[Callers] Calling medleys for the first time

Mark T. Widmer mark at harbormist.com
Wed Dec 29 15:28:28 PST 2010

I think Parker is planning to do a 1-caller medley, rather than a 
multi-caller NEFFA-style medley.  I do this at perhaps half the dances I 
call, so I can share what I know.

Guidelines for 1-caller medleys:

1. Calling 3 dances seems to work the best here, and doing 2 dances is 
okay too.

2. Choose straightforward dances.  You **might** walk through the first 
dance, but the rest will be no-walkthrough.  Save any tricky stuff for 
after you have mastered the basics of doing medleys, and only if you're 
sure the experience level of the dancers is appropriate.

3. Pay attention to how the dances flow when transitioning from one 
dance to another.  Just for example, **avoid** having a dance the ends 
with a star left followed by a dance that starts with a 

4.  Let the band know ahead of time that you plan to do a medley.  It 
would be great to show the band the dances several days in advance -- 
but usually I will mention to the band shortly before the start of the 
dance that I plan to call a 3-dance medley later on.  Perhaps at the 
break I'll offer to show them the medley dances, and then actually do 
the medley shortly before the end of the evening, often the 
second-to-last dance.  Since bands generally play 2 or 3-tune medleys 
anyway, it's not a great stretch for them to put something together.

5.  I usually clue the dancers in to the fact that we are doing a 
medley.  Between walking through the first dance and starting the dance, 
I might say "we'll dance [name of dance] by [author of dance], and other 
dances too, so be on your toes..."  When I switch dances, I might say 
"Listen up -- THIS TIME, do-si-do your neighbor".

6. Call each dance an **even** number of times, except that the final 
dance gets called an **odd** number of times.  This means that each new 
dance starts with no couple out at the top.  It's not the end of the 
world if you don't do it this way, but it's a bit of a letdown for a 
couple to come out at the top just as a new dance is starting.

7. (A consequence of #6...) Signalling the band for the tune switches 
may seem counterintuitive for the caller -- when you want to signal two 
more times through, at the start of B2, there should be a couple out at 
the top.  When you want to signal one more time through, there will not 
be a couple out at the top.  This is the opposite of how you are used to 
signalling the very end of a dance!  For the final dance in the medley, 
the usual rule applies:  signal 2 more times when nobody is out at the 
top, and 1 more time when 1 couple is out at the top.

8. How many dances? I find that 6, 6, & 5 or 6, 6, & 7 time through 
generally works for a 3-dance medley; probably 8&7 or 8&9 for 2 dances.  
Adjust those numbers if the lines are unusually short or long.

9.  Keeping count.  With my hand inconspicuously down at my side, I hold 
out 1 finger the first time through a dance, 2 fingers the 2nd time 
through, etc., to keep track.  When it's the 4th time through, I know to 
signal the band "2 more" at the start of the B2.  There should be a 
couple out at the top when I do this, and that is a little error-check I 
do on myself.

And finally, 10,  The surprise medley trick I learned from Beau Farmer:

Sometimes I regret choosing a certain dance after it has already started 
-- maybe I didn't notice before how similar it is to another recent 
dance in the program, or (as happened to me just last week) I 
inadvertently chose 2 consecutive dances without a neighbor swing.  If 
you can think of another dance that starts the same way (for example, a 
neighbor balance and swing), then just listen for when the band switches 
tunes.  When that happens, start calling the other dance.  It's a 
surprise medley!

Hope that helps,


>  Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2010 09:39:31 -0800
>  From: PARKER MANN<M_P_Mann at shaw.ca>
>  To: "Shared Weight, Callers"<callers at sharedweight.net>
>  Subject: [Callers] Calling medleys for the first time
>  Message-ID:<fb8eb41b6a27.4d19b053 at shaw.ca>
>  Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252

>  I
>   want to try calling a dance medley in our contra group in 2011. ?As
>  this will be new for me and all of our dancers I?m writing for advice.
>  ?Specifically:

>  What are some sets of dance that work well as medleys?

>  What coordination should you do with the band ahead of time?

>  What recommendations do you have for instructions during the walk through?

>  Anything else (other than screwing my courage to the sticking point?)

>  Thanks.

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