[Callers] Becket Formation

Yoyo Zhou via Callers callers at lists.sharedweight.net
Fri Dec 11 14:11:55 PST 2015

On Dec 10, 2015 11:45 AM, "Rich Sbardella via Callers" <
callers at lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
> Folks,
> One visiting couple, who had been waiting eagerly for the last dance ,
put on their jackets and left disappointed, stating that they do not like

This is unusual behavior. More on that below.

> Is there a negative sentiment about Becket formation among many dancers?
If so, can someone explain the reason?

No and no.

Imagine that instead of Becket, the caller announced, the last dance will
be a square. Or a shadow swing dance. Or a triple minor chestnut with no
partner swing. Or a mazurka quadrille, with footwork. How would it be
reasonable for the dancers to respond?

What if you didn't know ahead of time? Say you start out improper and
circle all the way instead of 3/4, and surprise, actually Becket. Or a
shadow swing unannounced. Or the caller asks you to do something dangerous.
Or a dance that the caller is simply unprepared to teach well. How do you

We have an unstated social contract (thanks to Seth Tepfer from whom I
learned this idea) between the band, the caller, and the dancers. The
dancers and band trust the caller to lead the event; in doing so, they cede
some of their autonomy. They agree to listen to the caller and go along
with their program, not dancing their own dance or playing their own music
whenever they feel like it. But this trust depends on the caller's ability
to earn it. (It's this way in any teaching situation.)

As callers, we show the dancers we are worthy of their trust by knowing
what we are doing, and by meeting community expectations. (For example, at
least in my area, some callers call both English dances and contra dances,
but these communities have come to expect different styles of teaching.)
Call dances which flow nicely, are fun, are not too hard to learn, are
contra dances, etc. but occasionally teach us something new, do a square
dance, etc.

On the dancers' side, the social contract I think includes a lot of
measures of commitment. If the caller is doing their job well, you agree to
dance with a partner, in a line, across from neighbors, and keep doing the
dance the caller is leading, and respect your fellow dancers' boundaries.
Or maybe you sit out if you're tired, you don't like this formation, or you
just don't want to dance. These are your choices, and you don't have to
involve other people in them.

It definitely feels awkward when people go outside the social contract: The
caller doesn't know what they're talking about. The caller calling out
individuals for 'doing it wrong'. Dancers disrupting the caller. Dancers
making each other uncomfortable. Dancers dropping out of the middle of the
set. Dancers making a dramatic departure.

So I'm not sure what dancers are accomplishing by making a show of not
liking Becket dances and leaving*. Presumably Becket dances are as much a
part of your community's expectations as they are of mine. Having bought
into the social contract, we respond with "those people are being weird",
not "the caller should not call Beckets".

(*: actually, in your original example, Rich, I'm not sure if they were
obnoxious about it or just said it privately to the dancers near them.)

Yoyo Zhou
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