[Callers] Calling medleys for the first time

Martha Edwards meedwards at westendweb.com
Sun Jan 30 11:09:36 PST 2011

I don't want to say "It's simple," but I'm going to have to. The grownups
(aka Dance Leaders - board members, callers, major dance gypsies, thoughtful
members of the community) have to start, by gentle precept and strong
example, teaching the rest of the crowd how to behave.

Here, we talk about it. Not a whole lot, but whenever there's a chance - we
bring things up. Got Center Set Syndrome?  Ask the Cool Kids to start
dancing all over the floor. Someone complains about the new dancers?
Someone else pipes up and says "Oh, I remember what it was like. I always
dance with new people at the beginning of every dance - you find some real
gems that way, and it's always a fun challenge." After a while you just
develop a culture of inclusiveness.

It wasn't always like that here. St Louis used to have a very bad reputation
for snobbery - some people still won't come to our dance weekend because of
it, even though it changed over ten years ago. We had to make an effort -
and we have to keep making the effort. Even with an established culture of
kindness, new people come in, and it takes a while for them to adjust - to
believe that they will be accepted, and that we expect them to treat others
well, too.

I don't believe that we humans exhibit community and civility by nature - it
seems to be a learned thing.

Left to our own devices, we get all clicquey and snobby - or turn into

It can't be just the callers who turn a community around, even though we do
have a major Bully Pulpit. A kind and inclusive word dropped here and there
from the stage can work wonders in reminding people why we chose contra
dance over all those other dance forms. But we can't get all moralistic on
stage without risking losing what influence we have.

My suggestion to us as callers? Start talking to the Leadership. If they
don't get it, use thoughtful discussion to try to get them to see the
advantages. We can also lead by example, dance with everyone ourselves. What
we do, others will too.


On Sun, Jan 30, 2011 at 11:52 AM, Greg McKenzie <grekenzie at gmail.com> wrote:

> Bob Green wrote:
>> In some communities, a different approach is taken - to help avoid
>> breakdowns while switching dances on the fly, trying to see that less
>> experienced/skilled dancers have a partner the can give them a little help
>> along on the way. I favor this approach as I believe it tends to make the
>> overall dance experience better.
> I would be very interested in any techniques or strategies you, as the
> caller, would use to achieve this behavior:  "...trying to see that less
> experienced/skilled dancers have a partner the can give them a little help
> along on the way."  I am particularly interested in what callers do to
> encourage more generous partnering behaviors in a medley.  How do you
> achieve that "We're all in this together," sentiment that Larry Jennings
> speaks of?
> - Greg
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For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance. ~ William Butler Yeats

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