This post is one of a series documenting my hobby of calling (leading) Contra dancing, building off of my original post on this topic.
This dance evening marked my first “full evening” calling debut at the famous Concord, MA Scout House. I was excited to have the opportunity to call at this venue and to work with the excellent musicians playing: Mia Friedman (fiddle), Ariel Friedman (cello), Bethany Waickman (guitar), Jack O’Connor (mandolin, banjo, percussion).
My dance program as called for the evening consisted of:
- Broken Transcription – Don Veino
- Get Me Going – Lisa Greenleaf
- Butter – Gene Hubert
- Coconut Cream Pie – Lynn Ackerson
- Further and More – Lisa Greenleaf
- Winter in Summerland – Jeff Spero
- Amy’s Harmonium – Cary Ravitz
- Sweet Scent of Sage – Don Veino
- Sweet Music – Amy Kahn
- Special Delivery – Nell Wright
- All You Can Eat – Ted Crane
- The Baby Rose – David Kaynor
I had deliberately planned to start the evening with easy material that still presented fun dancing. The first five dances went very well – quick teaching and smooth dancing to wonderful music. Coconut Cream Pie (by a caller friend in California) was my first time calling a Four-Facing-Four dance and it went off well. BTW, I highly recommend this dance as it is very robust and works even if partner roles get mixed up.
My sixth dance selection, Winter in Summerland, is a great Becket dance which I’d mistakenly noted as having previously called successfully (so had not diagrammed it for this gig). My card had a (minor, positions swapped) error in it found during the walk-through. Believing my notes, I was convinced I’d made a walk-thru error and tried it again and became flustered enough by that to not spot the fix in the moment. Luckily, I had thought through this possibility and had selected several recovery dances. So I pulled out a Becket recovery dance, Amy’s Harmonium, and that went smoothly – albeit after time wasted for a second dance’s walk-through.
My final dance of the first half, Sweet Scent of Sage, was my new composition honoring my wife – who was in the crowd with my daughter. This was its first public performance. I had worked out carefully how to teach it. However, I probably should not have tried calling it for this evening – the dance has an unusual transition from a Mad Robin move, and another move I’d planned to use Winter in Summerland to teach previously. As a result, my teaching took longer than expected and again I got a bit flustered and forgot that I could/should have got down to the floor to do a demo the first time through. I did get onto the floor to straighten out some misalignment during the second walk-through, but it was still feeling a little rough and we were late moving to the break. So I made a decision to drop the dance and move on to the waltz. Well the crowd wouldn’t have it – they wanted to do it! So we did, and several folks later told me how much they’d enjoyed dancing this partner-centric dance. Among my takeaways, I now have a standing reminder on my card holder: “Will a demo teach better?”.
The first dance of the second half went well. The second dance, Special Delivery, is one I’ve called several times before without issue. The dance has two diagonal moves with a shadow which proved to disorient two couples in one of the lines this evening. I got down to the floor to try to help them get back on track. However, another couple (experienced dancers both) apparently got frustrated when they encountered this and just walked off the floor. This further complicated the situation such that there was nothing I could do to fix it but end that dance a bit short.
The balance of the evening went smoothly – two sure-fire dances which always please dancers.
I’d requested dancer feedback comments and put out a notebook for anonymous input. I received several helpful inputs that way and via face to face chats. Also heard that folks appreciated my programming different/unusual dances. Some wonderful learning that I’ll do my best to apply going forward. Thanks to those that made the effort to share their thoughts with me!