[Callers] writing dances
isaacsbob at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 18 07:49:30 PDT 2007
Hi Alison and SW;
A few thoughts on the often-tricky process on introducing new dances.
First, I second David Millstone's comment about trying them out at
private get-togethers. I've found that free food and drink always
helps (but serve the alcohol after the dance). Tape record
everything, especially feedback after each dance.
You can also get a group of 4 (or 8 if need be) together at the break
of regular dance and walk one through. This will give you practice
teaching it and give you a feel for choreography, even if it isn't
done with music. Be careful on who is in the group. My ideal group
of four is me, another caller experienced at evaluating dances, and
two average dancers. I try not to have really good dancers in there -
they can compensate for flaws in the choreography in ways lesser
Beyond that, the best way to get guinea pigs is to cultivate a home
dance audience that is sympathetic to what you're trying to do. But
remember, they are there to dance and have fun, not be test subjects,
so try new stuff in moderation.
You can check whether a title has been used before using the excellent
database by Michael Dyck at;
There is no exhaustive database for the moves, however. So if I come
up with a dance I feel might have already been written, I will go
through all the books and websites I can find. I always start with
Give and Take, then Zesty Contras, then the single author books and
sites. Yes, it's time consuming, especially since as I go through
them I wind up collecting new dances.
Another good way to check for new dances is simply dance a lot,
especially to touring callers who are known to write and/or collect
new stuff. Over time, you'll notice the best dances are used by many
callers, and chances are if yours doesn't come up it could be new.
You may also be exposed to dances similar as yours, and see whether
yours has something new and valuable to offer.
When I started writing, I sent out untested dances, primarily because
as a new caller I had limited opportunites to call. But once I became
established I stopped that practice as too risky, and now only send
out ones I have tried once or preferably twice. Once a dance is out
there you can't take it back, and your reputation goes along with it.
Rather than posting them here, you might be better served sharing them
with a few active callers willing to try them first.
There is also author psychology to consider. When I started writing,
I wrote dances I would like to dance. However, as an experienced
dancer this led me to writing a lot of fancy "dance camp-type" stuff,
nearly all of which was garbage. Of the first 30 or so attempts I
made, I only use 1 of them. Even today, about 70% of what I write
never makes the floor. Either I or someone else come up with
something better, it has been written already, it is too complicated,
or it has flaws that can't be fixed. It is human nature to overrate
one's material, and I found it important to develop the ability to be
self-critical of my work.
Many writers have favorite moves, but I find the best choreographers
use all the common figures. Instead of being trapped doing the same
stuff in a different way, they are able to integrate a variety ideas
and get the most out of them. Again, this takes time and practice. I
really didn't feel comfortable doing this until after several years
and dozens of attempts.
Finally, and new dance needs a walkthrough and very often a new way to
teach it. Don't underestimate the need for very careful preparation.
For any new dance I call of even moderate complexity, I write out the
walkthrough whether it's mine or not. Everything from "Hands four" to
"this dance is such-and-such by so-and-so." (I highly recommend this
to new callers no matter what they are calling.) After several
revisions I really know the dance, have a concise script to work
from, addressed issues like end effects and shadows, and perhaps find
a way to inject a little humor. It isn't as time consuming as it
sounds - after writing some, you can block and copy to make
others. This is a excellent way to improve teaching skills, and
avoids the fustration of seeing a potentially good dance being sunk by
a bad walkthrough.
I hope the above helps, and doesn't discourage anyone from taking a
chance and trying something new. Believe me, it is a really good
feeling to contribute a good, new dance - it is a gift that keeps on
From: "crunchymama at juno.com" <crunchymama at juno.com>
Reply-To: Caller's discussion list <callers at sharedweight.net>
To: callers at sharedweight.net
Subject: [Callers] writing dances
Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2007 05:22:45 GMT
>Howdy folks! Newbie back with a question.
>I've written a few dances lately. At least, I think I have! I'm
>sure how one finds out if the same combination of dance steps
>Also, yes they all work on paper, but I haven't tried them out on
>anyone yet. Those of you who write dances- how do you get your
>Would posting dances to this list be appropriate? If they work and
>are fun I would love for them to be used, and if they were already
>written by someone else, I'd like to have their proper names on
>In reply to another thread- one of the dances has a star
>if you would like me to post it.
>Alison Murphy in Memphis TN
>Callers mailing list
>Callers at sharedweight.net
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