Growth

Sep. 22nd, 2013 07:49 pm
bjarvis: (Default)
I've been calling square dances for about nine years now. Well, more precisely, I was permitted to hold a microphone on stage about nine years ago: it was nearly a year before I was allowed to go on-stage solo. I remember being scared as hell and feeling utterly unprepared. I also remember thinking that I was utterly the wrong person for the role, that I should simply drop out and admit I wasn't up to the task.

This past week, I had three gigs which tested my skills in different ways.

Last Tuesday, attendance at Chesapeake Squares' club night was sparse so I called from the floor while dancing as the 8th dancer to complete a square. I have done this before, but it was mentally draining and it wasn't exactly what one might call a polished performance. This time, however, it was no more tiring than simply calling or simply dancing. I could think ahead 2-3 calls while my feet continued to execute the current call. And I didn't shame my ancestors while doing it.

This Thursday was the Chesapeake Squares' first Mainstream class night of the new fall series. There was a time such a gig would have filled me with terror: how to I teach these calls? How do I make them interesting? How do I fill a two hour dance with only a handful of easy calls? This night, however, I wasn't nervous or fearful. It was actually kinda fun. We covered the calls I had planned and not one more (hard though it is to resist that urge sometimes), we danced them repeatedly in a variety of formations and we built new sequences out the calls on hand. In short, it worked pretty well.

This Saturday, I called a combo dance for the Times Squares in New York City. The first 2.5 hours were Advanced & Challenge, then latter 2.5 hours Mainstream & Plus. Times Squares doesn't take breaks between tips: the only rest time is the minute or so required to change music and set up news squares for the next tip. I had been asked explicitly not to dumb down the choreo or speed to the weakest dancer, and I soon understood what they meant: the Advanced floor had one dancer who was a new Advanced graduate but was having extreme difficulty with the Mainstream & Plus calls --"column circulate" shouldn't crash an A2 square. Later in the evening, there was a longtime dancer who joined for the Mainstream tips who clearly couldn't remember or execute half of the calls on the list, but also had no concept of looking at his opposite for clues or even looking around for an empty spot on in the formation to fill. Instead, he just stood there, staring at a random wall waiting for someone to move to physically to an available spot. I noticed several dancers taking incorrect spots --effectively taking a hit for the team-- just so he could be placed in the nearest available position.

In all, it was a calling challenge but I did as instructed, letting go the weak square in favor of the stronger ones. I limited walk-throughs to those sequences or calls which clearly caused the bulk of the floor heartburn (eg. peel the top, remake the thar). I used a lot of written choreo for the A&C stuff so I could repeat it on demand, but went with sight-calling frequently to fix squares or just for fun (the MS & Plus part was entirely sight-called).

In all though, I think the evening was successful and I had a fun time. It's rare that I call extended sets like these: I've only done it three times before, including our own Harvest Festival Hoedown in 2010. I have proven to my own satisfaction that I have sufficient choreography, workshop material, choreographic variety and a musical palette for such extended dances and sufficient mental & physical stamina to keep focussed beginning to end. Times Squares is a good club and I hope to work with them again some time soon. If nothing else, I'll see many of their dancers at upcoming square dance festivals across the next few months.

To make a long story short ("Too late!"), I've survived a compressed work schedule, a series of demanding calling scenarios, extended travel and much more this past week without significant angst or last-minute panic attacks. I entered into each event as prepared as I believed I needed to be, along with some safety margin just in case. I left each without the sense of explosive decompression I knew only too well several few years ago. I hesistate to say this has become routine, but it has become --finally-- familiar enough that it doesn't trigger excess anxiety or stress. I'm going to call that "maturity" and "experienced."

There is, naturally, still so much more to learn and experience. I'm happy however that I've finally reached my personal goal: a of stable performance of several challenging calling situations without excessive strain. From here on it, it's dessert time!
bjarvis: (Default)
I have almost literally nothing to report.

I called a gig for the Chesapeake Squares in July and am scheduled for another next Tuesday. That's it. On the one hand, I'm grateful for the break as I've been a bit overextended lately. On the other hand, I fear getting a bit rusty.

