSS. But yeah, just really great stuff. David Millstone has a video, there’s a documentary about the Carolina Chocolate Drops as well. So good stuff.
Common Time is coming up next month. There’ll be a conversation with some great piano players, some of whom have been featured on our podcast, Contra Pulse. So that’s what the Common Time session is next month on the 21st.
And then we actually have a brand new podcast we just launched. I’m sure you all… Oh, sorry. I just saw the question. Portland, Oregon, but yes, you’re right. It doesn’t really matter because it’s all online.
So our brand new podcast is called From the Mic. Contra Pulse has been conversations with dance musicians who’ve been involved with the contra community for a while and all the changes that they’ve been observing and living through. Well, From the Mic is conversations with callers. I really think organizers, you’re gonna get a lot of great conversations and good content and good meat in there and lots to think about, so I hope you’ll check it out. Our next episode is featuring Lisa Greenleaf and that comes out I don’t know exactly when. Okay. Oh, it is March, isn’t it? I keep—no it’s the 28th, haha. It is not next month yet. Great. Next slide.
So we also have some camps. There are a lot of organizations who are planning to do in-person camps again this summer. I hope you will check out ours. We are so excited about our season. Our season is a little bit different this year. We’ve got two of our camps starting in June. So Cavell in Michigan will be in June and also Ogontz Family Week will be in June. So at many of our weeks we have intensive courses. Those are opportunities for you or people in your community that you think could really benefit from this can come, have this intensive experience, and then come back to your community hopefully ready to re-energize you all.
There’s so much more information I could have squeezed into this slide, but really, the thing you need to know is that the sooner you apply, the better. And for CDSS Affiliate organizations, we do a matching scholarship. So any organization that’s an Affiliate with us, if you put money forward to send someone to build skills, or to have an immersive experience at camp, CDSS will match you dollar for dollar. And we would love for you all to make the most of that. So you can email me, Katy, email@example.com, and we will get you going with the right…get you connected with the right folks.
Okay, next slide, sorry, I’m powering through because we’re over time. These are the general resources. I think you’ll have seen this before. Grants, Resource Portal, web chats, we’ve got a new webpage coming. We also offer one-to one-support. So if you ever want to just have a conversation and bounce ideas off of us, we are happy to listen, to give our opinions, or to connect you with someone who could really be helpful. And that is email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay, last slide, I think, Oh, well, this is just more grants. We would really love to give you money to make good things happen in your community. That’s all we need to say about that.
Eric Schedler 1:31:31
We got a grant. We trained some new callers, launching them as a cohort. And having them trained here is really, really, really awesome. So the grants, I can’t say enough, how important it’s been to rebuilding our Bloomington community.
Katy German 1:31:45
That makes me so happy. Thank you, Eric. We want to do that for everybody. So yes, if you have an idea in mind, or if you want to hear our ideas, we’d be happy to talk about it. You can find more information at cdss.org/grants.
Okay, and maybe the next one’s the last one. Yeah, so just to follow up, we will be posting this recording, all of the slides, a transcript of the recording, and a lot of extra materials that the guests are willing to share: the templates, the checklists, the surveys that they mentioned. We need a few days to get all that together and organized. So by the end of the week, take a look at the web chats, cdss.org/webchats, and you should find all that stuff there. And you’re welcome to share that if you know folks that weren’t able to come that want to hear it. All are welcome to use those things.
So I think that’s it. Nikki, is that our last slide? Oh, yep, there we go. Okay, whoo. I’ve had a few requests to get rid of these pesky slides and turn on everybody’s unpinned so people can see each other. So we’ll give you all five minutes. Five minutes to unpin, say hi, and be social.