[Callers] practice vs. preparation

Andy Shore square.a.shore at gmail.com
Tue May 29 11:05:31 PDT 2012

While sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting for my delayed flight home from the wonderful "Catapult! Showcase" contra weekend, I was musing on various observations and lessons learned watching, listening and dancing to the various callers and bands featured at the event.  In addition to being a contra caller for about 6 years, I've been a MWSD caller and teacher for 23 years and have done some caller coaching and mentoring and been on the staff of several MWSD caller schools. The caller coach part of me never really takes a break and I'm always looking for interesting ways to explain and impart the many skills and techniques that callers and teachers need to master.

On my flight I started listening to one of my favorite podcast series - The Tobolowsky Files - by actor Stephen Tobolowsky (here's his page on IMDB http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0864997/ - think Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day - bing!). He tells wonderful stories about his life.  I happened to listen to Episode 55 "The True Arena" where he talks about the difference between practice and preparation and the importance of each. He talked about them in the context of his former hobby of equestrian sports and dressage as well as in acting, but his observations apply to any performance activity.

We can all practice certain aspects of contra calling: learning a new dance, metering out words in different ways, trying dances with different kinds of tunes, etc. Preparation is something different and includes things like programming (what dances will I call, what alternates should I have ready?) What will the hall, band and acoustics be like? What will the "floor level" of the dancers be? Do I have any idiosyncrasies in my own style or choice of words that my local dancers are used to but might be issues with a more varied crowd? How did the previous caller fair and were there any pitfalls or problems in that session that I can learn from or avoid? What dances have been called thus-far and should I avoid ones that are too similar (e.g., there were LOTS of dances with "balance the ring, california twirl" progressions called this weekend.)   There's lots to add to this list.  Give the podcast a listen and tell me what you think!

Stephen makes the distinction at around the 8:20 mark and he puts it far better than I ever could.

You can find "The Tobolowsky Files" podcasts at

http://www.slashfilm.com/category/features/slashfilmcast/the-tobolowsky-files/   or
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-tobolowsky-files/id339001481    or

iTunes link for Ep #55 http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-tobolowsky-files/id339001481# 

Note also that Episode #10 starts with a wonderful old square dance recording.

Andy Shore
andyshore at gmail.com

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