We were supposed to go to a C2 workshop & dance this past Saturday but it was cancelled for lack of dancers. I had two C1 gigs in July and early August which were similarly cancelled. It's the summer: everyone is off traveling, has schedule conflicts or such. Bummer, but we knew it would happen.

The DC Lambda Squares' Mainstream class is chugging along very well. John Marshall is the instructor but he had both [profile] kent4str and I do guest teaches of assigned calls so John could evaluate and offer tips & recommendations. I need more work on vocal metering, but otherwise my session went pretty well: good rapport with the floor, clear diction, etc.. Calling for new Mainstream dancers is the hardest gig I've ever had simply because we have to work with such a limited square dance vocabularly. More than once I wanted to call "wheel & deal" or "tag the line" but they didn't have those calls yet. Imagine writing "Hamlet" with a vocabulary of 500 words instead of the standard 25,000.

This Mainstream class technically winds up in September, but we know from the call list that there will be another dozen calls which need to be taught. These will be covered in upcoming club nights with that week's club caller, whether [profile] caller_dayle, [profile] kent4str, myself or someone else.

The Chesapeake Squares is hosting an open house August 27 and hopefully will have a Mainstream class starting in mid/late-September. More news as it develops.
bjarvis: (Default)
A few weeks ago, I was in San Francisco for a couple of weeks of work, along with attending the IAGSDC convention. Work was kinda wierd: it was the first time I visited our new company location in downtown SF, which was very cramped as there were renovations still in progress.

The square dance convention itself was an adventure. As vice-president for the Gay Callers Association, it was my responsibility to coordinate the annual caller school, this year with coaches Barry Clasper & [personal profile] billeyler. It was a lot of fun and I consider it to be a complete success. Beyond all of the preparation work in advance, I had to emcee the graduation dance, prepare flyers for next year's caller school, arrange official GCA name badges and back-orders of school materials, make file reports & make presentations with both the GCA board and the IAGSDC delegates and a stack of other minor tasks. [profile] billeyeler was kind enough (and not yet sick of me) to invite me to join him as a paenlist for the "Intro to Calling" discussion. I think we were all delighted with the excellent turn-out for that session.

In all, I danced only about 90 minutes out of 90 minutes out of four days. Still, that was enough to satisfy me, especially since I Have so many dance opportunitites at home: I like to the convention for the opportunity to mix & mingle, to catch up with people between sets and generally keep my ear to the ground to see what's going on in the broader community.

I can't say enough good things about the San Francisco convention. I know from back-room discussion with various coordinators that not everything was smooth as silk, but they managed through it, found solutions and kept ugly reality hidden from everyone --and that's what good organizing professionals do. Great location, great facility, great staff and great volunteers: what's not to love?

Since the convention, I've hardly called much. John Marshall is teaching the Mainstream class for DC Lambda Squares on Wednesdays, while Kent & I are assisting periodically and are given test teaching assignments. Last week, I was assigned teaching "grand square". Good news: that call is astonishingly easy to teach and gives the students a huge sense of accomplishment because it is a large call. My regular patter otherwise wasn't the greatest, largely because we had only a dozen or so calls to use and I was exhausted from overtime at work over the last few days. Still, no one died so I'm calling it a success.

There's talk of having us teach a Mainstream class for Chesapeake Squares beginning in mid-September too.

I haven't danced a great deal lately either, largely because my schedule has been very full. Again, I'm OK with this: I'm dancing enough for enjoyment and using the remaining time productively.

Tonight, DC Lambda Squares is hosting caller Bill Harrison for a DBD Plus workshop in the afternoon, a potluck dinner and then a Mainstream thru Challenge-1 dance in the evening. I predict a good time will be had by all.
bjarvis: (Default)
Tonight, we held the annual membership meeting and board elections for the DC Lambda Squares.

For the most part, there wasn't any dramatic news. We're making a bit of money off our fly-in festivals, losing a bit on our community dances and club nights, and losing a great deal off our classes. On the whole, we had a financial deficit but there's more than enough cash in the bank and certificates of deposit to handle that.

We've created a committee to re-evaluate how we do our community dances. I proposed the board offer a list of items or projects and ask the members to consider sponsoring these special expenses; to demonstrate how it could work, I also committed to covering 50% of the caller's fees for our next dance (another dancer volunteered to cover the other 50% after the meeting).

