Hints and Tips for SCD - Calling
So you've been asked to get a roomful of people through a dance they may not know. What
should you do?
- First and foremost - know the dance. Think it
through beforehand. Work out where the awkward explanations are
likely to come, and how to put it across to the dancers.
- Prepare beforehand! Be sure you know how the dance goes.
- If you want to dance yourself, find a partner in good time.
- Stand upright, don't slouch.
- Speak loudly, clearly, slowly, looking up towards the dancers and
not down onto a sheet of paper.
- When announcing the dance:
- Give the name of the dance, and say whether it is a jig, reel,
etc and how many bars.
- If the dance is a complex one, suitable for experienced dancers
only, mention this. (eg Gothenburg's Welcome.)
- Say how many couples are needed to form a set; specify if the set
is eg square or round the room.
- The first man in each set / each line should count off the couples,
to ensure the sets are complete.
- When recapping the dance:
Anselm Lingnau's Guide To Briefings:
- It is better to read the description well than to ad lib it badly.
- Give the dance title etc again, and say how many couples dance -
eg "Highland Fair is a 32 bar jig for two couples".
- If eg 3rd & 4th couples start the dance on opposite sides, say so
and whether or not the music has two chords. (The music used for
Lord Huntly's Cave does not.)
- If the cribs are clear, most dances can be "read" almost directly
from them (*). If not, write the dance out in your own words
beforehand. (* Exceptions to this include dances like JB Milne,
which is clearer if the last 16 bars are given first for the dancing
couple and then for the supporting couples.)
- Use pauses and intonation to indicate phrasing.
- Where appropriate, add at the end "Repeat from second place" or
"Start again with a new top couple".
- Be brief! Give clear and precise instructions, but avoid
unnecessary detail. People should know the dance; the recap is
just a reminder. In formations where confusion frequently occurs,
a little extra detail can be given - eg for a full Strathspey
poussette, "starting from the sidelines".
- Get it right the first time - once through only, don't recap the
recap. At the end, a very brief reminder of how the dance starts
can, however, be helpful.
- Speak loudly, clearly and slowly. Think of the people at the very
back of the room (if you don't have a microphone). If you feel
you're speaking quite a bit too slowly then it is probably just
right for the audience to understand.
- Study up on the dance beforehand. If you have never seen the dance
before in your life, your briefing is probably not going to be too
helpful (unless it is for the Linton Ploughman). Look at the original
instructions if at all possible -- diagrams are often muddled or
just plain wrong. There is nothing more embarrassing for the
briefer nor more confusing to the audience than a briefing that
is constantly corrected by people from the floor.
- Try to structure your briefing in phrases of, say, eight bars'
worth of dancing. Then leave a short pause. This helps your
breathing and also makes it easier for the audience to figure
out where you are in the dance.
- Avoid bar numbers as in `2nd couple move up on bars 11-12' since
nobody will be able to calculate what moment of the dance you're
talking about -- it's better to say `1st couple cast off while the
2s move up'. If that isn't possible -- e.g., during bars 17-24 of
The Wild Geese, where the 2nd couple is supposed to step up in time
so the dancing couple sees where they have to end up --, try to
relate the bar numbers to the current figure, e.g., `1st couple
lead down the middle and up to 2nd place, 2s step up on 3 and 4'
rather than `2s step up on 19 and 20'.
- Don't try to teach the dance in your briefing. You want to include
enough detail so people will know what to do, but you don't want
to take as long for the briefing as it takes to do the actual
dance. E.g., a briefing for Schiehallion takes about 30 seconds,
- If the dance in question contains a `compound' figure like `Dance
to each corner and set' or `Set and rotate', resist the temptation
of explaining all the little movements that it consists of. The
dancers are supposed to know the figures -- you just remind
them which one comes when.
- Leave off the little jokes and stories that the audience has heard
a hundred times before. You're the MC, not a stand-up comedian,
and the people out on the floor probably want to dance rather than
listen to your being funny. (At any rate, the ratio of more-or-less
humorous narrative to actual briefing should not exceed 1.0 unless
you really *are* very, very funny indeed.)
- Be brief. Remember it is called a `briefing', not a `verbosing'.
See also the other hints and tips sections:
Return to the Scottish Country Dance home page.
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Last modified 8-10-02
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