The International Square Dance Magazine

Fredi Levitt
Past President of the Associated Square Dancers of California

Recruiting Callers, Think Outside the Box

Square dancing is wonderful. It’s good for people socially, physically and mentally and it would be nice to see it grow and have a future, so that upcoming generations will be making friends as callers, dancers, and members of the dance community. After all, we are dancers and it has been shown that dancers can preserve their mental and physical health above all others. Wouldn’t it be nice to have young new callers and to hear the sound of rapid dance moves, new generations of people laughing, interacting and having a great time? Please consider this new approach to recruit callers and their friends as dancers.

I am proposing a project for CALLERLAB that recruits new callers from outside our activity. There are talented entertainers in all parts of the Country that would like an opportunity to sing, entertain, and lead dance groups. Offering scholarships to become callers will give applicants the chance to be caller entertainers. Younger callers will bring young friends, new music and new ideas.

CALLERLAB, in conjunction with square dance associations and clubs, could hold auditions giving entertainers an opportunity to win scholarships to learn square dancing and calling. Singing auditions can be accomplished by live performances or by requesting submissions of videos to a website (or YouTube). On-line requests for auditions would capture the essence of calling. An example would be, “Want to get started in an exciting form of singing, entertaining, and leadership that can take you around the world? Submit your audition video to win a scholarship to learn how to sing, teach and lead pattern dancing.” Audition listings can be made using on-line services, such as Backstage, which lists a variety of available singing tryouts. Conditions for submissions should state that applicants must exhibit the ability to sing, have performance capabilities and traits important to calling. The on-line auditions can reach entertainers all over the Country, giving every dance community in all states an opportunity to participate.

Those candidates who pass the audition based on singing talent, personality and leadership traits, could be awarded scholarships to learn square dancing. If there are enough applicants, they can be taught dancing in their own accelerated class, especially geared for future callers, or can be taught in the new dancer programs of local clubs. Associations can pay clubs for the students attending classes or clubs can host these candidates with free classes. An alternative would be to recruit college students and young adults to participate in synchronized pattern dancing and give these caller students and dancers an opportunity to create their own dance environment.

Upon completion of classes, there should be a second set of auditions for caller school scholarships. At this point, callers can determine which of these new dancers understand the dynamics of square dancing and who should be awarded caller scholarships. CALLERLAB may want to consider establishing this caller school project and provide classes in modern teaching methods, and also assign caller mentors to the students.

This can be a great opportunity for CALLERLAB to implement recruiting and perhaps make use of a caller scholarship fund. It may also encourage the National Executive Committee of the National Convention (NEC) to contribute to CALLERLAB for scholarships, if this becomes an effective and viable recruitment method.

I would like to suggest that we start with a pilot project in Southern California as we have a large association, numerous clubs and a large population of hopeful Hollywood entertainers. I hope that all readers, CALLERLAB, associations and dancers will agree that this project is worth a try! It does not require a large financial investment. The costs will include advertising, hall rentals, printing and class callers. It will take a judicious amount of expenditure, for potentially wonderful results. If it works, the project can be implemented Nationwide as there are budding entertainers everywhere. There can be presentations, panels and discussions at national, state conventions and association meetings.

I have spoken to callers, members of the NEC, councils and dancers. At the last National Convention in Des Moines, Iowa, I talked to members of the dance community from all parts of the Country. They have all been supportive and enthusiastic about this idea. In addition, many have provided suggestions for implementation that I have included in this article. CALLERLAB has requested that this idea be presented at their next Convention in Mesa, Arizona, April 10-12, 2017. All dancers and callers are invited to attend.

At the last three National Conventions, callers spoke of the need for young callers, modernizing dance wear, using more current music, and using better and more modern teaching methods. This may be a starting point to achieve these goals. Square dancing has a long history – let’s keep it dancing!

Fun set to music!