I thought Don had some great suggestions for a periodic open caller dance.
I helped keep Seattle's Open Band/Open Caller monthly dance going for
awhile, and really liked having a host caller. The expectation was that the
host would help keep the flow of the evening going by calling the first and
last dance of the night, and fill in with others if needed, would arrange
the order of the other callers (so more experienced callers might alternate
with newer ones). The host caller would sometimes mentor (or chose a more
experienced caller who was willing to mentor) less experienced callers:
step in if they needed advice on choosing a dance, have dances to suggest
on hand, help with band signals and knowing when to end the dance (but as
Don says - also let it be learning experience - know how much to support &
give reassurance, without taking over).
We did not do sign-ups in advance, but put out a sign-up sheet during the
potluck before the dance. It was a given that signing up to call a dance
was not necessarily an indicator of the order.
Great for you for keeping this tradition going! Hope it goes well,
Date: Mon, 23 May 2016 15:31:21 -0400
From: Don Veino via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
To: Chet Gray <chetgray+sharedweight(a)gmail.com>
Cc: Don Veino via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
Subject: Re: [Callers] Organizing open calling
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
Sue Rosen generally does this for the periodic NEFFA caller nights at the
Scout House Thursday dance. The expectation there is you have your wall
clock time slots (e.g.: 7:30-7:55) and you *end* your slot on time, no
matter what happened before or during your slot. Having slots specified as
real clock time instead of elapsed time makes staying on/recovering to
schedule much easier. I appreciate/leverage her approach and have taken it
a bit more on-line.
I've done this several times for our other Scout House series. My approach
is to set up a shared Google spreadsheet with the available time slots,
names assigned to slots. Generally in the first "half" (curiously, longer
than the second :), a given caller gets two dance slots in a row and one in
the second (one caller gets the flip assignment). I have the four callers
enter two dances for each slot. One choice for "beginner heavy" and the
other for "more experienced". Having them all in one place, we can
visualize the program choices and challenge arc of the selections. The
crowd that arrives leads us to which column will be the program that night.
People can comment in the sheet and we work out most conflicts or necessary
adjustments on-line (or by phone, etc.) before the evening. Of course there
may be some tweaks that night, but having the two program difficulty
choices spelled out minimizes that.
This process typically takes about 2 weeks. Can be done in less time but
would need to be led strongly with deadlines. People (particularly at this
level) have focus on their "primary" job/life and the turnaround time on
requests and changes can take days.
- Work out who'll introduce/recognize the band, sound, etc. (easily
overdone or forgot otherwise).
- Outgoing caller introduce the next one.
- Tape a copy of the program up near the caller's mic.
- Following caller helps enforce (gently) finishing clock time of
- Have slop slots built into your schedule (~7 minutes first half, ~5
second - not distributed into the caller slots and ideally remaining
unused) and explicitly schedule any waltz/scandi and break(s) too.
- You're the glue in this process. Be ready to help out but also stay
back to let them work out any issues themselves - that's part of their
On Mon, May 23, 2016 at 2:04 PM, Chet Gray via Callers <
After losing monthly open-calling evenings to venue schedule conflicts
last year, the local contra group where I live (Louisville, KY) are
re-implementing them on 5th-week dances (so, about four or so times a
year). I am "organizing caller" for the first of these, next Monday, and
I'm wondering if any of y'all have advice on coordinating an evening of
The extent of organization for our previous open-calling dances had been,
essentially, callers put their name on a list and everyone hopes it works
out, and, while this was usually serendipitous fun, it often led to
long-running dances (both individually and for the evening overall) and
less-than-enjoyable experiences for newer dancers. When our board was
discussing re-starting open calling, I had recently been at the Jan Jam
(Champaign/Urbana, IL) after party, where Lauren Peckman had coordinated
open calling, and where I'd had the best open-calling experience?as both a
dancer and a caller?I'd ever encountered. I suggested to our board that,
this time around, the evenings each have an "organizing caller" to help
ensure overall program flow, coordinate callers/dances with an eye to
complexity/energy/time, incorporate and assist novice callers, wrangle
callers if need be for time limits, fill in gaps in the program, have
back-pocket dances at the ready, etc.
Lo, they asked me to take a go at coordinating. Suggest a change, be the
change, I suppose. ^_^
The open calling has been announced at our weekly dances leading up, and
tonight (a week before) I'll be asking (but not requiring) prospective
callers to talk to me to help me get an idea for how I can best help the
Any suggestions/anecdotes/warnings from my more-experienced fellows would
be greatly appreciated.
? Chet Gray