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.