Calling Log

9/21/2006 -- Trip to IHOP -- Swarthmore : After Class
The first dance I called. Went very well, even though I didn't do a very good job of calling it (mostly I was late in calling things). We had some contra dances after (english) folkdance class and most of the inexperienced people were gone by the time it was my turn to call.

9/28/2006 -- Fat Bear's Reel -- Swarthmore : Class
This time I called during class, so many more new people. This dance was supposed to teach them the hey, but it was a bit to complicated. I also origonally had it with ladies starting one of the heys, which rushed the gypsy, confused the new dancers, and was a bad idea.

10/12/2006 -- Patriot's Jig -- Swarthmore : Class
Patriot's Jig has an eight count swing in the first half of the A1. This used to be fine, but dancers now do not expect swings to end until the end of the phrase. So I got confused and didn't tell them to stop swinging in time, the dancers got confused, people swang until the end of the A1 and the whole dance was off. After this I got advice to practice calling to recorded music, which I've done since and has helped a lot.

10/15/2006 -- Good Morning Mr. Sanders -- Medford house
After a contra there were a bunch of people at our house and we thought it would be fun to do a contra. I tried this one, but people were really too tired to dance and we only had two hands four. So it didn't last very long.

11/2/2006 -- The Nice Combination -- Swarthmore : Class
Calling back in class after I had messed everyone up the last time I was very cautious. So I looked a bit for a really easy dance, with lots of time to catch up, and called this one. It went well, though english dancers are used to going down the hall for only four and coming back instead of the eight standard in contra. It's really hard to call in such a way that people do something later. It ended up giving people more time to swing and they slowly figured out how far to go and how much time they had.

11/15/2006 -- Box the Gnat Contra -- Swarthmore : ML
Before calling in class I decided to practice with some helpful friends, so we got three couples and danced for a while.

12/14/2006 -- Box the Gnat Contra -- Swarthmore : Class
Called this in class; it went well. Some of this was people knowing more and more contra.

1/16/2007 -- Good Morning Mr. Sanders -- Winchester : MLK dance
David Casserly organized a dance on MLK day for which I mostly played. I called one dance, though, and it worked. All the new people had left by the time I called, though, so I only had to call the first two times through.

3/2/2007 -- Good Morning Mr. Sanders -- Swarthmore : Student Contra
We had a dance in Upper Tarble, mostly organized by Bronwyn though with me dealing with music. Bronwyn did most of the calling but I called one dance during the main time, second after the break. It mostly went well, except that the line got amazingly s-shaped. Upper tarble is really long and people like to dance all in the same set when possible, and people seem to be worse at keeping the line straight (when there are no other lines) in proportion to the square of the length of the line.

3/2/2007 -- Trip to IHOP -- Swarthmore : After the Student Contra
People wanted to keep dancing after the student contra, and even after we gave them a second waltz, a polka, and another waltz, they wanted more. We danced two more contras then, the first a repeat of a dance we did earlier in the night, walked through but with no calling. For the second one I walked people through trip to ihop, called the first round, then joined on the bottom, still calling. Calling while dancing worked a lot better than I thought it would, and was easier than normal calling.

3/22/2007 -- Mary Cay's Reel -- Swarthmore : Folkdance Class
Called this in class, only needed to call three or four times through. The new dancers are getting a lot better. And it helped that the dance is easy and I called it properly. Went well enough that I got to dance once people knew the dance.

It's weird doing dances for class: it's so restricted. There's only one contra for the night so it needs to have good neighbor and partner interaction, generally both a neighbor swing and a partner swing. This eliminates a lot of otherwise fun dances that would be fine in a varied contra program.

4/3/2007 -- Smooth Like Buttah -- Swarthmore : Folkdance Class
This dance didn't go too well. The dance ended with a B2 of: Which just took more than 16 counts. So people were late at the beginning of the dance, and everyone was sad. We didn't get off the music, but people had to rush the circles to the point where they were just silly.

5/20/2007: Looking back I think I see what I figured wrong. The dance should be circle left half way, slide left, circle left half way. It's not that much dancing for the music, but circle left all the way, slide left, circle left all the way is definitely too much.

5/1/2007 -- Chorus Jig -- Swarthmore : Folkdance Class
We had been doing maypole dances around our spiffy new may pole (thanks facilities!) but when enough people wanted to leave that some ribbons would be free we switched to a scottish set and then a contra. We were outside on grass so I figured Chorus Jig would work well and it did. I danced while calling, which worked fine, though having both the ones and the twos walk contra corners probably would have been better. Or making sure all the new people were ones.

