The idea started last year in an eleventh grade classroom with a teacher joking that there should be a school version of the television show Dancing with the Stars. Some members of the class took the idea and ran with it. This fall, the seniors presented Dancing With the Staff.
The basics: teachers were put into dancing pairs. The first week they danced ballroom. Three of the ten couples were eliminated, and the seven remaining danced freestyle the following week. Three teachers served as judges, serving up snarky commentary much like the judges on the show. Charging $5 a head, the senior class earned $3900.
While it was a financially successful fundraiser, there were a number of other benefits as well.
Teen Leadership: The event was almost entirely run by students. They arranged for dance lessons, they took care of music at the shows, and they hosted the performances. They also filmed footage of rehearsals and interviewed contestants to make videos to play between dance numbers, just like on the TV show.
Faculty and Student Bonding: Katie, the class president, reports, “I think a great, unexpected benefit to the show was the relationships I and the other class officers developed with many of the staff members. I really got to know a lot of new teachers and to see them as people, instead of just teachers.”
School Morale and Image: The performances were well attended by students, staff, and community members. Staff dancers were interviewed for the local paper. The event was covered on the nightly television news, as well as on a lengthier weekend magazine program.
Public Relations for the Library: Assistant librarian Beth Andersen was bold enough to participate. She danced the swing in the first round, and, in the freestyle round, poked fun at the old librarian stereotype by wearing her hair in a bun, and then throwing off her glasses and undoing her hair. While she was certainly proud of her third place finish, she was also happy to have a chance to make new connections. Faculty participants came down to the library to chat about the performances, and then were able to see what we were doing in the library. “Everyone would expect the librarian to be part of the book group, but not necessarily up on stage dancing. It’s great to break out of those roles, so kids can see you in a different light.” Every point of contact becomes a point of advocacy.
While this event was at a school, providing a whole faculty’s worth of potential dancers, it would also work at a public library. You might need to reach out to others in the community: mayor, town councilors, police and fire fighters, etc. This can be seen as form of outreach and involving the town in your library.
Katie has some advice if you choose to run this event at your school or library: “If I could do it again, the main thing I’d do differently is start planning earlier. I didn’t realize how much work planning the event would be. Next time I’d start at least five months in advance. Also, for the benefit of the dancers, I would probably put two weeks between shows instead of one.” She also found it difficult to recruit male dancers, so be sure to put the pressure on the men. Other than that, prepare for the most fun and entertaining fundraiser you can imagine.