David, thanks in particular for your comments. Mixers can indeed be interesting, and just
like contras and squares, I know there is a variety within the genre that provides
opportunity to select one that is optimal for the specific mix of experience levels
present, as well as the intangible "mood" of the group.
Here's another thought that just occurred to me: At least around here in the
mid-Atlantic, callers typically do not learn anything about mixers (why? when? which one?)
in callers workshops. If anything, we pick them up as we go along especially if we do
weddings and such. This clearly is a regional difference.
Another potential difficulty which could come up here is the built-in downside to circle
type dances: you need more than 10-12 dancers, but not too many because the circle does
not use space efficiently. Our hall is about 30' x 50' including chairs lining the
walls. The circle formation creates dead space in the center, and we don't have the
room for multiple circles.
We had our dance last night, and our guest caller did call a circle mixer. It was a well
attended night. With the folks present the circle was right at the edge of discomfort.
Only 4-6 more people in the circle would have made it next to impossible. I saw a fair
number of people sitting out, and I don't know if their thinking was "it's
just a mixer so I'll rest this one" or perhaps "it's already too
The rest of the night, the two contra sets accommodated all present with room to spare.
I'm thinking this dance space may be only marginally suited to circles, and when I
call there on 3/30 I'll most likely opt for a scatter instead unless the attendance is
Thank you all for your input. I'm aiming to make the mixer in my program as pleasant
Date: Saturday, March 03, 2012 9:08:01 am
From: "David Millstone" <David.Millstone(a)valley.net>
Subject: [Callers] Mixers: [was: Request about requests]
I'm fascinated by this discussion about mixers. with most of the comments so far
indicating that a) the authors don't like 'em, b) they don't use them, c) they
don't see the point, and d) dancers don't like 'em.
This strikes me as another example of people liking what they are accustomed
to. One of my caller mentors was Ted Sannella, who usually programmed a mixer
as the third dance of an evening; Tony Parkes, also, I believe, puts one there
for similar reasons. By this time, the caller can assume that the bulk of the
dancers have arrived, and a mixer gives everyone a chance to see everyone else
who's there. Mixers come in all shapes-- Sicilian circle, big circle / big set,
scattered couples, lines of three... They are a systematic way of taking new
couples clinging to each other and mixing them up. They give experienced helpful
dancers a chance to learn who's new, to note that person to ask later in the evening.
They add choreographic variety to a program.
I applaud the Charlottesville community for putting such an expectation in place.
In a short time, dancers there will come to expect a mixer in the program as the
normal thing. Who knows? Perhaps we can look forward to other communities giving
explicit instructions to callers: "We'd like the evening's program to contain
a few dances that are not duple improper or Becket contras" or maybe "We'd
the caller to go onto the floor at least once in a night to illustrate a style
As a caller who gets to work in a variety of venues, I love it when a community
has formulated such guidelines. It lets me know that what I'm doing that night
fits into an established pattern, that those local dancers are accustomed to some
variety in their program, or that they look forward to improving their dancing
Larry Jennings coined the "zesty contras' moniker and worked hard to bring that
ideal into reality. Among his most useful contributions to us all was stressing
the importance of "vision" for a caller and for a dance series. At this
"Puttin' On the Dance" weekend conference that attracted 80 dance organizers
the Northeast and beyond, the very first session for everyone focused on that
key ingredient. The notes from that conference are here:
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