[Callers] The Beginners' Lesson Tips?

Keith Tuxhorn keithlmt at gmail.com
Mon Oct 3 22:44:35 PDT 2011

I'd disagree with Richard re: dropping teaching the swing. For most modern
contra dancers, that's one of the 2-3 most important things about why people
do these dances, at least in the Midwest. With every dance having at least
one swing, the instructor should get them prepared.

And I'd rather that a teacher show them how to swing than the "experienced"
dancers within the dance. First, "experienced" does not equal "good" in
contra dancing, as you many know. here in my town there's a large percentage
of experienced dancers that I would never want to have teach newbies,
because they have yet to learn how to swing properly. A teacher can show
proper position and motions, as well as warn people about etiquette
regarding swings.

Also, teaching swings is a chance to teach about giving weight, positioning,
and "where you go from here".

Out community has, coincidentally, debated issues re" beginner sessions
recently. One issue is length of the lesson. One dancer likes to emphasize
that George Marshall's beginner session runs about 10 minutes, tops. and
George teaches weight, swings, how a musical line sounds, and that's it.
Other thought longer lengths would be better... After calling 5 years, I've
found that 15 minutes gives me enough to get people ready. I teach in a
circle, and steal most of my session approach from Seth Tepfer. Walk to the
8-count; allemandes, dosodo, swings; show how to give weight; string the
moves together and call a "dance", and congratulate them for doing a dance

Think about what's going through a newbie's mind when they walk into a hall.
Think how much new stuff they're processing from that first moment through
the night. You don't want to try to teach twelve things in a half-hour,
because no newbie will retain it all, it's time and energy wasted. Get them
to the dancing, because getting them out of their head sooner rather than
later will serve them and you better.

Good luck, Davey, and have a great time (and THAT'S the most important

Keith Tuxhorn
Austin, TX

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