Four of the five board positions up for election were all re-elected by acclamation. I think it speaks volumes that the folks who are staffing the presidency, membership chair, secretary and one of the two at-large positions were willing to continue for a second term and are comfortable working with each other. They are, as a certain upcoming movie would say, an effective team.

I kept out of the volunteering trenches, for the most part. I've already spent some years on the board and on the 2009 IAGSDC convention executive; further, I have a lot of duties related to my square dance calling for several clubs and my vice-president's role with the Gay Callers Association. I'm not getting burnt out, but I stretching just a wee bit past my comfort level at the moment so some restraint is a good thing.

There were lots of good ideas for recruitment and fundraising offered at the meeting: I'm looking forward to seeing many of these put into operation, as well as whatever we can learn from the upcoming CALLERLAB convention this weekend.
bjarvis: (Default)
DC Lambda Squares' Advanced & Challenge square dance fly-in weekend has come & gone for another year. In all, we had just under 100 attendees, slightly less than last year. While we heard from some who needed to cancel at the last minute, there were at least five people who had registrations who neither cancelled, rolled-over their registration to next year or gave us instructions of any kind.

This was the first time we had used the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, just 1.5 blocks from our past dance location at the Almas Temple. It's so nice to have the hotel rooms and dance spaces in the same building. Sadly, the only room [profile] kent4str, [profile] cuyhogarvr and I could get was at the Embassy Suites hotel another two short blocks away. The Embassy Suites was a very nice hotel, BTW --I'd stay there again-- and the weather was very nice so the walk wasn't a bother.

A high school girls volleyball competition also has been descending on down DC this weekend the past couple of years. The kids are fine, but wow, they chatter a lot and the high-pitched giggling in every public space was beginning to make my ears bleed. Perhaps it's just my personal bias, but I can't help but think having the same number of boys in the same space would have been much louder and even more obnoxious so I'm choosing to count my blessings.

The dance spaces at the hotel were adequate. As much as I'd like to say they were flawless, there's no denying that the load-bearing pillars were badly position two of the smaller halls. We worked around them: the caller's table was placed at the opposite end to provide the best possible sight-lines, and the rooms were (largely) allocated according to dance population (Advanced got the largest hall, C3B the smallest). It worked out but I wish those pillars weren't there.

[profile] kent4str hosted an hour of GCA C1 guest spots, while I handled the Advanced. To provide padding in the middle of my A2 hour for the guest callers to scamper from Kent's to my hall, I called a brief tip which I thought was so-so: it was half sighted, half-read and while it was OK, I scored lower than I would have liked. Fortunately, there was a brief 10 minute block at the end of the hour in which I called a final set which was damn near perfect (sight-called the entire thing) so I believe I redeemed myself. Yay for second chances!

Half of the GCA board was present so we had a mini-meeting, just to catch up on the status of the caller school and convention planning for the upcoming IAGSDC convention. One board member who shall remain nameless continues to be as clueless as ever: he can't figure out why some people aren't responding to his email requests. I wanted to scream, It's because you never ask, you order, instruct, insult & belittle, but never ask! but decided it wasn't a battle I wanted to fight.

I'm interested in seeing what the surveys say about our ACDC event. We asked for input on the selection of callers and the hotel facilities, among other things. My gut feeling is that one particular caller isn't going to be receiving big accolades: one dancer who didn't know the caller previous asked me "Is that caller new? Seemed inexperienced and not really altogether here." Ouch. I also suspect the room layouts may get some comments --we may need to reevaluate the possibility of booking the same hotel again for next year.

I did get one good idea from a caller though: we should put clocks on each of the caller tables. I didn't realize it, but true, each room lacked its own clock so something to help the callers know how much time is left in their block would help. I'll see if I can find something suitable in time for our next fly-in.
bjarvis: (Default)
I have hardly danced a single step this past week but it's been a very productive & interesting week nonetheless.

I called a C2 workshop last Wednesday for our small regular group. In all, it went pretty well: I have three sequences I want to retool to varying degrees, but the other 50+ used that night were fine, including some with cute gimmicks or tricks.

