San Diego -- private event

November 3, 2007

Band: Flight Path

  Dance Name Author Variants/comments
1 Unphrased Circle Non-Mixer Adapted from Karen Missavage  
2 Traffic Jam John Krumm  
3 Galopede Traditional  
4 Low-Backed Car Dudley Laufman  
5 Portland Fancy Traditional Simplified form -- see below
6 The Fan Dance/Favors the Rose Traditional German  
7 Blobs    
8 The Duke of York Traditional  

My first ever ONS. It was for a church school's special western event, with an estimate of up to 300 kids and their parents, though the final participating numbers were more like 80.

Shellshocked afterwards, and unable to speak to anyone because of event-induced laryngitis, I typed out this raw account to trad-dance-callers. (I had used them as a help resource, and at least one mentioned being interested in a follow-up report.) The post was then picked up by CDSS news, and printed under the title "Gigs From Hell." It's now been long enough that I can face reprinting it. It leaves out some of the issues, like the event facility being a quarter-mile directly downrange of the sole takeoff runway of San Diego International Airport, but it's enough:

A battle report, mayhaps seeking commiseration.

When I walked into the meeting hall room, there was already a layer of hay spread with great care, evenly covering the carpet.

I had come an hour early, having bad feelings about the sound system they rented. I was right in that no-one was going to adjust the dials, or even know which ones went where. What was surprising was that they'd gotten a set up with the band only connected to the monitors and myself only connected to the mains. The organizers had missed the little detail that the dancers might have wanted to hear the band.

So I spent the next 45 minutes with an unfamiliar sound board, unknown amplifier, random cables they had in storage, and no manual trying to jury-rig something. I managed it just in time to sound-check the band.

Then things went downhill.

Everyone was eating dinner outside in the parking lot, so I and the band went outside to eat. Allowing enough time for the kids to explore the dance hall, and "play" and "rearrange" the set-up and instruments. Meanwhile, daisy-chained crock-pots from a chili contest overloaded the electrical network and managed to destroy the fuses in half the building. Meaning we later had to run extension cords from the sound system off to other rooms.

While doing this we found that doors immediately stage left and right of the band were a popular pathway for kids to chase each other through in a form of hide-and-go-scream.

One oversight by the people in charge was their method of letting people outside know the dance was starting inside. (No sound system outside.) Getting people inside was haphazard, so at most we had eighty out of the three hundred people in the dance hall, with at least half of them not dancing. Most parents, of course, were outside. Some of the kids not dancing restrained themselves to the sidelines. Others didn't.

The first dance attempt was a circle left/right/forward and back, mixed with doing elbow swings of nearby people. The mix was junior high kids (12-14) plus the very young (4-7). Nothing in the middle age group. (8-11) Their forward and back terrified me, as waves of kids got bowled over each time they ran screaming into the center to ram those across from them. I really need to get insurance. The dance leaked the older kids quickly as they got bored and fled the premises.

Next, Traffic Jam went over like a lead balloon. A few of the youngest kids did it, but most didn't. And when they took steps, it was always forwards towards the band, kind of crushing them into one corner of the room. Going to the intermediate version sort of worked; the advanced version fell apart.

Gallopede sputtered vainly, but with kids running in the room as the dance was progressing and joining it in random spots without realizing the concept of "lines," it didn't have much of a chance.

(In general Longways sets were also problematic because of obstacles -- the very young (under four) bouncing around the center of the room with their balloons oblivious to everything around, the teens racing through and scuffling on the floor, and even water bottles getting chucked into the dance area.)

Then someone needed to announce the winner of the chili contest, and without warning promptly dismissed everyone outside to dessert. I cornered the person in charge, and repeated my earlier request for several parents for crowd control. This plea was about as successful as my earlier attempt.

After the break I managed to get some people in and tried Low-Backed Car. I made the rookie's mistake by saying "right hand turn" and getting all sorts of creative interpretations, and eventually having to demo it. The worst part during the walkthrough was getting the top pair to sashay to the bottom. The top pair were two boys busy texting each other on cell phones and trading the phones back and forth. Then they ran off. The dance started, ending in the first B2 due to injuries as kids slammed each other down. (In the under-6 set, the "get out of the way as the top couple sashays down" was too difficult for me to get across.)

A simplified Portland Fancy attempt failed spectacularly. (Scattered groups of four circle left, right, two-hand turn opposite, two-hand turn partner, find another couple.) By this point a number of the teens had staked out places on the floor and were yelling and running around each other in tussles, so trying to get people into groups of four took minutes. By the time the walkthrough was over and the music started, there were only six survivors. It sputtered out soon afterwards.

As the last hope I pulled out the Fan Dance. With coaching the person in front, it actually went well. More people joined the lines as it went on, and by the end about 50 were participating. Including a dozen adults. I ran it about twelve minutes in relief.

With that, I trapped about thirty for Blobs, which they had fun with. It's an impressively resilient dance, and you don't need to ever be across from your partner. It even survived one of the blobs going down.

A waltz got everyone listening politely on the sidelines.

I finished with Duke of York. It went decently, though run too long. (Last time through, all but two couples sat down.)

So the last few dances ended on an upwards note, but until then it was brutal for me.

Oh, and me getting sick two days before, and sneezing and coughing the whole time through didn't help. Not did the sore throat which probably blew out my voice by the end of the evening.

Is it always this tough?

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