I just had a gig like this! A friend of mine is heavily into MWSD and is
always looking for ways to cross-pollinate the scene. She asked me to come
and share an evening with the regular caller because they couldn't get a
round dance caller for that particular night. I did not have a live band; I
used recordings, and I provided my own sound gear and mic.
Here's what I learned:
1. Long swings, of even eight counts, are not intuitive and you have to
spell out exactly what you want. The one time I introduced an eight count
swing, I counted it for them so they knew how long it was going to be - and
some people did not care for it at all. It does mean that a lot of the easy
contras I have, with 16-count swings that give people a chance to recover
and get back on the phrase, do not work very well.
2. Many calls overlap, and you can use those to your advantage. I was
trying to figure out if I was going to have to teach a ladies' chain, for
example, and I asked a MWSD caller acquaintance what would happen if I said
to the group, with no explanation, "Ladies, chain across the set," and when
I realized it was exactly what I needed them to do, I relaxed a little. :)
3. Be prepared for something you say to *not* mean the same thing you
intend, even if you think you are being exceedingly precise. I can't
remember what it was - but I intended for people to end up back to back
with their neighbor, facing a new foursome. What I got was people standing
shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors in what a contra dancer might
describe as a "short wavy line" without hands.
That point about becket dances perhaps being easier to understand
progression in is something I noticed at another recent gig I called -
interesting enough that it is making me rethink what I have flagged as
"first three dances of the night."
Good luck and have fun!
On Sun, Feb 21, 2016 at 12:22 PM Lisa Greenleaf via Callers <
Check this out:
Clark Baker is a MWSD caller and a contra dancer, and he wrote an article
explaining the differences.
On Sat, Feb 20, 2016 at 3:28 PM, Joseph Erhard-Hudson via Callers <
I've been pretty low-key on calling for several years now, just a few
dances a year. Years ago I did close to one gig a month at home and
around my local region, but cut back due to busy life. Now I've accepted an
invitation for a regular gig that's going to be a bit different, so I'm
back on this email list, and I seek your advice.
A few people from the nearby Western Square Dance group came to one of
contra dances where I was calling, and had such a fun time they
have invited me, and the band from that evening, to come and do a monthly
series in their hall, promoted and sponsored by them. The band and I
decided we'd give it a shot.
I've had barely any exposure to Western Square Dance, but I know their
education system is formalized, calling is improvised, and the music is
mostly recorded; whereas in contra dancing the education is more by
assimilation, the calling is mostly fixed within a given dance, and the
music is live and improvised. I anticipate we may feel like strange cousins
to each other. Do any of you have any experiences or thoughts about
crossing over into this parallel universe of traditional dancers? I'm
particularly concerned about how I can best help them feel comfortable with
the way Contra Dance is done, and how I can be a gracious presence in their
Bonus question: they want to know how to split the gate, since they
experience paying bands. Your thoughts?
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