[Callers] What makes a caller a great caller?

Keith Tuxhorn keithlmt at gmail.com
Mon Apr 11 22:56:54 PDT 2011

Cooperation. Creativity. Clarity.

-Barb's right, the band will be the arbiter of how well the dance turns out.
Grant's replly might be flippant, but it's largely true. But the question is
what makes the caller great...

-Talking to the band ahead of time. I've worked with bands that want my
program 10 days before the show so they can work through tunes. But at least
have a pre-show discussion about your needs and  your program, and needs
from their end. Also, talk to the dance organizers early about their group,
needs, quirks, dance hall, etc. You're working for them.

-Creativity includes the idea of improvisation. Make a good program. Don't
make a program that only has the moves you like. Mix it up with different
stuff. You're there to serve the dancers, not the other way around. Give
them an evening filled with nice little surprises. And have your
planned/hoped-for program ready, as well as at least a half- program of
easier dances and 3-4 additional harder dances than what your program

-I've learned a lot about calling from Joseph Pimentel, and perhaps his best
message is to teach using as few syllables as you possibly can. To do that,
you have to practice calling, and choosing just the right words to use, and
the most effective order to say them in. Less words from the caller forces
dancers to pay better attention.

-Mac is right with the latter part of his criteria... A good caller is "into
it"--following and enjoying the band, watching the dancers and enjoying
their fun (while still calling when needed!), and staying in the moment
yourself and enjoying everything around you. If the crowd can see you with
them in their enjoyment, it adds a level of fun for everyone... Jokes are
not a requirement, sincere happiness is.

-Greg is right, some criteria are level-dependent. I'd judge someone calling
a ONS more on how accessibly they design their program, in order to keep
everyone dancing.... At a dance weekend I'm watching for a better variety of

Re: your question on hiring. I'm currently a booker here in central TX. Even
with a fairly active dance scene in the four big TX towns, our dance
planning for dances on every-other-weekend fall all too often to "are you
available on this date?" I do an initial screening by not sending invites to
people I know are not impressive to Austin dancers, or to callers who don't
meet a certain level of quality. That level is determined, by, me, using the
criteria I talk about above.... We don't have nearly the number of callers
(or bands) that you find on the coasts, so our options are somewhat limited.

Keith Tuxhorn

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