It's been a while since I posted an update on what I have been doing
about learning to be a better caller, so here it is. It's not that I've
been really busy with work and not doing anything about calling lately,
but it's close.
Back in late March, I made it up to Nelson to attend the open mic.
again. One of the challenging things that I find about calling in Nelson
is the need for spontaneity in picking dances. This particular night, I
didn't do myself any favors by one, being very tired and two, not
practicing or preparing beforehand. So I got up to call 2 dances and the
first one went ok, but on the second one (one that I had never called or
practiced until 5 minutes before I got on stage) I made a mistake and
broke down the set. Don and Lisa were able to get everyone moving again
and I picked it up from there, but we ended up off from the music
(you'll see in a moment that this could be considered a theme...).
Overall another valuable experience and lesson in preparing carefully.
This week on Tuesday, I participated in a multi-caller night at the MIT
contra dance. Again it's challenging because you never know who you're
going to have, especially earlier in the evening. Seth and had the 1st
and 2nd slots and we had talked about having a triplet first. I had one
(Ted's #38) that I (again) had not practiced, but chosen for another gig
that I have coming up, so we decided that I would go first.
I quickly ran through it with some music provided by my iPod mini and
jumped up on stage with maybe 3 couples in the hall. While people were
lining up, three more couples materialized out of nowhere. As I started
to teach the dance, however, one of the couples interrupted me and
informed me that they had never done this before and needed help.
Immediately, another couple in the other set identified themselves as
new people. Seth and his wife Bethany kindly split up the 1st couple to
give both of them experienced partners and Clark Baker and his partner
split up the other 2. Since the dance started with a balance and swing,
there was a brief pause while 4 independent mini workshops in "balance
and swing" took place. That done, we got started with the walk through,
going slow to allow the experienced dancers to guide the beginners. I
decided that we definitely needed a 2nd walk through (by this time a 3rd
set had appeared). After the 2nd walk through, people were complaining
that they did not have their partners (I realized afterwards that I left
out the Gents Al L 1 1/2). We got everyone their partners back and
walked it through a third time with better success.
We were ready to start (and more than half of my time slot was gone),
and so we woke up the band and got going. I was a little flustered by
working with the beginners and the problems during the walk through, so
I forgot the thinly prepared patter that I had come up with. After some
stumbling, I finally remembered and got into the patter I had prepared,
but we were 16 beats off from the music. I could tell that we were off,
but I didn't have any attention to spare on fixing it. In the back of my
mind, I was trying to figure out how I was going to signal the band that
I wanted the dance to end and just went ahead and gave them the "2" sign
during the A1. This was the only time that I wasn't calling since the
beginners didn't seem able to carry on when I tried to drop out. We came
to a rather ragged halt when Emily Troll and I miscommunicated and she
finally asked me "out?" and I nodded my head.
After many apologies to the band and introducing Seth, I got off the
stage to catch my breath. I take some pride in getting everyone
(including the beginners) up and dancing, but think I have a ways to go
towards making it smoother. It was instructional to me to realize how
heavily you rely on the experienced dancers to integrate the beginners
into the dance. I had another slot later in the evening, but gave it up
to a young man (Ron was his name) who asked for a slot. I was pretty
wiped out by that first dance and then dancing with beginners later, so
was just as happy to give it up.
Coming up in about a week, I am going to be substituting for Chrissy
Fowler at the North Whitefield, ME dance. I went up there last month to
scout it out and it's a great dance. I am doing some revising of my
program at the moment, but will post it soon here for comments. I'm
looking forward to tackling an entire evening and getting a rhythm going
and having somewhat of a plan going in. I'm also going back to MIT next
month and doing a half evening with Mark Schneider which should go a
little smoother than the 6 caller evening did.
See you dancing!