I usually program an evening dance the day before the event, since my mental 
and metaphysical state will be closest to how I will be at the event, and I 
think it’s important for my own energy and enthusiasm to be focused on the 
present.  My programming always has a “Plan A” set of dances, chosen to sculpt 
the shape of the event in terms of energy, emotion, and musicality, and Plans 
B, C, and sometimes D. My advance communication with the band includes 
something like this:

    "Make it an interesting musical concert where the dancers can't keep their 
feet still, and fortunately don't have to.
     Combine irresistible music with the dances that makes them want to move 
their feet and they can’t keep still."

If the band requests, I’ll send a proposed dance set, my “Plan A”, so they can 
choose tune sets.  This is long before the dance, sometimes weeks, so my “Plan 
A” might actually be different by the time the day arrives, but the band 
doesn’t need to know that.  Each dance chosen also has “Plan B” and “Plan C” 
substitutes that will fit the same tune(s) selected by the band, in case I have 
to dial it back a notch or kick it up, depending on who actually shows up at 
the dance.  That means the same energy, the same feeling (bouncy/smooth), the 
same punctuation (e.g. balances in the same places, or similar requirements for 
strong downbeats at certain points to help the dancers orient.  Maybe a "Plan 
D” of 3-5 couple dances if a storm, power outage, earthquake, or whatever might 
be results in a tiny turnout; it’s important that EVERY dance event is fun for 
the attendees, no matter how many or how few.

So, I guess my programming is done long before the dance, in terms of planning 
which dances might be swapped in at the last second because of a busload of 
beginners or a busload of hard-core experienced dancers, and in terms of how I 
want the emotional/energy shape of the evening to flow.

For dance weekends and workshops, the emphasis is not so much on the emotional 
contour of the evening as it is on the lesson/focus of each session.  For 
example, I did a NEFFA session “Buckets of Beckets” where each dance was Becket 
formation, and none of the dances in that hour started with “Circle Left 3/4”.  
That kind of thematic planning takes more time and meticulous care to do well.

Eric Black
e...@eric-black.com
See my Tune & Dance compositions at http://eric-black.com

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