[profile] kent4str and I have received our GCA guest calling assignments for the Vancouver IAGSDC convention at the end of this month. I have an Advanced set, a C1 set and two C2 sets; Kent has a C1 and two C2 sets. Woo hoo!

Last weekend's DC Pride square dance demo & parade went better than last year but could be better. The DC Lambda Squares board agrees and it appears we're finally going to start working seriously on creating an official square dance demo team for public appearances & performances.

We're sketchy on the details at the moment --I've been derailed by a death in the extended family and both [profile] kent4str and I had commitments to this weekend's Baltimore Pride and the Chesapeake Squares-- but we do have some ideas.
  1. It's an invitation-only team. I know this will hurt some feelings but we need to know that those participating can dance effectively, are flexible enough to dance the boy or girl part if needed and are committed to the rehearsals and performance schedule.
  2. We've created a tentative list of approximately 20 dancers, past & present DCLS members, we plan to approach. Ideally, we want enough dancers for two full squares, plus a few extras for those who need to beg off a particular gig because of illness, work or whatever.
  3. We'll be dancing to a script so anyone with Plus experience will have enough dance knowledge; we'll do more than just the MS & Plus list of course, but we're just teaching the calls instead of teaching how to dance.
  4. We're covering a lot more than dancing. We're going to emphasize a complete performance: how to get on stage, how to exit the stage, how to hold one's inactive hands, how we're going to dress, etc., and enforce consistent flourishes & styling. I frequently joke while calling at club nights that it's square dancing, not ballet, so mistakes & imperfections are a cause for laughter rather than embarrassment. Not for the performance team: this is ballet now.


Beyond that, we haven't planned much. Above all else, we need to set a rehearsal time and location and that's no small matter with so many dance events around the greater DC area on any given night. At the moment, I don't even have a clue where to begin on that topic. We also need to do a boatload of research to learn as quickly as possible what will & will not work. Time to dig into the CALLERLAB archives...

In other news, DC Lambda Squares has a great new badge design. The order for new club badges will be submitted Monday and I hope we can show them off at the IAGSDC convention in Vancouver. I really like the design.

And in still other news, DCLS has moved from our dingy, carpeted Scott Hall at National City Christian Church to the music room a few doors over. The room has vastly better lighting, is enormously cleaner --Scott Hall is a charter school during the daytimes and kids are by definition somewhat messy-- and has a tile floor. The acoustics are a little echoey so we'll need to experiment with speaker placement for optimal results but it's better than the audio black hole in Scott Hall. Bill Harrison was the first of our regular callers to use the new hall for Advanced & Challenge night last Thursday with good results; I'm calling for DCLS next Thursday so I'll have more to report after that.

DCLS scooped up 90 names at last weekend's pride festival. The wrist bands and temporary tatoos with the DCLS logo seemed to be a draw, but I think the big win was our raffle of a Kindle. We have a pizza night & open house on Monday so we'll see how many folks come for that. [profile] kent4str and I are co-teaching the new Mainstream class (16 weeks starting on Monday, July 9) so we'll hopefully convert some of these names into new dancers soon.

Today's Baltimore Pride parade with the Chesapeake Squares went vastly better than last year's. Last year, we attempted a quick demo in front of the reviewing stand but the audio guys screwed up our pre-recorded music & calling, starting the sequence four calls in and thus losing all of our dancers. It was a mess.

This year, we gave them the music but were relying on our own audio system for the calls. It worked better, but for some reason, someone insisted the dancers dance in front of our float rather than behind so we had to quickly swivel our speakers around so face the dancers. Then the MC from the stage insisted on talking over top the calling & dancing so our dancers could hardly hear [profile] kent4str. Fortunately, I could pick out his voice and interpret his calls and re-shout them to our square so we had a pretty successful 30 second demo despite the circumstances. Oh, and the audio guy never stated our music at all. Not a single note. *sigh*

Chesapeake Squares has an open house on Tuesday, June 26, 8-10pm. As I type this, I just discovered to my horror that I'm scheduled to call for them that night. Doh! :-) They're also sponsoring a Kindle raffle for tomorrow's Baltimore Pride Festival... let's hope they get as many names as DCLS did, and that we can translate those names into new dancers!
bjarvis: (Default)
We survived yet another Harvest Festival Hoedown. As expected, I was completely exhausted by the time we wrapped up everything on Sunday afternoon: I fell asleep in the minivan before we left York, PA, and only woke up again when we pulled into our neighborhood.

