[Callers] Social engineering

David Millstone David.Millstone at valley.net
Sat Oct 8 14:36:16 PDT 2011

A brief response to Greg, and then I'm turning my attention elsewhere... lots  
of other things to do!

>  Social engineering is at the heart of what a contra dance caller does.

At the heart? C'mon, Greg. Really? Choosing an appropriate selection and logical  
sequence of dances? Is that social engineering? Teaching clearly, with enthusiasm  
and warmth? Working with the musicians?

Using your terms, I'd encourage you to reconsider the frame in which you're viewing  
an evening of dance. If indeed you see yourself as a social engineer, that can  
lead to some poor decisions, IMHO. I think of the dance as a party, with the caller  
in charge because that's the way everyone agrees things will work well.

Bruce Hamilton says it best. Here's an excerpt from his booklet, "Notes on Teaching  
Country Dance" published by CDSS and available from that organization. Highly  

David Millstone
Lebanon, NH

Country dancing needs a single individual making dozens of decisions every minute--Which  
dance do we do next? Which version? Does it need another walkthrough? Are all  
the sets long enough? Is that tempo too slow? etc. It's usually not as important  
which answer gets chosen as that some answer is chosen. Otherwise things stall,  
and people don't get to dance.

It is crucial to understand this: people accede to your authority be cause that's  
the shortest way for them to get to dance. Generally speak ing, they do what you  
say, not out of respect for your experience, because they think you know more  
than they do, because you have a big voice, because it's a habit they picked up  
in school, or anything like that. They do what you say out of enlightened self-interest.

Every one of those decisions mentioned above could be made democratically, but  
then we'd do less dancing. For every decision made there is some dancer who wanted  
a different choice; but if she speaks out to dissuade you, someone else will speak  
up for a different choice, and while we get that resolved we're not dancing.

So this is a textbook example of government by the consent of the governed.

More information about the Callers mailing list