Heres an interesting situation I came across this past Sunday when I called a dance in the Southern California area .
Lesson being: always watch the dance floor to see whats happening during the whole evening, you never know whos going to jump into the dance late
I was calling a dance at a community where the dance level is fairly high, however there are some quirky things going on in the community that I needed to keep in mind, etc . This dance starts at 6:30 9:30pm, lesson being between 6 6:30pm.
We had some new folks show up at about 6:35 6:40pm, so I chose to re-do the walk thru, and incorporated some basic tips into my teaching to the floor at large. I also went down on the floor and went directly to some hands 4 groups of experienced dancers and told them weve had some new folks that came in, theyve had no lesson; I really need your assistance in teaching them and watching out for them . That was my first time I directly did this with dancers.
So, I re-programmed dance #2 and #3 to easier dances. And jumped in with my regular program with dance #4 which took it up some notches, and everything flowed fine. Second half, I took it up considerably as this community has some very experienced dancers expecting a challenge, the new folks were doing well
During or after dance #2 second half, someone arrived with a dog. Everyone seemed to know the dog and pet and greeted the dog. It looked to me like someone just stopped in to say HI for awhile. I taught dance #3 second half. It was a dance that had a grand right & left up and down the longways set (pull by Left N1, pull by Rt N2, pull by Left N3, N4 Al Rt 1x; come back the way you came; pull by N3, Swing N2 .) .. I started thinning out my calls and was about to stop calling, and as the #2s that started down at the back of the hall, came closer to the stage, I notice there was one woman I hadnt seen before wearing a rust color dress . (I have a hawk of an eye for watching folks, especially the new folks). She was doing fine as long as I was calling. Then, when I started thinning out, she was getting confused. Some people were helping along, guiding her gently. Some stayed focused on their own dancing pleasure and let her fumble along (that was also fascinating to watch:
who guided gently and politely, and who ignored the situation! .). I tested it some more by stopping to call a bit; she got lost, called a little she was fine . Wow, this is really interesting, I thought. I hadnt seen her before .
So, this begged the question: do I keep calling to help her out (one person), or do I let her fumble and let some help out . After experimenting some more (calling thinly and watching her . I stopped calling once and she ended up in a completely different hands 4 group for the P Bal & Swg no where near her P), I finally figured out what was happening! The woman was blind! Or, at least hard of seeing . A caller friend was at the top of the set Hey I asked my friend is that woman over there blind?, . yeah, he said, quite non-chalantly, no big- deal .
I decided to keep calling thinly for her. If other dancers had more consistently assisted her from the floor, I could have stopped calling.
After the dance ended, I was talking to the band about it . And the lead accordion player said that must be her eye seeing dog! . which I hadnt even thought of or figured out. Everyone seemed to know her. It was interesting that no one thought to tell the caller that a blind / hard of seeing woman had jumped in during dance #3 of the second half.
One of the many good advice that Lisa Greenleaf and Cis Hinkle had given me when I first started calling was: if you want to be a good caller and are able to travel, hit the road and see how dancing is done, (and calling), in other parts of the United States. I took this literally, have danced all over, and also called all over, and the learning experiences Ive gained have paid off. I recently called in Fort Collins Colorado, and had danced at Denver-Boulder-Fort Collins, CO a few months before that. There was a blind gentleman who dances there, so I had both danced and called with him on the dance floor. Plus, prior to calling at the Fort Collins dance, one of the organizers included me on a lengthy email to callers addressing another topic (requesting callers to be mindful of beginners and integrating the new comers). In this email, they had also mentioned the blind gentleman that dances regularly in the community, so I was prepared.
I thought this was an experience worth sharing. I thought it was odd that she arrived and joined in the dance evening so late. But, people knew her, so it she was no stranger to the community. Keep your eyes on the floor during the whole dance. The dancers can change as the evening continues!
I just wanted to let everyone know that I've tweaked the mailing list a
little bit. Now, by default, all replies will go back to the list.
(Before, you had to make sure you hit reply-all.) I felt that it would
promote discussion on the list.
Your friendly neighborhood admin!
On Feb 22, 2006, at 3:53 PM, Lisa Sieverts wrote:
> So who's going from this group? I'll be there!
