F 1 D 0 - 2004 04 05 at 0300

Two Dance Weekends.

I'll replay in reverse order, as memory is often
better for me that way.

I've just come home from Dominion, where life is
getting better each time around. I've got customers
who line up to pay at my cash desk for a moment of
playful chat. I'm certainly not the fastest nor most
efficient. I make mistakes, such as forgetting to
return the customer's plastic. Very Very Bad.

I came directly from the Spring Thaw. 

That is Toronto's big contradance weekend. We had
Beth Molaro calling, and Flapjack playing.

I only have good things to say about the whole
experience. Dancers were attentive; all making
all of the necessary connections with partners
and neighbours as needed.

Well Done!

Here are a few of the small things that make
the Spring Thaw a perfect time.

Good Floor. It doesn't grip your feet, and
moves up and down. 

Lemonade and water. Someone has made sure that
there is always something right to drink. 

Apples and bananas. Again, there was always something
in the fruit department available to snack. And 
pre-quartered oranges.

Cake and chips. This wasn't as plentiful as the other
things, but didn't need to be. There was usually 
something salty and something sweet you could find
on the table.

Schedules and Restaurant information. And lots
of other paper too. If you wanted to read about
the weekend, you could. 

Front desk and floor managers. I really like the
concept here: Every half hour someone would care
for the front desk, where money was taken and badges
distributed. Each day someone was in charge of all
the business in the room, including front desk. And
there was someone supervising all of the floor mgrs.
Each group knew their job. Front desk was security
and cashier. Floor managers were always on call
to answer any questions of protocol or problem. And
their supervisors were there for when a situation 
was unknown to them or escalated and needed more 
than just a volunteer.

Sound. Never ever underestimate the value of a good
sound crew or sound man. If the dancers cannot hear 
the caller, they will muddle. If they cannot hear
the music, then they complain and dance in an irregular 
way, out of frame with the music. (At a contradance,
this can be a real problem). Our sound was very good.

Hot Musicians. Flapjack, like many other traditional
bands, has their own ideas about what makes the music
move the people. They are from Toronto originally,
or at least, they seemed to be. Karen Taylor is the
lead fiddle and banjo girl. The music has to have some
traditional parts, such as the melody. But the use
of silence and rhythm to beef up the original intent
goes a long way. They have a way of providing false
endings, a kind of musical joke, so you think the 
dance is about to end, and it starts again (with
a new neighbour). Some things defy words. Flapjack
does a good job, and I will have a hard time really
explaining why. Their closing waltz was The Log Driver's
Waltz. I loved that.

Hot Caller. The caller has an interesting job. They
have to convey the program to the dancers.  They are
teachers, but don't want to sound too teachy. When
we have as much fun as we do, it's hard to be quiet,
but Beth Molaro constantly had to advise the dancers
to listen. Oh well. When she talks, she talks like
you or me. But when she calls, she has a southern
affectation! "Go Home to your partner and SWANG!"
She brought her 3-year old daughter. She was happiest
just being between the band and the dancers. Frequently
standing up and directing them like a maestro. Other 
times she'd find the box of cookies, and feed one
to a musician, who in turn would feed a different 
one to her. Beth loves calling square dances. I'm not
a lover of squares myself, but hers were very nice 
indeed. 

Joy. You get all of these things happening, and
the karma level keeps doubling. Everyone is abuzz
and smiling brightly. 

I should have made more of an effort toward writing
notes. I made *NONE*. There were a few dances worth
remembering. Oh well.

The program

Friday night, 800pm to 1145pm. Good
long welcome dance. 

Saturday we had English with Christine Robb for 
two hours, and she led well. She promotes a
system of teaching which stands in opposition to the
loud style of Beth's, and many others. She's soft
spoken, and wants dancers to be able to hear the music
without the drone of her voice calling out cues. 

Potluck Lunch.

Split program! Some people chose waltzing and singing, 
others (incl me) chose square dances and contras.

The squares and contradances were all kind of weird, but
not so strange as to be hard or always making you rush
from one place to the next. For example many contras 
had a box-the-gnat figure, followed by pulling someone
by, so you could actually get to a neighbour or partner
or something. Box The Gnat (with someone) is to look
at the someone, offer the someone your inside hand, 
lift theirs, so they can walk under your arm to change
places. It leaves your fingers and arm just a bit twisted,
but ready to pull towards you, and this untwists. See?
It's hard to explain. Wish you were there.

We had a couple of free hours for dinner, and returned
for a Saturday Night dance from 800 to 1145 again. If 
we are dancing gently Friday, Saturday is a chance to
go full out, and ellicit screams of joy from happy 
participants.

Sunday we waltzed from 130 to 200, and had contras
and squares from 200 to 400pm. The goal on Sunday's
dance is to close the weekend, and give everyone
a chance to see each neighbour one last time. The
pace is slower. It's a goodbye dance.

It was a very good weekend.

I wish I could report as well on the London Dance 
that happened on the weekend prior. It happened
in London Ontario (not Britain). 

So many problems by comparison. 

Bad Floor. Linoleum on Concrete. And it had
some kind of food fight the night prior to our
dance, so people found themselves actually sticking
to the floor rather than turning. So many people
I knew personally were hurting their joints. They
didn't know what to do. Sit out dances? Demand a
refund? Drive back home? Bitch and whine? I gave
ear to so many who looked forward to this major
English Dance Weekend for months, only to find 
they had to exclude themselves from it, while just
watching. 

Insufficient Billets. A courtesy to poor dancers
from afar is to be cared for by the local folk, so
we don't have to pay for a hotel. It cost me $110
I could ill afford.

Noisy Shared Facility. Separated only by wooden panel,
we heard a loud Kurdish Wedding next door. Boom, Boom, 
Boom, Boom (modern music, super extra loud).

Average dances. Many people come out to a big dance
to get their fill of things they could not expect at
a local dance. New dances, or old but challenging ones.
This didn't happen this weekend. We had a weekend of
familiar dances. All of the ones from our local Toronto
group were very prepared for the friday night dances
we did. Unless they send a list of the dances ahead,
as some callers do, we should expect a weekend of good
good dances, not average ones.

Joy missing. Too many reasons to complain, and you'd
hear about it over and over. 

I want to write more, but it is 4am, and I'm not used
to the new spring clock yet. 

I hope all of you had a good weekend, and wish you 
well for the long weekend that's coming up.

That's all I know.