[Callers] When the ones who would have needed it most....

Alan Winston winston at slac.stanford.edu
Mon May 20 15:25:47 PDT 2013

Hanny --

Not sure what you mean by "large group".  Were there 100 people in the 
hall and 20 first timers showed up?  30 people and two busloads from 
Girl Scout camp showed up?

I don't much like the option of telling the first timers that they can't 
join the party until they've had a half-hour lesson, typically without 
music, while the hot party is going on in the main room.

For a number of newcomers less than, I dunno, 10% of the room, I think 
"try to find an experienced partner" is an appropriate response, 
although the caller should also evaluate the planned next dance in terms 
of piece count, action outside of the set, whether you go some different 
direction from your partner, etc.

For higher proportions:

Do a simple circle mixer right now.  (Circassian Circle is great here; 
helps to teach clear phrasing, finishing swings with the lady on the 
right, practicing swings, etc.  People enjoy it.  It's a mixer so you 
get the newcomers away from each other and maybe less freaked out about 
dancing with strangers.  And you, the caller, are evaluating how they do.)

If the space permits it, maybe do a Sicilian Circle - Haste to the 
Wedding is pretty good here if the band has it - so they can get 
progression, do-si-do, reemphasize phrasing, identify partner and neighbor.

(If you've got 100 first timers and 20 experienced, just carry on with 
one-night stand dances.  Do a Virginia Reel!  Do a really simple 
square!  Your experienced dancers may or may not be thrilled, but if you 
keep everybody moving and have hot music, they can have a good time if 
they let themselves.  But if it's 50/50 or less (eg, 40/60) then go to 
longways contra and do something easy with allemandes.

And then do a longways contra with a hey in it but still no action 
outside the minor set.

Now everybody's as up to speed as they're going to get, and it's 
probably break time.   Check who goes home and re-plan the second half 
of your program.

In general, let your experienced dancers know you're counting on them.  
Let your new dancers know they're welcome.  Do stuff that everybody can 
succeed with with minimal instruction -  you don't want to do something 
that takes three walkthroughs.  Look happy

-- Alan

On 5/20/2013 12:03 PM, Hanny Budnick wrote:
> As usual, before the  contra dance there is a half-hour session before the
> starting time of the main dance. It is advertised, and beginners are encouraged
> to come early. Depending on number of attendees and time left, rudimentary
> basics are presented and 'lightly' practiced.
> I would like this panel's recommendations for dealing with this situation:
> the beginners session was offered and attended. The main dance had started
> exactly on time when - ca. 20 minutes into the evening - a large group of
> absolute newbies appeared and joined right in.
> In light of this development the beginners session could have been repeated and
> somewhat extended, even in an additional available hall in the same building.
> Alas, no further help was offered except for the advice 'try to find an
> experienced partner'.
> Fortunately, the band for the evening was an absolute delight...
> Hanny Budnick
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