[Callers] New Voices, Flurry and VFW

Chris Weiler chris.weiler at weirdtable.org
Sun Feb 27 10:02:44 PST 2005


Well, it's been a busy couple of weeks, and boy is my body letting me 
know it. I've been laid up with a cold the last couple of days. So here 
is what's been happening with the calling side of my life (I guess I 
don't need to warn you by now that this is going to be a long e-mail):

New Voices

The New Voices dance was quite a success. All of us (Seth Seeger, Jenna 
Watson, Cortni Frecha, Nathaniel Jack, Mark Jones and myself) did very 
well. We had a good crowd (I estimated 60-70 people, Mark probably has a 
better count) of experienced dancers. We also had great music by Mike 
Ames, Lissa Schneckenberger (sp!) and Bruce Rosen, who were a delight to 
work with on stage. My own personal breakthrough that night was that it 
was the first time that I felt comfortable on-stage. Instead of my 
nervous energy making me hesitant, I directed it into my calling. It was 
a great feeling. I called two of my favorite dances that I hadn't called 
before: Mary Cay's Reel and 333-33. I knew that 333-33 was going to be a 
challenge, and it was. I worked hard with a form to work out the words 
(which I created first). The form I used is attached if people are 
interested. Then I practiced (mostly in the car) calling into a tape 
recorder. The prep work really paid off at the dance.

Dance Flurry

The next weekend was the Dance Flurry in Saratoga Springs, NY. This is 
one of my favorite dance festivals with lots of great dancing, workshops 
and great people. There were 4 callers workshops during the festival and 
each had their own focus.

The first was Joseph Pinmentel's workshop. He talked about the 3 stages 
of being a caller: the first is where you're learning the basics (call 
timing, word choice, parts/structure of the music, etc.), the second he 
called "flight time" or practice time, and the third I think he called 
the "process". The third stage was the focus of the workshop. The 
"process" he was referring to was the cycle of feedback and learning 
that happens when you're calling regularly. Specifically he put it in 
terms of the observation cycle: take an action, observe the results, 
decide what you think about the results, and back to the beginning with 
taking another action. The part that he observed that most callers had 
with this cycle was that the feedback was hard to filter away from the 
junk around it. For example when someone comes up to you after a dance 
and says: "you called a dance without a neighbor swing. Your calling 
stinks." His suggestion was that you look for the kernel of good 
information in any feedback you get. In the example, you take away the 
information that calling a dance without a neighbor swing made a dancer 
unhappy. Then you can decide if you're going to call a dance without a 
neighbor swing the next time without the defensive reaction to the 
statement. It also means that you can handle the situation better 
because you can honestly thank the person for their useful feedback and 
ignore the rest. Of course this is harder than it seems. The rest of the 
workshop we got up and danced and had different people calling the 
dances. Then we sat down and made observations and Joseph helped us pick 
out the kernels of good information in the statements. The funniest 
moment in the class was when one of the people in the workshop made an 
observation about a session earlier in the day where the caller didn't 
run the dances long enough. The observer didn't realize that the caller 
at that session was Joseph. 8^) You'll see by the lengths of my 
descriptions that this was my favorite workshop.

The next workshop was Rick Mohr's. He focused on the basics of timing 
and word selection. He talked about timing the words to music in order 
to end the call at the correct moment. He had some great handouts for 
this and we all practiced with a fiddler.

On Sunday, the first workshop was Ralph Sweet teaching singing squares. 
He talked about the differences in patter calling and singing and the 
kind of prep work necessary for singers. Coordinating with the band 
seems to be the most important one. If you don't practice it, then most 
likely you won't be able to be flexible with the calling to make sure 
that the dancers are promenading at the chorus. He has published a nice 
book full of squares and music that has some great material in it.

The last workshop I was late for, since I was having great fun at Rick's 
Squantras and Contrares session. Peter Amidon was running a workshop 
where he reviewed a handout with a few basics about calling, dance 
selection and responsibilities. He then opened the floor to questions 
and discussion. Most of the questions had to to with resources like 
where to find dances to call and e-mail discussion groups like ours. I 
have included a scan of Peter's two sided sheet.

VFW

After the New Voices dance I was very surprised to receive an e-mail 
from Sue Rosen inviting me to call at the VFW as part of NEFFA night (a 
multi-caller evening that happens 3-4 times a year). I was floored. I 
was nervous. I said yes (how could I say no?). Being a regular dancer at 
the VFW, I know what a demanding venue it is. I requested that Sue put 
me in the first slot (1st dance of the evening with the first and second 
after the break). Then I had to find dances that would go over well 
there. I knew that one of my dances after the break would be either Mary 
Cay's or 333-33 since they're fun dances and I already had the calling 
and teaching worked out for them. I remembered a recent discussion on 
trad-dance-callers about "Easy yet interesting" dances that I could use 
for the first dance of the evening, but I was at a loss for the last 
one. The digital voice recorder that I had been using to collect dances 
had gone through the washing machine in my shorts the weekend before, 
erasing about a dozen dances that might have done the job. I spent the 
whole flurry collecting dances, but they were either too hard or too 
easy for the VFW. It wasn't until the last session that I danced on 
Sunday afternoon that I found just the right dance for after the break: 
Nils Fredland's Head of the Bed. For those who are interested, I have 
put it at the end of the e-mail.

So I had 3 days to prepare after I had my dance selection for the 
evening. I had a few other things going on in my life, so I didn't 
prepare as much as I would have liked. On top of things, I was running 
flat out all week and got hit hard with a cold on Thursday. So I was 
pretty miserable when I showed up at the VFW that night. At this point I 
would like to praise the nasal decongestant spray that I bought at the 
last minute. It kept my nose and throat clear through the evening and 
allowed me to call. The evening is a haze to me, though. Because of the 
snow, Linda Leslie wasn't able to make it that night. For a while, it 
looked like it was going to be Bob Golder and myself. Erica Weiss showed 
up a dance or two before she was scheduled to go on. Sue called Rick 
Mohr and he was able to come and call a couple of dances during the 
second half. This pretty much blew the schedule out of the water, so I 
ended up calling the first two dances of the evening and the first after 
the break. I called The Casbah Queens by David McMullen (which I got off 
the trad-dance-callers list) and Forgotten Treasure as my first two 
dances. Then I called Head of the Bed as the first one after the break. 
All of which went over well. My teaching on Head of the Bed didn't go as 
well as I wanted it to (I was reaching the limits of energy and 
medicine), but the experience of the dancers made up for it and the 
dance was a success. Great music by Lise Brown, Dave Langford and Bruce 
Rosen combined with good material and lots of experienced dancers made 
up for any mistakes I might of made that night.

Thankfully, my fuzzy head that night made it impossible to be nervous 
about calling at the VFW. A few people came up to me afterwards and 
mentioned that they didn't even know that I was sick until I told them. 
One of the unfortunate things about getting sick was that I had to turn 
down all of my favorite dance partners as they came up to ask me to 
dance while I was sitting out.

Epilog

I have also attached a handout from Tony Parkes' workshop at the Ralph 
Page weekend for your enjoyment. Once again, I'm hoping that you are 
enjoying these e-mails and that those of you who are thinking about 
taking the leap into calling are inspired to take another step.

All the best,
Chris Weiler


Head of the Bed
Nils Fredland
Becket
A1
Slide Left, Cir. L 3/4 w/new neighbors
Neighbor Swing
A2
R&L thru
Ladies Chain
B1
1/2 hey
Shadow Swing
B2
LL fwd & bk
Gents roll Shadow away
Partner Swing

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