[Callers] "Hands Four From the Top" Instruction

Greg McKenzie gregmck at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 1 18:14:21 PST 2010

Contrary to the action of switching at the ends of the set, this 
instruction is a part of set management.  In fact it also helps to 
manage the focus of the dancers.

I always give out set formation instructions.  In addition to forming 
the sets properly these instructions give important cues to the 
dancers to help them gracefully transition from conversations in the 
set into listing to instructions during the walk-through.  Ending a 
conversation politely and graciously takes time.  The instruction of 
"Please take hands in groups of four from the top," gives the dancers 
a cue that the caller will soon be moving into the walk-through phase 
of the slot.  I try to allow about 20 seconds or so for the hands 
four to propagate to the bottom of the line.  Then I say "Number ones 
please cross over," if appropriate.  I say this even if ALL of the 
dancers have crossed over already.  This command tells the dancers 
that the walk-through instructions will begin very shortly and that 
they must quickly finish their story or anecdote and begin listening.

These cues, given clearly and not too loudly, will set a tone of 
politeness and consideration.  I much prefer this to callers who use 
the volume of the PA system to interrupt conversations on the 
floor.  People will quickly learn the "drill" and will respond by 
helping the caller to make a smooth transition.  This approach also 
lowers the volume level in the room and builds a cooperative 
relationship with the caller.

Another thought,



At 04:55 PM 12/1/2010, Richard wrote:
>And a related question: when will callers stop saying "Hands four 
>from the top, number ones cross over"--in acknowledgement that 
>improper formation is the default for modern contras?  I'm curious 
>how many callers have already stopped saying that. Or to put the 
>question another way, in how many dance communities do dancers line 
>up inproper and not expect a reminder to "cross over" and be in 
>improper formation?
>On Dec 1, 2010, at 7:37 PM, Mark Widmer wrote:
> > Hey, I was wondering what other callers thought about the 
> following: often, during the walkthrough of the 1st contra dance of 
> the evening, the caller explains that dancers should trade places 
> with their partner whenever they reach the end of the set
> >
> > However, I never do this, and have never had a problem as a 
> result -- the experienced dancers in the set, apparently, are able 
> to get the new dancers to do this, and nobody has ever complained 
> to me that I didn't instruct dancers to switch
> >
> > I have wondered what others thought about this -- my own thinking 
> is why take time to explain something when it isn't necessary?
> >
> > Regards,
> >
> > Mark Widmer / central NJ
> >
> >
> >
> >
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