[Callers] Varying a program

Martha Wild mawild at sbcglobal.net
Thu Aug 7 22:11:34 PDT 2008


I have a whole bunch of thoughts on what makes a program varied or  
unvaried. I see, after having written what follows prior to scrolling  
down and reading below, that Alan and I have very similar ideas -  
however, I'll just leave what follows here even if it goes over some  
of the same ground, i.e., beginnings, transitions, and distinctive  
figures. Oh well, here's my take:

I like to see variation in the types of transitions, like star to do- 
si-do, or California Twirl to face next neighbors, or circle left and  
pass through, or slide left to next etc. in a Becket. Too many of the  
same transition can seem unvaried. To me, starting two dances in a  
row the same way feels unvaried as a dancer. Haven't you ever been to  
programs where every dance starts "Balance and swing your neighbor?"  
I like to vary the kinds of swings in a program - some balance and  
swings, one or two gypsy into swing, just plain swing from a do si do  
or an allemande, sometimes women swing or men swing for variety. As a  
dancer, I'm afraid I'm not really fond of swinging both partner and  
neighbor in every dance. It just gets too darn tiring. Watch everyone  
leave early on a hot night in San Diego without air conditioning. So  
I try to mix up the program with a dance with "both" swings, and  
dances with partner only swings. I even do some fun dances with  
(gasp) active couples in them - usually double progressions, but also  
an active dance done late on a hot evening, or early with a small  
crowd, can have unusual choreography that you won't see in other  
dances and that is fun to do as a dancer. I also like to do dances  
where the #1 couple swings and later the #2 couple swings, so both  
get a chance. As far as repetition of figures - some figures you can  
get away with lots of repeats during the evening - like forward and  
back in long lines, or ladies chain, or right and left through. Sort  
of bread and butter figures. Other figures dancers start to notice -  
a fair number of circles can be OK, but when every dance has one,  
it's pretty obvious. Some figures are distinct and you don't want to  
do more than  two (maybe one) dances with them - petronellas, box the  
gnats, wave balances, whole set circle left - those sorts of things.

And if you like your program, and you've got a lot of heys in it, OWN  
your program, and say - tonight's theme is - wait for it - the HEY!  
We'll be trying all manner of heys and ways in and ways out of heys.  
Then it becomes something to look forward to and notice the  
differences and feel from dance to dance.

Of course, that said, many dancers don't even notice if the same  
dance is repeated in the same evening - this from personal experience  
when two callers did that in a shared evening. A couple dancers  
remarked when asked that it did seem somewhat familiar.... But even  
if they don't consciously notice repetition, variety will still add  
that spice.

One thing to be avoided though, is picking slightly similar repeating  
figures in two different dances - like circle left, ladies chain,  
women do-si-do and then two dances later do circle left, ladies  
chain, women allemande right - even if the rest of the dance is  
wildly different, people get pretty quickly entrained on the flow of  
the first set and will keep wanting to do-si-do in the second set. So  
I try to check my program for those sorts of repeats. I've felt the  
magnetic attraction of the entrained movement as a dancer and seen  
people stumbling with the second set as a caller - so avoid that.

That's enough thoughts on variety for now... Have fun planning your  
programs.
Martha


On Aug 7, 2008, at 9:00 AM, callers-request at sharedweight.net wrote:

