by Debi Bliss

Every once in awhile it becomes necessary to find a new caller. Change of any type is difficult and finding a new caller is not always an easy task. Some areas are limited by the availability of callers but as long as your choice is more than just one there are a couple of things to keep in mind when deciding on a new caller.

1) You are not going to make everybody happy so get over that right away. I have yet to see a club who didn't have at least one member that threatened to quit if such-and-such caller was hired. Don't let this concern you, simply count this as a no vote that carries no more weight than any other vote. It may be in the best interest to lose one club member in order to make the club happier as a whole than to give in to the pressure from this one person only to find that others quietly slip away.

2) Determine the characteristics of your club. This is the time to take a good hard look at what kind of club you do have and decide if that is what you want or if it is time to make some changes. It's not enough to just say, "We are a Mainstream Club" or "We are a Plus Club" and then find a caller based on that one item.

Clubs have a personality of their own. I've labeled each of the three types but it is important to realize that no label is better than the next. People dance for different reasons and when dancers gather at a club with the same goals in mind then the only important issue is that they are having fun. You will even find that clubs are really a combination characteristics but generally there is one characteristic that describes them best. Once you have determined what your main characteristic is and how important additional characteristics are, you can begin to successfully find the caller that will fit your club.

a) Social Club- This club is generally close-knit. They enjoy chatting with each other and it may even appear as if dancing is just something they do between visiting. Dancing for them is not supposed to be a challenge to the mind but a joy to the feet.
b) Workshop Club- It's not that this club likes to workshop every tip. It just means that some type of workshop during the evening is important to them. Determine how much or how little you wish to workshop.
c) EA (Extended Application) Club - This club finds their type of fun in mental exercises. They like to be stretched most of the evening. They like workshop in things not often seen on the regular dance floor and they enjoy the challenge of unusual setups.

Next, it is important to realize that callers also fit into one of the above labels. Callers call for various reasons but even the caller wants to have fun. Some call for pure simple fun and other call because they enjoy the mathematics of the dance.

Social clubs should look for a caller that enjoys mixing with them during breaks and socializing on a personal level. They may even place importance on the caller being available to attend functions with them beyond club nights. It is important here to find the caller that considers square dancing a big part of his social life. A good indication of this is the caller's wife (ok.... caller's partner). If the partner attends on a regular basis you will often find that they consider this to be their social life too. Another indication is how many weekend and festival events they attend as dancers. When interviewing a caller you can ask these questions but remember that it is best to look at his past performance with other clubs (if you can). Sometimes a caller may believe one thing during an interview and reality might end up to be something else.

Workshop clubs need to find a caller that gets his pleasure from workshopping. It is important that the caller is also a capable teacher as teaching will be his major function in the club. Have him do a workshop tip and listen to the way he expresses himself. If he sounds exasperated (even in the slightest) it may only get worse over time. Often the caller is not exasperated with the dancers, simply frustrated at his inability to get his point across but knowing this does no good if it starts driving club members away. If you find his attitude demeaning or cross in any way you should take care in deciding if this is the caller for you. A good caller is not necessarily a good teacher.

EA clubs may do well to find a caller that calls a higher program than their club dances. It is this experience that gives the caller ideas to bring back to your club. He must be willing to find new material on a regular basis and not necessarily from the higher programs but from the Basic and Mainstream programs also. The best callers for this type of job are often the newer callers as their enthusiasm to explore new material will often match the clubs desire. His desire to teach is more important than his actual capabilities as the dancers are often quick to pick up on what the caller means.

It also may be important to look at the average age of your club and match it with a caller of the same generation. Choice of music, preferred speed and even choice of choreography does seem to run along the age lines though there is always exceptions to every rule. This shouldn't be your determining factor but don't overlook it altogether.

In addition to the above, I would strongly recommend that clubs have contracts with their club caller and I suggest contracts that are renewed once a year. Over the years clubs can change in their desires and a written contract can be the opening for negotiations on either side. A club may find they want more or less workshop. The caller may even find that he wants something different. Either can make this request at contract renewal time and if either party is not satisfied then the contract can simply NOT be renewed. A contract is a physical item that acknowledges that things do change over time and each party should have the right to look for the things they want from square dancing. Too often a negative feeling is left when a caller is fired or quits and it can easily be avoided with a contract.

And last but not least, don't be afraid to try the new callers. The interview might be a little tougher as there is no track record (or not much of one) to look back on but each of the different types of clubs could find that their perfect caller is a new caller. The important thing to look to is how much time and desire this new caller has to devote to homework. Is he interested in attending caller seminars? The social club can afford to hire the new caller who is limited in his amount of time to do homework but the EA club will want a caller who is anxious about learning and practicing every chance he gets. Nevertheless, a new caller who isn't interested in homework will not make any club happy over the long run.

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