I am preparing for calling at the Medway, MA dance this Saturday and was
wondering if anyone could tell me something about the experience level
of the dancers there.
The name of the band is Smoke and Mirrors. Has anyone worked with them?
How are they to work with? Any thing I should watch out for?
Lisa Sieverts wrote:
"Thus, in a complex algorithm that defies explanation, I'll take a
dance for almost no money if I know the music will be great, or
someone is going to feed and house me nicely, or it's a beautiful
hall and a neat community dance that just needs a nudge to keep
going. Otherwise, I look for a $75 minimum."
Whoof! Around Los Angeles, at almost all of the dozen different contra
series, the caller's take is usually somewhere between $20 and $50, sometimes a
little higher or lower. Big venues are significantly higher, as they are in New
England. I'm curious how different this is for different parts of the country
(excluding large venues) -- I've noticed that when I call in Massachusetts, even
the small venues seem to generally offer substantially higher guarantees to
the caller than the small venues in southern CA.
"driving hundreds of miles for dozens of dollars"
I love that saying! I remember hearing Joseph Pimentel say it as "for tens of
dollars." I'll take the dozens.
Chris started us off by noting "the question has come up about what my minimum
fee is for calling."
Lisa gave a list of many items to consider when deciding whether to select a gig
and what to charge. My rule simplifies that-- I call for love or for money.
A city I want to visit, a dance community I enjoy, musicians I love to be
around, an opportunity to appear in a different part of the country, a good
cause-- all these tip the scale toward the first category. If I end up getting
paid, so much the better, but if I don't, I'll still be happy for these other
reasons. A wedding gig for folks I don't know, in a distant location or nearby
in a fancy location with an upscale caterer... that's a money gig and I charge
enough to pay myself and the musicians well. (After all, they're often the same
people who volunteer their time for the other events!)
In general, I find that when I follow my rule-- and we all know how hard that
is-- I come away content. It's those messy middle areas that cause the
I came up with the rule many years ago after finding myself dissatisfied with a
common situation-- driving an hour and a half, get to a gig early to set up the
PA, work hard for the evening, take down the PA and haul it back to the car,
wait while the organizers were still talking to people and tallying up the
money, and being handed $40 for the evening.
The complicating factor in your case, Chris, and an issue for other callers in
your situation, is that you want the gigs-- you want to gain experience working
with different crowds, you want an opportunity to try out new material (or to
hone older material.) You also want to become known, to give people in far-flung
locations a chance to get to know you and to see what you can do. And in some
sense, you're willing to subsidize an event-- e.g., by charging less-- in order
to get that exposure.
Bottom line, I think, is that you should ask enough so that, balancing all those
factors, you will come away from the event feeling good about having been there.
As more gigs are coming my way (thank you very much to everyone who is
recommending me!!!), the question has come up about what my minimum fee
is for calling. So far I haven't had a minimum because I really want the
experience ("Flight Time" as Joseph Pinmentel calls it). However, with
gas prices the way they are, the latest one I asked for a minimum that
would cover the gas (200 mi. each way).
How do you determine what your minimum is, and what amount would make
calling a dance worthwhile for you?
I would completely agree with Bob. My friend Lisa has and continues to
instill in me the idea that the caller is there for the dancers. A good
program is key, knowing your dancers are key, but there is always the
unknown when you are walking into the a new place.
Last month, I called a dance in Gorham, New Hampshire. After talking with a
couple people including the dance organizer, I though I had a good idea what
the dance was going to be like, and what the dancers would enjoy. The dance
turned out to be very small that evening, between 6 and 8 people (not a
typical night). Of course I had prepared a program, but had counted on more
people then that... Doing contra dances with 2 minor sets can be hard to
say the least, so we didn't do any... It was a fun night of circle dances,
triple-minors, and whatever else we wanted to do... Some polkas, etc. So
flexibility is also key...
When the night was over, everyone had a great time. They had fun, and that
was all that was important to me. It no doubt was a huge learning
experience for me, one that I will remember for a long time. People seem to
dance for a lot of different reasons, but I like the answer that my friend
Bob McQuillien said, I like the best, "because it's fun!". Enough said
Having a favorite dance... that's fun... We all have them, (and in no way
am I am suggesting program a dance with just your favorites.)
Seems like there hasn't been too much activity... So anway, I think dance
collecting could possibly become a full time job. There are just so many
different and new dances that are out there...
And of course there are books and books and books, which are great, but there
are a lot of great dances out there that just haven't been published... If
only there were this huge contra dance composition online exchange...
But of course there is a lot of tradition and fun from passing dance to dance
from dance to dance.
I am always looking for new dances to add to my "contra dance composition
journal", so just a question to everyone, what is your favorite dance to call
and what is your favorite dance to dance...
To dance for me, I think that is very easy... No doubt being a Nelson Dancer
I am very bias and I love dancing "Chorus Jig". Nelson is where I first
learned to dance Chorus Jig, where I first learned to call Chorus Jig, and
Nelson is where I learned to love Chorus Jig.
To call for me, that is not such an easy answer... There are some many dances
I love to call, and dances that I know back and forth, forward and back, but
for some reason, everytime I try to call them, they just don't feel quite
I think if I had to pick a dance to call, as a caller, a "go-to-dance", I
would say "Trip To Lamberville" by Steve Zakon-Anderson
(8) Ladies into the center to a wave and balance
(8) Gents into the center to a wave and balance
(8) Gents allemende left 3/4 to a wave across and balance
(8) Neighbors swing
(8) Gents allemende left 1 1/2
(8) Partners swing
(8) Right and left through
(8) Ladies chain
I really love this dance and it is has become a quick modern classic I
believe. I remember when I first called this dance at Nelson, I was
horrible... Not that I hadn't call before, or hadn't called well, but I just
could not find my flow with this dance... But I kept on trying... I think it
wasn't till half a dozen times calling this dance, did I even begin to find
the flow... And now, it is a favorite dance to call...