Our dance season runs from Sept through May. The Feb dance is mid year. My program was designed to help dancers in my community build on the moves that they'd been exposed to previously in the dance season, and help cement those moves into their repertoire. My first hint of the storm to come was during the beginners' lesson. Who were all these people I'd never seen before in my life?! Because it was Valentine's Day, I had expected a low turnout that night. But the room was teeming with people ready to dance! And after all, isn't that what all of our advertising efforts are intended to do?
As is typical for our contra dance, we had all ages and all levels of ability. This is actually one of things I boast about when describing our dance community. I think it's great! But it is not for the caller who is faint of heart. It takes more teaching than calling to work with a group of first-time dancers. Of the 52 attendees that night, only 8 were members of the local folk society. Many of our experienced dancers were out of town at a dance festival or enjoying a Valentine's evening that didn't involve contra dancing. I was facing a roomful of beginners.
It wasn't the first time I'd ever announced, "New program!", while discarding the lineup of dances I'd chosen (and practiced!) for that night. I reached into my trusty treasure box of calling cards and pulled out all of the dances from the category "one night stand". We do-si-do'ed, and did a circle mixer... We had enough people to do Intersection Reel, an X-shaped dance in which all four couples from the outermost parts of the X sashay through X to the opposite side. My friend Eric requests this dance every time I call, and we had enough people that night to do it.
But as the evening went on and some people left, we had fewer new dancers. Slowly, I introduced dances from the program I intended to share with them. Before the night was over, they were doing heys, balancing wavy lines and doing Rory O'More spins! I wanted to teach contra corners and hoped to introduce the chestnut dance Chorus Jig, but we didn't get to it, and I'll have to save that for another night.
The next time I need to change gears at the beginning of the evening with a "new program", I hope to remember this weekend's dance. Rather than considering the new program as a personal failure in planning poorly, as a fallback plan, a plan B, or a remedial plan, I want to regard a new, impromptu program simply as the more appropriate plan... a helpful vehicle that can guide dancers through the evening's dance successfully.