Many interesting comments, that caused many reactions when reading.
-Amy, are those musicians dancers as well? And do any of them also call?
Your discussion goal may be to discuss the synergy of the band, caller, and
dancers, and where trust is needed.
-I have no idea how long any of you have been calling, which can be a big
factor in how skilled you are in timing out an evening. I have been calling
10 years. For the first couple years, I watched the top couple go through
the line 1 1/2 times. As my cumulative skills as a caller improved, and I
moved up the learning spiral, I began asking the band how many tunes they
were playing, and learned to keep count of how many times through the band
had played. Those two factors are two main points i use in deciding dance
-Hooray Ann Fallon! You are the only one here who appears to clearly
understand how the band is the caller's best friend, and needs to be
acknowledged early and often. Show them the dance card (if you haven't
already sent them the program), help them understand the mood of the dance
if there's something special, and ask them how many tunes they'll be
playing for the particular dance.
And before a dance evening, I greet the band, and tell them: I prefer the
tunes be played around 116-120 bpm; I'll ask how many tunes they usually
play for a dance; explain hand signals for speeding up and slowing down;
and tell them I'll signal them at halfway through, and then at 3, 2, and 1
time to go.
These are the guidelines I use to run a program.
-I estimate the crowd size, several times through the evening, especially
if there's a lot of coming and going... If there's around 40 dancers or
less, I'll run a dance 13 times through. 45-60 dancers, 15 times through.
More than 60, 17 or 19, depending on line length of the lines.
-When the band tells me how many tunes, I'll often verbally confirm how
many times each tune will run. I will also know at what point to give my
-Exception: if a band gets in a really good groove, I'll let the dance run
two extra times through.
-Exception: If there's a large percentage of beginners at the start of a
dance, I'll run the first 1 or 2 (easy) dances 2 extra times through.
-Maximum 3 minutes break between dances. 2 minutes is the goal. Any longer
and you are giving control away to the crowd.
-Teach the dance 2 times through, 3 minutes or less is the goal.
-I understand the benefits of the stopwatch, but it takes the band
significantly, if not completely, out of the equation. With that method you
likely won't do much more than tell them "3 times to go". Again, let the
band know through lots of communication that you are partners in the
success of the dance.
-The number of tunes the band is playing should not affect the dance
length. The goal of both band and caller is to bring the dancers maximum
joy. You want to give them time to understand the dance, and then melt into
it, and the music. In my experience, 13 times through is about the minimum
that can do that.
-In a temperature-controlled room, let the dancers decide what their
stamina level is. Your job is to make a good dance presentation with your
musicians. Shortening dances, thus reducing the chance of a band, and the
dancers, getting into a groove, doesn't help. A better way to treat a
warmer hall is to give an extra minute between dances. This will, through
the night, cut out time for one dance.
On Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 6:51 PM, Kalia Kliban via Callers <
I usually warn bands that I tend to run dances just a
little shorter than
other callers. My habit is about 5-and-a-bit dances an hour, 12 minutes
(give or take) from the start of teaching one to the start of teaching the
next, but that definitely varies. Size, energy, chattiness and skill level
of the crowd make a huge difference, symmetry (or not) of the dance, the
music (does it fit the dance really well? Is it just a smokin' tune that
should run a little longer? Is it really fast, so the dancers will poop
out earlier?), even the floor condition can affect how long I'll run. I
have a really hard time estimating when I'm halfway through a dance, and
much prefer to give bands 3-and-out, though I frequently flex on that if
they've got another tune in the wings, as Ryan mentions below.
Reading the responses from other callers tells me that my 12-minute timing
sense isn't far off from other folks, but it may be that here in the Bay
Area I run a little shorter than average. Seems like the bands are always
changing tunes right when my spidey-sense tells me it's time for "last 3".
On 4/27/2015 2:20 PM, Ryan Smith via Callers wrote:
There's a band I work with on a pretty
regular basis that usually
follows my lead, but will occasionally ask "For this set, can we choose
when to go out?" I trust them not to run it too long, and letting them
choose when they go out gives them a lot of control over the musical
experience, which ultimately seems to work well for the dancing
experience. I'll sometimes signal a band when they're not ready to go
out yet, and I'm usually willing to be negotiated up from 3 more times
to 5. More than that, and we're starting to wear out the dancers.
I think it's worth mentioning that if you know from the outset that you
are going to want to run a dance longer or shorter than your average,
for whatever reason, that if you communicate that to the band in advance
it will help make sure that you're not cutting them off just as they
wind up or leaving them sitting on a tune that they really didn't mean
to play that long. I know some bands that like to be signaled when you
get to the middle of the dance, and will even ask to be signaled a
little early for certain sets of tunes.
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