Callers' Quiz 1

Creator: Colin Hume    Last updated:  3-Apr-20

This quiz was designed for callers in England.  If you call elsewhere you may disagree with some of my answers.  If you call in England you may still disagree with some of my answers! That's OK.


Q1How many walking steps are there in 32 bars of music?

|3|The answer would be 32 for skip-change steps.
Q2What is the difference between a jig and a reel?

|3|Jigs and reels can both be played fast or slow. Bonus point if you knew that a jig is in 6/8 time and a reel is in 2/2, 2/4, 4/4 or similar.
Q3What is the first thing a caller should do at a barn dance?

|2|Most people have no idea how much space is required for a barn dance. Next I would turn off half the lights — people don't like being watched by the caller when they don't know what they're doing! Then I would ask the band if they wanted any help — but usually they have their own routine and you'd just be in the way.
Q4After you've walked through a traditional-style American Square with the head couples leading the figure and the ladies have progressed one place, what would you do next?

|3|Move the ladies on one more place and then walk it through for the sides. If you just walk it through for the sides, the same ladies will have led the figure twice and the other two ladies won't have had a chance.

Walking it through again for the heads shouldn't be necessary unless it's a very complicated square, or you misjudged the crowd and they had trouble with something that you assumed they could cope with.

Q5Where do you keep your dance instructions?

|1|If you really can remember all your dances correctly every time, either you have my honest admiration or you have a very small repertoire!

Somewhere "in the cloud" is fine most of the time, but suppose you lose your internet connection or for some reason Google Docs has a glitch.

Q6A dancer questions your interpretation of a dance.  What do you do?

|3|I would explain that there's more than one version of the dance, and this is the version we're doing tonight. If necessary when I got home I would look up the instructions somewhere reliable and check that I hadn't written them down wrong.
Q7You've finished calling a Saturday evening dance for a club and no-one has paid you.  What would you do?

|3|You may disagree with me here, but if I've been working hard for three or more hours and I'm tired, I don't see why I should have to have to be apologetic about asking for payment!
Q8How do you teach a strip the willow at a barn dance?

|3|Don't be afraid to leave the safety of the stage and come down amongst the punters. You can make the demonstration entertaining, and it shows your solidarity with the dancers.
Q9You are running an Advanced American Squares workshop for your club and a new couple walk in.  What do you do?

|1|You may discover they're experienced dancers from far afield, or Modern Western Square Dancers who know far more figures than you do and are great at following instructions. If they are complete newcomers, at least give them a friendly explanation of why it wouldn't be fair on them or the other dancers and suggest they come back on a regular club night.
Q10You're part-way through calling a club night and a group of teenagers turn up.  What do you do?

|2|I believe the best thing is to change your programme rather than scrap it. Give them some simple lively dances, but don't be afraid to announce a more complicated Playford dance and advise them to sit out this one and watch the experts making fools of themselves.
Q11You're calling a wedding dance.  Who are the most important people there?

|2|Even in these egalitarian days, it's still often the bride's parents who foot the bill (which includes paying you)!
Q12Several people are talking throughout the walkthrough.  What do you do?

|3|It really does depend on many things. They may be high-spirited, or annoyed (at you or something else), you may have spent too long going into minute detail about the history of the dance or the exact way you want them to do the figure, or they may simply be confused by your instructions. It's your job to find out why they're talking and then take suitable action.
Q13Suddenly there's a howl from the speakers and the dancers protest and cover their ears.  What do you do?

|3|Covering the microphone with your hand turns out to be the worst thing you can do — it intensifies the feedback. Switching it off may take a few seconds while you fumble with the switch, whereas stepping back should be an instant reaction.
Q14What do you do if a dance doesn't work?

|2|It will seem like an hour to you, but it won't to the dancers. Don't let it turn into a discussion group, trying several suggested fixes. On the other hand if there's someone you trust on the floor they may know exactly what you've done wrong.

I didn't add a fourth option — Blame the dancers for getting it wrong — you'd never do that, would you?

Q15What do you do if you usually work the club circuit and you're asked to call with a ceilidh band?

|2|3|Most ceilidh bands don't play from music — they may not even read music — and you'll get nowhere by sending it to them. You need to work to their strengths, not complain that they're not as good as whoever.

I wouldn't refuse, though some of my fans might complain that I wasn't doing my usual sort of programme. But it's certainly better to refuse the gig than to set yourself up for a complete disaster!

Q16What is the best way to become a great caller?

|3|It doesn't work to copy one caller — you're not them, and people will know this. Reading books, callers' notes, articles on websites and so on is useful, but there's no substitute for actually dancing to a variety of callers and observing both good and bad points. It should also make you a better dancer, which is a considerable bonus.
Q17When should you teach dance technique?

|2|Unless you're actually running a technique session, one big chunk at the beginning of the evening really isn't a good idea. Some people may resent it; some people may arrive late and miss it.

But don't chicken out and never try to teach people to dance better. It all comes down to how you do it.

Q18A dancer says you're a terrible caller.  How do you respond?

|2|You might end up by apologising, but first get him to explain why he thinks that. Once you've shown him that you see his point of view he'll be more receptive to yours.
Q19When should a caller attend a festival or dance camp?

|3|There are some callers that you only see at an event if they're booked to call there. I don't understand this. Why would anyone become a caller if they don't enjoy dancing? But go there to dance, not to find fault with other callers; that won't endear you to anyone.
Q20Would you like Colin Hume to run a Callers' Workshop for your group?