[Callers] Crowd noise during walk through

James Saxe jim.saxe at gmail.com
Thu Aug 15 23:43:51 PDT 2013


Jacqui,

I notice that in your original message about dealing with crowd
noise, you identify two somewhat separate, though related, issues:

(1)

> Can you give me some tips on how to balance socializing (i.e. how to  
> judge when to start)
> and

(2)

> ways to regain their attention mid-walk through without sounding  
> like a schoolmarm or raising my voice?


      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Re (1), I heartily agree with Greg and others who have advised
allowing dancers some time to socialize and waiting for the
conversational buzz to start tapering off before you start
the walk-through.  Greg has described a ritual of transitioning
from socializing to the walk-through:

> ... I start by saying something like "Ladies and gentlemen,"
> to signal that essential information is about to be given.  I then
> immediately give the dancers an instruction to physically move.   
> (Usually
> "Please take hands in groups of four from the top of the line.")   
> Then I
> wait about 10-15 seconds or so and give another instruction to  
> physically
> move: "Ones please cross over."  Then I wait another 10-15 seconds  
> or so
> and begin the walk-through proper, something like: "Ones face down.   
> Twos
> face up.  With the one you're facing balance and swing."

Regardless of whether you do something like that, whether you use
some other way of instructing dancers to take hands four and (if
appropriate) to get into improper formation, or whether you're
calling in a community where almost all dances are improper (or
Becket) and dancers tend to line up in improper formation on
their own, you may sometimes find yourself looking at floor where
most dancers are waiting for the walk-through to start, but some
haven't gotten into position.  Typically there are some dancers
partway down a set who, with no intention of malice or willful
disobedience, haven't taken the initiative to get "hands four" to
propagate beyond themselves.  Perhaps there are new dancers
dancing together, despite whatever attempts the caller and the
experienced dancers have made to encourage mingling.  Perhaps two
people of the same sex are dancing as partners and haven't
thought to do something to help the dancers below figure out
which one is dancing in which role.  Perhaps an unpartnered
person is standing in or near the set and the dancers below can't
tell whether that person is waiting for a partner to come back
from the water fountain or whether the person has just come over
to chat with someone and is about to go away.  Perhaps someone
is busy showing a partner or neighbor how to swing and is
oblivious to the propagation of "hands four".  Perhaps several of
these things are going on at once.

So what do you do?

You could repeat the request for taking "hands four" (and/or the
request for crossing over)--preferably not in an impatient voice--
and hope who has been wool gathering finally takes note of it and
gets things moving.

You could ask people to take hands four and to hold it until they
see that the foursomes below them are starting to take hands
four.  Perhaps someone just above the blockage will take heed
and help their neighbors get organized.

You could pretend to start the walk-through, knowing that it will
cause people in the bottom part of the hall to start clamoring
for "hands four".

You could request action in a way that doesn't pretend to start
the walk-through.  For example, "In your groups of four, circle
once around to be sure you have space." (Larry Jrnning mentions
this ploy in one of the _Contra COnnection_ columns.)

You could ask the couples at the bottom of the set to raise their
hands when the "hands four" has reached them.

You could actually give the first move of the walk-through--
particularly if it's something that doesn't rearrange the dancers
(e.g., long lines go forward and back), so that you don't have to
deal with a situation where some dancer have moved to positions
while other haven't yet taken "hands four".

The last few of these options can all have the effect of
getting dancers near the bottom of the set to insist that the
dancers above them take hands four, so that the caller doesn't
have to take on the role of whip-cracking cat-herder.  Perhaps
someone will even walk up the set to wherever the "hands four"
got stalled and then walk back down the set counting off which
dancers are 1s and which are 2s.

By the way, having dancers do an action that involves joining
hands (e.g., in long lines, go forward and back, or "circle once
around to be sure you have space) can be a good way to get the
to notice if two people of the same sex (or same gender role) are
unexpectedly adjacent to each other.

      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Re topic (2)--regaining the dancers' attention in the middle of
the walk-through--I think the best thing is not to lose their
attention in the first place.  I'll post some ideas about that
in a later message.  I'm quite aware, though, that despite best
efforts, a caller still may sometimes lose the attention of the
dancers.  So my pitch for prevention is not at all meant to
derail discussion of your (Jacqui's) original question about
what to do when that happens.

--Jim

On Aug 13, 2013, at 9:55 PM, Quiann2 wrote:

> Hello,
>
> I'm a new caller and have been noticing recently at some dances that  
> the crowd is quite chatty and noisy and it can take a long time to  
> get them to settle down and listen to the walk through. And then  
> even during the walk-through the noise level rises again so that  
> some people in the hall can't hear the walk through. I'll be calling  
> my first full evening next month at a venue that is known for the  
> chattiness of the dancers. I want people to be able to socialize but  
> I also want dancers to be able to hear the entire walkthrough. Can  
> you give me some tips on how to balance socializing (i.e. how to  
> judge when to start) and ways to regain their attention mid-walk  
> through without sounding like a schoolmarm or raising my voice?  
> Thanks much!
>
> Jacqui
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