I just realized that last month was the first anniversary of the creation
of SharedWeight! (Just like a guy to forget an anniversary, don't you
Thank you everyone for contributing, reading and being a part of this
community. We have a great group here and I hope it continues for a long
time to come.
Happy calling and happy dancing!!!
It's been a long time since I sent an update and boy, has a lot happened
since. My last update was in May and I was about to call in North
Whitefield, ME. A lot of things have happened outside of calling, as
well. The biggest of which is moving to New Hampshire. I am going to try
and be brief (for those of you who haven't read my other e-mails, this
is going to be a stretch), but write a few sentences about each gig that
I've had since. You can look at what my schedule has been/will be like
* North Whitefield, ME 5/27
I was pretty nervous about this one, since I was substituting for
Chrissy Fowler and didn't want to let her down. It was also only my
second full evening of calling. I recorded most of the evening, and with
the help of my friend, Clark Baker, we realized that I ran almost every
dance very long (15-20 minutes from hands 4 to hands 4). I have since
worked on this and now look at my watch and have a target end time for
the dance to keep them below 15 minutes. The choreography for the
evening worked well. I had a spy amongst the dancers (my cousin,
Christi) who informed me that people had a good time.
* MIT dances 6/7 and 8/9
Both of these went pretty well. I split the calling on 6/7 with Mark
Schneider and on 8/9 with Mark, Ron Bernier III and Cortni Frescha. The
6/7 gig taught me a lot about choreographing on the fly and about
working with another caller who views things differently. The 8/9 gig
was more planned and went off smoother.
* Square Dance Callers Workshop 7/23-30 at Pinewoods during American Week
Kathy Anderson taught this course and boy was it great! We had a lot of
fun, and I learned a lot about calling squares. I called my first square
at Camper's Night and it went off pretty well. We had a great group and
I'm sure that we're all going to be talking about water squares for a
long time. 8^) One of the great experiences of the weekend was in class.
I was struggling with calling a square and was constantly checking the
card to remind myself of the figure. Kathy came over when I was done and
took the paper out of my hand and said "now call it!" or something like
that. What a freeing experience! I didn't call it exactly "right", but I
didn't feel tied down to the material anymore and just did what came
naturally. I had a lot more fun and everyone told me how much it showed.
Another was the "show and tell" on the last afternoon at camp. We had
everyone get into squares, with two callers dancing in each square. The
band was in the middle of the dance floor and one of the two callers
taught a dance, then called it from the square. We had 6 or 7 squares
all dancing different dances! Then we did it again with the other
caller. It was great fun!
* East Sandwich, MA 8/20
My third full night of calling. I was much more comfortable than the
first time that I called here. I discovered that I was able to recognize
and recover when the band and I had become out of sync by an "A" or "B"
part. You know the night is going well when you're feeling envious of
the dancers and wish that you were out there on the floor. 8^) I was
still having some troubles with running dances long, but did a better
job of it that night. We had to end the dance early because people left
and we only had 6-8 dancers left. I still don't have a good triplet
repertoire to draw from. I had just moved into my new place. From this
point on, I have been very busy and lax about preparing and practicing
* VFW hall, Cambridge, MA 9/1 NEFFA multi-caller night
This evening was such a blast. Working with some of my caller friends
and with incredible musicians. I had some teaching problems because the
two dances that I did in the first half melded in my brain into one
dance. It took a big rewind and some studying of my cards to recover. I
think that I handled it with some poise and self-deprecation and no one
minded. This was a lot more fun than my first evening (when I had a
raging cold and could barely think through all of the drugs that I was on).
* Medway 10/1
This is the first evening of my marathon of calling during October. Five
gigs in six weeks. I have the dance list below (I had started this
e-mail once before and typed in the list). This dance has a good sized
group of beginners and even the regulars still have some raw edges, so I
kept things simple. There was a gentleman there who was elderly and
didn't get around very well. He also didn't know when to shortcut a
figure in order to be on time. All I could do was to call to the rest of
the hall and hope that his foursome would recover before the end of each
time through the dance. During the first dance, he fell down and
couldn't get up in time for the next round of the dance, so I stopped
the music immediately so people could help him. He was helped to a chair
and only danced a couple of more times during the evening. One of the
things that I was disappointed in was that I had to pay so much
attention to the dancers through the whole dance, that I couldn't spend
any to communicate with the band. It's something that I'm still working
on. You'll see below that I was able to bring out some more difficult
choreography later in the evening since a lot of the beginners left.
