Contradance Community Camp (our official name )

Updated slightly for 2014)



(NB for noobies: you need a Burning Man ticket to enter the festival and should treat it like cash - no recourse for loss.)


I will try to explain how our camp will work assuming minimal prior knowledge of Burning Man. (See also the dance schedule, and the map of our location at Burning Man.)


There will be two areas in the camp of roughly equal size – the 'dancing area' where the music and dancing takes place and the 'camping area' where people will be camping/eating/ sleeping, etc. ('Camp' refers to the whole.)


Most people will come to our camp for one or more of five reasons: to dance, to help us put the dance floor and other parts together, to camp in the camping area, to eat, and/or to play music/call.


Anyone can dance with us - as a theme camp with reserved space our activities must be open to everyone.  Burning Man is a gift economy and any exchange of money has to take place before or after the event.  So no one pays to dance.  But campers pay dues, generous souls make donations before or after the event and I make up the difference (see Dancing Finances below).


Anyone can help put the infrastructure of the camp together (see Camp Assembly below). We expect and hope to have help from many people who are staying at other camps. Some people will be working during the days before Burning Man opens (see Early Arrival below).


To coordinate all this if you think you might be able to help,  might want to camp with us or call/play, PLEASE PLEASE FILL OUT THIS FORM.

There will be many details that will end up being hammered out during the last three weeks of August.  Don't Panic – this is normal for all the camps at Burning Man.  All of the supplies that we utilized to run a successful camp last year are in an international shipping container that will be delivered to the camp by a local company.  Putting on the camp gets easier every year.


I will be calling for volunteers to do many things between now and Early Arrival. This is one of the reasons I really need you to fill out the form.

To camp with us you need to contact me and


1) fill out the form. 


2) commit to put in a specified number of hours working together to set up and/or take down the camp.  These hours might include the days before Burning Man opens (see Early Arrival below), and Sunday/Monday/possibly Tuesday at the end of Burning Man.


3) commit to help with cooking and other camp maintenance (see Happy Campers below).


4) Pay $200 camp dues.  This is for those who are eating with us and covers the cost of water and food and the storage fees for the  floor, stage, bikes etc (see Camping Finances below - go here to pay).  Note that every year we have some people who camp with us but eat elsewhere or bring their own food, or camp elsewhere and eat with us, or just park a vehicle.  Please contact me and we can almost certainly work out whatever special arrangement you want.

I would ask that those of you who can, also pay in a voluntary/ sliding scale sort of way some share of the cost of putting the dance together (~$200/ per person see Dancing Finances below).  I will be making up the difference (see Camp Future below for how this will change).


5) be vigilant educating yourself about, and preparing the personal supplies you will need for, this extreme and sometimes dangerous environment (see Preparing for Burning Man below). The Camp will supply much but not all of what you need (see ‘What Our Camp Supplies to Campers’ below).


6) All mission critical campers (early arrival crew, musicians, callers, etc.) email me your itinerary.  (I will hound you if you do not.)


Musicians and callers
Musicians and callers (those that I am sponsoring) will be camping with us and most of the remarks above apply to them (including filling out the form!). They will contribute to a lesser extent to cooking and maintenance labor – i.e. in a way that does not interfere with their need to prepare for playing and calling and to the extent that adding to that preparation time brings them up to an amount of labor roughly equal to that of the other campers.

If you are not one of the sponsored musicians or callers and you would like to play or call, we really appreciate the offer! Of course it will be up to the current lineup to see whether/how your talents can be made to work within their plans – please contact me.

Preparing for Burning Man


Sadly, experience has shown that some campers fail to follow the prominently displayed admonitions everywhere to carefully read the Survival Guide. If you fail to follow the instructions therein you are certain to suffer and your campmates with you.  Some of the more important considerations:


Contact lens wearers need to be really paranoid about the fine alkali Playa dust which gets into everything – see the discussion here.  It is very very easy to get a scratched and infected cornea.  If at all possible, bring a pair of glasses as a back up or a substitute.


If you allow this corrosive alkali dust to stay on your skin, your skin will dry out and crack.  Emollient can keep the cracking from getting worse but your skin will be cracked and bleeding for the rest of the time you are at Burning Man no matter how much emollient you put on. 


