[Callers] Putting Out Fires

Martha Wild mawild at sbcglobal.net
Tue Apr 13 10:35:40 PDT 2010


Kudos to Greg, that's exactly what I do. If I see a troubled line, I  
turn and look at the best group I can with the best timing and I call  
clearly, precisely, and in good time for the dancers to hear and  
prepare for what's next. If there's a down the hall I instruct the  
turn a trifle early so they get back in good time for any cast, etc.,  
adding in small points such as "face your partner and...." Sometimes  
even the order of the instruction helps - for example "right-hand  
star" might be more helpful in some cases than "star right" if the  
hand is an issue for some reason, or vice versa if they are having  
trouble remembering that this is a star and not a right allemande in  
the same dance. Usually this irons out the problem before it gets too  
entrenched.

Oh, yes, and it's always the caller's responsibility. I have seen  
other callers get irritated at the dancers for the dance falling  
apart, and the negative impact that had on the dancers and the  
dancing was noticeable.  A good lesson in how not to call. And yes,  
sometimes, inside, you know that that show-off dancer who didn't pay  
attention in the walk-through didn't get back to where they should  
have been after swinging when it wasn't their turn and therefore  
confused the poor newcomers, who wandered off into outer space, etc.  
etc., but you just can't let that affect you or the dance if you want  
everyone to enjoy themselves. Deep breath and go on.

Martha Wild
San Diego

On Apr 13, 2010, at 7:57 AM, callers-request at sharedweight.net wrote:

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> Today's Topics:
>
>    1. Re: Putting Out Fires (Mortland, Jo)
>    2. Re: Putting Out Fires (Donald Primrose)
>    3. Re: Putting Out Fires (Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing)
>    4. Re: Putting Out Fires (Greg McKenzie)
>    5. Re: Putting Out Fires (Katy Heine)
>    6. Re: Putting Out Fires (Lewis Land)
>    7. Re: Putting Out Fires (Mortland, Jo)
>
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Message: 1
> Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2010 14:35:54 -0500
> From: "Mortland, Jo" <j-mortland at neiu.edu>
> To: "Caller's discussion list" <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Putting Out Fires
> Message-ID:
> 	<9B0B0B8FF2328E48930D4B6273C1B261132CF666 at EXNODE2.univ.neiu.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="us-ascii"
>
>
>
> I'd love to hear from some of you, about how (and when?) to fix contra
> lines that have broken down.  What are your favorite strategies?
>
> If one line has broken down, it's easy to stop the music, do one more
> walk through, and start up again.  Even with two lines this can work
> pretty well.  And you don't even have to stop the music - I've seen
> callers get everyone organized and improper again (or whatever
> formation), while the music is still going.
>
> What if there are three or more lines and one doesn't work?
>
> Do you ever go to a different dance?  Do you keep trying with the
> current one?
>
> Thanks very much.
>
> Jo Mortland
> Chicago
>
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 2
> Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2010 16:04:45 -0400
> From: Donald Primrose <limerickfarm at gmail.com>
> To: "Caller's discussion list" <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Putting Out Fires
> Message-ID:
> 	<l2r1bf75db1004121304pe1c89700td067e913803c8990 at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
>
> Hello Jo,
> I announced one day that the next dance was new to all of us, hence  
> it being
> written/inspired on the way to the dance. All four lines had no
> clue during the walk through X3 try's (something I do not do).  So  
> I took
> the card and announced that it was not going to happen and tossed  
> the card
> over my shoulder and proclaimed we would dance something everyone  
> knew and
> without further ado started the music and proceeded without a walk- 
> thru.  I
> called the same dance that I discarded and it worked absolute.  It  
> could be
> the music or it could be psychological.
>
> When one or more lines break down during a dance, find a place they  
> can
> locate.. lines or partner or neighbor swing on the side and keep  
> them there
> until the call comes back around.. and now..
>
> Never and I have seen it tried, run a line independently from the hall
> trying to play catch-up with the hall.  It further confuses everyone.
