The Dance of Faith — Part 6

Back to the dance theme.

Every dance is led by a caller (or callers) who selects the dances for the evening, teaches the dances, and then prompts (calls) during the first few rounds of music. The caller is most always an accomplished dancer who has a good sense of time. The natural sense of time is important — there are many good dancers who follow the lead of the caller but can’t prompt others out of a paper bag. It’s important that the caller knows how to dance well, as they become the arbitrar of dance moves for the evening. They create the common language that the dancers use to knowwhere to go next, and they demonstrate how dance moves work together for the good of the whole.

Before the dance begins, the caller has usually gone through her list of dances to determine the flow of the evening. It’s important to have a good sense of the crowd, to know your location, when you are selecting dances. If it is a crowd of beginners, the caller will want to select less strenuous dances, things that are easy to teach and dance. If it is a weekend festival, with 400 expert dancers, the caller will want a larger variety of options with differing styles and more complicated figures.

After selecting the dances, the caller sits down with the musicians for the evening to talk about how they will work together. They work out the signals that the caller will use to signify the end of the dance. They might talk about the type of dances the caller will use, and think what types of music might be best. The goal is to make sure that the caller and the musicians work together for the good of the evening.

Once the evening begins, the caller invites folks to find a partner and lets them know what type of dance they will be dancing. The caller then walks the dancers through the dance without any music, having them move slowly between the various moves of the dance. The caller starts the dance off until all the dancers have a fairly good sense of what is involved in the dance. They may not be confident of all the moves, but the dancers should at least be able to get from point A to B.

Then the caller kicks off the musicians and begins the dance. “Swing your partner . . . two ladies chain . . . right and left through. . .” The caller begins to sing, to chant, to moan the moves to the dancers, prompting them what to do next. In essence, the caller serves as the conscience of the dancers — “Don’t forget to do this next!”

However, the best thing happens after the the basic moves have been danced through several times, and the dancers are able to demonstrate that they have memorized the moves. Good callers shut up. They step back. They get out of the way, and let the dancers dance. They are always watching to see if something breaks down, and then offer a quiet prompt when mistakes happen. But good callers generally trust the dancers and let them go on their own. The caller has planted the seeds. The caller has taught the formations. But the caller isn’t dancing the dance — the dancers are. So good callers know enough to shut up and let the dancers experience the joy of a dance well danced.

Now, I could make some direct correlations between the dance caller and folks involved in leadership in the church. But do I really have to?

One thought on “The Dance of Faith — Part 6

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