In all, things went very well once we recovered from the initial shock of John Marshall being forced to drop out because of back problems and we were able to tag Dayle Hodge as his replacement for Friday & Saturday.

I was much too busy to look deeply into matters handled by other committee members, but for my part, I can report the following:
  • All sound systems worked as needed. We had spare equipment of course, but it was a relief not to need it.
  • We had about 90 registrants, down again this year. The large number of people registering at the door and the number of Saturday-only day-trippers tells me that people are still worried about their household finances and are unwilling or unable to commit money to an early-bird pre-registration or a hotel & meal expense for the full weekend.
  • Despite sending the staff callers the proposed dance schedule a long time ago, it was still a complete shock to a couple of callers. Twice we swapped callers between halls because they felt they wouldn't do a particularly good job at the dance program originally advertised; at one point, a caller realized the night before that he'd be teaching a workshop. I ensured they had the early drafts a while ago so I find their sense of surprise to be, well, surprising.
  • The GCA guest spots largely bombed. In part, I think it's because there was a lot of dancing programmed into the schedule so dancers had the luxury of dancing at their leisure. The scheduled blocks were Friday evening prior to regular dancing and the half-hour after lunch and dinner on Saturday: many dancers chose to take extended meals and/or naps rather than dance. At the moment, I'm not sure of the best way to reschedule those for optimal attendance but I'd rather not drop them if at all possible.
  • I scheduled the dancing to start relatively early on Saturday & Sunday, overlapping with the second hour of the offered breakfast. At the time, I reasoned those interested in workshops would catch the first hour of breakfast while those uninterested in workshops would sleep a little later or have a leisurely breakfast. As it turns out, I was correct in theory but I got the numbers wrong: some dancers were up for workshops, but not enough to have whole squares. Next year, the breakfast will not be included in the registration package so I'll definitely schedule the dancing for later in the morning so people can travel out of the hotel for breakfast.
  • Attendance dropped off dramatically on Sunday after lunch. I think next year, I'll drop the last hour, or perhaps remove an hour from the middle so we can start an hour later. We'll see.
  • I'm finding that helping run the event, dancing and calling on the same weekend is too demanding. The hotel dance halls can't be secured so we had to dismantle & reassemble the calling equipment each day, which in turn meant we had to stay up late until the dancing stopped and had to get up early before it started. Beyond this, I also had to tackle some caller liaison stuff and administrivia during the event, sell 50/50 tickets both evenings, make myself available to complete a square in the C1 & C2 halls on demand and still prepare myself appropriately for my own calling & teaching gigs. I like doing this, but I need food and sleep too. More task delegation will be done next year.

Next year's HFH will be a little different. We have callers Bill Harrison Sandie Bryant, Eric Henerlau and Doren McBroom. Breakfast will be on one's own rather than built into the registration rate. We may be dropping the country & western dance for low attendance the past several years but that decision hasn't been made yet. We also have to shuffle halls because the hotel double-booked two of the halls for a class reunion Saturday evening: they're working with us to use halls in an adjacent church but we haven't committed yet to using those spaces all of Saturday, or just the afternoon & evening.

I haven't heard yet when we're scheduling a post-mortem meeting to review what worked (or didn't) this year, or finalize our plans for next but I trust it will be relatively soon.
bjarvis: (Default)
The past 24 hours have been very stressful, but so far nearly everything has resolved itself nicely.

The last minute challenges to getting our square dance weekend fully operational before it today raised my blood pressure dramatically, but-
  • All of the audio & amp systems survived transport, worked beautifully and we didn't come up short of parts or cables;
  • the new stage placement and echo abatement measures in one particularly acoustically ugly room worked better than we dared hope;
  • the registration table was well supplied and the volunteers were all on time and very capable;
  • the prize baskets as beautiful and sure to raise some extra funds;
  • all callers arrived on time and have been an utter delight with which to work;
  • our hotel room at the Yorktowne Hotel is very comfortable and spacious; in fact, this was the fastest check-in I've ever experienced in years with this hotel, and the staff have been markedly more helpful & responsive than I've ever witnessed;
  • I don't appear to have forgotten anything at home --well, except for my camera and my name badge, both of which I can easily live without.

