[Callers] First Dance Weekend

lynn ackerson callynn1 at pacbell.net
Mon Apr 20 13:41:54 PDT 2009

I was hired for my first dance weekend partially due to serendipity. On the Wednesday before camp, Lisa Greenleaf, the scheduled caller, contacted the programmer to let him know that she had laryngitis and possibly other throat ailments, and wouldn't be able to make it. The programmer called several other "big name" callers on the east coast trying to get them to fill in at the last minute, to no avail. So then he asked me, Wednesday while I was at work. This camp was in my home community. It was good that I only had two days to experience high adrenaline surges (i.e., stressing out) before the camp. Thanks go to Lisa for getting sick (only kidding), Charlie Fenton for having faith in me, and the Latter Day Lizards for being so supportive and so much fun to work with.
My next dance weekend invitation came from programmers who happened to be at the first camp I called. Other weekends I've been hired for since then have mostly come about by word of mouth. Someone who's heard me call somewhere recommended me when asked.
I've programmed some dance weekends, and recommended other callers for camps. With that hat on, let me tell you the things I think about when hiring or recommending a caller for a weekend. First, of course, they need to be a good caller: have all the technical aspects down, have good judgement and flexibility, and good taste in choosing the dances they call. Almost equally important is that they're a "good camper". They make an effort to meet the campers, get to know them, enjoy them, dance with them (when not calling). They don't just hang out with their friends and/or the other staff all weekend, and only show up when they have to call. I love callers who can build community from the stage, whose first priority is to make sure the campers have a great time, not to be the center of attention. A word George Marshall used once was "transparency". Qualities of this include being visible when needed to teach the dance clearly and concisely, calling until
 most people have the dance, and then getting out of the way to let the band and the dancers make their magical connection. No prima donnas please.

My first recommendation would be to call, call, call, and continue to learn and improve your skills and judgement. I'd also recommend that you attend camps as a camper. And when there, be a "good camper". Dance with other campers of all experience levels. Meet people and enjoy them. Volunteer to help with set-up, clean-up. And just be yourself.
Good luck,
--- On Mon, 4/20/09, Jack Mitchell <jamitch3 at mindspring.com> wrote:

From: Jack Mitchell <jamitch3 at mindspring.com>
Subject: [Callers] First Dance Weekend
To: "Caller's discussion list" <callers at sharedweight.net>
Date: Monday, April 20, 2009, 10:03 AM

   For those of you who have called for a dance weekend: How did you get
   your first weekend gig?  Did you go out looking for it?  Did a weekend
   approach you having heard your calling?  Any suggestions?  I've gotten
   to the point in my calling that calling for a weekend in the next few
   years is something that I'd like to set as a goal for myself, but
   have a good idea of how to go about it.  My current plan has been
   booking some multi-gig tours with bands that I work well with to
   increase my exposure, but I'd appreciate any thoughts or ideas that
   others might have.
   Jack Mitchell
   Durham, NC
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