Jim Saxe wrote:
*** My question is, have any of you ever seen something like this happen?
The caller (whether you or someone else, and using whatever
words) instructs, say, the head dancers to swing their
opposites, face the nearest side couple, and circle with
that side couple. In some square, one of the following
1. Instead of swinging in a spot directly in front
of one of the side couples, a pair of head dancers
swing either very near the gent's home place or
very near the lady's home place. (And you believe
that they aren't intentionally dancing offset from
their theoretical position to avoid crowding but
that they actually don't understand where they are
supposed to be.)
2. Head dancers swing opposites, then fall back to
home places. Then they go together with their
*partners* to circle with whichever side couple
they consider "nearest".
3. Somehow (whether or not you see exactly how it
happens) dancers end up in a circle of five and
a circle of three.
I have seen #3 happen several times when I was calling Ted's "Do-si-do and Face
the Sides." I now teach it more carefully. Granted, it has a do-si-do rather than a
swing, but I think I could now teach a similar dance with a swing and still keep the
circles of four where they belong.
<< My point is that even bits of choreography that aren't really difficult can
take more care to teach efficiently and effectively when they are unfamiliar to many of
the dancers present than when they are familiar to almost all. >>
Yes. This is why squares are such a challenge to present effectively at a mostly-contra
evening. The caller needs to think about what contra dancers know in terms of basic
movements and transitions between them. Then s/he can focus on the potential trouble spots
in a square and think about various ways of teaching them.
I just finished vetting the square "Head for Home" for a new caller who was
thinking of using it. It has two stars, each of which leads the dancers to someone they
haven't just been working with. I suggested freezing the action just before each star
and having the dancers locate the person they'll be going to from the star.
I find that freezing the action is important in walking through a lot of the squares in my
repertoire. Sometimes it helps to say "When you're done with the next move,
you'll have switched places with [person or couple]" or "you'll be right
back where you are now, facing the same way" or to have them take a shortcut to the
next place they'll be, to get their bodies familiar with it, then back up and get them
there the real way. (It could be argued that this last device is like showing how a magic
trick is done, but in traditional calling we're not giving the dancers puzzles to
solve, we're letting them take the scenic route even if there may be a more direct
path to where they're going. Sandy Bradley used to say "When we're all done
you'll be right back where you started, so the only thing that matters is that you had
fun along the way.")