> Lisa Sieverts
> On Feb 22, 2006, at 3:50 PM, Seth Seeger wrote:
>> Just to let you all know... there are still six spaces available for
>> the Callers Workshop in June with Lisa Greenleaf and Brad Foster. At
>> this point, registrations will be accepted on a first come, first
>> basis. More info here:
>> Callers mailing list
The following article "On Respectful Communications with Stage Talent" was just published in the Santa Barbara Country Dance Society, Dance Star, Spring 2006 quarterly newsletter. It is well written by Suzanne Duffy and Jeff Spero of Los Angeles, and contains some useful guidelines applicable to most dance communities. Some may wish to print it and make it available at dances.
The pdf version is available for download at:
Santa Barbara Country Dance Society
Issue Number 67, Spring 2006 News, Articles & Calendar of Events
On Respectful Communications with Stage Talent
Over the many years of dancing, calling, and playing music at contra dances,
we have noticed a dominant thread about our fellow dancers they can be quite
opinionated about their callers, musicians and sound engineers. We appreciate the
passion; however, in recent months there have been incidents in the way these
opinions have been expressed in Santa Barbara that have been unhelpful, even
hurtful and for some, decrease our desire to take the Carrillo Ballroom stage. So we
offer four guidelines that will aid in communicating with onstage talent:
Please hold your comments to the caller or musicians to the break or the end
of the evening. The talent is concentrating hard during the dance to provide the best
experience for the dancers. Comments while the dance is in progress are a major
distraction and almost always degrade the quality of the calling, music or both.
Keep in mind that it is impossible to always please everyone. While we are
very happy to listen your point of view, please consider that we often get very
contradicting suggestions from different dancers. For example, one dancer may
believe the band is playing too fast while another may think the band is playing
too slow (and the caller may think we are playing juuuussst right!).
If you have difficulty hearing the caller, or the volume is uncomfortable to
you, please dont tell the band. They cant do anything about it. Kindly let the sound
engineer (or the caller when he/she is not calling/teaching) know your observations.
Remember that while the callers, musicians and sound engineers try our
hardest to make the dance special, for the most part we are not professionals.
Just like you, this is what we do for fun. We show up early, leave late, and set up
lots of equipment. And though we do get paid, the amount we get barely
compensates us for our time and expenses. Our real compensation is the
appreciation we get from the dancers (so dont be afraid to whoop and holler
we love it!). And we are trying to reach for the stars to create a fresh, exciting
experience for the dancers. Occasionally, what we try might not work. But often it
does work, and when it does the dance benefits accordingly (more whooping and hollering!).
The success of a dance, most would agree, is the effective interaction between
the caller, musicians, and the dancers themselves. (Certainly others also play
key roles sound engineer, volunteers, dance producers but the core is these
three elements.) This is not a performance the talent provides for the dancers,
rather a cooperative effort to provide an exhilarating experience for everyone.
The dancers feed off the energy of the caller and musicians, and that energy then
gets sent back to the caller and musicians who feed off the dancers. The more the
talent feels the respect and appreciation of the dancers, the more they will give
back in return. And thats what we are all after, isnt it?
Suzanne Duffy, Jeffrey Spero
Los Angeles, California
Wouldn't miss it!
-----callers-bounces(a)sharedweight.net wro= te: -----
To: Shared Weight <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
From: Seth S= eeger <seth(a)seeger.ws>
Sent by: callers-bounces(a)sharedweight.netDate: 02/22/2006 03:58PM
Subject: Re: [Callers] Callers workshop in Ju= ne
<= br>On Feb 22, 2006, at 3:53 PM, Lisa Sieverts wrote:
> So who's g= oing from this group? I'll be there!
> Lisa Sieverts
><= br>> On Feb 22, 2006, at 3:50 PM, Seth Seeger wrote:
>>= Just to let you all know... there are still six spaces
&g= t;> the Callers Workshop in June with Lisa Greenleaf and Brad
Foster. &n= bsp;At
>> this point, registrations will be accepted on a first co= me,
>> basis. More info here:
______________________ 5F ______________________ 5F_
>> Callers mailing list
>= >http:/= /www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers
_____ ______________________ 5F__= _________________
Callers mailing list Callers(a)sharedweight.net
Just to let you all know... there are still six spaces available for
the Callers Workshop in June with Lisa Greenleaf and Brad Foster. At
this point, registrations will be accepted on a first come, first serve
basis. More info here:
Cynthia asked about highlights of the Ralph Page weekend and anything in
particular that we learned there.
