Dances I've composed

Friendship Basket                                                       Karen Dunnam
open mixer, no partner                                                 August 1992
Start in two concentric circles                                                              


A1   Into the center and back Repeat
A2    Inners circle left; outers right (or promenade single file) Reverse all that
B1    Find 2 ++ people and circle left
B2    Same folks basket. Open out into concentric circles

N.B. Written expressly for dances with extreme gender imbalance. During B1, circling folks should look around to collect standees into their group. To enhance mingling, leave out the reverse in A2; "keep going, keep going." Nice ending--one big circle and basket.

A1  Circle of six slip left
       Slip back to the right

A2   Middles turn contra corners; return to place

B1    Hey for three (start by facing right)

B2    Forward & back
        Forward again and pass through to new group

Written for the final dance in a new series (Livonia Public Schools' 2nd Fridays in metro Detroit). Intended as a farm club for a novice promoter, band, and callers, it served as training ground for freshly-collected dances, and a social event for newcomers to country dancing. Many are ballroom dancers sans partners, hence this trio format. (A relatively painless introduction to contra corners and heys, since they can't get lost.) "Hasta" is Spanish; it translates as "until next time."

Calling card collecting

1992: I document how to catalog my dance prompt cards


Part of the fun of being a new caller is starting from scratch: taking what other folks are doing and expanding on it. Here's a method of creating and keeping your dance prompt cards. Let me know how it works for you!

In the caller's workshop that got me going, John Freeman recommended carrying dance cards in a little fabric folder. This seemed more practical than index card boxes, but neither method appealed to me. I wanted to eliminate all sources of potential disaster: a bag or box of loose cards is "52 pick-up" waiting to happen. Glen Morningstar uses small, leather-covered ring binders, which offer flexibility, portability, and security; however, his prompts (on notebook paper) have to stay in their binders. Index card binders looked a like good idea, but I couldn't find one with an attractive cover (and they are fairly small).

I wanted something that could be expanded as I collected more dances, but wouldn't look sparse with only a dozen cards; something that offered the sorting ability of index cards, but would take up less space than a card box in a dance go-bag. (I dutifully schlep my entire card library to every dance, in hopes of doing a guest caller tip.)

My other concern was utility behind the mike. I've seen too many callers study their cards, frown, squint, hold them at arms' length, try several different walk-throughs, and apologize for not being able to read the card. After looking through a few callers' card files, it's easy to see why: they write prompts on Post-it notes, portions of old dance flyers, and the like. Prompts are invariably scribbled, corrections squeezed in every corner, and only an archeologist could discern an A1-A2- B1-B2 format. I wanted something that could be revised or corrected easily and legibly. (How many times have you made notes on a great new dance, and didn't get the author's name? Or needed to revise the prompts?)

Finally, I had a time constraint. I figured I'd better devise the perfect solution now, so I could start collecting dances and doing more calling.

With these concerns in mind, and wanting to devise a flawless system, I started looking in the stationery, office supply, and department stores.

I found one answer near the cameras: pocket photo albums. I started out with a small 24-pocket one, but soon filled it up so I graduated to a thicker one with 100 pages (I glued ribbon bookmarks inside the spine). They easily fit inside a pocket or dance bag, and they stay put on a podium or music stand.

I also found the ultimate photo album. It's a three-ring binder with enough capacity to serve (the late) Ted Sannella; it came with 35 pages and 210 pockets. The pages offer a spread of 6 cards; I added index tabs so that I can easily flip to, say, three- person dances, and select one that suits the moment. On the music stand I use wire clips (the concert band musician's life saver) and Post-its. I found this at a discount department store, packaged with a matching one in pocket size.

The other answer was in the computer aisle. I like 4"x 6" cards, with their large text area and unloseable size. But having done considerable work in publishing and graphic arts, I wanted to come up with something neater than my own handwriting. So I located a package of continuous form cards (with tractor-feed strips along the sides), set up a text file in my word processing program, and started typing. In no time I had some 50 dances neatly transcribed onto cards. An evening's worth of work gave me several different programs worth of dances.

Techno-weenies will want to use extensive formatting codes, block commands [F1 for "A1 A2 B1 B2," F2 for "duple improper"], font changes, scanned photos, and so on. At the time of this writing I was using a Tandy 1000 souped up with a hard drive, Word Star 3.31, and a dot matrix printer. I've since graduated to a laser printer and manual-fed cards; as you can see from the photo, they are very legible.

The only drawback: the cards occasionally misfeed, which goofs up alignment on all subsequent ones. Keep your eye on the printer and save paper. And continuous forms are your basic boring white. Some callers identify dances by card color - orange for squares, yellow for contras, blue for mixers. I add highlighting to delineate different formats: duple improper are yellow, propers are orange, Becket formations are lavender.

By the way, John Freeman saw my first card album and acquired several for himself. I think he loads them according to degree of difficulty (green book is for beginners; blue, intermediate). Susan English likes the index binders: she uses month-tabbed dividers to program her monthly dances. This is an excellent method that keeps track of what she did each month, and avoids reruns. My binder can be rearranged without disaster, but photo albums generally are not designed for major rearrangements; the pages can pull apart if you're not gentle.

I use the last few pages as archives for photos of memorable Halloween dance costumes, useful information like dance hall sizes, and the like, along with some blank cards so I can scribble down great new dances on the fly, to take home and put on disk.

Stashed in a photo album, your dance programs will not vanish down a crack between the stage and the wall. And with your dance prompts stored on a hard drive, a minor mishap (forgetting your gig bag on the roof of a vehicle, theft, water damage) won't mean the end of your calling career.

My dance prompt text files are available for your use. In 1992 I asked for a blank diskette and $5 to cover shipping and handling. E-mail me and we'll talk about a file transfer.