[Callers] How to devise a program

Jack Mitchell jamitch3 at mindspring.com
Sun Sep 15 13:13:36 PDT 2013

With the proviso that I don't generally plan a complete program ahead of 

I have a set of 3-4 dances that are almost always my first dance. 
Generally they're very low piece count dances, very forgiving, and with 
a limited number of moves.  Most of those first dances don't even have a 
chain or a R&L thru -- allemandes, swings, circles and long lines.  One 
of them starts and ends in short waves.

After I've seen how they do with that, I will move on to other dances, 
adding in a move or two at a time.  I do try to make the first time I 
use a chain a chain over and back, or a chain to your neighbor so that 
they can have a chance to do it with a bunch of different people.  
Generally, I will teach a Hey in the 3rd dance -- almost always a full 
hey coming back to a partner balance and swing.  (Butter by Gene Hubert 
or delphiniums and dasies by Tonya Rattenburg (know I've misspelled 
that).  Sometimes I'll do a mixer as the 3rd or 4th dance.

 From there on out, I am slowly adding new moves, building on what we've 
done already, and trying to alternate between smooth and balancy dances 
(also trying to keep a variety of "storylines" -- circular dances vs 
down the hall vs waves vs unusual progressions or multiple neighbors.

Before the evening starts, I will have picked out  dances that I would 
like to work into the program (many more dances than I could actually 
do), and if I have one that I really want to make sure I get in, I will 
start building the foundation for that...making sure that I work most of 
the components into other dances.

I generally aim for the peak of complexity to be shortly after the 
break, but to continue to keep the energy level up until the end of the 
evening (even though it is with simpler dances).

So that's a sketchy version of what is generally going through my mind 
as I'm putting an evening together,  Your mileage may vary. You may want 
to plan things ahead more than I do.  If you can come up with an outline 
or framework to hang your dances on, I think it will make the actual 
programming easier.

On 9/15/2013 2:35 PM, Maia McCormick wrote:
> Hi Greg et al.,
> Yeah, good point. I'm calling one of a regular (monthly) contra dance
> series in the Berkshires. It's open to all and has a beginners warm-up for
> any who are interested. Attendance runs maybe 14-26 (ish), including a fair
> number of people who have danced before but aren't
> super-experienced/"hotshot" dancers. There'll be a live band. The
> expectation will probably be mostly contras with a waltz at the end of
> either half--I doubt people would object to or necessarily expect other
> formations/types of dances.
> That help at all? Interested to hear what you have to say!
> Maia
> On Sun, Sep 15, 2013 at 12:53 PM, Greg McKenzie <grekenzie at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Miaa asked:
>>>   how do you go about putting together a program for
>> a full (or partial) evening of calling?
>> Yes.  This certainly is a broad question.  For me it would require multiple
>> approaches depending upon:
>> - Is it a square dance, a contra dance, a "barn dance" a "family dance" or
>> a "community dance" and what exactly do these terms mean to the organizers?
>> - Is the event open to the public or is it a private party, a weekend dance
>> camp session, a festival?
>> - Who is the "Client" and what do they expect?
>> - Is this an ongoing series "hosted" by a group of "regulars" who know one
>> another?
>> - If it is an ongoing series what is the local dance culture?  Will they
>> expect in terms of dance formations and variety?
>> - What is the purpose of the event?
>> - Will there be live musicians?  If so, who is the band?
>> The different approaches you see will depend a lot upon the answers to
>> these--and other--questions.  Depending upon the answers above some of us
>> would not accept the gig because we don't have the skills or material to
>> provide what the dancers and the organizers are looking for.  Or because we
>> are not interested in doing that particular kind of gig.
>> You might get more useful answers if you narrowed your question to a
>> particular "real" situation that callers can respond to.  But that's just
>> one way to approach it.  I can't really respond without knowing at least
>> some of the answers.  I see a variety of different roles for the caller in
>> a variety of different situations.  Other callers may not see it this way.
>> - Greg McKenzie
>> West Coast, USA
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