My Calling Profile
I called my first
dance in 1992, but there was a significant hiatus starting in the late 90s,
during which time I largely
re-invented myself as a caller.
In my 'upgraded version,' I've been calling
continuously now since the year 2005.
I do a lot of
modern contra dances including a strong collection of dances from the
Midwest, where I like to travel to attend dance
events. I do mostly equal-opportunity dances, but
once or twice per evening I will include something with 1s and 2s
I also write dances -- some of which are now called by others -- and
usually will include
one of my own compositions.
For many years I mixed in square dances, but I have discontinued that
now and use only contras, under which heading I include the occasional
four facing four dance. The squares remain an
option for an
appropriate setting like a workshop.
The bulk of my calling is at public
dance events in southern California: Brentwood, Anaheim,
Pasadena, San Luis
Obispo, San Diego, Santa Barbara, etc.
of these venues and groups is special in its own way and I greatly
enjoy visiting all of them. I've travelled farther afield a
number of times, notably to Columbus, OH and Pittsburgh, PA.
And I was
on staff at the Music
Mountains festival in 2012.
My goal is always two-fold: to provide enjoyable challenges
and to provide a feeling of group accomplishment for the community.
Newcomers may hit the 'enjoyable challenge' after just a few
dances, whereas veterans may reach this point only in the hardest
dances of the evening. If everyone walks
that they accomplished something fun, as a group, then we've all
Click here to read what a few people have said about my work.
The Candlelit Christmas
Dance in Monterey
One of my favorite road memories is from about the year 1995, in
I was there on the weekend before Christmas to call the
contra dance with the wonderful band June Apple, headed by my friend
About fifteen minutes before dance time, the hall and the
surrounding community went dark: major power failure, half the city
out. One of the band members and I drove over to the other
of town -- which had lights and an open grocery store -- and bought a
huge pile of candles and, as I recall it, aluminum foil. We
stretched the foil along each side of the hall -- partly for
reflection, mostly to protect the floor -- and lit up the candles.
Understand, this was in an old wooden YMCA building -- a
venue where the Monterey group still holds its dances -- so if the fire
marshal had shown up, we'd have spent the night in the pokey; but when
you gotta dance (and play, and call), you gotta dance. I
appealed to everyone to please keep the side chatter down, since I was
on voice power alone, and we proceeded with no PA. Everyone
co-operated wonderfully and things went great, although
I did run the dances a little long, to spare my voice. About
minutes in, the power came back. I was very grateful for the
but some of the dancers came up to the stage and asked would we please
turn off the lights in favor of the candles, which we did.
People were still talking about it long after: the candlelit Christmas
dance in Monterey.
My original 'start' in calling occurred in mid-summer 1992 when a caller failed to show up
for his booking at an event in Carpinteria. This left us
band and a roomful of eager dancers all dressed up with no place to go.
As it happened, I'd had the benefit of a caller's
led by the great George Marshall the previous fall. Armed with
the dances George had taught (Broken Sixpence, by Don Armstrong), and
not much else but good intentions, I offered to call. (It was only many years later that I again encountered George and was able to thank him for his workshop and what it had led to for me.)
one of the dance organizers ran home for a book of dances, and I called
a couple of those as well, I think Petronella and Shadrack's Delight.
(They were the only two I recognized, and I wanted to stick to routines
I knew how to dance -- not bad advice.) Some other folks
stepped up to
lead one or another kind of dance too, and in the end a fine time was
had by all.
I have three
memories: the group was wonderful, their good humour
substituting for my total lack of technique; calling
was harder than I'd expected; and I was totally hooked.
was the same experience as I'd had when first dancing: one time down
the hall and back was all it took.
It's been written that when we start out in calling, our enthusiasm
tends to exceed our abilities. This was true for me and
few years I was calling more than was good for either me or the
dancers. In the late Nineties I backed away
the whole thing and took time to re-invent myself.
I owe my re-birth as a caller -- along with many other things --
mostly to my two sons, the first of whom arrived in 2002. Sharing
and dance with them allowed me to rediscover the joy for myself.
At one point -- some years ago now -- my
older son enjoyed 'sitting in' on the mike -- as he's
doing at right with the Growling Old Geezers.
It was a great
honor to call for the enthusiastic and very friendly dancers of Big
Scioty Barn Dance,