[Callers] Article: Respectful Communication w/ Stage Talent

Karen Fontana karen_fontana at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 23 18:17:17 PST 2006

  The following article "On Respectful Communications with Stage Talent" was just published in the Santa Barbara Country Dance Society, Dance Star, Spring 2006 quarterly newsletter.  It is well written by Suzanne Duffy and Jeff Spero of Los Angeles, and contains some useful guidelines applicable to most dance communities.  Some may wish to print it and make it available at dances.
  Karen Fontana
  The pdf version is available for download at:
  Santa Barbara Country Dance Society 
Issue Number 67, Spring 2006 • News, Articles & Calendar of Events 
  On Respectful Communications with Stage Talent 
  Over the many years of dancing, calling, and playing music at contra dances, 
we have noticed a dominant thread about our fellow dancers – they can be quite 
opinionated about their callers, musicians and sound engineers. We appreciate the 
passion; however, in recent months there have been incidents in the way these 
opinions have been expressed in Santa Barbara that have been unhelpful, even 
hurtful and for some, decrease our desire to take the Carrillo Ballroom stage. So we 
offer four guidelines that will aid in communicating with onstage talent: 
  • Please hold your comments to the caller or musicians to the break or the end 
of the evening. The talent is concentrating hard during the dance to provide the best 
experience for the dancers. Comments while the dance is in progress are a major
distraction and almost always degrade the quality of the calling, music or both.
  • Keep in mind that it is impossible to always please everyone. While we are 
very happy to listen your point of view, please consider that we often get very 
contradicting suggestions from different dancers. For example, one dancer may 
believe the band is playing too fast while another may think the band is playing 
too slow (and the caller may think we are playing juuuussst right!). 
  • If you have difficulty hearing the caller, or the volume is uncomfortable to 
you, please don’t tell the band. They can’t do anything about it. Kindly let the sound 
engineer (or the caller when he/she is not calling/teaching) know your observations. 
  • Remember that while the callers, musicians and sound engineers try our 
hardest to make the dance special, for the most part we are not professionals. 
Just like you, this is what we do for fun. We show up early, leave late, and set up 
lots of equipment. And though we do get paid, the amount we get barely
compensates us for our time and expenses. Our real compensation is the
appreciation we get from the dancers (so don’t be afraid to whoop and holler 
– we love it!). And we are trying to reach for the stars – to create a fresh, exciting
experience for the dancers. Occasionally, what we try might not work. But often it
does work, and when it does the dance benefits accordingly (more whooping and hollering!). 
  The success of a dance, most would agree, is the effective interaction between 
the caller, musicians, and the dancers themselves. (Certainly others also play 
key roles – sound engineer, volunteers, dance producers
but the core is these 
three elements.) This is not a performance the talent provides for the dancers,
rather a cooperative effort to provide an exhilarating experience for everyone. 
The dancers feed off the energy of the caller and musicians, and that energy then
gets sent back to the caller and musicians who feed off the dancers. The more the
talent feels the respect and appreciation of the dancers, the more they will give
back in return.  And that’s what we are all after, isn’t it? 
  Suzanne Duffy, Jeffrey Spero 
  Los Angeles, California


  Karen Fontana 
karen_fontana at yahoo.com 
(H) 650-691-9663

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