Running a Dance

Running your own dance is not complicated or difficult, and a lot of these tips may seem very obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people can get things disastrously wrong…


  • Do some research to find out if there is enough interest among the people who you hope will attend. You need enough people there to cover your costs, and we find a dance will work better if you have at least 50 people present.
  • Decide on a date for the dance well in advance. You need a few months to organise everything and advertise the dance properly.
  • Decide when you are going to start and finish. 8pm is a good time to start, but you might start earlier if you have a lot of children attending. We find that 11.30pm is quite late enough to finish and we have seen lots of dances fizzle out as people start to leave before the end if you try to run on too late.


  • Contact your chosen venue and find out if it is available on the date you want.
  • Ask about any alternative dates.
  • Do not make a firm booking yet.
  • You need a venue with a hard floor and enough room for people to get up and dance. School halls and village halls usually work well, but hotel function rooms can be difficult as they tend to be carpeted so find out in advance. Barns and other farm buildings can be very successful venues in warm weather. Marquees can be used if they have hard floors laid. Make sure tables and chairs are available, and check out the kitchen facilities if you are intending to do any catering.
  • The band may be able to help with venues if you are stuck, as we know from experience which venues work.

Get a band

  • Contact a good dance band (White Horse, for instance!) and find out if they are available to play.
  • Ask about any alternative dates.
  • Do not make a firm booking yet.


  • If you are buying in catering services, find out if they are available. You don’t need to provide food but it is usual to have a break for supper during the night. This does not need to be elaborate, and something like pie and peas can be bought in at a reasonable price. It’s usual to have a bar as well but if you don’t provide one make sure people know (including the band) so they can bring their own.
  • Do not make any firm bookings yet.

If everything is available on the date you want, then you can make firm bookings.
If everything doesn’t fit together you might consider alternative dates. It’s a good idea to put things in writing to avoid any confusion and the band will probably ask you to sign a contract.

Now the point that lots of people get wrong…

Advertise the dance
Obvious, isn’t it? But you’d be surprised how many people get this wrong. Advertising varies for different occasions but you might put up posters, send round flyers or contact people directly. Advertising needs to be more extensive if you are admitting the general public, but even if the dance is restricted to members of a particular club/association/workplace/church, people need to be told (and sometimes persuaded!).

A raffle can be a good way of increasing your takings. People can often be persuaded to donate prizes.
Don’t forget to buy some raffle tickets.

On the night

  • Make sure someone is at the venue early to let the band in. They will need at least half an hour to set up their equipment. You also might have to arrange catering and bar facilities, and may need to rearrange tables and chairs so there is room to dance. Don’t forget that there will be clearing up to do at the end of the evening and the band will need time to pack up.
  • Unless you have worked out a timetable for the night, liaise with the caller about the timing of supper breaks, etc. Most callers are happy to act as master of ceremonies for the evening and to make announcements on your behalf.

Other entertainment
Some organisers combine a barn dance with a disco or other entertainment. A singer or other entertainer can make a useful break in the middle of the evening, but a disco is best arranged to run after the barn dance. It just doesn’t work to swap from country dancing to disco and back.

Unless you have a special reason, a good starting time is 7.30pm or 8pm. Don’t make it too early, especially on Fridays, or people will not be there at the start.
We have found over the years that people will start drifting off at about 11.30pm and have finished many a dance with only a few people remaining, which sort of spoils the occasion.