5/3/2007 -- Newly Friendly Theives -- Swarthmore : Folkdance Class
Dance went fine, though I should get both the ones and the twos to try the 'A round two, B cut through' bit if I call for newish people again.

6/12/2007 -- Mary Cay's Reel -- MIT
I was playing for the dance (open band with Victor Troll and friends) and ended up calling one of the dances. Mary Cay's went well, and even though there were many beginners I didn't need to call it all the way through (as most of the other callers were doing). I've been working on not calling. Well, how to stop calling during the dance without messing people up. When I started I would call until everyone seemed happy and then stop, which either resulted in people messing up as soon as I stopped or having learned the dance and been dancing with unneeded calls. Over the past few times calling I've made an effort to, after I've called it fully a time or two, only make the calls people seem to need. In Mary Cay's, for example, the B part goes: During the walkthrough I said all of that, with some additional explicatory exposition on the alemans and who to turn with. During the first couple of times through it was 'long lines', 'ladies aleman right', 'and left', 'partner balance and swing'. Then as people got the sequence 'long lines' and 'ladies aleman right' was enough for people to get the rest. The bit I kept calling longest was the circle at the top of the A, mostly because the timing is a bit tight coming out of the circle and some people kept going into long lines by accident. I need to practice more, but now I've noticed I should be noticing this.

7/10/2007 -- Poetry In Motion -- MIT
Chris nicely gave me a slot to call, and I chose this dance because it is relatively simple and the crowd had a high ratio of beginners who were getting frustrated with complex dances with diagonal sillyness. Chris thought it had a bit more neighbor interaction than a dance needed, but I think the give and take balances it partnerwise and as long as you don't call several heavy neighbor dances in a row it's not bad.

Minimizing calling didn't go as well as last time; people messed up more when I dropped calls and weren't recovering well, so I didn't get fully to not calling until maybe the 7th time through. By then it was just the ladies chain call, though, so not too bad.

I did one thing I hate callers to do, though. I called a double walkthrough and then had people go back to place. If I'd just been a little more careful I could have had people stop just in the right place to begin with the right hand star, but they started the star a little and I caved and sent everyone home. Which wasn't too bad (compare to fourth and fifth walkthroughs for some of the other dances other people called) but was avoidable.

Sleep now.

7/24/2007 -- Zero Sum Game -- MIT
Tried ending the dance with a partner swing. Began calling again for the B1, changed the B2 to long lines, partner swing. I think I said something like "this time long lines forward and back; partner swing". I think the words "this time" are key for signalling you're going to change things up. I danced to one caller once who put "this time" as filler in their calls. It was totally confusing. The long lines figure also works well for a change because you can really see what everyone else is doing. Seemed to go well.

9/6/2007 -- Al's Safeway Produce -- Swat Folkdance Class
This didn't go so well. It didn't fall apart, but people were struggling a lot. I thought I had chosen a good dance for the group, but even though Al's has only a few figue types it has many figure tokens. That is, there are only circle, star, aleman, long lines, and swing, but there is something new every 8 counts. I think next time I'll try a dance with fewer parts and more time for each. Things like down the hall four in line.

10/4/2007 -- Swat Folkdance Class
The last few dances have gone pretty well. I did the Nice Combination on 9/13 and it went great. Called two dances with heys the next two weeks and introduced petronella this evening. Now that people mostly know what they're doing I need to be careful not to introduce things on too basic a level. Last week or so I asked the ladies to identify the person across from them, look one to the left, extend their right hand, pull by... and people got annoyed and shouted "you mean ladies chain?" and then I used short calls for the rest of the walkthrough.

One thing I really liked about this evening is that I managed to play some after the dance was started without losing my place in the dance. I called, people got it, I sat down and started playing piano, people forgot a bit, I had the dance in my head and knew what to call to help them. I also had the dance in front of me, so if I'd needed to I could have looked, but having the dance solidly in my head (without having to sit down and memorize it) was both really convenient and really cool.