Therefore NEVER GO BAREFOOT and wash your hands when they get dusty. If you have sensitive skin (and it is safest to assume that you do), put skin cream on your hands and feet twice a day starting the first day you arrive.


If you fail to wear a dust mask at the first sign of a dust storm you may be coughing for the rest of the time you are there (some people are much more sensitive than others).


Put on goggles during dust storms especially if you wear contacts.


Put as much of your stuff as possible in garbage bags and ziplocks and expect that dust will get into all your belongings anyway. 


It is pitch dark at night in most places with nasty metal stakes and guy wires to trip over everywhere – bring your own headlamp (much more useful for working at night than a flashlight).


This is high desert – prepare for a temperature range of 40-110 F.  (Happily it is usually very comfortable from dusk to midnight when we are dancing).  There will be shade structures for erecting tents underneath.  This will make it slightly more likely that you will be able to sleep for the first few hours of the morning.  It will be difficult at best to sleep in your car (maybe at night with lots of blankets toward dawn).


Humidity is usually around 2% - assume you are already dehydrated and keep drinking water (bring a canteen, camelbak, zahato, porro…).  They say to drink until you piss clear, but if you do, you will be running to the portapotties (which may be a 5 minute walk) all night long.  Find a balance, and bring a container to pee into (there is a camp that supplies an appropriate funnel for women).


Bring earplugs for sleeping because it will be noisy all night.  Even so be prepared to lose a lot of sleep even if you normally sleep easily.


If you fail to use sunscreen and wear a hat, you will burn.


Burning Man is the world's largest Leave No Trace event – all MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) i.e. every bit of garbage, every cigarette butt, every human artifact of any kind that is visible to the naked eye is removed – if not by the participants then by volunteers after the event.


Camps that leave MOOP behind are not invited back, and everyone needs to be constantly vigilant.  It is best to avoid having MOOP hit the ground in the first place.  That includes every tiny food scrap during preparation and eating.  Plastic should be put down to capture every bit of wood generated by drilling.  Do not bring feathers, glitter, or plants.  Trim your nails, beard, etc. before you get there.

On the Playa there are no decomposing organisms to take care of minor detritus. 


A fundamental Burner principle is radical self-reliance.  Bring all of your own necessities, except for what the Camp is specifically providing.  We have a small number of bicycles.  Let us know on form whether you are bringing your own or would like to reserve one of ours.


Arrive with plenty of fuel in your car - waiting in line going out will consume more time and fuel than you think, and you don’t want to face the lines at the nearby gas stations. 


What Our Camp Supplies to Campers


Water, food, ice chests*, a ‘kitchen’, construction tools*, shade structures for tents, a ‘spit bath’ solar shower, 110v/ household electricity for several hours each day, some bicycles*, some tents*, sleeping bags*, and air mattresses* (*bring your own if possible/ indicate need on form)



Early Arrival


Theme camps can request to have a certain number of camp members to be allowed in early.  Early arrivals cost the organization money and we cannot ask for early arrival passes for everyone.  Priority is given to campers with building skills.


Arriving early has many advantages.  You can usually avoid the long lines (often 5 plus hours wait) to get admitted to Burning Man after it officially opens midnight Sunday.  You get to be part of the creative and cooperative frenzy that builds a two mile diameter city from scratch.  If you choose early arrival, we need you to work building our camp energetically until it's all done.


Filling out the form lets me know if you are able to arrive early and when, and where to email the early arrival passes (IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO PRINT OUT THE PASSES – ONLY PAPER PRINTOUTS ARE ACCEPTED).


Even with people arriving early there will be plenty of work on Monday right up until the first dance.



(non-Early) Arrival


Burning Man's gates open at midnight Sunday night/Monday morning. Burning Man strongly discourages arriving early at the Playa.  In 2010 people who arrived before 10 PM were placed at the very end of the 6 hour queue.



Camp Assembly


In rough order we will be assembling the following structures:


The shade structures .


A cooking and meeting area under one of the shade structures.


The dance floor and stage for the band. 