>
> Don Primrose
> Nelson, NH
>
> On Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 3:35 PM, Mortland, Jo <j-mortland at neiu.edu>  
> wrote:
>
>>
>>
>> I'd love to hear from some of you, about how (and when?) to fix  
>> contra
>> lines that have broken down.  What are your favorite strategies?
>>
>> If one line has broken down, it's easy to stop the music, do one more
>> walk through, and start up again.  Even with two lines this can work
>> pretty well.  And you don't even have to stop the music - I've seen
>> callers get everyone organized and improper again (or whatever
>> formation), while the music is still going.
>>
>> What if there are three or more lines and one doesn't work?
>>
>> Do you ever go to a different dance?  Do you keep trying with the
>> current one?
>>
>> Thanks very much.
>>
>> Jo Mortland
>> Chicago
>>
>>
>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> Callers mailing list
>> Callers at sharedweight.net
>> http://www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers
>>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 3
> Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2010 13:06:38 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing
> 	<winston at slac.stanford.edu>
> To: "Mortland, Jo" <j-mortland at neiu.edu>
> Cc: Caller's discussion list <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Putting Out Fires
> Message-ID: <01NLV6U4LBS4A4ZO9O at SSRL.SLAC.STANFORD.EDU>
> Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; CHARSET=us-ascii
>
> Jo wrote:
>
>> I'd love to hear from some of you, about how (and when?) to fix  
>> contra
>> lines that have broken down.  What are your favorite strategies?
>
>> If one line has broken down, it's easy to stop the music, do one more
>> walk through, and start up again.  Even with two lines this can work
>> pretty well.  And you don't even have to stop the music - I've seen
>> callers get everyone organized and improper again (or whatever
>> formation), while the music is still going.
>
>> What if there are three or more lines and one doesn't work?
>
>> Do you ever go to a different dance?  Do you keep trying with the
>> current one?
>
>
> It depends.
>
> Has the dance run long enough that you can just call it done and  
> move on to the
> next thing?  If so, good, do that.  Sometimes dancers zoning out  
> and screwing
> up is a sign the dance has run long enough already.
>
> Why did it break down?  Is it because two couples who didn't really  
> get it were
> brought together by progression and are now scrambled (in which  
> case you just
> need to get them moved on to the next couples who do get it - which  
> you
> probably want to do from the floor rather than over the mic,  
> because it
> confuses everybody else, and also because they may not be able to  
> process your
> verbal input) or because the floor really doesn't have it?  If it's  
> the whole
> room, you need to assess what the problem is - is there some tricky  
> bit that
> isn't happening; did you call the dance wrong? - then another  
> walkthrough may
> do the trick.  If you've gotten the wrong sequence into their  
> bones, then drop
> it and move on.
>
> If you do do another walkthrough, it's a good time to emphasize the  
> simple
> recovery procedure of progressing one place and waiting for the  
> music to come
> around again (unless, of course, it's one of those action-outside- 
> the-set
> dances, which may be more complicated).
>
> Sometimes the first time through is really rocky, but by the second  
> time
> through the floor has it - you don't win anything by stopping and  
> doing another
> whole walkthrough in those cases.
>
>
> Alan Winston
> SF Bay Area
>
> -- 
> ====================================================================== 
> =========
>  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: 4
> Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2010 18:18:19 -0700
> From: Greg McKenzie <gregmck at earthlink.net>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Putting Out Fires
> Message-ID: <E1O1Ulo-0001E5-FG at elasmtp-masked.atl.sa.earthlink.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed
>
>
> There are never fires in the hall--only in your own mind.  If there
> is trouble anywhere in the hall it is because you have screwed
> up...somewhere.  Whether it be programming, teaching, or calling the
> fault is your own.  The caller should take full responsibility for  
> the gaff.
>
> I point this out because the question assumes that there is trouble
> in one of the lines.  This assumption will not help and will only
> lead to even more trouble.