Because we'd thought Joanna was going to be out today several students were to prepare, teach, and call dances. Most of the students had done a little teaching and no calling, and it was interesting to see people in different 'places' in learning to call. One student called "posties jig" which is a fun scottish dance, but she had not called before at all and did not understand the timing. The dancers didn't know the timing either, so when the calls were late and then stopped it all fell apart. This felt a lot like my failed attempt at "Patriot's Jig" last year. Another student called an english dance, maybe "Knives and Forks". This went well, but she put the calls on the beat the figure started on, not the beat before. This made them still helpful if you forgot what was going on, but you had to hurry to catch up once you knew what you were doing. Another called an english dance, "Take a Dance" that went well, calls on the beat, but he didn't stop calling (and the dancers didn't need the whole time called). Another taught and called Kerry Sets. These also went well (and she'd done them before) but she put all the calls as very rapid utterances into the last two beats of the phrase. Which worked fine, but sounded a little funny and gave you not quite enough time to get into ballroom hold for quarter house if your partner and you were not paying enough attention.

It's weird remembering making all of those mistakes at various times. I think I mostly don't make them now, but I'm not sure. I am sure, though, that there are things that matter that I've not noticed yet. So I wonder what year-from-now me would have to say about the dance I called?

10/6/2007 -- Swat Contra
Called my first whole dance. It was a lot of fun. The most fun aspect was probably sound not causing any problems at all. No feedback the entire night. Mmm. It's nice that we mostly know how to run sound now.

The crowd was mixed and a little newer than I expected; I had forgotten how many experienced dancers were on stage. Program:

Silver Anniversary didn't look so good after a walkthrough so I gave them Centrifugal Hey with the balance and swing turned into a gypsy and swing.

Called some dances for folkdance classes
Forget which days. Marissa (now she's calling some!) and I have been switching off calling. I've been switching to piano after starting to call, which has hurt my calling some but I think still makes the dance more fun on balance. Maybe three weeks ago I was calling a dance, people started to make mistakes, I forcefully called "partner swing", and that was not what was supposed to come next. So I had to stop playing piano, shout "keep going" and get people back into order. But people did fine and weren't too annoyed at me after the dance.

11/29/2007 -- Chorus Jig -- Swat Folkdance Class
Called chorus jig. Went well. Tried the thing I've been wanting to do for an uneven dance where I have the ones walk it, then have people take hands four from the top the walk it again with ones and twos swapped, ending back in original places -- that worked. I made the mistake I always complain about callers making on CJ: I forgot to tell the twos to move up.

1/25/2008 -- Swat Contra
The contra last night was student callers and -- quite happily -- not all called by me. I called half the program with Marissa, Leland, and Laura calling the other half. Marissa's been calling some in class but Leland and Laura (both freshmen) had not called called before. Dispite some inexperience, it all went really well. So I'm happy.

The program was something like this:

Leland and Laura practiced a few dances with me and Marissa on Tuesday after folkdance class, and I think they probably also practiced their dances some to music before Friday, but they'd never called to dancers before. Now, some of this was because we put them late in the program and they had relatively easy dances, but their dances went perfectly. Well, they don't quite have down the sense of when and how to stop calling, both erring on the side of calling a little longer than they needed to, but that takes a while to learn. It's also not something that is essential, just nice. I hope to get them calling more, in class and at dances, so there are people at swat who can call next year. (Marissa is going to be abroad for half of next year, so while it's great that she's getting good at calling we need other people to learn too.)

I liked the program this time better than the last dance I ran. This probably came from a combination of the dancers now having been to more contras, Marissa looking over the program with me, and choosing simpleish dances so the new callers would not be beyond their abilities.

The band was Ross Hariss and Friends (Friends={Mat Clark, Chris Jacoby, Paul Prescopini}) and they were excellent. Especially helpful was that Ross understands dance descriptions and could choose good tunes that fit well.

5/6/2009 -- Informal Contra in Davis Square
Beth Hanson organized a short contra in davis square. I was originally going to be playing for it, but then she found another musician and lost a caller. So I was calling for the first time in a while. After convincing a guitar playing busker to play with us and let us use the central area, we tried to corall people into dancing. This was not terribly successful. We got no one for the first dance, but after watching one two people decided to try. We did five contras and had five spectators join in at various points. Figuring out how to get spectators to get up and try dancing is something I need to do. I've only ever called in situations where everyone was there to dance, so this is something I need to figure out. We had a lot of fun, though, and it felt quite successful as a small dance.

