[Callers] The Beginners' Lesson Tips?

David Millstone David.Millstone at VALLEY.NET
Sat Oct 8 06:10:27 PDT 2011

Greg wrote: "Mixers are often used to force integration of the dance hall."

I'm glad that he included the "often" qualifier, thereby leaving open the possibility  
that not every caller who chooses a mixer is condemned to the 9th circle of hell.

Following the lead of my mentor, Ted Sannella, I include a mixer at nearly all  
of my home dances, typically the third dance of the evening. That was Ted's custom,  
and Tony Parkes, another great caller, once explained that the third dance is  
late enough to catch the late arrivals but early enough to help set the stage  
for the evening.

I love mixers, as a dancer. It's an opportunity to see who's in the hall. It's  
a chance to dance, briefly, with folks I don't know. Oh, here's a face I don't  
recognize, but based on her swing, it's clear that she's a dancer who's been on  
the floor for some time... Aha, this is someone brand new, good smile but unsteady  
on her feet, good person to ask for a dance... yippee! she's here tonight! gotta  
make sure to get her for a partner if there's a square caller since I remember  
that she loves squares... and so on.

And as a caller, I love calling them, to provide all of those opportunities, and  
for other reasons. I don't run most mixers for very long, perhaps 8-10 times,  
depending on the dance. That means that I'm adding one more dance into the mix,  
inthe course of which everyone is getting that many opportunities to dance with  
a different partner. Mixers also come in many shapes: big circle, Sicilian circle,  
scatter promenades, three person lines, and so on. That also allows me to vary  
the look and feel of the floor so that it's not all contra contra contra, and  
since the dance floor is part of life, I do believe that variety adds spice.

David Millstone
Lebanon, NH

P.S. An interesting cultural sidenote: Greg's negative feelings about mixers are  
based on them being used as a form of social engineering, to get folks to partner  
up with people with whom they wouldn't normally. I've had the opportunity to call  
often in Denmark and in the Czech Republic, and there you can end a mixer and  
ask people to take that partner to line up for the next dance and that's okay,  
an accepted part of what people will cheerfully do. In Prague, for example, they  
usually dance squares without break figures, in part to language issues-- a steady  
stream of unexpected calls in a foreign language can be daunting But they'll run  
a partner-changing square five or more times, and at the end they'll take that  
final partner for the next dance. It's simply not a big issue. They're there to  
have fun, and it's not as important as it seems to be with hard-core contra dancers  
in the US that they have The Right Partner for a swing. It's a refreshing laid-back  
alternative to what sometimes is an overly-intense partnered scene at our dances  
in the US.

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