>
> When I see confused dancers anywhere in the hall the best tactic I
> have ever used, or seen used, is to begin calling clearly, precisely,
> and with enthusiasm to the entire hall.  Call in perfect time with
> the music, enunciate clearly, and use effective word order.  I try to
> avoid even looking in the direction of the confused dancers.  It is
> better to look at dancers who are dancing well and use your
> peripheral vision to monitor the rest of the hall.  (If you are lucky
> the confused dancers will assume that others in the hall are also
> confused and this will help to put them at ease.)
>
> Never direct any instruction or call to a specific group or
> area.  Any emphasis or punctuation should be directed to the entire
> hall.  This will avoid confusion and make you look more
> professional.  If more than a few dancers are confused it is
> sometimes possible to hold the entire hall at the starting position
> and start them dancing again when the music comes around.
>
> If this does not work, end the dance and apologize.  This will give
> the impression that you know what went wrong and encourage
> confidence.  Don't use too many words.  (Please don't explain!)  You
> might also compliment all of the dancers for adapting well in spite
> of your gaff.  Give clear instructions, (such as whether to keep the
> same partner, to form new sets, or to go back to your starting  
> position.)
>
> This is the way I prefer callers behave when they screw up.
>
> Just a thought,
> Greg McKenzie
>
> ************
>
> Jo wrote:
>> I'd love to hear from some of you, about how (and when?) to fix  
>> contra
>> lines that have broken down.  What are your favorite strategies?
>>
>> If one line has broken down, it's easy to stop the music, do one more
>> walk through, and start up again.  Even with two lines this can work
>> pretty well.  And you don't even have to stop the music - I've seen
>> callers get everyone organized and improper again (or whatever
>> formation), while the music is still going.
>>
>> What if there are three or more lines and one doesn't work?
>>
>> Do you ever go to a different dance?  Do you keep trying with the
>> current one?
>>
>> Thanks very much.
>>
>> Jo Mortland
>> Chicago
>>
>>
>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> Callers mailing list
>> Callers at sharedweight.net
>> http://www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 5
> Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2010 22:13:52 -0400
> From: "Katy Heine" <kheine at twcny.rr.com>
> To: "'Caller's discussion list'" <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Putting Out Fires
> Message-ID: <C06AEBE06FD2469791979D618B3056C4 at stewart>
> Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="us-ascii"
>
> Hear, hear! This puts me in mind of my first callers' workshop more  
> than 20
> years ago at Ashokan, when Steve Zakon-Anderson said something  
> like, "If
> something goes wrong, it's not the dancers' fault, and it's not the
> musicians' fault; it's your fault." His point was that we're there  
> to ensure
> that everyone has the best time possible, given the skill and  
> ability of
> those present. It's our job to program and teach appropriately for the
> circumstances, and if a dance fails, it's because we've failed to  
> do our job
> well.
>
> I was impressed with the humility expressed in this idea, and all  
> these
> years later I'm still guided by it as I'm navigating through an  
> evening.
> We're not hired to dazzle the hottest dancers with the complexity  
> of our
> choreography; we're there to make sure that the dancers succeed,  
> that we
> build community, and that everyone leaves smiling.
>
> --Katy Heine
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: callers-bounces at sharedweight.net
> [mailto:callers-bounces at sharedweight.net] On Behalf Of Greg McKenzie
> Sent: Monday, April 12, 2010 9:18 PM
> To: Caller's discussion list
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Putting Out Fires
>
>
> There are never fires in the hall--only in your own mind.  If there
> is trouble anywhere in the hall it is because you have screwed
> up...somewhere.  Whether it be programming, teaching, or calling the
> fault is your own.  The caller should take full responsibility for  
> the gaff.
>
> I point this out because the question assumes that there is trouble
> in one of the lines.  This assumption will not help and will only
> lead to even more trouble.
>
> When I see confused dancers anywhere in the hall the best tactic I
> have ever used, or seen used, is to begin calling clearly, precisely,
> and with enthusiasm to the entire hall.  Call in perfect time with
> the music, enunciate clearly, and use effective word order.  I try to
> avoid even looking in the direction of the confused dancers.  It is
> better to look at dancers who are dancing well and use your
> peripheral vision to monitor the rest of the hall.  (If you are lucky
> the confused dancers will assume that others in the hall are also
> confused and this will help to put them at ease.)
