[Callers] Calling without a band?

Chrissy Fowler ktaadn_me at hotmail.com
Sat Jul 31 05:29:34 PDT 2010

> To present a "barn dance" using recorded music sounds 
> pretty shabby. If we hold to our standards I think the dance form 
> will benefit from that.

Geez, Greg.  Shabby?  Sigh.
In my calling practice, I'm all about holding to my standards and I earnestly strive to support live musicians (and even the occasional dead one).  
I imagine that's the case for every single person on this list.
However, I am also concerned with giving non-dancers a joyful experience, and with earning a living.  If it's either a dance for them/gig for me with recorded music or no dance/gig at all, I choose the former, with absolutely no ethical pangs whatsoever.  It's not like it's murder or theft or assault or an ethical lapse of that magnitude.  But if some other caller would rather hold to different standards, well then, that's their choice.  (Again, it's not on the order of egregious ethical lapses if they choose to withhold a joyful dance experience from others.)
Now, as far as benefitting our dance form and simultaneously supporting dance musicians, well there are dozens more ways** to do that than giving a fiddler a single paid gig, including these: (**And no single person can do all of these things all the time.)
1 - Produce a dance series which (a) pays musicians and callers well, both in dollars and in positive feedback for their efforts (b) carries on our dance form, (c) provides an opportunity for non-professional performers to play/call, (d) contributes to general joy in world, e=etc
2 - Serve in an organization which (a) promotes our dance/music form, (b) provides opportunities for people to learn from one another, (c) sells recordings/books/supplies connected to our dance form, (d) produces events for experienced and neophtye dancers/callers/musicians, e=etc
3 - Promote our dance form through individual efforts such as (a) advocating for worthy compensation, financial & otherwise, for self and co-performers whenever possible, (b) purchase and use recordings by dance musicians and books by callers, (c) learning new aspects of the tradition, (d) supporting others who are doing this work, e=etc
Now, this last point leads to a recent personal mission of mine.  Lately it has been troubling me that many of us in our traditional dance/music subculture* choose to point fingers or name-call or criticize practices which aren't exactly like ours or otherwise belittle or tear down our peers.  (*Yes, folks, remember it is a SUBculture, as in a MINISCULE proportion of the larger whole.)
But, whether it's chestnuts/modern, squares/contras, old-time/northern, totally-trad/non-trad-envelope-pushers, young/old, fast/slow, straightforward/flourishes, catering-to-hard-core/focusing-on-neophytes, recordings/live music, kids/adults, no-swings/2-swings or whatever the supposed conflict or failing, every single flavor of these callers/musicians/dancers is ADDING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL TO THE WORLD, and that, my friends, is something I think ought to be honored and appreciated.
So what I've been doing (and, perhaps tiresomely, encouraging others of my caller/musician friends to do) is focusing on that thought in CAPS, especially when a caller or musician or dancer does something that annoys me, or isn't what I'd do, or has some sort of minor failing in my opinion, or is getting more attention than I think their work merits, etc.  So I'm working to quiet the outward expression of my critical thoughts, and simultaneously to look for and reinforce the positive instead.  
Because really, even an offering that I might rate with a B- or C+ or even D grade is disseminating traditional dance & music values in the larger culture, and every bit of disseminating can benefit all of us in the world.  
Well, that was a bit longer than I envisioned.  As David Millstone quoted, "If I'd had more time, I'd have written a shorter letter."
Maybe some other time I'll outline my "Dance as Social Change Agent" theory.  Or maybe not.
Chrissy Fowler
Belfast, ME
website  www.chrissyfowler.com
dance series  www.belfastflyingshoes.org 
telephone 207-338-0979 		 	   		  

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