One big highlight for me--can one have a small highlight?--was the opportunity
to dance again to Tod Whittemore's calling. Within a few minutes of his taking
the stage on Friday night, I was remembering why it was so much fun to dance to
him. He has a great sense of humor and has a lot of fun on stage; that sense of
having a good time spreads throughout the hall.
Tod does not call complex dances-- no heys for four on the left diagonal, or
multiple Petronella twirls. He sticks with simpler material. As he put it in his
callers' workshop: "I'm not Larry Jennings, and I don't think like Larry
Jennings. I'd get lost calling some of the more complicated dances." He sticks
to simple material that he likes, teaches the dances efficiently, and lets the
dancers enjoy the music. He sized up the crowd quickly and called several
Between Tod and Lisa Greenleaf, we did a lot of grand square variations in the
course of the weekend, always a crowd pleaser. (Or, stated more specifically,
always a crowd pleaser for the crowd at this particular weekend.)
In his caller's workshop, Tod was encouraging us to think about why we call. He
started by posing five questions:
1. Do you habitually book dances ahead?
2. In a dance hall of six lines across, where would you choose (generally) to
3. What is your most memorable (positive) dance experience?
4. What is your most memorable (positive) calling experience? (Tod then added,
"...that had an impact on you as a caller?")
5. When you plan a program, what criteria do you focus on? What are your top
three? (Since Tod likes to call singing squares, one of his top three criteria
is to be sure to include them in every program.)
I'm indebted to David Smukler for keeping track of this information for the
syllabus he compiles every year. The syllabus from this year will be posted in
about a year at the UNH website, but you can purchase a paper copy from NEFFA
before then. They're usually available in time for the NEFFA festival. You can
find many more details about Tod's workshop, including many of the answers
shared to these questions. Lisa Greenleaf's workshop focused on calling for one
night stands; amny callers attended, and the syllabus is full of dance
directions for simple dances, in addition to some overall guidelines about
programming such events.
Another highlight, which I happened to capture on videotape, came on Sunday
afternoon, when Tod was calling one of his signature yodeling square dances,
Grandma Slid Down the Mountain. He was joined on the yodeling by Bob McQuillen.
I'll aim to have footage of that available for viewing at the RPDLW table at
I need to purchase another copy of Tom Hind's new book. Does anyone know
the amount and Tom's address? I've lost the original posting about it.
Seth Tepfer: Director of Administrative Computing & Innovative Technology
Oxford College of Emory University - 770-784-8487 - labst(a)emory.edu
For fast and easy computer help,
Jex Raven Eidson Tepfer - Born 6/5/05 00:52! Say hi at:
"A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought." -Dorothy
Lisa Greenleaf and Brad Foster are presenting a workshop-- "Contra Dance
Calling: Beyond the Basics"--for intermediate contra dance callers. The workshop
itself is June 24 in Amherst, MA, but registration is open now and a lottery
will be held next week if there are more callers interested than there are
available slots in the workshop.
Please pass this information along to folks who might be interested in and could
benefit from this opportunity.
Full information is available at the Country Dance and Song Society website:
"This small, pilot program has space for up to 25 callers who have previous
calling experience (from at least half an evening of contras through decades of
calling). It's a chance to take classes with master callers Lisa Greenleaf and
Brad Foster. Classes will address topics that are pertinent to callers attending
the event. Topics might include the language of teaching figures, how to get to
the next level, communicating with the band, teaching and calling challenging
contras, etc. You may request other topics on the registration form."
"There will also be time to meet other callers and discover ways you can support
each other in strengthening your calling abilities. One session will offer tools
for giving and receiving feedback. All participants will have the opportunity to
call a dance and receive feedback, either during the day or at a public contra
dance that evening. Live music will be provided by fiddlers Amy Larkin and
Shirley White with Linda Henry on piano."
By the way - I'd love to hear from any of you who DID make it to Ralph Page
this year what you highlight was, anything you learned that you'd like to
pass along to me (and anyone else) who wasn't able to be there.
I will also report that, as a still relatively new and inexperienced caller,
I had my first meltdown this past weekend that I DIDN'T have to stop the
music but was able to simply give the dancers a heads' up and start calling
a much easier dance that most of them knew and even those who didn't could
easily pick up without a walk-through (Lady of the Lake - Haymaker's Jig to
those of you not from Maine). The result was that at the end, the dancers
felt like we'd accomplished a miracle rather than had a failure. Whew! We
learn, we grow. It was fun.