Some thoughts on the questions that have come up on this thread.
As mentioned, here in the the Bay Area we have a couple groups, and
they book in different ways:
The Bay Area Country Dance Society (BACDS) tends to book on the
quarter. And within each dance series there are different methods. Of
course, with itinerant bands and callers, we are willing to book far
ahead. The quarter system works pretty well this way, for two reasons:
1) Far away dates aren't booked for local talent and it's easy to work
with travelers who need to set up travel, and 2) Local musicians and
callers are less likely to call up and say, "I'd like to bow out because
I got an offer for a high-paying private gig," since these, too, are
usually set up in advance.
Within each series (contra anyway, I'm not so aware of the ECD
habits), there is the "book a band / caller for a date" or the "matrix
method". As Jim Saxe points out the "matrix method" is a way to strive
to make sure you're letting everyone get a chance. I book the Wednesday
Berkeley Dance, and do it the other way. As a band member and caller,
it's hard when Booking Season arrives, and you have the Sacramento,
Monterey, and Bay Area Dances all looking for talent on 2nd & 4th
Saturdays. Sending info to one and then booking with another, then
forgetting to let the matrix organizer know you've eliminated that date
is confusing, to say the least, and slightly troubling when you get the
call that the date you're given is the one you just booked... I do it
the ask the band "What date do you want." And, occasionally I ask them
to switch. Of course, booking a mid week dance is somewhat less
challenging, since it usually doesn't compete with lots of other gigs.
NBCDS: Tends to book a littler farther down the road.
Queer Contra: Tends to book 6 months ahead. Used to do a
year. I'm not completely sure, but I think they do some long-term
booking ahead, too.
Monterey: Tends to book on the quarter
Sacramento: Tends to book on the quarter, but I think
they're sort of on the quarter, but sometimes on 4 and 6 month cycles.
I think, sometime the booker goes traveling, and books ahead.
All of this is from the kinds of calls & emails I get, so take it
with a grain of salt.
I've never been good at keeping track of dances I call. I was bad
at it then, I'd get home, or wherever I was staying, and try to
reconstruct the program. Then I never reviewed it. I tend to program
spur of the moment. Sometimes I start having an idea of what I want to
cover, or maybe one dance I want us to do, with a particular challenge,
then see what I can do to get there. But the sense of the hall always
bends me in different ways, and I don't think I've ever done a program
that I've stuck with, except at weekends where we're doing Chestnuts, or
"Surf Squares" (Squares from Sets in Order with Surf names like
As far as not repeating myself in a certain area:
I don't think dancers notice as much as callers, and, dancers often
like the same dances. Dudley has mentioned doing the Virginia Reel at
the beginning of a night and at the end of the evening. I've been at
music camps where they want to dance the Virginia Reel every night. I
know that's not our sophisticated contra crowd, but many of us would
love to do Chorus Jig at every other dance. When I started dancing at
the once a month Santa Barbara Dance, if you had danced there 6 months,
you'd danced every dance David Woodsfellow called. Well, yes, he'd
throw in one or two new ones he learned, but the accumulation of dances
was slow. And, it was exciting! I knew the dances, and, if I danced
with someone new I could help lead them through. There were few
surprises, and it was a blast.
When David Left, and Jim X. Borzym left, and two of us locals, Carl
Managnosc and myself became the local Santa Barbara callers, we used to
meet and decide which dances we wanted to make sure stayed in the local
repertoire by making sure we included them.
So I don't worry too much about not calling the same dances. If
it's a day apart, and mostly the same people, I try not to, and,
usually, don't. If it's a week apart, I try not to, and trust my sense
of inspiration to guide me. If it's more than a week apart, I worry not
at all -- though I still trust that I'm going guided to calling mostly
different dances, with perhaps a few repeats. And I no longer keep
track of programming, even though part of me wishes I would. I'm just a
horrible bookkeeper. (Which reminds me, October 15 is tax day for me:
the second extension time is running out, I shouldn't be writing this
I love calling and/or playing, and would do it every night, if
possible. It enlivens me. I recall back when I could get the time to
go on tour, and we'd book 4 to 6 dances a week for three weeks. There
was a stride we got into being out every night. When we missed a night,
it broke the rhythm a bit. It's a lot of fun driving to a new place,
checking it out for a while, calling or playing for a dance, staying at
someone's house. I'd like to do that more again.
And, even here, I love doing this and can easily do it every day.
Luckily, my other work is teaching, so, I'm lucky, I put instruments in
my hands and get to make a lot of noise...
Getting up and calling never makes me nervous. I recall being full
of stage fright and stumbling over my words at a city council meeting
where I wanted to make my three minute point. And, I always get worried
about what I'm going to do as a solo musician at Valley of the Moon
Scottish Fiddle School, when I'm supposed to do something in the Staff
Concert. I mean, I get hired to run sound and call the evening party
dances, not stand alone in front of virtuoso musicians and play. But
calling or playing for dancers never makes me nervous, so I guess I'm
lucky that way.
All for now,
On 9/11/2013 12:50 PM, Kalia Kliban wrote:
I've just finished a full summer camp season, with 4 week-long camps in
just under 8 weeks and some home-town gigs in between. I feel pretty
wrung out. I've also had seasons when I overbooked and had a big
concentration of local gigs (11 gigs and a weekend, plus a pile of
performance rehearsals, in 8 weeks) that left me similarly pooped. I've
carefully booked the upcoming season to leave myself more down time, and
it's helping a lot. No more than one gig a weekend, with occasion
My question is for the other callers who call a lot, especially if you
travel to do it. What sorts of things to you do to take care of
yourself when your schedule is really intense? How do you keep your
calling fresh, and your attitude good? Do you have any personal
routines that help you focus? Aside from the fact that what we're doing
is mountains of fun, it's also a lot of work and takes careful
concentration and preparation. There's a local square dance caller who
does something like 320 gigs a year. I need to ask him sometime how he
does it, but he's always moving too fast to engage in conversation.
Maybe this is one of those questions that falls too far toward the
"advanced" end of the discussion spectrum. I don't know. But it's one
I'd love to hear from other hard-working callers about.
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