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> Today's Topics:
>
>    1. What Makes A Program Varied (Rickey)
>    2. Re: What Makes A Program Varied
>       (Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing)
>    3. Re: Chris's message (J L Korr)
>
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 6 Aug 2008 17:26:57 -0400
> From: "Rickey" <holt.e at comcast.net>
> Subject: [Callers] What Makes A Program Varied
> To: <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Message-ID: <000501c8f80b$27bdfbb0$020fa8c0 at maxx>
> Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="iso-8859-1"
>
> OK all,
>
> What determines if a program is varied?  I originally thought that the
> number of times a figure occurred in an evening was a pretty good  
> clue, but
> now ???????????? Here are dances that feel different, in programs  
> that feel
> varied, yet look at how many times some figures are repeated in an  
> evening.
>
> VARIETY IN PROGRAMMING
>
> What is it?
>
> What is variety in programming determined by?  I find that I can  
> include
> many dances that have the same figures and still feel that I have a  
> varied
> program. Below are three of my recent programs and the number of  
> times in
> that evening that a given figure occurs.  I arbitrarily started  
> with the
> idea that more than five occurrences of a figure in an evening  
> might be a
> problem.  Obviously, I excluded swings and balance and swings.  By  
> accident
> no Circle left ??s were included.  I have also not considered here  
> where in
> the dance the figure occurred.  Despite several figures occurring very
> frequently in an evening, the programs still felt very varied to  
> me, and
> some dancers expressed that as well.
>
> What do you think?????????????
>
> All programs had 14 dances in each. Some of the names are  
> approximate.  Most
> dances were contras, a few were circles, a few were set dances.
>
> Program 1 for Beginners ? Circles were in 9 dances, at least 1 do- 
> si-do in
> 7, Stars or hands across in 7 dances.  Program: Pride of the  
> Dingle, Jolly
> Roger, No Dos, Family Contra, Fiddle Hill Jig, Ease, Green Jig,  
> Fancy French
> mixer, Flutterbys, Midwest Folklore, Reading Reel, Yankee Reel,  
> Handsome
> Young Maids, Greenfield 2 hand
>
> Program 2 for Beginners ? Balance the ring in 5, Circles in 8, Do- 
> si-do in
> 8, Down the Hall 4-in-line in 6, Star or hands across in 10 dances.
> Program: Cincinnati Reel, Haste to the Wedding, Family Contra, Anne? 
> s Visit,
> Fiddle Hill Jig, Belles of Auburn, Malden Reel, Handsome Young Maids,
> Midwest Folklore, Bride and Groom, Road to Boston, St. Lawrence  
> Jig, New
> Friendship Reel, Ease
>
> Program 3 for Intermediate dancers ? ladies chain in 12 of the 14  
> dances.
> Program: The Baby Rose, Summer Sunshine, Dancing Bear, Betty Mac?s  
> Reel, A
> Rollin? and A Tumblin?, Slapping the Wood, Fisher?s Jig, Box-the Gnat
> Contra, Weave the Line, Ben?s Brilliance, That Special Someone, 40  
> Mohr
> Years, Flowers of April, Trip to Lambertville.
>
>
>
> Rickey Holt,
>
> Fremont, NH
>
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 2
> Date: Wed, 06 Aug 2008 16:52:56 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing
> 	<winston at slac.stanford.edu>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] What Makes A Program Varied
> To: Rickey <holt.e at comcast.net>
> Cc: callers at sharedweight.net
> Message-ID: <01MY1R8VJDAYA0JPQX at SSRL.SLAC.STANFORD.EDU>
> Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=iso-8859-1
>
>> OK all,
>
>> What determines if a program is varied?  I originally thought that  
>> the
>> number of times a figure occurred in an evening was a pretty good  
>> clue, but
>> now ???????????? Here are dances that feel different, in programs  
>> that feel
>> varied, yet look at how many times some figures are repeated in an  
>> evening.
>
>> VARIETY IN PROGRAMMING
>
>> What is it?
>
>> What is variety in programming determined by?  I find that I can  
>> include
>> many dances that have the same figures and still feel that I have  
>> a varied
>> program. Below are three of my recent programs and the number of  
>> times in
>> that evening that a given figure occurs.  I arbitrarily started  
>> with the
>> idea that more than five occurrences of a figure in an evening  
>> might be a
>> problem.  Obviously, I excluded swings and balance and swings.  By  
>> accident
>> no Circle left ??s were included.  I have also not considered here  
>> where in
>> the dance the figure occurred.  Despite several figures occurring  
>> very
>> frequently in an evening, the programs still felt very varied to  
>> me, and
>> some dancers expressed that as well.
>
>> What do you think?????????????
>
>
> Over in English Country Dance land, where dances are tied to  
> specific tunes, we
> think a varied evening has variety of music (different keys, meters  
> (we get
> 2/2, 2/4, 4/4, hornpipe, waltz, minuet, polka, 3/2, and slip-jig  
> choices)),
> tempi (we can range from maybe 85 to 110 bpm), mood, formation  
> (triplet, three
