The following was written by David Kaynor and published on the back of a flyer promoting his Greenfield Friday night dance of November 11, 1988. In addition to David himself, the musicians that night were his regulars Mary Cay Brass (piano) and Stuart Kenney (bass) joined by Mary Lea (fiddle) and Peter Barnes (flutes).

He had been receiving some complaints from some of the regular dancers about the length of his walk-throughs. This article was his public reply.

Seven years later Susan Kevra wrote her own letter to the dancers in the same hall.

— Bill  Tomczak


Some thoughts about long walk-throughs:

A long walk-through occasionally results from my lapses into socializing or general distractibility, but it more often means that a significant number of people are failing to understand some (or all) of a contra dance.

Frequently, it might seem appropriate to forego the extra teaching, to simply say "Good Luck" and start the music. My cousin Cammy often does this. I sometimes do. But I am not always confident that it's the right choice.

I can't begin to guess how many times I've said, "Don't worry if you make mistakes in the beginning," only to observe (and later hear) that the beginners did, in fact, receive some very rough treatment at the hands of some impatient individuals who, in effect, saw fit to punish these folks for their mistakes.

I know who some of the impatient individuals are, and I have seen them pushing, yanking, directing, and even simply evading and ignoring beginners who are lost or confused. I have seen facial expressions conveying exasperation and condescension, and I have heard about sarcastic and otherwise nasty instructions and remarks being made. Indications are that extra teaching not only clarifies dance figures and sequences, it also gives some beginners an improved chance to avoid this sort of treatment. As long as I perceive that these "elite" dancers are putting contra dancing's reputation for open-ness and accessibility at risk, I will not entrust to them the beginners' prospects for 'learning- by-doing' without first teaching the dance as thoroughly as seems practiceable [sic].

It's ironic that the Greenfield dance, for many years, was known as one of the entire region's more open and hospitable dances. This was due to the fine qualities of a solid core of local dancers, some of whom had learned to dance right here in the Guiding Star Grange, all of whom were so friendly and accessible that beginners never got stuck at the bottom of a side set, nor lacked partners who could teach them something in a manner which was fun, nor received punishing treatment during the inevitably mistake-laden process of learning-by-doing. And yes - we had shorter walk-throughs, too.

That core group is still around, and thanks to them, we have fewer "one-time-only" beginners, fewer terminal beginners, and more friendly folks than do many other dances. But sheer weight of numbers is obscuring the very positive influence which these folks exert on the powerful first impressions of beginners at the Greenfield dance. You might think we have plenty of dancers as it is, but I fear that contra dancing can not thrive as a closed club, and I will take extra time, if need be, in hopes that the beginners, some day in the future, will remember how great their first contra dance was, and come back. Please: your friendliness will come back to us all, and we'll have shorter walk-throughs, too.

Published with the express permission of David Kaynor