  • The only downside to today is that I'm still on-call for the office until next Tuesday, and we had a series of server crashes, some wonkiness in our monitoring system generating false alerts and at least one stretch of panic where some clown updated some software without first disabling the monitoring system and thus generating a rash of urgent extra alerts. Thank god for wireless technology: I was able to tackle a great number of things while sitting in the back seat of a minivan.

    Fortunately, the work issues are resolved and my pager has been quiet for at least three hours. I'm hopeful the rest of the weekend will be similarly peaceful.

    And I got to call an Advanced square dance tip this evening in a guest caller spot. My newly reworked dance cards --fewer embedded images, more careful alignment of calls on a single line for smoother delivery, etc.-- is working very well. And I got to dance some fantastic C1 and C2 hours this evening as well, which has done wonders for my stress level.

    Tomorrow morning, [profile] kent4str, our event chair and I are checking out two nearby halls which will likely be used in next year's event. I need to make a restaurant reservation for dinner too. And I'm looking forward to a number of workshops in the morning and some great dancing through the afternoon and evening.
bjarvis: (Default)
This coming weekend is the DC Lambda Squares' Harvest Festival Hoedown. I'm on the event committee so I have a number of tasks to perform as well as assisting our committee chair in coordinating some activities and enforcing deadlines.

On Monday, we learned that one of our staff callers, John Marshall, was whisked into the hospital for emergency back surgery. He's had chronic pain for a long time but it's become dramatically worse lately and his physician urged quick action to avoid long term nerve damage. John went into surgery Wednesday; [profile] kent4str and [profile] cuyahogarvr transported him home today. He has another round of surgery next Tuesday.

Naturally, we're concerned for John, but I had the extra work of getting another caller to take his place on the calling staff for HFH. I can now announce that we have Dayle Hodge filling in for John on Friday & Saturday, but Dayle had a prior family engagement for the Sunday. To cover those slots, [profile] kent4str and I are splitting the four hours of calling. I'll be doing an hour of Advanced and Intro to Advanced; [profile] kent4str will have an hour of Mainstream & Plus, then an hour of C1 & C2.

We've finished remaking the official dance schedule and I'm planning to drop off the master for photocopying at Staples tonight. [profile] kent4str, [profile] cuyahogarvr and I have finished packing our personal items and I'm about to scrounge together all of the calling equipment we're supplying.

See you in York, PA, tomorrow evening!
bjarvis: (Default)
DC Lambda Squares' Harvest Festival Hoedown comes up next weekend Nov 11-13.

Everything seems to be more or less falling into place per our checklist of tasks. I've designed the dance schedule this year and although there have been a couple of minor tweaks here and there, it's been largely ready since January, something I'm quite proud of. I've also ensured our callers are updated with any revisions so they know what to expect --and can make any suggestions or objections well before the event begins.

We have a growing pile of supplies, stationery and items in our basement in preparation for transport to York, PA, on Friday afternoon.

I've programmed in three half-hour guest calling spots in each of the three dance halls. At the moment, I have six guest callers: Abe Feldman, Dan Foust, Blaine Knupp, Alan Hirsch, [profile] kent4str and myself. Sunday evening, I assembled a draft schedule for these guest callers, giving them the dance programs they wished and arranging them so that each person gets to be the headliner in at least one half-hour slot. So far, all of them have agreed & approved of my initial draft.

We did, however, hit a major problem yesterday: one of our staff callers has been admitted to hospital for urgent back surgery so he's not going to be available this weekend --or even for another huge weekend he usually works in a couple of weeks. We have a number of options available to us, and I hope to have a decision hammered out by Wednesday afternoon. Suffice it to say this isn't the sort of problem I want to have in the week before the event, but it can't be helped and I'm eternally grateful the crisis didn't happen during the event.

