[Callers] The Beginners' Lesson Tips?

Martha Edwards meedwards at westendweb.com
Mon Oct 3 20:55:31 PDT 2011

Here's a funny little oddity concerning the care and keeping of new dancers:

Although we've done a good job here of developing a fairly large group of
accomplished dancers who like to make sure newcomers have good partners, our
efforts occasionally backfire. One of our callers believes that newcomers
always insist on dancing together, and therefore calls dances early in the
evening that have lots of neighbor, and not much partner, interaction.

So there you are, having asked a newcomer to dance, and you watch somewhat
helplessly as they dance with other newcomers while you dance with their
experienced partner!

And no, asking for a change in this plan has not worked...


On Mon, Oct 3, 2011 at 7:20 PM, Greg McKenzie <grekenzie at gmail.com> wrote:

> Donald wrote:
>  I particularly like mixing everyone together at the start of the
> > night.. I also ask that at the end of the mixer.. you ask whomever you
> > ended with to dance the next dance.  Thus new dancers and experienced
> > learn from each other.
> >
> Well,...actually, only some of them do.  Mathematical chance pairings like
> this can easily put some first-timers together as partners.
> The basic idea of integrating the hall at the very start is a great one.  I
> see integrating the hall as one of the central tasks of a contra dance
> caller.  But how can you best assure that *all *of the first-timers are
> matched with regulars?
> The fact is that the regulars are the ones who can identify the newcomers
> and partner with them.  Any kind of random pairing or other forced mixing
> will come across as manipulative and will disempower the regulars who--I
> have found--are more than willing to actively seek out newcomers.  The
> trick
> is to make sure that dancing with first-timers is fun!
> The best callers assume the support of all the regulars in the process of
> integrating the hall.  If you want *all *of the newcomers matched up with
> regulars it has to be a voluntary process that empowers the regulars to
> take
> an active role in the integration.  Then the process is done with
> intelligence and goodwill.
> This is one reason I seldom call mixers.  I put my confidence in the
> regulars to pro-actively seek out newcomers and partner with them.  This is
> much more effective than any random mixing strategy.
> - Greg McKenzie
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As you set out for Ithaka, pray that your journey be long, full of
adventure, full of discovery...
May there be many summer mornings when, with what pleasure, with what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time.
~Constantine Cavafy, "Ithaka" 1911

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