[Callers] New Caller Assistance

William Watson wjw1961 at gmail.com
Mon Oct 2 11:45:45 PDT 2006


When I started calling, I wrote out dances by hand on 3x5 cards.  I use
ruled white cards for "regular" contra dances, and colored cards for dances
in different formations (mixers, four-face-four dances, whole-set dances,
community dances, and so forth).  I've toyed on occasion with marking the
EDGES of the cards with colors to indicate difficulty, presence of specific
features (heys, contra corners, etc), but have never found those of
consistent use.

I regret not having my entire collection typed in, whether in a regular
document format, into a database, or some other form.  I have enough cards
that sitting down to do it now would take considerable effort.  Also, I
waffle over the format that I should use.  In the mean time, as I add
dances, the problem only gets worse.

As a stop-gap measure, whenever I plan out a complete program in advance, I
type up the dances I plan to use, and cut & paste individual dances into a
text file.  This gives me incrementally a file of dances that I actually
call, the core of my collection.  In this text file I also copy any thoughts
I provide to the bands for music for the dances.

One advantage of having a stack of cards versus a database is that I can
rummage through a stack of cards, setting out ones that seem appropriate for
an upcoming dance, sorting through those, etc.  I can describe my process
for planning a dance evening at greater length, if you're interested.

For the actual cards, I write them out by hand, with one line for every 8
beats of time, noting A1, A2, B1, B2 on the apporpriate alternate lines.  I
use full words, written in upper and lower case, for maximum readability.
Thus I don't need to translate from "N B&S" to "Neighbor Balance and Swing",
as it's written out.  Of course I don't read from the cards to walk through
or call a dance -- the process of planning an evening pretty much drives
into my head the specifics of the dances I plan to use.  Thus, the words on
the cards are the specifics of the figures, but not the words I use for a
walk-though, or the specific words I use when calling.

I use a three-ring binder to keep track of dance evenings that I've called,
one to a sheet, with a summary listing at the front.  Thus, I can look to
see how long it's been since I called the dance at Coos Bay, for example,
and what dances I called there then.  This can be handy ito find sets of
dances that worked well in one place and seem like they'd be useful for an
upcoming dance.  I make notes on each sheet of points I learned,
rediscovered, or discovered as the result of an experiment in the course of
calling that evening.  Writing something down helps me remember it the next
time, even if I don't go back and review the notes I made.

There are a couple of database programs set up for callers of contra
dances.  Colin Hume has one available as shareware on his website (
http://colinhume.com/download.htm), and has recently released a second
edition.  It looks to have many features.  He'd like $80 if you find the
program useful.  I also know that someone in the Northeast US pulled
together a database program in perhaps 1999 or 2000 and contacted me for
permission to include a dance of mine, but I have no memory of who it was or
what happened to the program.  I think she worked with a programmer, and
hoped to sell the package.

Please speak up if you'd like to know more.

Good luck, and HAVE FUN!


On 9/29/06, Will <mainesail113 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> I'm faced with how to develop dance cards that work for me, and recording
> systems for previous dance programs, event planning aids etc.
> I'd like to know what systems works for other folks. It seems that each
> person has found their own sorting/grouping structure and recording
> systems-ie: grouping dances by difficulty or prominant dance feature.  I'd
> appreciate feedback so I can choose among a range of possibilities that
> might fit me best.
wjw1961 at gmail.com
William J. Watson

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