I recently had the following exchange on a different list with Michael
Shapiro (guitarist with U4):
>>> U4 just played the SwingShift weekend in Lexington/Berea. The caller was
Barbara Groh. She did something that I think most callers should do, but I
haven't seen before. After the sets were formed and people had done the hand
four, she then broke up the beginners sets that had formed at the end of the
lines. She asked then to move forward and intersperse themselves with the
more advanced dancers (so that they were more toward the beggining of the
line and the foursomes were not all beginners).
She was also good at letting the music be heard ...
>> Regarding the caller asking sets to reform in order to spread the less
experienced dancers throughout the hall, much tact is required. Generally,
callers strive to avoid calling attention to particular dancers other than
when asking people to watch a demonstration, but asking people to change
sets can have the effect of making them feel like there is attention on
them. In addition, newish dancers want to dance with people they know, even
if those friends may also be newish dancers.
>> Speaking to the entire crowd, I do encourage experienced dancers to share
their experience by asking someone they've never met to dance at least once
in the evening, and praise the community for being so welcoming to newcomer
dancers. So while I might be thinking "let's break up this clump of
confusion," it would not be good to say something that draws attention to
"you people right here."
>> I have asked, off mic, for a set of experienced dancers to offer to
repartner with a set of inexperienced dancers down the line.
To this list, I ask:
I'd be interested in the wording that Barbara Groh used (which I'm assuming
was quite gentle). I'm also guessing other callers on this list have
developed tactful ways to address this issue.
Thanks everyone who chimed in to help! Makes perfect sense now that I look
at it, that the circle and rollaway should be in the first phrase of the A2,
and the gents allemanding and ladies orbiting in the second phrase.
Thank you David for reminding me about the RPLDW syllabi. I've said for
years that I need to get to that weekend and still haven't made it. Probably
why I never think to look there but I've added the link to my favorites now.
Bill actually got the answer to me first since I get this list as the digest
version and he emailed me directly as well. I was going to call the dance
again tonight but ended up switching it out for Money Musk instead!!
Yes Martha, I know all about your husband! I met both of you at the English
Weekend in STL last Labor Day.
I think it's really cool that you went to school with Martin, Lisa.
What a great resource this group is! Thanks again everyone.
I have a dance called "Venus & Mars" noted as written by a Martin Sirk. I
believe that I've danced it a number of times but had never called it until
a week ago. I can't remember how/where I got the calls. I've tried searching
for it online but can't seem to find anything resembling what I have. So, I
thought I'd consult my panel of experts. First question is, do I have this
A1: Neighbor balance & swing
A2: Circle L 3/4
Partners rollaway w half sashay (up/down)*
B1: Gents allemande L 1 1/2, while the ladies orbit CW 1/2 way
B2: Circle L 3/4
Balance ring, partners california twirl
My second question is about the timing in the A2, which is why I keep
wondering if I've transcribed this incorrectly. There seems to be leftover
time. I think people are used to circling L 3/4 in 8 counts. * But I'd say
that the rollaway w half sashay is only worth 4 counts maybe 6, but not 8,
especially if people have good weight and really move the circle around. Is
the timing really that mushy?
I found that many of the gents started the allemande early. The ladies often
took a split second to remember they were orbiting, but everyone had quite a
bit longer than 8 counts for the partner swing. While I was watching the
dancers, it seemed like every circle of 4 was in a slightly different place
in the dance.
As it happened, I was calling the dance with an old time band and the tune
didn't have particularly distinct phrasing, so I didn't think it was
particularly problematic. I just don't remember there being that much spare
time when I've danced it. Anyone call this dance that can comment?
You have the bare bones of the dance transcribed correclty, but not the timing.
>From the 2004 Syllabus for the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend:
A2- Circle left 3/4, with partner on the side rollaway with a half sashay
Gents allemande left 1&1/2 while women orbit clockwise halfway round
I'll just repeat a suggestion I've made before: The collection of syllabi from
the RPDLW is a great place to look for dances, especially given the handy index
that David Smukler updates each year:
David's notes for this dance:
---quoted material follows:
The author, an astronomer says, "The only thing I would add is that when the
ladies orbit, they pass right shoulders with the lady in the next square [i.e.,
minor set], that is they go around each other. This really adds to the sensation
of swirling planets." Note that, except for its title, this contra dance is
entirely unrelated to the "Venus and Mars" square dance figure.
---end quoted material
Rich Goss wrote:
> That would be an interesting discussion topic.? Has anyone encountered a
> mad robin that is reversed?
In the English dance "Mad Robin," the ones do the mad robin figure following
the path of the do-si-do, but when the twos do the figure they are following
the path of a see-saw.
Not sure about modern contras, but I expect at least some involve a
see-saw-path mad robin.
For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance. ~ William Butler Yeats
That would be an interesting discussion topic. Has anyone encountered a mad robin that is reversed?
I can't recall one. I know sometimes it's the gents passing in front and sometimes it's the ladies, but that just depends on where you start from. I think a mad robin always follows the dosido path, just depends on if you start from the gent below, or gent above.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack Mitchell" <jamitch3(a)mindspring.com>
To: "Caller's discussion list" <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
Sent: Friday, March 26, 2010 7:34:32 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Re: [Callers] Teaching Mad Robin
If you teach it that way, make sure that it is actually the path of a Do
Si Do and not a See Saw....
I am looking for suggestions on how best to teach a "Mad Robin" to contra
dancers who have not encountered it before. It is in "Joyride" after a
Gypsy and I have tried suggesting that they just let their feet take them
around on the same path as the Gypsy did while turning to face their
partner, and I have tried describing how the women start going up and inside
and the men down and outside - but there is still a bit too much confusion
out there. I am planning on doing this in a venue where it may not be
feasible to do a demo. Any additional ideas?
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In this three day workshop, intermediate callers will have a chance to
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I've attached the flyer and registration information. Please pass this
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If you don't have it, get it.
-------- Original Message --------
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This dance looks like a lot of fun, and I'm going to try it.
At first glance (without working it through via Smurf toys), it looks to me like the first turn of the wave makes folks face the "wrong way" up or down the set, with the Ladies Al-L 1/2 in the A2 turning them back in the direction of progression again. Is this right?
If so, I think it would be useful to say that sort of thing when teaching. Do you agree?
Also, what other teaching tidbits have you found helpful? I'm really into working out the short-and-excellent walkthrough these days.