[Callers] Telling couples to switch at the end of a contra set

Greg McKenzie gregmck at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 1 17:53:04 PST 2010


This is a great question that is more profound than it looks.  I 
think you are spot on in your assessment that this reminder is not 
necessary.  In fact I would submit that reminding dancers of this is 
counter-productive for two reasons:

First:  The reminder to cross over at the ends of the set can cause 
consternation among newcomers who must now remember another "rule" 
that might trip them up.  This communicates, by implication, that the 
dancing will be more difficult than it actually is.

Second:  The reminder is, in fact, absolutely unnecessary unless the 
caller assumes that at least some of the newcomers will be paired up 
with other newcomers.  This is an important point.  When the caller 
gives this instruction it is implied that the caller expects some 
newcomers to dance with each other.  Thus the caller is giving 
implied permission for the regulars to leave the newcomers to fend 
for themselves.  Consider the alternative: If the caller never gives 
this instruction it is implied that she expects ALL newcomers to be 
paired up with more experienced dancers.

Thus by leaving this instruction out the caller is inviting the 
regulars to take a proactive and essential role in partnering with 
newcomers.  The same can be said for many other instructions, such as 
what to do if a couple leaves the set, or how to line up into contra 
lines.  Why not assume the support of all of the regulars and 
actually give them an important role to play in partnering with 
newcomers?  There is no need to state this explicitly.  The regulars 
will note the lack of this information, see that they have a role to 
play, and will welcome the chance to guide newcomers.  It is much 
more fun to dance with newcomers if you can "show them the 
routine."  Leaving out this information actually makes it more fun to 
dance with newcomers.

What you do NOT say communicates important information, and is often 
a better way to make the point.  If you want newcomers to be welcomed 
and embraced by the regulars then leave this kind of task to them and 
thus give the regulars a vital role to play.  This is much more fun 
for the regulars than just standing still while listening to the 
caller explain something that they could show the newcomer in a 
fraction of the time.  I have been calling this way for years.  I 
have never had a problem with newcomers missing the information, and 
I am convinced that it subtly encourages the integration of newcomers.

Just a thought,



At 04:37 PM 12/1/2010, you 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?
>Mark Widmer / central NJ
>Callers mailing list
>Callers at sharedweight.net

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