Improve Your Community With This One Weird Trick!

Tags: beginners, teaching

Hey experienced contradancers! Have you been looking for a new way to contribute to your dance community? Here’s one that I’ve been trying. It’s really small, and has the potential to make a really big impact on the quality of our dances, especially as more and more of us get on board with it. Ready? Here it is:

Be quiet when the caller starts talking, and don’t talk through the walkthrough.

That’s it. Really. If you want to go one step further, you can be the person who gently reminds people to turn their attention to the caller, whether with brief words or (preferably) body language.

Because the sooner we all get quiet, the sooner we can dance! (And the less frustrated the caller is, too!) And even if you don’t need the walkthrough, I guarantee there are others in the hall that do. Even if you know from the first call that this is Butter by Gene Hubert and you could do it with your eyes closed, or you only need 10% of your brain listening to the calls at any given point, there are folks in the hall who are newer to contra and have no idea what’s going on, and they only way they’ll know is by listening to the caller. Being quiet during the walkthroughs helps us integrate beginners into our community, because they will dance better when they can hear and focus on the teaching.

By the same token, avoid teaching over the caller. I was recently at a dance where the caller announced “we’re going to do a hey for four”, and someone immediately started explaining to his partner how this move worked. Trust the caller–they’ve done this before, and have their own preferred way to guide the hall safely through whatever figure they’re teaching. Individual dancers talking just makes it harder for newer dances to focus on any one piece of instruction they’re getting. If you MUST teach from the floor, use gestures first, and words only as a last resort–because words add noise and make it impossible to focus on the caller, but also because, let’s face it, words are often way more confusing, anyway!

TL/DR: help your dance community by not talking during walkthroughs, setting the example for the rest of your hands-four, and not teaching over the caller! Keep being excellent, y’all!

Originally posted on Facebook 1/18/16

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