Friday, May 31, 2013

One More Time! Or Two . . . Or Three . . .

One of the great experiences of Catapult! Showcase was to see various callers at work and to see how they function.  Some have their dances written on 3x5 cards, some printed off a spreadsheet, some call from a mobile device.  Some callers write their dances out while others use a shorthand known only to them.

One of the things I learned that callers have differing ideas about is how long to run the dance.  It's something I've always felt insecure about and I've tried to implement various practices to help me be more in control of the process - like jotting down the name or the shirt color of the couple at the top of the hall so I can keep up with when they've reached the bottom, or starting the timer on my tablet to know when the dance has run 7-8 minutes.  The problem is that in the midst of the walk-through and dialogue with the band, I usually forget whatever it was I had planned to do until about the 3rd or 4th time through the dance!  So I end up guessing.  If the dancers look like they're really having a great time, I'll let it go a little longer, if they look bored, I'll cut it shorter.

When I was working with Coracree on Sunday morning, Bill Quern, the banjo/mandolin player with the group, told me about someone he knew who calculated the size of various dance halls and the number of times the tune needed to be played to get the dancers at the top to the bottom of the hall.  For a hall the size of the Clarkston Community Center where Catapult! Showcase was held, 15 times through the tune would be just about the right time. I thought to myself, "I've got to count 15 times through?? I'll never be able to keep up with that!"  But Bill said they would play three tunes, five times each, so I only needed to start counting when the band changed to their third tune.  Whew!  That's easier.  I think that process worked very well, but I still have the prerogative to end sooner or go just a bit longer if there is good reason.  Here's yet another thing I want to discuss with any new band I work with!

Despite the fact that I have yet to successfully implement a method of keeping track of how long to run the dance, I still manage to hit between 7-9 minutes most of the time.  I know this because my sweetie, Dave Pokorney, video records so many of my dances from beginning to end.  So I have a exact measure of how long a dance ran. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I arrived home from Catapult! Showcase last night exhausted and euphoric!  I worked with six hot bands and 5 smooth callers that were all so kind and supportive.

I'll write more about some of the highlights of the event, but one of the best is that I wrote my first dance!!  (Well, my first dance that actually worked anyway!) Andrew Levin of Waxwing sent a recording of two great jig tunes he wrote last week.  He called them Catapult Jigs and asked if I was inspired to write a dance.

My previous attempts at writing dances had left me frustrated.  I felt that if I wrote a simple dance, then it was probably already out there, and my attempts at writing a more complex dance ended up to not progress correctly (or not at all) or have some other problem.

In fact, it was probably a year or more ago that I tried to call one of my creations at my local dance.  It didn't progress and I ended up having to discard it and pull out another one.  And to add insult to injury, my colleague Jonathan King, then got up and called a lovely dance written by his 10-year-old daughter Ruthie!

Here is Ruthie's dance:

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander
Ruth King
Improper Duple
A1: Neighbor Do-si-do 1 1/2, Partner Allemande Left 1 1/2
A2: Neighbor Swing, Women Chain
B1: Hey
B2: Partner Swing, "Goose/Gander"

The Goose/Gander is Men Roll Away Partner, and then Women Roll Away Partner across the set and both turn to face the next couple. (The two men end up trading places with each other).

This dance has the unusual trait that both swings end in the middle of the phrase, but my memory of dancing it was that it worked well.  I haven't called it myself yet.

Now to my dance!   And special thanks to Lisa Greenleaf who helped me perfect the progression.

Catapult Jig
JoLaine Jones-Pokorney
Improper Duple
A1: Neighbor Balance and Box the Gnat, pull by Neighbor to former Neighbor, Swat the Flea, pull by former neighbor to Current Neighbor.
A2: Neighbor Balance and Swing
B1: Long Lines Forward, Men take Partner home with a Give and Take, Partner Swing
B2: Balance the Ring, Petronella, Neighbor Allemande left 1 1/2