The Phantom*

Number 13
November 2019

Editor: Gary Welch


This is the newsletter of the Nova Scotia square, round, and contra dance community.
Please send news of events in your corner of the dance world to the Editor at the address above.

Metro Dances for Heart in 2019

Dottie Welch, backed up by the Metro Fiddlers, entertains dancers new and old.
All proceeds go to help the Nova Scotia Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Some of these ladies got up to give it a try.


Your Federation at Work

Sessions of Canada's Parliament are impressive affairs, but the meetings of your Federation have much more impact on the Nova Scotia dance scene. Check the minutes of the 2018 AGM and the combined reports from the same meeting. As for 2019, here are the minutes and combined reports. Grab a coffee and enjoy!


2020: The Canadian National

Convention home page

Come the end of July we'll be in Surrey, B.C. Hope to see you there!


Bringing in the New Year at Metro

A small but happy group chowed down on a delicious pot luck supper at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Dartmouth, then danced until time for midnight celebrations, slurping up special punch between tips. The first tip of 2019 followed the usual midnight craziness.


The Editor's Soapbox: Callerlab

If you're a bit vague about Callerlab, perhaps the following ramble will be helpful. It represents your Editor's own thoughts, albeit after having been run by his wife in order to correct any egregious mistakes.

Most of us take the following for granted:

When we attend a Mainstream dance at another club down the road a bit, in another provence, in the States, or even in Europe or Japan, we don't need to worry about being confronted with a bunch of calls we've never heard of. It doesn't happen.

At a Maritime Convention, or at a Canadian or US National, the Plus Hall always includes a group of calls in addition to Mainstream — the same group wherever you dance Plus. Likewise, the Advanced Hall always includes the same set of calls in addition to Plus; you can depend on it.

Callerlab is largely responsible for that predictibility. It's the international organization of square dance callers — total membership of roughly 1500. Callerlab publishes the lists of square dance calls that make up the various programs: Basic, Mainstream, Plus, Advanced, and Challenge. Those lists are used throughout the world; they're what make Modern Square Dancing an international activity. Without them you couldn't be sure of what you were getting into when you squared up in the MCCA Mainstream Hall to dance to a caller from another provence. [See comments on "being sure" below.]

Chances are that your present caller taught you many of the calls you know. He or she taught you the "definition" of the call — what to do when you hear "Swing Thru" for example. Where do these definitions come from? Callerlab!

In class you learned calls in a sequence — very likely the teaching sequence specified by Callerlab. The sequence is carefully arranged so that less complicated calls are taught early and the more complex ones only after you've "got your feet under you".

Callerlab has resources to help callers improve their teaching skills, such as suggestions for arranging dancers in a standard starting position before each call. The logic, of course, is that practice doing a call from the same starting position increases the chance of success. Once you're happy with that, maybe your caller will tippy-toe into trying some non-standard starting positions.

Different folks have different ways of learning — through various combinations of reading the definition of the call, by watching a video of dancers doing the call, or by repeatedly dancing it. Callerlab's annual meetings usually have sessions on how callers can help dancers who learn in different ways.

It isn't easy to move dancers smoothly through a sequence of calls while keeping them entertained! Square dance callers aren't just "born to call"; they need to learn the craft. Schools which teach calling, such as the Maritime's Alguire Memorial Caller School, use a program of instruction created by Callerlab. About three dozen callers who have demonstrated mastery of that program over several years are recognized as Callerlab Accredited Caller Coaches. They are the nucleus of Callerlab's training efforts.

Like the rest of us, Callerlab is concerned about maintaining our wonderful activity. The formerly rigid dress code has been relaxed. Ideas for shortening the teaching time for new dancers are bubbling forth. Suggestions for offering a series of "teach whoever comes through the door" dances are being followed up. The difficult problem of raising public awareness is being tackled.

The bottom line seems to be this: The square dance activity as we "old timers" have known it is changing. Modern Square Dancing will surely survive, but in a new form. Callerlab will be helping to define its future.


The Callerlab lists lay out the ground rules for each level. But surprises often pop up — teehee! If the hall is listed as "DBD" or "Nonstandard", or perhaps "Take no Prisoners" then expect the unexpected! But even under normal circumstances, callers occasionally wander away from the list. During a convention they sometimes forget which hall they're in (Dancers are very quick to correct such memory lapses!) Some realize too late that the dancers in front of them aren't used to starting the next call from the position they're in — even though it's technically OK. Callers have a variety of accents and delivery habits which sometimes get in the way. A dancer's attention can be distracted at just the wrong moment. The mic can suddeny drop out. All the above adds an element of "interest" ("anticipation"?, "trepidation"?) to our glorious activity. We dance in the real world of human limitations. Hurrah!!


The Maritime Convention Turns Fifty

In 1970 callers and cuers from the Maritime provinces decided to climb out on a limb by organizing a special weekend event aimed at attracting dancers from all three Maritime provences: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Part of the attraction, it was hoped, would be that leaders from all those provences would be on staff. There was apparently some apprehension: would anyone show up?

Amazingly, they did! The first Maritime convention was a huge success; and in following years as many as 1000 dancers attended. Over time the numbers have declined, yet those who come still leave with good memories. The Maritime Convention remains unique in the Maritime dance scene.

The following pictures were taken during the fiftieth convention, held at the Glengarry Best Western Hotel in Truro. As he prowled the dance floors snapping away, the photographer was sometimes asked "What do you do with all those pictures?" The usual reply was something like "Well, 90 percent of what I shoot usually turns out to be garbage. Some of the rest, though, might just end up on the Internet." Guess what; here they are!

At the Registration Desk, Martin Belanger will drill a hole in your badge for the special 50th Anniversary Dangle.
Note: After consultation with Faye Germon, right, it is decided that badges should be removed prior to drilling.


Jim DesBarres calling in front of the Mainstream Hall decorations



Round dancers always have a place at Maritime Conventions.

The "New-to-You" shop was a huge success.

Moments from the Mainstream Hall on Saturday

Contra dancers take over the floor.

Some of the Leaders


Want to dance the next tip but can't quite make a square? Experienced dancers know the solution: ask a phantom (or two) to fill in! Phantoms are spirits who come when needed, and do their part of the action so the real folks can dance. They are, however, quite mischievous, and their antics can cause all sorts of hilarious bloopers by real dancers! Thankfully, phantoms disappear when no longer needed. Like its namesake, this newsletter first came when needed — to fill in for it's predecessor Between Tips. It's antics have been largely harmless, and it was expected to "go poof" when a new Between Tips editor was found. Such editors, however, seem to be rare birds; expect The Phantom to haunt the SRDFNS web site for awhile yet!