The Baby Rose
You're Among Friends
Swingin' on a Star (square)
* Mystic 10/8
I learned here that it's a bad idea to schedule a first meeting with an
online date just before a dance. It was disastrous and it affected me
all evening. The woman who was running the hall said that she didn't
notice, and that everyone was having fun, so I did a good job of working
through it. Again I have the dance list below. I used a cordless
microphone for the first time this evening and it was wonderful. See the
section at the end for more info about that. The squares that I called
this evening went particularly badly. I've been gun-shy ever since due
to my lack of practice. I think that this is when I realized that people
are having a fun time mostly because I'm having fun and the band is
having fun and the mistakes don't matter so much. I taught my first
beginner session this night and it went OK. Mostly because the people
there had already danced once or twice. I still have to sit down and
work out a better "lesson plan" for the workshop.
The Baby Rose
You're Among Friends
Swingin' on a Star (square)
Knave's Quadrille (square)
* Saratoga, NY 10/15
In case you hadn't noticed, not too many of these dances are very close
to home. These weekend trips mostly happened in the rain and drained me
pretty thoroughly. I was working with a great old-time duo this evening.
I really wanted to call squares, but my lack of practice, low energy
after the long trip and the previous bad experience convinced me to
chicken out. The interesting thing about this dance was that even though
there was a small percentage of beginners, they were all concentrated in
one line (the other line was the "center" set). If they had mixed a
little more, I could have called more interesting choreography, but
instead had to call to the "weaker" set. I had my first experience with
a woman who was bound and determined to tell me how I taught something
"wrong" during my beginners workshop. This is where Joseph Pinmentel's
workshop helped me a lot to not get into an argument with her and thank
her for her feedback. The program was very similar to Mystic, but
without squares and I was able to do one with a hey later in the
evening. I'm finding that I like ending with Haymaker's Jig (or Lady of
the Lake if you wish) since it works well with a small crowd.
* Hawthorn Valley Farm Benefit Dance 10/29 Amble Dance Hall, Mellenville, NY
Much better weather for this trip. I lengthened it by attending David
Millstone's callers workshop that day as well. The workshop was
wonderful and it was great sharing what I've learned with the new group
that he's teaching. I hope that some of them will join this list and
participate in the discussion.
The dance, since it was a benefit, drew some experienced dancers, but
more raw beginners. This was an interesting mix and I had a hard time
choosing between my easy contras and family style dances. I started off
the evening with Haste to the Wedding. People seemed to enjoy dancing
it, but there was little interest in the clapping. That told me to lean
more towards the easy contra side for the rest of the evening. The band
had not played for very many contras and we had some difficulty with
communicating early on. I didn't have the language to give them the
information they needed, so they played what they wanted and I called
what I wanted. Not a great evening, but it worked out. Most of the crowd
were teens and twenties who were dancing wildly and didn't care about
being on time for the next figure. I found that they had so much trouble
getting in and out of swings that I started calling dances that only had
swings of 10 or more beats. That also kept the piece count down and made
it easier for everyone. The organizers, though, had a great time and
felt that it worked out better than the other benefit dance they had
where the caller only called family dances and the crowd was hungry for
more interesting choreography.
Haste to the Wedding
Broken Sixpence (I taught this one during the workshop and I think that
The Baby Rose
La Bastringue (went particularly well)
Spring Fever (not so great)
Cadence by Byron Ricker (everyone got into this one)
Midwest Folklore (mostly young people in this one, they had a blast)
Frederick Contra (everyone enjoyed this one - only 8 people so I grabbed
a partner and dance up and down the hall with my cordless so we had 2
foursomes dancing every time through)
At this point the organizer felt that too many people had left, so we
cut the evening short.
* Cordless Microphone
As longtime readers will know, I have been investigating buying a
cordless microphone for a few months now. One of the best pieces of
advice that I got from a sound man (during the Square Dance course at
Pinewoods) was to rent different microphones and see how you sound in
each one. I found a local shop that would rent microphones and tried out
the Shure PGX system with both the Beta 58 and the SM58 mics. I rented
them for the Mystic dance and the Saratoga dance. I decided that I liked
the Beta 58 and how easy the PGX is to set up and use. I was looking
forward to a lot of gigs in the near future, so I bought the setup that
I was using. They even credited the rental fees towards the purchase. I
bought it earlier than I planned, but I have enough gigs coming up to
pay for the purchase (not counting other expenses!). 8^)
Whew!!! Congratulations on reaching the end of another long winded
e-mail. I kinda accelerated as I went along there. So much for being brief.
