[Callers] The Beginners' Lesson Tips?

Richard Hart rich at harts.mv.com
Sat Oct 8 07:34:35 PDT 2011

In addition to David's dances to the north, mixers, especially circle mixers are often used elsewhere in New Hampshire. This is certainly true. In Nelson where we always have lots of new dancers in the hall, especially in the summer time - many high school students who don't have homework to do, and young people at one or more local summer camps.

The is a circle mixer, as soon as the room fills with a lot of new people - often even 2 or 3 concentric circles. These mixers do help to get the new dancers to dance with experienced dancers, and they also allow the caller to speak to everyone from the middle of the circle(s), an to demonstrate tricky moves. To an absolute beginner everything and anything can be a mystery. (Lost and found is always in the middle..) And as David said happens in Europe at the end of the mixer, the caller, usually Don Primrose,  asks dancers to form lines with that last partner. Sometimes, if I finish the circle mixer with an experienced dancer who I know, we may split up to dance with someone who is still standing along the wall, to try to include everyone.

And it certainly has worked in Nelson. Many , many, of these young people who first learned to dance in Nelson in the summertime, return and have become very good dancers. They bring friends, and help to teach them what they like and know about the dances.

And similar mixers can usually be expected in most other New Hampshire dances, whether in Peterborough, Dover, Milford, Concord or elsewhere. It's a change of pace, and a way to say hello to some of the other dancers.

And I should also add that at the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend (at the University of New Hampshire on the Martin Luther King weekend in January), we will feature a retrospective of the Nelson dances over the past 50+ years. We will only go back that long because that's about how far back the memories of current dancers and musicians go back - and because we only have 2 hours for the retrospective on Saturday afternoon. I hope we will be able to show how the Nelson dances have changed over the past decades (not many changes, but just enough..), and to keep people coming back, especially the younger dancers who will keep it going for the next half century.

Rich Hart.

David Millstone remarked on 10/8/2011 9:10 AM:
> 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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