Carrillo Recreation Center, Santa Barbara

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 differentiated. 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.   Each one 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 in the Mountains festival in 2012. 

My goal is always two-fold: to provide enjoyable challenges for all, 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 out feeling that they accomplished something fun, as a group, then we've all succeeded together.

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 Monterey.  I was there on the weekend before Christmas to call the regular contra dance with the wonderful band June Apple, headed by my friend Patti Walters.   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 side 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 lovely 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 45 minutes in, the power came back.  I was very grateful for the PA, 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.


 The Backstory

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 with a 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 workshop led by the great George Marshall the previous fall.  Armed with one of 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.)

Meanwhile, 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.

Oddfellows Hall, San Luis Obispo

I have three salient 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.   It 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 within a few years I was calling more than was good for either me or the dancers.   In the late Nineties I backed away from 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 music 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, Columbus, Ohio.