I agree with Yoyo and others: so much of the order I teach figures depends on the dancers
and the gig. Having just done a couple one-night-stand gigs, I had the realization that I
use the same formula more or less for all dances: Can I teach a dance in less than 5
minutes--or 8 at the most--and start with the music. Hence, for rank beginners, start with
circles, into the center, swings, and promenades--I can do all this with music and no
talking... Then the Virginia Reel. Then onto what dancers are ready for. On rare
occasions, hands four dances. Usually not...
If I'm teaching after doing a beginners' workshop, I do an extremely glossary
dance that covers the figures we drilled in the workshop: Lady's Chain, R&L Thru,
Balance & Swing. The beginners have had a chance to walk it and learn it, then, when
the dance starts, the experienced dancers have no problem helping.
A1 Neighbor Balance & Swing
A2 Women Chain over & back
B1 R & L Thru over & back --OR--
B1 R & L Thru; Half Promenade
B2 Long Lines Forward & Back; Ones Swing
The OR B2 depends on how well dancers learned the R&L Thru. The challenge on the
R&L Thru is mostly for the women, who are naturally steered the wrong way. Men can
help, of course, in the pull by, but that takes awareness--something I usually point out
in a workshop. And noting other comments, I have come to usually teach the Right &
Left Thru first, the Chain second. I've done it both ways, and, of course, works or it
Although I do think of how people enter into the next figure, I often think if it as what
kind of connection there is, and whether the position is ambiguous. I'll alter dances
based on this. Like, another beginner dance is the slightly altered Nice Combination, by
the late Gene Hubert:
Nice Combination (slightly altered):
A1 Neighbor Balance & Swing
A2 Down Hall Four in Line, Turn as Couples, Return, Fold to Circle
B1 Circle Left 3/4; Partner Swing
B2 Women Chain; Long Lines Forward & Back
The original ends with a B2 Women Chain, Star Left
Where a star starts and ends is a bit ambiguous until a dancer has internalized the
bearings of the dance. So finding the next neighbor out of a mess of people possibly
looking at their left hands in the center of the star is a challenge. Long lines forward
and back has you connected to the previous neighbor and your next neighbor, and, if a
mistake is made, is a bit easier to see where you're supposed to be.
This lack of connection is what causes problems in things like a hey, where there is a
milling about with no contact, and no sense of the bearings and characters like up, down,
across, right, left, current neighbor, partner, etc.
If I'm calling to mostly beginners, and it's a regular contra series, I'll
call Carlotta Wellington's "Taking Liberties with Jefferson"
Taking Liberties With Jefferson
Improper (or Proper--doesn't matter, though technically Improper)
A1 Circle Left; Star left (back to starting point)
A2 Ones Down Outside, Return, Step to Center making Line of Four with Twos--Ones in
B1 Down Hall Four in Line; Ones Arch, Twos Duck Through to end up above Ones, Return 2x2
("Twos in Front, Ones Behind)
B2 All Balance & Swing Partner, End facing a New Couple
I like Yoyo's dance below, and will start using it, too.
Could go on, but that's enough for now...
From: Callers [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Yoyo Zhou via
Sent: Monday, August 22, 2016 1:25 PM
To: Luke Donforth <luke.donev(a)gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Callers] Favorite dance to teach a ladies chain?
On Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 8:18 AM, Luke Donforth via Callers
I've been thinking about glossary dances, and building vocabulary for
new dancers. I'm curious what your favorite dance is for teaching a
ladies chain for a crowd of mostly new dancers? Or if you don't have a
specific dance, what do you look for in a dance to make the chain as accessible as
Just a chain over? Or a full chain over and back?
Chain to neighbor? Chain to partner?
What move best precedes the chain to set it up?
What move best follows the chain that still helps new dancers succeed?
Other factors you consider?
Definitely for the first introduction to courtesy turn, just one chain ("half
chain") and with neighbor.
My choice of dance depends on the crowd and what issues they are having, and whether the
beginners have enough experienced neighbors to help them. For instance, sometimes they
struggle to end a swing or courtesy turn on the correct side. Entering a courtesy turn
from a swing (or long lines) is fine even if dancers don't end on the left/right
correctly. Going from courtesy turn into a ladies allemande or do si do is also fine if
they don't end on the left/right correctly.
One thing that occurred to me while pondering left hand stars was:
what happens if the courtesy turn doesn't end on time but 4 beats late? How forgiving
is the next move? With some figures like forward and back, or ladies allemande, it's
easy to see what's going on and skip ahead. With left hand stars, though, it *looks*
like it's easy to see what's going on, but there is a temptation to join in the
star wherever (disorienting for what follows, usually progression) or dash madly to get
into the right place (stressful). Or the whole star is late. And it's not intuitive to
many dancers (even experienced) where they need to join into the star; it's less
familiar than, say, a circle. And I've also seen dancers struggle with letting go of
the star to find the next neighbor.
As you've said, I think there are choreographic needs that could be filled here -
there is a common sequence that looks like 4. chain to P 5. ladies allemande/do si do 1 6.
P swing which it would be great to do with neighbors instead.
Here's a suggestion - I'm ready to believe Bob (or another
choreographer) has written it already:
A1: slice left to meet new N; ladies chain to N
A2: ladies allemande right 1; N swing
B1: down the hall, turn as couples
B2: circle left 3/4; P swing
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