The Perfect Caller
Anyone can call dances badly. To do it well takes experience, patience, a sense of humor and, most
important, a desire to be a good caller. The perfect caller does
not exist. If it did, it would not be human. For us ordinary mortals,
who strive after perfection, there follows a description of what
we are aiming for (plus a few words of encouragement).
THE PERFECT CALLER:
(Hilary Johnson - English Dance & Song, July 1988)
- always remembers when it has been asked to call. (This degenerates with experience.)
- knows every detail of all existing dances, their tunes, how the dance fits to the music,
which figures most often go wrong and why. (This improves with experience.)
- knows the tastes and abilities of the dancers, plans a program that will please
all of them (impossible!) with variety of shape, tempo and difficulty, with a few dances
in reserve (see 16), then looks up and learns all of them, despite
not needing to (see 2).
- can do all of 3 at a moment's notice in time of emergency. (This improves as 1 degenerates.)
- never suffers from stage fright (improves with experience) or memory loss,
never repeats bad jokes, has no irritating mannerisms and is never conceited or rude. (Frank
- knows every detail of how to operate its club's record player and/or tape recorder,
can always find the right tape or record in a few seconds, and knows their
quirks (e.g. which tracks have a 4-bar introduction). The Perfect
Caller also understands how to operate a live band. (If in doubt,
ask the band leader.)
- can be heard clearly in any room above any noise, but knows how to set up
and adjust a P.A. system. When the Perfect Caller announces a dance, everyone
hears its name and type of set. The Perfect Caller is so interesting that the
dancers never chatter while it is talking (miraculous!) and so clear that they
do not have to talk to explain the dance to each other.
- can rearrange the sets to make full use of all available space.
- explains everything briefly but clearly, can tell who has not understood
and what they haven't understood, and can explain again, in different words, as many
times as necessary, without boring or patronizing the expert dancers. The Perfect
Caller has a cribbook handy, just in case, but does not need to refer to it, and never
reads it out word for word. The Perfect Caller's dancers never say: "Oh, it 's
a waltz!" four bars after the music starts.
- gives a summarized explanation
after a long walk-through, or as a reminder of a well-known dance.
- gives even briefer instructions during the dances, clearly, audibly and promptly,
but never talks too much. (Square dance callers excepted.) The Perfect Caller
can watch everyone at once, and never loses count of how many
times through a figure has been danced.
- can do all of 11 while dancing as the wrong sex in an incomplete set. The Perfect
Caller will never dance itself if that would force someone to sit out, nor
force someone to dance who wants to sit out.
- can suggest that couples or partners swap around without making anyone feel
inferior. Of course the Perfect Caller never has to stop the music and explain the dance
again, but if a dance does "crash" the Perfect Caller stays calm and polite.
- can tell without asking who does,
or doesn't want an encore, including those sitting out.
- leaves exactly the right length of time between dances.
- can alter the program, at a moment's notice, if faced with the wrong number of
couples, an unexpected number of inexperienced dancers or surplus/insufficient time.
- improves the standard of the dancers,
even if they don't realize how much they are learning.
- always finishes exactly on time, and, dancers permitting, start on time too.
- improves its calling by learning from its mistakes (despite never making any),
learning new dances, watching other callers and copying/avoiding what they do, and
occasionally inviting criticism from friends.
- runs faster than a speeding train, clears buildings in a single bound,
washes whiter than ordinary powders, contains no artificial flavorings or colorings ...
Of course, this is not a Square Dance Caller.
But a person with these skills could do a good job at the
Community Dance Program.
Heiner Fischle, Hannover, Germany