On 5/19/15 1:08 PM, Ben Hornstein via Callers wrote:
Hi All,

I'm calling a dance this weekend at Comicpalooza, a large comic book convention. The crowd will be at least 95% people who have never danced. What are some dances that you all recommend for this sort of crowd? 


If you're in a hotel ballroom, try to keep them from laying down a tiny dance floor in the middle of your space.  Short-pile ballroom carpet is a lot better than mostly-short-pile-ballroom-carpet with a wooden lump with raised edges in the middle. Dancers hate dancing on carpet; non-dancers don't care.  They're going to have the wrong shoes in any case.

Give up on any idea of doing modern contra dances with duple minor progression.  Things are different form when I first got involved with sf fandom, but I'm imagining you'll likely have a gender imbalance.  Don't require or try to teach ballroom swings; elbow turns or two-hand turns are probably good.

These will typically be very in-their-heads people; you want to circumvent that at first by getting them moving right away, and not having to do any language processing.  Make them successful immediately. 

Get one long line of people holding hands, you at one end.  Lead the line snaking around the room, doubling back sometimes so that everybody sees everybody.   Wind up the ball of twine by bringing the line into a circle and then doing progressively smaller circles until just before you can't turn around.  Turn around and trace your path back.  Bring the line around into a big circle, with you next to the person at the end of the line.  Bring them into the center and back on out, do it again with a great big shout.  Applause.

(If you have adequate gender balance or willing people, you could pair them up and do a Grand March instead of the "wind up the ball of twine" you have above, and if you're leading a Grand March you can turn it into a wind-up-the-ball-of-twine as well.  The thing above is great for getting hold of people too shy to find partners, and there's no partner stuff so even people who don't want to dance with the same sex don't generally freak out.)

If you have partners, do Circassian Circle mixer (Into the center and out twice, ladies in and out, gents in and go to the lady who was on their other side (next neighbor); balance and swing (can be two-hand turn, elbow swing, whatever) and promenade.  Reform the ring, repeat) or La Bastringue (Into the center and out twice, circle left, circle right, swing the next lady/gent, promenade).

Squish the circle into two facing lines.  (If there's an extra person, step out, if you're needed make sure you're in at the top.)

Orcadian Strip the Willow (google it).  Top couple elbow turn right one and a half, left elbow turn the neighbor in line, turn partner once, left elbow turn the next neighbor, etc, etc.  A new couple starts every 16 bars of music or when they have enough running room to do it.

Break up into smaller sets (four or five couples).  Virginia Reel/Roger de Coverley.

Another good five-couple set dance is "Up the Sides and Down the Middle", but don't do it as your first small set dance. - Take hands in lines, step-swing balance  right and left and right and left, drop hands, cross right should with partner and loop to make lines on the other sides. Repeat all that to return.  Tops make an arch and lead down the middle while second couples cast off, leading their lines down the outside; they meet and lead up the middle under the arch, finishing with original tops at the bottom, original seconds at the tops.  Swing to the end of the phrase and repeat from new places.

By this time everybody who isn't aerobically fit is resting.  Make squares for Cumberland Squares / Square 8.

By now there should be some understanding of phrasing, especially if you've been pointing out how figures fit to the music.

If you still have enough people and they are are reasonably gender assorted you could do a Sicilian Circle.  If you have gender balance, Spanish Waltz is good.  (Couple facing couple, gent on the left, waltz time.  Take near hand with partner.  That hand (gent's left, ladies right) is the only hand used for the first sixteen bars.
Balance forward and back; take neighbor's only hand with your only hand and change places, turning the lady under.  Face partner, repeat with partner.  Face neighbor, repeat with neighbor.  Face partner, repeat with partner, all are home.  Right hand star, left hands back.  Facing neighbors, lead forward, fall back, drop hands, pass through, bow or curtsey to next neighbors.  Repeat with new neighbors.)

-- Alan