[Callers] integrating new dancers

Richard Hart richhart49 at gmail.com
Thu Jun 27 08:31:49 PDT 2013


Tom, I agree. This is a complicated issue, and every dancer is different.
Some thoughts and observations at some local dances here in New Hampshire.
This is mostly from the Nelson dance, but many items apply to other local
dances as well.

- Some dances here do include and advertise some instruction for beginners
before the dance. That does help a little, but unfortunately at many local
dances, beginners can also show up a hour after the dance has already
started.

- One dance in particular (Nelson) almost always has some beginners every
time. In the summer, as many as 2/3 or 3/4 of the dancers may be
beginners.There is no beginner session before the dance, but the whole
dance is conduced with the new dancers in mind. In May, before the summer
dancers arrive, a caller (usually Don Primrose) will both remind and thank
regular dance for their acceptance and support of the visitors, and remind
that more will arrive shortly.

- The caller will sometimes shift dancers to different lines or locations,
to mix beginner and experienced dancers.  Otherwise, the new dancers, being
a little slower to find partners, may congregate at the end of the most
distant line.

- Sometimes an experienced couple will split up a beginner couple to help
them with the next dance.

- Simpler and well connected dances are selected when there are many
beginners. (But with good music, the dancing always remains fun for all).

- Callers will often remind dancers to find someone they don't know, or to
find an experienced dancer, or a visitor to dance the next dance with.

- Experienced dancers are reminded to help the new people, and the new
dancers are advised to watch for and accept the help. ("In the hey,
experienced dance may point to the shoulder you should pass them on";
"After the swing, remember to help your partner face his/her new neighbor",
etc)

- New dancers are explicitly recognized and welcomed to the dance,
especially if there is a group from a local camp or other organization.

- Smiles are important, both to make the dance a success, and see that it
was, in fact, a success.

And it must be working. Dances, in Nelson, are very well attended. Dancers
are reminded that "elbows free" dancing is needed when the hall is crowded.
By the end of the evening, the new dancers are dancing hey's and petronella
turns with the best of them.  Little to no advertising is done for the
Nelson dance. New dancers simply hear about it from friends.

Rich Hart.


On Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 8:37 AM, Tom Hinds <twhinds at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Greg, you've been writing about integrating new dancers by getting the
> experienced dancers to dance with them and even teach them the figures.
>  For a long time I've thought that this was a bit weird- how could this
> ever work?
>
> Then my brain finally kicked in and I realized that we live in two very
> different worlds.  Although it's been some time since I called in
> California, I remember that the dancers there were kind, gentle and very
> relaxed.   They were quite a contrast to some of the dancers back east.
>  Maybe your method works well because of the kinds of people who live in
> your area.  Over the years I've seen some hostility and resentment towards
> new dancers in my small part of the world.
>
> In one dance community, the dancers were so hostile to the new dancers
> that someone started a separate dance series for the sole purpose of having
> a beginner friendly dance.  And before the center line was abolished at
> Glen Echo, a very large percentage of experienced dancers had absolutely no
> interest in dancing with beginners.
>
> In my area we've always had a beginning lesson and the caller always
> teaches the figures.  It's worked there for decades.  It's the tradition.
>  If it ain't broke why fix it?  I'm thinking that to get the experienced
> dancers to teach the figures might be detrimental in some dance communities.
>
> This is a complicated issue and involves more than language. There's also
> understanding people and their values, beliefs etc. etc.
>
> I can't remember exactly what your background is but I'm very interested
> in learning more about language and it's use.  Is there a good website or
> book that you could recommend?
>
> Tom
>
>
>
>
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