Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Contra Dance Calling

I just did a quick review of former posts, and it seems I have yet to blog about calling contra dances. I guess it goes without saying that I am incredibly passionate about contra dancing. Sarah and I always talk about "the contra spirit" which basically entails all the good things involved with contra dancing.

So, about a year ago, I started going to a workshop led by David Millstone for learning to call contra dances. My intention in joining was to not actually call dances, but just to learn the mechanics of how calling works, and how the dances work. Well somehow, it managed to be arranged that I would call one single dance at one of the dance sessions that David runs. It was a bit nerve-wrecking, largely because that involves me, on a stage, with a microphone, in front of a large group of people (>50). But despite the nerves and the shaky voice (and not properly lining people up at the start, so the instruction before music started fell apart completely the first time), it was fun! And it worked! It was some sort of great feat of communication, to see if I could get this whole hall of people (or at least a large portion of them) all coordinated up.

So anyhow, David has helped me along, and it has been great to have him as my mentor. I could not ask for anything better really. I have now called a few individual dances. I have also met dozens of other callers, some of whom are starting to remember my name as well, and even offering me guest calling spots if I ever attend a dance they are calling! Plus! I got my copy of Tony Parkes' book autographed!

I was very glad to see the new edition released, since it is nearly impossible to find a copy of the original edition. You can purchase your own copy from Beth and Tony here. I think they said you can also buy the book from Amazon.

The other thing I recently learned about was an online listserv for contra dance callers. I joined up, and from looking at the archives it seems to be a good resource for keeping in touch with other callers, both for asking questions or sharing useful information. I learned from the latest post that there are people who write software to be able to organize dances and program evenings, and then check the dances to make sure there is not too much repetition from one to the next. It is really quite amazing, but also not free. So my new long term goal is to write my own. I haven't done a ton of programming, but with Greg's help, we can make it happen. The plan is to make it freeware that will work on any operating system.

The future looks bright!

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