[Callers] Not always the caller's fault!

Chris Weiler (home) chris.weiler at weirdtable.org
Wed Apr 14 03:31:29 PDT 2010

I think there needs to be a distinction between what is really happening 
in the hall and the stance that we take from the microphone. There are 
hundreds of variables that are all outside of our control at a dance. We 
pretend to have control, but all we can do is influence. It is our 
responsibility to use that influence to try and help everyone have a lot 
of fun. But you're not going to be able to stop some problems from 

That said, there is a lot of power in taking responsibility from the 
microphone for problems, even when it's not your fault. Some have been 
listed here already. It puts people at ease. They can relax and enjoy 
the next dance without being overly focused on what went wrong. It 
reinforces your authority when lines falling apart are creating a 
feeling of chaos. And sometimes, it really is your fault. ;)

I had this happen at a recent dance. I called a very simple dance, but 
it is constructed symmetrically, so sometimes it can be difficult to 
know if you're in the As or the Bs. The second time through the dance, I 
called "neighbor" instead of "partner" and half the hall believed me and 
the other half didn't. Everyone was in a different place very quickly. 
After seeing that I couldn't get everyone back to the same place to 
recover after a couple of attempts, I stopped the music and immediately 
announced "Sorry, folks, my fault completely. Let's try this again." The 
crowd erupted in applause! They lined up and we started again without 
any further trouble. People respond to humility and to people who take 
responsibility for their actions. It humanizes you in their eyes and 
they'll cut you a lot of slack for it.

Chris Weiler
Goffstown, NH

J L Korr wrote:
> Sorry, folks, but this conversation is pushing a personal button about not using words like "always" and "never" unless it's truly so. I completely agree with Greg, Martha, and others that in general, the caller does and should bear responsibility for problems on the dance floor. But I can't agree that this is always the case. Consider these two scenarios, among others:
> 1) In a large dance hall at a festival with 500 dancers, one of ten contra lines begins to break down when pairs of less experienced dancers happen to meet simultaneously in three different minor sets and become confused. The rest of the hall is fine. The caller can't intervene personally by, for example, running out on the floor.
> 2) During the 12:15 am - 2:00 am set at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, again with hundreds of dancers, the caller calls a relatively easy dance requiring little thought. Some dancers, who are in a range of mental states from alcohol, etc., have trouble staying oriented and coordinated, causing recurring problems in their sets.
> I'd argue that in these contexts, though the dance floor itself is experiencing a breakdown, the caller hasn't done anything wrong, nor does s/he have the responsibility of fixing the problem. In the first scenario, the caller must select dances for and call to the broadest possible swath of dancers among those present, recognizing that some minor problems are inevitable. In the second scenario, the inebriated dancers are entitled to participate in the dance at that venue, and there's little the caller can do to improve their mental coordination.
> So I'd say the caller almost always has responsibility for problems that occur in the hall, but in certain scenarios does not, or at least has limited responsibility relative to most situations. --Jeremy
>> From: Martha Wild <mawild at sbcglobal.net>
>> Oh, yes, and it's always the caller's responsibility. 
>>> From: Greg McKenzie <gregmck at earthlink.net>
>>> 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. <snip>  The caller should take full responsibility for  
>>> the gaff.
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