Our Side of the Mic
by Bob Riggs
During the last month many callers, cuers and dance leaders from the Denver Area met for a discussion of a variety of topics of interest. Some of the topics that were discussed or should be thought about included:
- Should social activities outside of the dance floor be considered in our activity?
- Everyone agreed that social activities outside the dance events would benefit their groups.
- Should callers respond to scheduling and contract communications in a timely manner?
- Scheduling and contracting transactions are part of the business of square dancing. If a caller does not respond in a timely manner they obviously don’t want the business of the club. You can continue to attempt to get a response or move on. As a caller, respect the event planners and respond as quickly as possible to complete the arrangements.
- What should be the reaction of dancers when their caller is stuck in the past with music and teaching techniques?
- Communication is the first recommendation; speak to the caller expressing the desire to enjoy more contemporary music and/or techniques. Recognize that the option of last recourse is to “vote with your feet” and stop attending his/her events or in some cases replace the caller.
- How do we drive a “youth” movement in Square Dancing?
- First, would a “youth movement” mean dancers in their 40’s / 50’s or do you mean teens and young adults? It would be recommended that we work on all fronts. However, if we want to start an evolution toward younger participants at our dances we should focus our recruiting on people who are 5-10 years younger than the median age of our club. These recruits will enjoy dancing with each other and with us. Going significantly younger will create a division in the club structure. We should resist the temptation to recruit folks just like ourselves, this only leads to the aging of the club.
- Single Dancers … is it possible to teach reverse roll through workshops or lessons?
- Most of the callers & cuers have no issue with single dancers learning both the left hand and right hand parts of square dancing. If you would like to learn both, contact one of the callers and plan to attend class as a student dancing the part that would be new to you.
- What about basic dances with a limited basics program?
- Currently the only dances in the Denver metro area that feature Square Dance Basics is Red Hot Country Squares, Harold’s Angels and some community dances. It should be noted that when attending a dance advertised as Mainstream, about 80% of the calls used are from the Callerlab Basic list. It would be a value to the dance community for there to be more dances that promote the joy of square dancing without the complexity of a lot of calls to learn. A lot of entertaining dancing can be accomplished with fifty-one figures.
- Can council reps visit school board meetings to request that square dance be added to physical education curriculum? At least we could let the local media know we are doing this so we can get newspapers to write articles.
- Many folks over the years have had ideas on how to get square dancing back into our schools and many attempts have been made. There are some callers who have created an association with a school or school district to present square dancing to the students. Some have attempted to get it added to the curriculum, with limited success. And others have looked at getting colleges and universities to recognize the importance of the activity. I started a few years ago to understand how square dancing skills might map to the grade based proficiencies that are established by most states. If you are or have been a teacher or educator of teachers and would be willing to discuss this, please contact me.
- Encourage compassion for challenged dancers or handle personally the one you know is challenged.
- Today we have dancers who are attempting to dance above their ability. We must all care about our fellow dancers and callers. Everyone should remember that the event is most successful when everyone strives to provide an entertaining evening to all. New dancers or those that are challenged by the dance should be encouraged to square up in the front of the hall near the caller with the strongest dancers they can find.
- What do we do in circumstances where women expect that male partners will be provided by the club?
- In general no one should expect that someone or some group should provide partners. Our social activity is a place where people can meet people. If you are a person that respects yourself and your fellow dancers, there will always be others that will enjoy dancing with you. The activity has been referred to as Friendship set to Music”. This means that there is no place self-righteous, demanding, disrespectful or superiority behaviors.
- Caller is “too fast” … can the callers be encouraged to “time” their calls? Are they taught this at Callerlab?
- When a caller is referred to as “too fast” one of three circumstances is occurring. (1) The caller has the tempo (beats per minute) of the music set faster than the pace that the dancers can maintain. As our dance community has gotten older we have had to slow the tempo from the high 128-132 bpm in the 1970’s to 116-120bpm today. (2) The caller is leaving out calls like forward & back that allow for recovery time. (3) The caller is delivering the calls at a pace which is faster than they can be reasonably danced. For example: heads promenade half way takes 8 counts of music, if the caller only gave 4 beats and then delivered the call square through four with the expectation that they would execute the promenade in 4 beats the dancers would feel very rushed. This is NOT taught. Callerlab has a timing sheet that explicitly defines the number of beats that each call should be danced in and encourages calling techniques that respect this timing. Callers’ schools that are using the recommended curriculum teach the appropriate timing and delivery techniques. Talk to your caller to understand the circumstances of the specific event.
Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss any of these topics more.