> couple circle, two-couple set, four-couple longways, five-couple  
> longways, four
> couple square, square with an extra couple in the middle, longways  
> duple,
> longways triple, single circle, Sicilian circle, double circle,  
> etc, but we
> don't generally do scatter mixers), complexity, and figures.   I  
> think David
> Millstone gets a bunch of this formation variation into his contra  
> dance
> calling, but not many people do.
>
> So I used to worry about this in contra calling,a nd I do, still,  
> worry about
> it a bit if I've got a band that only plays old-timey, but, really,  
> the variety
> concern is somewhat overrated.
>
>
> In contra, the musical variety stuff is up to the band, but you  
> still get to
> futz with mood - is the dance playful, flirtatious, incredibly  
> flowy?  Is it
> equal or unequal?  Do you stick with your partner throughout or  
> lose and regain
> your partner?  Do you stick with one other couple for 32 bars or  
> travel around?
> Is there a trail buddy?
>
>
> But if you're going to be doing, y'know, contras (longways dances  
> with minor
> sets, whether that's improper/indecent/proper/duple/triple) the  
> things that most
> non-caller contra junkies will notice are
>
>    (a) How each round starts - if every single dance begins with
>        "balance and swing neighbor" it'll not only seem like it's  
> all the
>        same damn dance, you'll screw up the muscle memory and for  
> the next
>        move they'll want to do the same thing they did in the last  
> dance.
>        So don't stack up dances with the same first figure.
>
>    (b) transitions - how do you get on to the next couple?  If  
> they're all
>        pass through right shoulder, or all California Twirl and  
> face the
>        next, etc, etc, that'll seem pretty similar.  (Mixing in some
>        Beckets will typically open up the transition menu.)
>
>    (c) distinctive figures.  If a dance has 8 bars of something  
> unusual or
>        distinctive - Petronella turns, balance short waves f&b and  
> go on
>        to the next wave - grand right and left around the whole  
> outside
>        of the ring - Rory O'More turns - then you don't get dinged for
>        boringness for having circle / star / r&lt, much less
>        ladies' chain/ hey for 4.  Also, the extra-twirl crowd  
> doesn't get
>        bored by LC or H4 because they get to embellish.
>
>
>
> Figure count is probably worth noticing, but what makes things dull  
> is a whole
> bunch of things that feel the same.  Circle left to start a zigzag  
> feels
> different from circle left half and slide one couple and circle  
> some more feels
> different from circle left 3/4 and swing partner.  If the kinetics are
> different, it's different.
>
> For ONS, mess around with easy formations (scatter mixers, big  
> circles, etc)
> but _minimize the number of different figures_.  Circle, star,  
> swing, pass
> through, down the middle, trade with partner, trade back, allemande  
> right,
> allemande left.  You don't really need much more, figure wise, and  
> they'll
> typically be happy just to be dancing.
>
> If you're doing an explicitly contra evening for a roomful of new  
> contra
> dancers, variety isn't your problem.  Don't throw a whole bunch of  
> different
> figures or weird progressions or whatever at them just to be  
> varied.  Build
> your program to introduce a few figures in the course of the  
> evening, but I
> don't think you should look at your figure matrix, notice that you  
> didn't do
> "Give and Take", and feel like you've failed.  They're dancing with  
> different
> people, to different tunes; that's all the variety most of them need.
>
> -- Alan
>
> -- 
> ====================================================================== 
> =========
>  Alan Winston --- WINSTON at SSRL.SLAC.STANFORD.EDU
>  Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not SLAC or SSRL   Phone:   
> 650/926-3056
>  Paper mail to: SSRL -- SLAC BIN 99, 2575 Sand Hill Rd, Menlo Park  
> CA   94025
> ====================================================================== 
> =========
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 3
> Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2008 00:01:46 -0400
> From: J L Korr <jeremykorr at hotmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Chris's message
> To: <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Message-ID: <BLU140-W5F920CB7338D23F2A7D74C7750 at phx.gbl>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
>
>
> Chris, I want to thank you for posting such a thoughtful and  
> detailed evaluation of a set of programs that obviously didn't go  
> quite as you had hoped. It was helpful for me to see what did and  
> didn't work for you, and why. As I know that you reflect carefully  
> on each program you call and what you can learn from the  
> experience, I have no doubt your next calling at a festival will go  
> much more smoothly.
>
> Jeremy Korr
> Rancho Cucamonga, CA / Woods Hole, MA
>
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