[Callers] The Beginners' Lesson Tips?

Donald Primrose limerickfarm at gmail.com
Sat Oct 8 10:22:17 PDT 2011


"The tactic of "springing" a mixer on the dancers "

We dance every Monday night in Nelson and the regulars understand that
a circle dance is the "norm" during the sumer season.  Not only do we
regularly have a third of the hall "new dancers".. we have had up to
14 different countries and several different languages represented (a
crazy night) on the floor at one time.  The common denominator making
it all work, being the shared love of the music/dance and the
community.

I believe the new dancers learn at an accelerated rate in Nelson.. for
the fifth or sixth dance of the night is always Chorus Jig.  One heck
of a learning curve.

No tricks, no "springing" anything on anyone, we dance.  Whatever it
is .. it works.

-Don Primrose

On 10/8/11, Greg McKenzie <grekenzie at gmail.com> wrote:
> David wrote:
>
>> 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.
>>
>
> Thank you David for stating this idea so clearly.  You are, once again,
> treading very close to the real question: What is a dance caller and what do
> they do?
>
> My negative comments about mixers were directed only at their use as a ploy
> for integrating the hall.  I am not adverse to mixers in general.  The key
> concept is keeping the dancers informed about what is coming so that they
> *can
> *act responsibly and prepare in advance.  It is the tactic of "springing" a
> mixer on dancers unannounced that dis-empowers them.
>
> If I were opposed to "social engineering" I would never advocate that anyone
> become a dance caller.  I know of no other human endeavor that better
> qualifies as "social engineering" than dance calling--and contra dance
> calling in particular.  Social engineering is at the heart of what a contra
> dance caller does.  I think we should strive to improve our social
> engineering and I would like to see callers focus more on their role as
> social engineers.  The tactic of "springing" a mixer on the dancers is,
> simply, *poor *social engineering because it discourages dancers from being
> proactive in partnering with newcomers.
>
> I am enjoying this discussion and I would be interested in what other
> callers on this list think of being called "social engineers."
>
> - Greg McKenzie
>
>
>
>
>
> 2011/10/8 David Millstone <David.Millstone at valley.net>
>
>> 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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