[Callers] 10 things

Chris Weiler chris.weiler at weirdtable.org
Mon Mar 13 19:17:40 PST 2006

Hi Tom,

I agree with all but two of these. Here's why I disagree:

2) Beginners have a delay in their reaction times to calls. They have to 
process the call, translate it to what they know before they can tell 
their bodies what to do. This is unlike an experienced dancer who has 
muscle memory tied directly to the ears (or something like that). 8^) 
When I have called to dances with a high percentage of beginners, the 
dances with 8 count swings, by the time the dancers get into swing 
position and start turning, they can't even get around once sometimes. 8 
count swings also indicate a higher piece count in the dance and make it 
more difficult. I have had better luck with 12 count swings when dealing 
with beginners.

8) I am convinced that (with rare exceptions) when you teach someone 
anything about the swing, they only can move up one notch along the 
learning curve. They can only keep one instruction in mind when they are 
practicing the swing. It took me a long time to learn how to buzz step 
well and to incorporate it in such a way that didn't cause discomfort 
for my partner. Since the swing is one of the first, hardest and most 
common moves that they learn, it needs to be easy and quick to learn. 
That's why I teach the walking swing. They have enough to learn about 
posture, frame and dealing with eye contact. Why burden them with extra 
information when they already know how to walk forward and it will work 
just as well? By all means, let them know that the buzz step exists and 
show them what it looks like. But also let them know that they don't 
have to do it for a swing to be fun. I can show someone how to do a 
walking swing in less than 30 seconds and have them dancing and their 
mind will be clear enough to learn the other calls that they are being 
taught. I have seen too many people befuddled by the buzz step and in a 
daze while the first dance is being taught.

Hmmm... I guess that number 8 touched a nerve... 8^)

Happy Dancing,



Tom Hinds wrote:

> It occurred to me that many of the behaviors  on this list are due to
>insecurity (dancing with other beginners, waiting to be asked etc.)  That got
>me to thinking about what callers can do to make sure the beginners have a
>good experience.  So, I've come up with my own list for callers.  These items
>may contain items that some may not agree with.  But this may generate some
>good discussion.
>10 things a caller can do to help  beginners have a good experience:
>1)  Prepare a logical program that starts easy and builds.
>2)  Like a professional dance teacher, warm up muscles slowly.  Use dances
>with 8 count swings (max) early in the evening.  Keep the first couple of
>dances shorter.  New and not so new dancers are entering the hall and you want
>them up and dancing sooner rather than later,
>3)  Be prepared well enough so that you don't have to use cards.  Watch the
>dancers.  Watch the dancers.
>4)  Encourage everyone to dance with everyone else.  When a dance ends,
>suggest that those who just danced ask those sitting out for the next dance.
>5)  Demonstrate what smooth dancing looks like (especially if many newbees are
>6)  Teach safe dancing - like proper allemandes.  If you see dancers dancing
>out of control take measures to make sure that they don't hurt anyone.
>7)  If you make a mistake, admit it.  Often if something doesn't work, the new
>dancers think it's because of them.
>8)  Teach the buzz step swing in the beginning workshop.  Teach it well.
>9)  If a dance has a tricky move, show the dancers how to perform the move
>with finesse.  If the dance has a challenge in the timing department,
>communicate to the dancers how to be on time.
>10)  If you call a challenging dance and the new dancers look a bit confused,
>tell the crowd that that was a very difficult dance and that they handled it
>very well (this one from Ted Sannella).  If the dance was so challenging that
>sets broke down, tell the dancers that you picked a bad dance (in other words
>it's you, not them).
>Tom Hinds

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