One of the problems with traveling so far to dances has been the
inability for my friends (especially my calling friends) to come to the
dances and provide feedback. The organizers that I ask all tell me that
I did great, but don't have any suggestions about what I could be
working on. Some of it I know: squares, beginners workshop, material for
high percentages of beginners, etc. What I don't know is how my stage
presence has evolved. I am looking forward to Ralph Page in January.
There is usually an open mic. session and there is a caller who is
dedicated to providing feedback to the participants. Last year Tony
Parks gave me great information to work with.
OK, I'm tapped out now. I hope you've enjoyed this installment. More
adventures to come!
Happy calling and happy dancing!!
I've been asked to do a workshop in an afternoon before a regular evening
dance that will offer tips on how more experienced dancers can help the
newbies on the dance floor, and how dancers can be better partners. I'm
anticipating that the audience will be regular dancers, but some may be new
I've chatted about this with one of my fellow local callers and came up with
some good ideas. I'm specifically looking for exercises or things I can
focus a dance on. A couple of ideas already hatched are encouraging the
dancers to communicate only using eye contact or hand gestures, and
discouraging pulling/pushing behavior. A specific exercise would be setting
up hands 4, having the ones cross over and then asking all the number 2
couples to leave the room while the dance is taught. I would then call the
dance as a no walk through and encourage the number 1 couples to help the
other couple through the dance.
Tips for being better partners would definitely involve helping the newbies
but would also include giving weight, handing off your partner at the end of
the figure, good contact (i.e. wrist position for allemandes, swing holds,
to twirl or not to twirl...).
Does anyone have any specific exercises that emphasize these ideas ? I'm
anticipating that I'll discuss these points with the group but would like to
keep my yakking to a minimum and focus on demonstrating these things with
the dances I use. I suspect that many of you have done workshops of this
nature, but this is a new thing for me. I'd appreciate all feedback as I
know there is a wealth of knowledge in this group.
Thanks very much in advance.
The Witful Turnip wturnip(a)sympatico.ca
"I'm 40-fucking-5, and I've got nothing to hide !"
- Samantha Jones (Sex in the City)
i can think of a couple of things from the outset.
on the one hand, anyone who is going to be at the workshop will
be the choir, and thus they're the ones who least need the
preaching, right? so, be aware of that as you're doing your
thing. at the same time, maybe the best use of these folks will
be to spread the meme around a bit -- figure out something to
tell or teach them that they can pass along to other
"experienced" dancers, who may not have come to the workshop for
any of a host of reasons (timing, other priorities, not
interested, didn't feel they needed or wanted the info, etc).
i think the best and simplest thing that an experienced dancer
can do for new folks (and this is something that i don't always
think or remember to do, myself...) is to *ask new people to
dance* -- consciously. if every experienced dancer asked just
one new dancer to dance once per evening, think how much better
new dancers' experience of the dance would be! once the sets
are forming, conversation about simple dance-related things -- a
smile, a question or two and some follow-up encouragement ("how
many times have you been dancing? wow, you're doing great! we
were all new once..."), and a few tips here and there can make
all the difference. not all (or even most) beginners have
enough chutzpah to ask an experienced dancer to dance, and so
this can make someone feel welcomed, included, and wanted.
> Tips for being better partners would definitely involve
> helping the newbies but would also include giving weight,
> handing off your partner at the end of the figure, good
> (i.e. wrist position for allemandes, swing holds,
> to twirl or not to twirl...).
i think these are the most important questions, e.g. it's
amazing to me how few people have had "giving weight" explained
to them in a way that makes sense, and it truly seems to
separate good from not-so-good dancers, IMO.
> Does anyone have any specific exercises that emphasize these
> ideas ?
i don't have any specific ideas. i like the idea of maybe
picking a couple of dances that have a variety of figures or
transitions and breaking them down to show where new folks can
get tripped up. for example, anything in becket, things with a
ladies' chain on a diagonal, or heys, etc. are areas that are
confusing for beginners; and things that can be disorienting and
thus lead to someone's feeling like they're not doing it right.
i think it would also be good to help experienced folks learn to
(gently!) teach flourishes to those who seem to want to learn
them. no forcing twirls, but don't assume that they don't want
to do them, either -- if they see others doing them, they're
likely to be curious and want to give it a try themselves.
i hope it goes well.
