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Square Dance Calling Musings

2024-02-09 18:26:38.888246+01 by Dan Lyke 2 comments

Fun night filling in for Gary Kendall at the Clutch Busters over in Concord last night, two or three squares (red light/green light) but as I got back home I realized... Conservatively, I loaded the car at, say, quarter after five yesterday, and left at 5:30, because Google gave a wide variety of arrival times. Got home at quarter to 11. Called from 7:30 to 9:30, but five and a half hours out of the house, ignoring any coordination and prep time and whatnot. 60 miles each way, so using IRS numbers, about $80 in mileage. Paid $120, so that leaves $40 to distribute between music licensing, music, gear depreciation, voice lessons, and... me. So including drive time, seven and a quarter an hour, before all of those other costs...

While I was driving, Eric Henerlau called, and we talked about how we need more callers in our area or this activity is going to drop below the critical mass threshold for lack of callers before it drops for lack of dancers.

Last Friday, Charlene and I wandered down to Aqus and there was a band playing there. Good musicians, good harmonies, but it was hard to hear the band over the conversation. We left after a little bit, walked to get groceries, and talked about why, and she pointed out that the band was having fun with each other, rather than having fun connecting with the audience.

As a caller, the only thing I've got is connecting with the floor, and that's a very hierarchical relationship. I realize that this is part of why Charlene and I find caller workshops so much fun even though the calling is often rudimentary and uneven; we're hanging out, and dancing, with other people who are experiencing the form in the same way that we do.

No good answers (except that we're definitely gonna work to support our friend who's trying to get a regular song circle going in Petaluma, 'cause that's something we can do together that's a less uneven way to build community), but further little dots in trying to figure out how we might find something that looks enough like square dancing that we get similar things out of it, but one that doesn't require so much effort on the part of just a very few to sustain.

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#Comment Re: Square Dance Calling Musings made: 2024-02-09 18:35:23.766767+01 by: markd

is Aqus a music venue, or a social space? I know that when I'm out with live music going on, I don't want the music so loud I can't talk to the folks in front of me.

#Comment Re: Square Dance Calling Musings made: 2024-02-09 19:02:18.59912+01 by: Dan Lyke

Aqus is a social space, but/and: Some years ago we were down in Fairfax at Café Amsterdam, I think this was an open mic night, but it was that same "live music and some of the audience was paying attention and some was talking", and an artist named Suzanne Z did a song, not loudly, and she started and the whole place went dead silent.

As I've been working on my voice, I've been thinking about that moment. What it was with how she was connecting with the audience that caused everyone to say "holy shit, I have to hear this" simultaneously.

Which... I want to be part of a community and quite often it's the socializing that we're trying to encourage, but when I get behind a mic, I also aspire to that level of audience connection.

As the evening went on it was also clear that she had one trick: she did that one thing, really well, but it wasn't a journey through different spaces. Which I think is the next step in connecting with an audience, take them through ups and downs, different energy levels.

But a really good band or artist doesn't connect with the audience by volume, they connect by engaging the audience so that everyone in the venue *wants* to be a part of their experience and journey.

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