[Callers] The Beginners' Lesson Tips?

barb kirchner barbkirchner at hotmail.com
Mon Oct 3 05:59:05 PDT 2011

it really depends on the dance.  most of the dances i've called lately  have been MUC (modern urban contra) dances.  these large and energetic dances expect most new dancers to come to class and have a general knowledge of what's going on by the time the dance starts.  that's what makes the dance fun for this particular group.  they welcome beginners, but are happiest when things are really rocking.
i also call a fair number of barn dances and wedding party type dances, as well as some smaller, but regular, contra dances.
for the first group, i work on the swing during the beginner class, because if i don't, a fair number of well-meaning guys (who have done as i suggested and asked newbies to dance) on the dance floor will spend the first walkthrough trying to teach their newbie partner how to swing.  then they may have a vague idea of a swing, but no clue how the dance goes.  
for the second group, circle mixers and other inventions that get everybody moving together are fabulous, and the details come later (if at all).
for either group, what seems to help newbies most is being able to figure out where to go.  that's good for experienced dancers sometinmes, too!  so i incorporate that into my calls and teaching.  for example, instead of saying gents allemande right 1 1/2 and swing your partner, i say gents allemande right until you see your partner, give her a swing.   for many, i think it's easier to think about who they're looking for, not how far is 1 1/2 or 3/4 or whatever.
in any case, the dance community seems to be growing in a lot of places - we must be doing something right. 
ps - davey - are you calling the ff dance?  i got an email (used to live there, still on the list :-)

> Date: Mon, 3 Oct 2011 08:35:00 -0400
> From: limerickfarm at gmail.com
> To: callers at sharedweight.net
> Subject: Re: [Callers] The Beginners' Lesson Tips?
> Not a fan of lessons prior to a dance (although the best pre-dance is
> done by Steve Zakon-Anderson). My first dance with a large crowd of
> beginners is a circle mixer. A great dance to use is "Cabot School
> Mixer" by Ted Sannella. It quickly.. and forgivingly introduces the
> new dancer to several calls as well as the importance of the music.
> 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. In a circle dance you can also have a lost and
> found (displaced dancers) in the center to get back into the dance.
> In the summer the Nelson dance will have thirty or more new dancers
> every week.. The circle works well.. and having a great local dance
> community willing to ask a new face to dance is a blessing.
> Don Primrose
> On 10/3/11, Richard Hart <richhart49 at gmail.com> wrote:
> > There are a lot of good suggestions for a beginner's workshop here, already,
> > but I'll add my 2 cents, anyway.
> >
> > When I do a beginners workshop before a dance, I like to focus on key
> > concepts and actions, rather than particular calls:
> >
> > 1. Line up and pay attention to the lines. If you are not in line with the
> > others, you may be in someone's way.
> > 2. Proper & improper formations.
> > 3. Progression: After each repetition of a dance, you dance with the next
> > couple..
> > 4. Lady on the right.
> > 5. Courtesy turns: they're part of a number of different calls.
> > 6. Giving weight with your arms and hands.
> > 7. The swing.
> > 8. Respect for other dancers (who may not move as quickly, or who may be
> > injured, or disabled in some way, or who may be a beginner who needs a bit
> > of direction)
> >
> > That's already a lot to cover. I'd leave out the swing, if there was not
> > enough time, especially if there will be a lot of experienced dancers at the
> > dance to do that. The calls can all be explained during the walk throughs,
> > reinforcing and using what was presented earlier during the beginners
> > workshop. One problem that all beginners experience is figuring our where
> > they should be and what direction they should face. I try to help them
> > figure that out both during the beginner workshop and also when doing the
> > walk through, and even when calling the dance.
> >
> > On Sun, Oct 2, 2011 at 3:16 PM, D Bar <davey.bar at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >> Howdy,
> >>
> >> I am going to be calling one of my first gigged contra dances in a week! I
> >> have a half-hour to introduce newbies on what's what in the dance prior
> >> and
> >> I am wondering what do other callers find has been the most effective use
> >> of
> >> that half hour?
> >>
> >> I imagine going over improper formation [ladies on the right etc.], and a
> >> few of the base moves are good. But I'd like to see if anyone else has
> >> some
> >> good hints I can work with!
> >>
> >> Thanks,
> >> Davey
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