We did:

6/28/2009 -- Informal Contra in Davis Square II
Second outdoor contra in Davis square. This time I organized it instead of Beth. Cedar Stainstreet played fiddle again, this time with David Casserly on sax and various people including Koren Wake and my sister Alice playing my Stroh fiddle. Our guy-comes-off-the-street-and-plays-with-us this time was a flute instead of guitar player. I called most of the dances, Daniel Friedman called one. (Which was wonderful of him, as he originally didn't want to but then volunteered to when my voice started getting ragged.)

Attendance was higher this time, perhaps by a factor of two. We had enough people that we could start almost at 3pm when we were supposed to. For a few dances in the middle we had two sets (with the musicians in the center). They were pretty short sets, though. We did two sets mosre because of difficulty hearing the music and caller than too many people for the space or the line length.

Rain was a big worry for me all last week. It ended up not raining, with this really only sure around noon,so that may have affected attendance negatively. I worried enough about rain in the days leading up to the dance that Julia told me I wasn't to talk about it any more.

I continued with running the dances shorter than usual, with the exception of Newly Friendly Thieves. That one is a unequal turn dance with a "lady round two gent cutz through; gent around two lady cuts through" chase figure. It's quite a fun figure, and people were doing all sorts of fun variations. I decided it would be more fun to run it until the original ones were back at the top. This did have the musicians looking at me in a "do you intend to run this dance forever?" sort of way. Numbers were falling off at this point and we had 4 hands-fours, so I guess that was 15 times through, which felt longish but not too long. I probably ran the others 11 or 13 times.

There were a few new people, which was great. They came in couples, but the dancers split them up. I think this probably makes sense, as the dancing goes better, but maybe the enjoyment they get with having the dance go well is less than they lose by not being with the person they came with. The crowd overall was quite experienced, more so than the last one, and I didn't do any figure teaching. The new people just picked it up. Well, again Newly Friendly Thieves was an exception. For that I demoed the weird figure. But not very well. I would have done better to have a hands four demo it to my talking. Instead I tried to pretend to be all four people in a hands four. Comical, but not too useful. They got it, though.

We did:

11/21/2009 -- Dances at BIDA party
Beth Hansen hosted a BIDA party, in a wonderful space. Apparently her housemates use their apartment to teach dance classes, so they have a large open area downstairs with a nice floor. Nice enough that one can't dance in shoes, but that's ok. The party was primarily couples dance focused, with Koren Wake running an intro lindy-hop lesson and then open couples dancing (some swing, lots of waltzes). At one point some people decided they wanted to contra, I had dances in my pocket, we used some recorded music (ugh, but the only instrument we had was a guitar) and we danced. I ran all the dances no walkthrough, as everyone had danced contra before (except one person who picked it up really well). They all were quite short (5-6 min) but with no teaching time lost they weren't problematically short.

We did (couples dances before, we left right after):

1/17/2010 -- Medford House
We had a singing/dancing/jamming/board games party in medford. Much fun. Lots of things aside from dancing, but this is the dancing we did (just about nothing was consecutive).

5/18/2010 -- MIT
I got to call two dances as part of a multi-caller evening at mit. La banane enchante is a lot of fun, so one thing I was focusing on was choosing dances that were easy enough that the crowd would be doing them on their own after two times through and I could drop out. Seemed to work pretty well. This also got me thinking about how much a caller should call

7/05/2010 -- Informal Contra in Davis Square III
This contra was kind of annoying to organize. I planned two of them earlier this year, but had to cancel both due to bad weather (too cold, then rain). Today was a little hot (85ish) but davis square has water fountains and people seemed to have fun. I did most of the calling, with some help from daniel friedman. We had a lot of people playing, which was great. Jon cannon did most of the coordinating, with audrey knuth, allister hayden, drew stevens, and bystanders also joining in. Good number of dancers, amy counted 36 dancing at one point.

The contras we did were roughly:

7/11/2010 -- BIDA party at Victor Troll's House
We had a jamming/potluck party at victor's. It was much fun. We mostly played music, but we did some dancing too. I called three rounds of psuedokerry sets. They were all in the form: except for the last one where it was 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s instead of heads and sides.
  1. figure: short lines foreward and back (repeated)
  2. figure: ladies chain (over and back)
  3. figure: house around the inside, then swing at home

We did some waltzes to cool down, then we all did levi jackson rag with daniel friedman calling. Amy did a really good job on solo piano, especially given both how tricky the tune is and that she'd never heard it before.

9/8/2010 -- Moved to main news section
I've decided to stop keeping these posts on calling separate from other posts. They'll now be in the main section under calling

Last modified by Jeff Kaufman: Sat Oct 31, 2015