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SRFN:  Newsletter:  Features:  Social Dance Calling (1 of 4)

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Social Dance Calling: Part One

May I Have This Dance?

So You Want To Be In Control?

[ Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 ]

This is the first of a series of articles about calling for social folk dancing by Peter Barnard. For more information you can call Peter on (01427) 873937.

Peter Barnard calling This is the first of a series of articles in which I hope to de-mystify the art of calling for social folk dancing.

Over the next few editions I will be covering the following themes -"what is calling and why should I call?" "the basics of a folk dance, concentrating on rhythm, formation and speed", "looking at some simple dances" and finally "looking at some general tips, such as how to keep the band in order!"

So what does willing mean?

If you've been to a folk dance you will know that someone explains (teaches) the dance and then looks after (cajoles) the dancers so that they get through the various movements. That person is the caller.

Sounds simple? Well, like anything else that you've tried and mastered it is; but if you're wondering how to break into the callers' apparently magic circle, read on.

Why would I be interested in calling?

First if you talk to people who call, they will tell you that calling is great fun. You feel a real sense of satisfaction from seeing dancers successfully negotiating their way through a dance.

Secondly English folk dancing can't continue without music (preferably live music) and a caller. By having a go you will do your bit for maintaining this type of dancing.

Finally, if you find you enjoy calling and want to do more and subsequently join a dance band, you can even get paid for your hobby!

But, surely calling is difficult?

Not really. Like anything else that you try to explain, it helps greatly to know first the dance in question. If you have danced a fair bit you will be surprised at how much you already know. Think of some of the dances you have most often danced - e.g. "Cumberland Square 8", or "Circassian Circle". I'm sure you will know how do such dances without (much) prompting, and could the movements of the dance in the right order. It is then only a small step to be able to explain such a dance to a group of others. Don't worry if you make small changes to the dances; that's how dances evolve.

So, how do I start?

Start simply by choosing easy, straightforward dances. Good examples of these are the "Circassian Circle Dance" or "The Winster Gallop". Find the written instructions far the dance(s) even if you think you know the dance well. A good source is the EFDSS Community Dance Manual. If you can't find a dance book, ask someone who knows the dance well to write out the instructions for you.

Finally you will be wondering where you can try out these newly developed skills without risk of being too embarrassed if it goes wrong. You can obviously get your friends and family together to help you. A far better way is to go along to an informal dance club like the Awaken Village Interest in Dance Project (AVID) which runs monthly dances in North Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.

In the next article we will look at the basics of a dance, i.e. rhythm, formation and speed.


Lord Rockingham's Reel - click photo to see enlargement "Just give me that
Rockingham Reel
music, any old way
you choose it..."


W.A. Mozart
From "200 Favourite
Country Dances"
John Johnson, 1760.

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