From 2014 or 2015 on there will be a 60' x 30' dance (poles at the edges) tent which will hold lights, a watering system that will allow dancers to get a drink while waiting out at the ends of each line, a sound system and a system for projecting video onto a screen for teaching dance moves and visual entertainment.  For 2014 we may just reuse a post and cable superstructure over the floor and just put up the lights.  


A 'carpeted' area for free form dancers.


A greeting and chill lounge next to the road for luring in passersby and hanging out.


Most of the assembly will take place during Early Arrival, but it is likely that we will work right up to the last minute before the first dance Monday evening.


This work is likely to be a little grueling and we need team spirit and the feeling that everyone is on board.  The Playa is an insane environment and the wind can blow so hard with so much dust that work is impossible.  There is no weather predictability short or long term and, while it won't happen most years, a blow can last for several days.  If the first break we get to do the necessary work happens at 3 AM, everyone is going to have to be up at 3 AM working their butts off.



Happy Campers


We need at least one hour of non-kitchen duty labor from everyone every day. The set up job is never really done. There will be damage and messes from wind and dancers, and there is routine maintenance such as dealing with the gray water (which if you have read The Survival Guide you will know has to be shipped out or evaporated).


There will be a job board and there will be some combination of signing up and being assigned.


Sadly bad experience compels me to say that campers who do not take their shifts or participate in camp maintenance will be required to leave and camp elsewhere. 


Food preparation is one of the best ways to bond a group of people together and for many burners meals are some of their fondest memories.  Note that I have added food preferences/dislikes/needs as one of the fields to be filled out on the form (have I mentioned that you need to fill out the form?).


We will be discussing how to manage food here.  Basically, there will be self serve food for breakfast/lunch/snacks consisting largely of food that requires little or no dishes and/or preparation. 


Self servers must immediately clean up - leaving a mess for the next person will not be tolerated. 


Dinners will be prepared by groups that do all the work including cleanup.  Everyone will volunteer for or be assigned an evening.  We will be looking for various people to put together a shopping list and/or do some or all of the shopping ahead of time (dues reimbursing their costs of course). 



Camping Finances


Dues will be $200/ person for water, food, cooking supplies (pots pans fuel), and the $800/ year storage costs for the shipping container which holds the shade structures, bicycles, etc. 



Dancing Finances


The cost of ticket/transportation and/or food for the 4 musician and callers whom I am helping out this year will add up to about $2000. That would be $100/person for 20 dancers that pay their fair share.  I anticipate that only some will be able to pay that amount. I would ask that you donate as much as you can afford or feel that it is worth to you keeping in mind that the average dance week is more than that.


It might seem unfair that most of the dancers coming from other camps are not paying anything. But of course Burning Man works because almost everyone belongs to and is paying camp dues to a camp that is providing some sort of gift for the community.



Camp Future


This is my crazy dream but I can't sustain it without help for too much longer. I foresee two possible paths to sustainability.


I think we will grow every year for a long time. There are lots of Burners who are contradancers – they are happy we are doing this and more and more will come. There is an even larger number of contradancers who have always wanted to go to Burning Man and having a camp will push them over the edge and they will try it out. They will encourage friends to come the next year and a lot of them will become addicts. Once we have a critical mass coming every year that includes enough musicians and callers, we can do this as a purely voluntary dance week where everyone including the musicians and callers is just splitting the costs and no one is working too hard. There are several dance weekends like this around the country which have succeeded for a long time without paying anyone.

Until we reach musician/caller critical mass, another option that I might try for 2015 would use one of the various escrow websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo which take people’s money and award it to the organizer if the fundraising goal is reached and return donations to the contributors if the goal isn't reached. If I announce big name callers and bands a year ahead of time, we will hopefully get enough people to kick in their share of the costs (for tickets and travel for the musicians and callers who are otherwise donating their time - probably on the order of $200 plus food/camp dues). If we don't reach the goal within 6 months, the camp will use volunteer musicians and callers.   This decision will occur 6 months before the event – enough time for the bands/callers to find gigs elsewhere.

Even if we reach a critical mass of volunteer musicians and callers it would be nice to keep enticing new ones and new dancers.  A very long term goal would be to solicit donations to start a fund that would bring one new band and caller and a few dancers every year (ones that have never had their expenses paid before).  
Feel free to call/ text me (Mark Stowe) at any time 352 373 3202.