>
> Never direct any instruction or call to a specific group or
> area.  Any emphasis or punctuation should be directed to the entire
> hall.  This will avoid confusion and make you look more
> professional.  If more than a few dancers are confused it is
> sometimes possible to hold the entire hall at the starting position
> and start them dancing again when the music comes around.
>
> If this does not work, end the dance and apologize.  This will give
> the impression that you know what went wrong and encourage
> confidence.  Don't use too many words.  (Please don't explain!)  You
> might also compliment all of the dancers for adapting well in spite
> of your gaff.  Give clear instructions, (such as whether to keep the
> same partner, to form new sets, or to go back to your starting  
> position.)
>
> This is the way I prefer callers behave when they screw up.
>
> Just a thought,
> Greg McKenzie
>
> ************
>
> Jo wrote:
>> I'd love to hear from some of you, about how (and when?) to fix  
>> contra
>> lines that have broken down.  What are your favorite strategies?
>>
>> If one line has broken down, it's easy to stop the music, do one more
>> walk through, and start up again.  Even with two lines this can work
>> pretty well.  And you don't even have to stop the music - I've seen
>> callers get everyone organized and improper again (or whatever
>> formation), while the music is still going.
>>
>> What if there are three or more lines and one doesn't work?
>>
>> Do you ever go to a different dance?  Do you keep trying with the
>> current one?
>>
>> Thanks very much.
>>
>> Jo Mortland
>> Chicago
>>
>>
>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> Callers mailing list
>> Callers at sharedweight.net
>> http://www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers
>
> _______________________________________________
> Callers mailing list
> Callers at sharedweight.net
> http://www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 6
> Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2010 08:09:08 -0600
> From: Lewis Land <lewisland at windstream.net>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Putting Out Fires
> Message-ID: <4BC47B04.4090808 at windstream.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
>
> When I'm doing the newcomers instruction, or instruction at the first
> dance of the evening, and it's obvious that there are more than the
> usual number of novice dancers in the crowd, I'll tell them this:  You
> know how, when you're doing couples dancing, like a waltz or swing,  
> and
> something goes wrong or your timing is off, it's always the guy's  
> fault?
> Even when it's not really the guy's fault, it's still his fault. Well,
> contra is community dancing, so when something goes wrong it's always
> the /caller's/ fault. Even when it's not my fault, it's still "my
> fault". This usually gets a laugh and makes the newcomers a little  
> less
> self-conscious about making mistakes.
>
> On those rare occasions when things get so out of hand that I have to
> stop the music and start over, I apologize to the dancers for having
> chosen a dance that didn't work for them, and pull out a back-up dance
> that I've called successfully many times before. A few weeks ago I  
> tried
> calling, for the first time, a double-progression becket with  
> petronella
> twirls, and one of the lines totally fell apart. Fortunately I had
> another dance in reserve, also a becket with petronella twirls,  
> that I'd
> called many times to this group, and it worked fine. Because I often
> have lots of inexperienced dancers to contend with, I always hold a  
> few
> simple backup dances in my pocket. I like to challenge myself by  
> calling
> new and interesting dances, but I find that it's most satisfying when
> all the dancers are having a great time and are genuinely engaged  
> in the
> dance, even if all you're calling are dances like Broken Sixpence.
> -Lewis Land
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 7
> Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2010 09:57:20 -0500
> From: "Mortland, Jo" <j-mortland at neiu.edu>
> To: "Caller's discussion list" <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Putting Out Fires
> Message-ID:
> 	<9B0B0B8FF2328E48930D4B6273C1B261132CF66C at EXNODE2.univ.neiu.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="us-ascii"
>
>
>
> The reason I asked this question is that one of our newer callers, who
> is quite competent now, asked me what else she could do to get better.
> She wanted to know if there was something she could "work on".  She is
> already doing so well, I couldn't think of much else to offer.
>
> That is what prompted my question, and thank you to all who have
> responded!
>
> Jo Mortland
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> _______________________________________________
> Callers mailing list
> Callers at sharedweight.net
> http://www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers
>
>
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