Essays IndexHenry's Home Page

Master Teacher

I was just under a master teacher, and there are many things that made him a master teacher -- among them his long experience in the field -- but experience does not make a man wise.  This man, this teacher, was wise, and I paid close attention to his words.

The question came up as to whether it was permissible to, at one point, exclude a part of your audience.  Specifically, you are calling the dances for an evening and you sense that the experienced part of your audience wants a challenging dance, a difficult, fast-paced, intricate dance.  Isn't it okay to say -- for one dance out of over a dozen -- the next dance is for experienced dancers only?  The teacher said no.  I asked, "well then how do you give your experienced dancers a jolt, a good dance to fling their bodies into?"  He said, "In the course of an evening, lead all the dancers up to that dance.  Put together a progression of dances that will prepare them.

He did not always explain everything in detail -- how could he? -- but he set the right tone: he had, what he admitted were, his personal preferences -- and one was: don't embarrass people.  Don't point out to others who the inexperienced people are.  Don't make them single themselves out.  But how does one prepare relatively inexperienced dancers to dance a difficult dance well?  I found out while calling last night -- and I found out the painful way -- by doing it wrong.

Most of the people I was calling to were experienced dancers, but some were inexperienced -- raw beginners.  When I explained the moves, all the dancers did the move correctly, but I forgot one very crucial part of the explanation.

The point I am trying to make is that carefully explained, or well taught, even a difficult dance -- even a difficult concept -- can seem easy, comprehensible do-able. This dance contained an unusual move, a circle right move.  Almost always, when dancers are told to circle, they circle left.  Often callers forget to say circle left and simply say circle, knowing full well dancers will circle to the left.

So all a good caller needs to do is highlight, the circle right, right?  Pay attention dear dancers. At this point you will do something unusual, you will...."  This doesn't work, hasn't worked for me, and last night, mid-dance-disaster I saw what would work.  The circle right must be done quickly.  If the circle right is not completed on time, the first move of the next sequence -- the very beginning of an encounter with a new couple -- breaks down, and the whole dance breaks down.

I remember dancing this dance. I always started circling right early, to alert the other dancers, and I saw to it that the circle moved quickly, so that we would be in position on time to begin the next move.

As I looked out on the floor, the groups that worked were always led by one forceful individual initiating the action, forcing the circle right to move more quickly.

As a teacher I will feature that point next time. I will tell the experienced dancers to take forceful control at this juncture in the dance.  All else in the dance works well, but at this point we count on you expertise to get us through.

Don't exclude the inexperienced -- teach well and all will have a good time.

Copyright 2001   Henry Morgenstein

Essays IndexHenry's Home Page