Yahoo! FareChase: Search multiple travel sites in one click.
Bev outlined some excellent strategies for her upcoming workshop, and asked for
As a challenge, how about calling a dance with traditional figures and asking
those present to dance it without embellishments? Could be a contra corners
dance (four counts for each turn, leaving no time for extra twirl before the
balance and swing. Could be something with right and left over and back, four
counts to cross and four counts for a courtesy turn-- yes, four for each, does
make you slow down a little, rather than doing an extra twirl around simply
because there's time to do it if you race through the figures. Could be somethng
with ladies chain over and back and a pleasant courtesy turn on both sides.
Could be a dance (older version of Petronella, say) where for nearly 3/4 of the
dance the inactives are truly inactive and need to stay engaged while resisting
the temptation to squeeze in extra swings.
My point? One way the more experienced dancers befuddle the newcomers is by
demontrating every possible embellishment, so that newer dancers don't have an
opportunity to learn the basics. If all you see on down the center four in line
is a California twirl, you don't learn the timing of a courtesy turn to return.
If all you see for balance is Variation #27b with additional syncopated foot
stomps on the afterbeat, you don't learn a simple pas-de-basque or step-kick. If
a swing inevitably ends with an extra twirl-the-lady-under, you don't learn to
get your balance and your orientation for the ensuing ladies chain.
In short, one way experienced dancers can best help new dancers is by dancing
better-- uh oh, there I said it!-- themselves.
I just realized that I have to teach a beginners workshop tomorrow
night. Having not done this before (except informally as a dancer) I'm
a little nervous. I've seen plenty of them done (both well and poorly)
so I have an idea of what I want to cover and roughly how I want to do
Any hints? How much do you prepare/plan/improvise the workshop?
I have a somewhat different approach that I take when I do a short beginners'
session at my home dance. I think the most important things folks need to know
are the rules of this alien subculture into which they've stepped--
welcome, nice to see you here, thanks for coming early; we know the dance is in
trouble when we see just the same faces on the dance floor
format of evening: easier dances come first so don't watch
hall logistics: line up near front so I can give you extra help
social norms: experienced dancers whom you don't know will invite you to dance,
your tendency is to apologize and tell them you don't know what you're doing--
they already know that! that's why they've invited you to dance
We all learned through the kindness of strangers.
Overview of a dance-- you and your partner will go through a series of sinple
figures ** that I will teach carefully ** that involve you and a neighboring
couple; at the end of that, you're with another couple and then you do the same
moves, and so on.
every dance will be taught and walked through, sometimes twice, and I'm up there
calling out the moves so you don't have to remember them
reminder that there will be many helpful dancers on the floor eager to assist
demo of handy-dandy fall-back position when you're totally confused: smile, look
around you, and keep both hands extended-- this makes it easier for neighboring
couples to help you
Maybe add to that a little something about no fancy steps needed, hum Arkansas
Traveler and demonstrate forward and back, and that's about all there's time for
If you have a few minutes left, use it to chat up some experienced dancers in
the hall and ask them to invite in the newcomers for the first few dances.
My 2 cents,
15 minute session.
I would guess 5-10 people.
I might have a fiddler available. I don't know if he'll be set up in
-----David.Millstone(a)valley.net (David Mi= llstone) wrote: -----
From: David.Millsto= ne(a)valley.net (David Millstone)
Date: 10/07/2005 01:14PM
Subject: Re:= [Callers] Beginners workshop
Ho= w long a session is it, Chris? How many people can you expect
to be there?<= br>Will you have a musician (esp. a fiddler)
available to assist?
At 01:13 PM 10/7/2005, Chris Weiler wrote:
> I just realized that I have to teach a beginners workshop tomorrow
Take a look here:
I have a handout on the beginners workshop. Whether you agree with the
concepts and syllabus included, it should give you some things to think
about, get you started preparing.
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Oxford College of Emory University - 770-784-8487 - labst(a)emory.edu
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Due to a miscommunication, Marlena Schilke thought that she had booked
me to call the Gorham, NH dance this Saturday. I have already accepted
another gig. Is anyone available to go call this dance? Contact Marlena
at the address on this e-mail.