[Callers] contradance materials and/or calls in Spanish or any non-English language

Greg McKenzie grekenzie at gmail.com
Sun Jul 21 13:09:06 PDT 2013

The answer is that it depends.

If you have even a small contingent of contradance regulars in the hall I
would say you are much better off calling, and teaching, in English only.
With 10% or even 5% of regulars in the hall you have people to model the
moves where the first-timers can pick it up much more quickly than using
verbal explanations in any language.  Remember that contras are a
traditional dance form and the dance is passed on from one generation of
dancers to another--(not from one teacher to the dancers).

I saw a caller who speaks Russian attempt to teach contras speaking Russian
in Saint Petersburg with a strong contingent of American contra dancers in
the hall.  It was almost comical.  The Americans stood there confused while
the Russians tried to show the Americans the moves that the caller was
describing in their own language.  Needless to say it didn't work.

If you have even a few contradancers in the hall you are better off
sticking to English.

- Greg McKenzie
West Coast, USA


On Sun, Jul 21, 2013 at 12:05 PM, Erik Hoffman <erik at erikhoffman.com> wrote:

> First:
> Even if the calls are in English, the teaching must be done in Spanish.
>  And, if you're doing one night stand dances, English in other countries
> doesn't work.  I've called simple dances in both France and Italy, after
> asking people how to say long lines forward & back, right hand turn, swing,
> etc.  Would not have worked to speak English, no way, no how...
> Now, if it were at a place where people came to learn the dance, take a
> few classes, become familiar with the names put on the figures, then
> saying, "This is an American dance, so let's learn the American words,"
> that works great.  Well, almost great.  I was calling a dance in Denmark,
> to an older crowd of practiced dancers (all young people speak English).
>  They had been dancing to their regular caller for years, knew all the
> moves.  So, when calling a square dance I was surprised when I called,
> "Allemande Left your corner, back to your own with a Right & Left Grand,"
> and they didn't have a clue.  After a struggle with trying to teach and
> wondering why they didn't know that move, I somehow said, "Grand Right &
> Left," and they immediately knew what to do.  They only knew one word order
> for the name of the figure...
> As far as word choices go, when I first started calling dances and playing
> fiddle, when teaching the dance I'd teach a do si do.  Then I'd say, "so
> the move you're going to do is a do si do, but it'll sound like this,
> 'oshiho'," "and balance & swing will sound like this, 'halnacenswin'."
>  Even with these garbled calls, dancers did fine.  So, when you have an
> audience that is there to learn dances -- came to learn -- teaching the
> English calls is fine.  But, again, if it's a group of people, who came to
> a gathering for a different reason, and you just are to call a few dances,
> you do need to know how to give descriptive calls in the local lingo.
> ~erik hoffman
>     oakland, ca
> On 7/21/2013 10:54 AM, Aahz Maruch wrote:
>> On Sun, Jul 21, 2013, Mark Stowe wrote:
>>> I am dating a Mexican anthropology professor that I met at a
>>> contradance at an Earth Skills festival in Gainesville FL and she is
>>> now a complete convert.  This past New Year's we got 20 of her family
>>> and friends contradancing.  They caught on quickly, really liked it
>>> and would like me to start a regular contradance in Xalapa=Jalapa
>>> where it actually has a better than average chance of working given
>>> the large arts/ music community, and the numerous international
>>> students and expats.
>> Congrats!
>>  Any leads to possibly existing materials/ written explanations or
>>> calls in Spanish would be appreciated.   And given my travels to other
>>> countries (especially French speaking) I wonder is there any
>>> non-English material and/or calls?  Thanks!
>> No advice directly related, but the square dance community has decreed
>> that all calls are given in English (much the same way that pretty much
>> all programming languages have their keywords in English).  Kinda rude in
>> some ways, but it does mean that people can travel to other countries and
>> still square dance.
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