[Callers] Tablet size?

Bill Olson callbill at hotmail.com
Wed Oct 9 07:34:37 PDT 2013

OK, so time to chime in here again. I haven't used a card or a notebook or a tablet or a lap top or ANYTHING in about 15 years. I have probably 100-150 dances in memory and keep adding new ones, though sometimes that pushes old ones out of my brain.. Originally I stopped using cards (it was only "cards" back then) because I most often called and played in the band at the same time and it was just too much to deal with, so I started memorizing dances. I figured a good musician (melody instrument) could have HUNDREDS of tunes in his or her brain, and wouldn't read music off the page, why do callers need cards? A dance has a story line like a tune and is truthfully a LOT less complex. Once you remember "the hook" for any given dance, the rest pretty much falls into place. I'll often make a list of dances I want to call before the gig and go through them (call them) in my head and if there are *new ones* I would like to call, i'll study them. Then I just call, letting the program go where it goes, guided by the dancers' skill level and my own.. "story line" I guess you'd call it. It is very freeing not to have to carry around cards or tablets etc.. Plus I think it beneficial to be able to look at the dancers rather than at a card or computer while calling.  I DO make it a point to keep learning new dances and "updating the memory bank" so to speak..
I realize everyone can't do this.. I consider Ted Sannella to be one of my primary mentors and back in the early days I did sound and often played in the band for his 4th Friday dance in North Whitefield, ME, so I got to see him close up.. Ted ALWAYS used cards but I KNEW he new the dances he called from memory. I asked him about it once and he said it just made him feel safer up there.. I get that! A safety net.. I guess I like the feeling of working without a net.. Since most like the net, I like the idea of hiding an evening's worth of dances in the glove box, or somewhere like that. Rick Mohr had a card in his wallet (maybe still does).. This was a BUSINESS CARD sized card and it had 50 or 100 dances on it!!! Honest!.. he used really small print and came up with his own short hand so he could fit the whole dance on one line on the card.. That was pretty brilliant I thought. Often musicians will carry some cards.. Larry Unger has some in his guitar case.. This is for when the caller doesn't show and someone off the floor (who didn't bring cards) has to call for a while or the whole night. Guess Larry's done enough of these things to have that happen more than once!!
I'd suggest callers memorize a few dances, doesn't have to be 30, just enough to get through an evening.. Actually, most callers - even some DANCERS already KNOW a lot of dances by heart.. so practice a little "off the page"..  This will come in handy at some point.. At a MINIMUM commit a simple but fun dance or 2 to memory so you can immediately go to it if you 1) have a brain fart and can't wrap your brain around a dance during the walk through 2) find the dance you have selected is just too hard for the dancers 3) find the dance on the card "doesn't work".. I suppose the "computer aided" callers could just push "alt1" to go to the "bail out" dance but my point is it's not a bad idea to have a few dances memorized that you can go to IMMEDIATELY (and not be afraid to try them).
Finally, and I know my age (old fogeyness?) will show here, and I'll get in trouble, but it just plain looks weird to me to see a caller with a laptop or computer up on the stage, reading off of it.. What's next?.. why not get the computer to actually CALL the dance.. You could have a joystick or other controller to speed up, slow down, drop back, drop out, etc.. Well, just kidding, but the technology certainly exists.. Anyway, I totally agree with Chris (again) being able to call dances from memory doesn't make one a good caller, and conversely there are plenty of REALLY GREAT callers who read off cards, tablets, etc.. 

> Date: Tue, 8 Oct 2013 22:27:54 -0700
> From: erik at erikhoffman.com
> To: callers at sharedweight.net
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Tablet size?
> Interesting: carry cards in case the tablet fails.  Back in the old 
> days, we knew a caller was a caller when she forgot her cards and still 
> called a great dance.
> I remember the first time I forgot my cards, and did fine with the 
> dances I knew by heart.   Even in my head, I had more than enough to 
> work.  There are, of course, no hurries to get to that place, and taking 
> precautions is good, but when it happens, it does build a sense of 
> confidence.
> After hearing of a friend forgetting to put her dance cards in the car, 
> only to watch them scatter in the mirror on the freeway, as they flew 
> off the top of her car, I went and photocopied all my cards.
> Now I have notes in my falling-apart books, and I've photoed every 
> comment and dance I've written in the book, so if I loose the book, I 
> can reconstruct it.
> And, I can still call a dance with no written cues at all...
> ~erik hoffman
> On 10/8/2013 10:59 AM, Rich Goss wrote:
> > Most certainly carry cards as well.   But there are now several dances for which I do not have physical cards.
> >
> >> On Oct 8, 2013, at 10:02 AM, Kalia Kliban <kalia at sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> >>
> >> Have any of you who use tablets for calling ever had problems with them in the middle of a gig?  Do you carry cards as back-ups?
> >>
> >> My biggest hesitation about using one is the horrible scenario of being at the gig and having the widget freeze up or go blank.
> >>
> >> Kalia
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