The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #163266   Message #3896957
Posted By: CupOfTea
02-Jan-18 - 01:53 PM
Thread Name: the teaching of dancing
Subject: RE: the teaching of dancing
I've been playing for English Country dance and contra for a dozen years, with as many callers, and with different mixes of novice/experienced dancers. When I was dancing, I very much enjoyed the tune & dance being paired consistently; the tune giving my memory a nudge to what move I was to do was a big reason I fell in love with dancing English.

The best callers do arrange their program so that moves are introduced one at a time in each dance. Most callers want to vary their programs, and have new dances each time, seldom repeating. Taken to the extreme, this makes only the caller and the most experienced dancers happy. Familiarity is a GOOD thing.

Starting the evening with the most basic dances, a very detailed run-through, with demonstrations of moves by experienced dancers, consistent vocabulary, and CHECKING to see if everyone has "got" it before starting the music gives the novices more confidence. Never assume everyone knows what the caller means. Making a point of having experienced dancers ask new folks to dance is the best way to build a dance community. I've seen people turned off by dance snobs who will ONLY ask known, good dancers to partner them. It becomes obvious very quickly who these people are. Varying the pace, and letting people know what sort of dance it is before they form up - graceful waltz - fast progression - some standing about - sprightly jig.   

In recent years, I've been playing for a group of older dancers, and their issues include memory, direction, dizziness, though most have been dancing for years. We play more slowly, and many of the dances are modified by our experienced caller (setting instead of turning for folks who get dizzy). Her most encouraging words are "if anyone messes up, it's the caller's fault- it's always the caller's fault" because she thinks her job is to make sure everyone has a good time.

Some of the dances I think of as basic:
Jamaica
Juice of Barley
Chestnut
Newcastle

Dances with great flow - and yes, I'm partial to waltzes.
Hole in the Wall
Duke of Kent
Alice
Waterfall Waltz

Wish I could remember more, but I've been off the dance floor too long, and don't have the memory of moves that caller friends do. Best of luck with growing your dance community.

Joanne in Cleveland (Toad in the Hole, Consensus & Mud in Yer Eye bands)