[Callers] organizing dance cards

Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing winston at slac.stanford.edu
Tue Feb 12 16:17:16 PST 2008


So far, here's what I do for contra.  (I've only been calling contra for a
couple of years, and I don't do this for English because each dance is a bit
more sui generis.)

I don't use cards because my handwriting and printing are lousy (a minor
neurological dysfunction), and because if I try to write them at dances I'm so
sweaty that everything smears like crazy, and if I try to call from cards I
either sweat them up or mislay them, so I need my real originals to stay at
home.



So: Each dance is in a separate plain-text file on disk, and I also have a
separate index file with one line per dance, with an extremely abbreviated
version of the figures in order, eg:

100 YEARS OF MISCHIEF     Form:IC  Figs:BTG:AL:NS:CL:DSD:MR:PS:
3 2 1 DANCE               Form:IC  Figs:LLF&B:NNS:G&T:PS:CL2/3:BTR:CT:NNG&S:
3 33 33                   Form:IC  Figs:GC:BTG:NS:CL:PS:LLF&B:DSD:
35_4_THE_ROSENS     Form:BK  Figs:CL3/4: 1/2 Hey:NG&S:CT:NB&cuddle:G&T:
50 50                     Form:BK  Figs:CL:NS:LC:H4H:BTG:PS:SL:
ABBEY, THE (mixer)        Form:4x4 Figs:LLF&B:LC:GC:CR:CT:PS:
ALS SAFEWAY PRODUCE       Form:IC  Figs:LHS:AL:AR:PS:CL:NS:LLF&B:RHS:
ALTERATIONS SWING         Form:BK  Figs:CL3/4,PT,LLF&B:NS:DOPASO:AR:PS
ALTERNATING CORNERS       Form:IC  Figs:CL:NS::LLF&B:HF8:CC:PS:
AMY'S HARMONIUM           Form:BK  Figs:LLF&R:AR:NS:LC:CL:PT:AL:PS
ANGIE'S FANCY             Form:TR  Figs:LLF&B:PS:unique:RHS:LHS:R&L
ANOTHER NICE COMBINATION  Form:IC  Figs:G:NS:CL:PT:DSD:PS:LC:LHS:
APPETIZER                 Form:IC  Figs:NS:LLF&B:LC:AR:PS:CL:DSD:
APPLE PIE QUADRILLE       Form:4x4 Figs:LLF&B:RHS:AL:PS:Weird:
ARE YOU MOST DONE         Form:BK  Figs:AL:NS:LLF&B:RHS:H4:AR:PS:
ARTQUAKE '95              Form:IC  Figs:LLF&B:AS:4iL:TA:BTL:LCo&b:CL:CR:
ATONEMENT REEL (mixer)    Form:BC  Figs:BTW:RA:BTR:LA:PB&S:F&B:F&B:PAR:Prmd:
BACK IT ON UP             Form:IC  Figs:CL:NS:LLF&B:NNS:LC:PS:
BACKSTITCH                Form:IC  Figs:LLF&B:RA:AL:PS:LHS:NS:
BACKSTITCH VARIATION      Form:IC  Figs:LLF&B:RA:NS:AL:PS:Prmd:LC:
BALANCE AND THINK         Form:BK  Figs:LLF&B:DSD:NS:CL:TRD:PS:
BALANCE THE STAR          Form:IC  Figs:B:RHS:TA:LHS:TA:NDSD:CT:Weird:repeat

(Every so often, I go through my disk directory and check what dances I've
added since the last time I updated the index file, then go through the dances
and update the index.  Then I have some scripts that go through the index and
create separate indexes for Becket, Big Circle, Contra, Indecent, 4-face-four,
Scatter Mixer, etc..)  Then I print out all that stuff and stick 'em in a big
notebook, which I can bring to gigs.  If I feel I need to change my program and
introduce, say, a Becket dance, I can look at the Becket index; if I want to
see all my options, I look at the several page, hundreds-of-dances, main
index.  If something looks like a possibility, I flip through the book
alphabetically until I come to the sheet protector with the 8.5x11 sheet with
the dance and any notes on it, and judge whether it really makes sense - is
there a tricky bit that doesn't show in the summary?)

When I'm working up a program, I work from the index and juggle the orders;
with the Figure summary I can make sure my dances don't all start the same way,
or have the same progression, etc, while I pull up the individual dance
description to look for any notes, ratings, etc.  There's enough info in  the
index to let me say "I need an easy Becket with a hey in it" and find it.

Then I make up a single text file into which I've included the  program order,
all the dance descriptions, and a bunch of possible extras/alternates; it
raises my confidence level to have all of that already thought out before I get
there, print out several copies of that - if the band has somebody who'd like
to look at the card, they may as well have a copy of the program; if there's a
caller who liked the dances I called, I can just hand them a copy of the notes;
if I put my copy down somewhere before doing a demo,  I have another copy.]

I was calling English ceilidh dances before contra dances, and for that I did
a similar thing with a wider variety of formations, also noting tune type,
etc, and then when the band told me they had a 40-bar jig they wanted to play I
could look at *that* index to see which dances would work with that.  But I
didn't make up programs in advance because the numbers were completely
unpredictable.

Occasionally I think about a full-on relational database that tracks dances,
when last called, difficulty ratings, etc, etc, but in fact I've never had any
need for one.

This has worked well for me so far, but I haven't yet had to deal with calling
a contra dance where only five people show up, or a busload of Girl Scouts
arrives just after the break, or whatever other horror story you have.  I've
had the equivalents when calling English, and usually just backed off to the
barn dance repertoire.

-- 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
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