Midnight Squares


Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Web site: http://www.midnightsquares.org

Started: 1982

Admitted to IAGSDC: 1984

Status: Active

History: founding member of the IAGSDC

From the Program Book of the 3rd IAGSDC Convention, held in San Francisco in 1986:
The Midnight Squares dance club had its beginning in 1982 in Richard Tuck's El Cerrito living room, as an aid to square dancers who were having a difficult time learning Basic calls. In Richard's words, "We had no music and no materials to work with at the start. In fact, for the first few weeks we met and walked through such songs as 'Red Wing' and 'Trail of the Lonesome Pine' in dead silence." Discovering that square dance records were readily available for sale, Richard purchased a few hundred, and suddenly the lessons "sprang to life."

Word about the practice sessions leaked out, and soon the group was joined by volunteers, including Rob Daoud, who supplied information on the Callerlab programs. More organization seemed to be required, so a proper site for teaching and dancing was found at a church hall on Fell Street in San Francisco, which was to be the club's home for over three years.

By mid-1983 the club was dancing four nights a week at the Plus, A-l, A-2 and C-l levels (often until late at night, hence the name "Midnight Squares," suggested by John Lorenzini). But by mid-1984, most of the original members had moved on to other projects or had left the area. After a period of retrenchment, the present membership decided to concentrate the club's energies at the Advanced level. Paul Zimmermann, and more recently, Tadd Waggoner, assumed teaching responsibilities.
From an email from Russ King on 2015-04-10:
Rob Daoud, along with "East Bay" Richard Tuck, was one of the two co-founders of Midnight Squares; he was also a member of the Foggy City Squares Performance Team, and choreographed the Midnight Squares six-couple performance piece at the 1983 Reno Rodeo Country Dance Festival, an event that preceded the first IAGSDC Convention in 1984. (Steve Browning has it on videotape; I have a copy.) Rob did most of the teaching in the early days, while Richard was the primary "moneybags." Rob also founded a gay folk dance group which met for a long time at EVCR, and which eventually became his primary focus of interest before his early death from AIDS.

From an email from Russ King to 2015-04-12:
I probably should explain my reasons for describing Rob Daoud as a "co-founder" of Midnight Squares. Midnight Squares had its genesis in a group of dancers, mostly from the East Bay, who found themselves falling behind in their Foggy City Squares class, so Richard Tuck organized some supplemental practice sessions at his home. On top of that, Western Star Dancers had split off by this time, and Richard was taking the first class (as was I, taught by Bill Klein,) so there was growing awareness of CALLERLAB. I wasn't involved with Richard's East Bay group at this time--my first awareness came when Alan Hall hosted a square dance workshop in his SF backyard (during the summer of 1982) that was an offshoot of it, and Rob was involved by this time, to supply some Callerlab expertise among other things.
Ken Weisinger, Rob's boyfriend at the time, was a member of the Church of the Advent (Episcopal), and helped get the new, as yet nameless group space in their social hall: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Advent+of+Christ+the+King/@37.77608,-122.421864,3a,75y,181.96h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sukF2HwUg2xQjgtR7cboDLw!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x205ac96208a684db!6m1!1e1.
In the early days, we were preceded by an AA group who smoked like chimneys, so the room frequently needed airing out. (They were supposed to confine their smoking to the adjacent outdoor patio, but often didn't.) This was the group's primary home for the first several years; the room where we danced is on the left, ground floor. The first order of of business was SF's first Plus Class, taught by Rob. In the early days, Rob was the teacher and primary public face of Midnight Squares; Richard was the behind-the-scenes primary organizer, financial support and visionary. Richard was indisputably the founder of the informal group that got the ball rolling, but Rob was a fully equal partner by the time it had grown into the group we recognize today.
So...that's why I consider Rob a true "co-founder" of Midnight Squares


Club Caller[s]: Ken Sale, Harlan Kerr, Fen Tamanaha, John Kenny

Levels: A2-C3A

Dance Location[s]:

Fly-Ins Hosted: West Coast A&C 1991

Conventions Hosted:

Club Organization

I could say quite a bit [about Midnight Squares' unique organizational model], given that I was administrator for most of 1996 thru 2006, but I will try to be brief.
The annual roster contains the organizational outline of the club. I suggest that everyone read it. For example, the view that unlawful decisions would be unleashed upon the membership is specifically addressed.
The club has always used majority rule.
For historical perspective, when I joined the club in 1992, there was very little as far as ANY structure whatsoever. Between 1992 and 1996 I was instrumental in putting structure into the club. We were beginning to have more classes, and the increasing complexity and demands of the club started to become more of an issue. Let me tell you, when we first started having meetings, people would take turns running them. That's how loose things used to be. In effect, nobody was officially in charge. (That changed after the SF convention in 1996 when I stepped up to the plate and became administrator. Midnight Squares was essentially shut out of the running of the convention, and I see that as a turning point.)
In addition to Harlan Kerr, Roger Miller and Claire Meisel were regulars at those meetings. Claire was the treasurer, but no longer dances. Roger is still a member. You probably want to have him give you his view of how things used to be. Russ is a longterm member, but I don't believe he was much involved in the running of the club. I may be wrong, but if he was, there wouldn't have been that much to it since the club didn't start seeing big growth until the mid-ninety's. East Bay Richard (real name needed here) was out of square dancing for a long time, and I was running the club when he returned. I don't know how involved he was during his first go-around.
Why are we still organized this way? A few reasons.....
By the time people get to Midnight Squares, many who are interested in lending their talents have already done so at the lower levels and are burnt out. Other than a few important positions, Midnight Squares' model allows people to volunteer here and there - or as little or as much as they wish. Having a more rigid structure where so much time is spent on Robert's rules of order instead of making decisions is counterproductive. I see other clubs expend an extraordinary amount of time on soliciting people to run for offices, and then the running of the elections. What comes of that? A lot of wasted time, people roped into positions they are not 100% enthused about, and the complete disinterest in the running of the club once they are termed out. If this rigid model was adopted by Midnight Squares, you would soon learn that you would not be able to get a quorum, and the complaints of undue secrecy, bad decisions, etc. would be deafening. This is why meetings are open to the whole membership. This open membership decision making model is also supposed to cut down on the clickish nature that some people tend to gravitate towards.
Big decisions should be made at the meetings. Those truly interested will know about them way in advance because they're listed on the website. Those less inclined to go to the website are alerted by the request for agenda items sent out in what should be a timely manner. This is a representative democracy. Those in attendance gain the right to cast the votes.
Can't attend a meeting? There is absolutely NOTHING preventing someone from expressing their views to a surrogate who will be in attendance. This was done all the time when I was running the club. Were their opinions counted? Absolutely. There is also NOTHING in the guidelines that says topics of discussion can't be debated BEFORE the meeting, with the outcomes of those debates presented AT the meeting. In fact, meetings would be better run if more of this took place - leading to better decisions when put to a vote at the meetings. One last thing to reiterate as it relates to attendance and voting rights at our meetings: People should be encouraged to get more involved with the club and if they can't make it to a particular meeting, find someone who believes in what you are doing, what you are saying, how you think things should be run. Have them represent you, to express ways you'd like to volunteer, etc.
One thing to think about to address the concern of which classes should be held, etc. The treasurer should be speaking up and alerting those in attendance of what the financial ramifications are with any decisions that are being made. If forecasts of class attendances are way off, this should be a topic to bring up. Pros and cons can be fleshed out, with the hopeful result being the best decisions possible.
And of course the pros and cons would include the impact that club decisions have on other clubs, etc. Need to ensure other clubs' views are expressed? Make sure there is someone from each of the local clubs who can share what they are up to, what their long term plans are, who can speak to how Midnight Squares decisions would affect them, etc.

-- Jeff Hamilton, in an email to Allan Hurst on 10/26/09