In other fun activities, I'm updating my stack of written square dance figures, checking body flow. I have difficulty sometimes seeing flow in a global sense for all eight dancers simultaneously so for this exercise, I'm looking at sequences with specific calls whose flow has tripped me up in the past (left/right turn & deal, right/left roll to a wave, etc.) and making adjustments. While most of my later material is still solid, a few of my earliest writing attempts from 6-7 years ago have needed severe redrafting. If I stay focused, I should have this done by the end of today.
bjarvis: (DC Lambda Squares)
Last Thursday, the DC Lambda Squares had their annual general membership meeting & board elections. In all, it was a remarkably smooth & quick meeting.

Membership is currently about 73 members. We had a required quorum of 35% of the membership by starting time, and a few extras trickled in after the meeting started.

Our treasurer was MIA: I found out later he had simply forgotten this particular club night was the membership meeting and had opted to work late at the office. Oops. Of course, without the financial reports, we have no idea what the financial state of the club is like or how profitable (or not) our fly-in weekends were.

We do have a new board, however, by acclamation:
President: Joe Harr
Secretary: Marianne Cherry
Membership: Joe "Missy" Brown
At Large #1: Charles Taylor
At Large #2: Ronnie Roerig
Continuing their terms are vice-president Olivia Pickett and treasurer Nick Mattera.

We had enough time for four tips of square dancing once the business aspect of the night closed. In no particular order, I called a Plus and a C1 tip; [livejournal.com profile] kent4str called an Advanced tip; Abe Feldman called a Plus tip. Sadly, I had to leave before the last tip so I could be at the data center for an evening emergency but [livejournal.com profile] kent4str and Abe had the evening well in hand.
bjarvis: (DC Lambda Squares)
Last Thursday, the DC Lambda Squares had their annual general membership meeting & board elections. In all, it was a remarkably smooth & quick meeting.

Membership is currently about 73 members. We had a required quorum of 35% of the membership by starting time, and a few extras trickled in after the meeting started.

Our treasurer was MIA: I found out later he had simply forgotten this particular club night was the membership meeting and had opted to work late at the office. Oops. Of course, without the financial reports, we have no idea what the financial state of the club is like or how profitable (or not) our fly-in weekends were.

We do have a new board, however, by acclamation:
President: Joe Harr
Secretary: Marianne Cherry
Membership: Joe "Missy" Brown
At Large #1: Charles Taylor
At Large #2: Ronnie Roerig
Continuing their terms are vice-president Olivia Pickett and treasurer Nick Mattera.

We had enough time for four tips of square dancing once the business aspect of the night closed. In no particular order, I called a Plus and a C1 tip; [livejournal.com profile] kent4str called an Advanced tip; Abe Feldman called a Plus tip. Sadly, I had to leave before the last tip so I could be at the data center for an evening emergency but [livejournal.com profile] kent4str and Abe had the evening well in hand.
bjarvis: (DC Lambda Squares)
ACDC 2011, our Advanced & Challenge square dance fly-in, wrapped up about 12 hours ago. Once we were home and the minivan was unloaded, I crashed. Hard. I just woke up and am tending to a few minor timely items before I head back to bed.

By my count of the registration check-in list, we had about 135 dancers. We had perhaps four no-shows who will be rolled over to next year. These numbers don't include people in our current Advanced class (about a dozen came for the A1 blocks), caller spouses and misc other comped VIPs. In short, it's a record attendance.

I'm crediting a large part of the improvement in attendance to (a) the vastly improved weather over last year's snowpocalypse which kept the airports & highways closed until very nearly the last minute; (b) an attractive slate of callers (Vic Ceder, Dave Wilson, Lynette Bellini and Linda Kendall), (c) some aggressive marketing and (d) the vastly improved economy. While the overall economy still isn't great, it is rebounding: early last year, we were still speculating about a double-dip recession.

Now we have to keep the marketing momentum going. BTW, next year's callers will be Barry Clasper, Clark Baker and Ett McAtee with a fourth caller yet to be announced... if that's not a dream team, I'm not sure what would be.

Our overall activity checklist and project plan worked pretty well, especially since we had very few wrenches (such as weather) screwing us up as we did in 2010. For my part, I received the key documents (dance schedule, restaurant guide, etc.) for photocopying with sufficient lead time --that's always a personal pet peeve. Earlier helps but on-time is good enough.

I drove down Friday afternoon with the minivan loaded with materials: three sound systems plus a backup, the bin of stationery supplies for the registration desk, the hand-outs & flyers, our personal luggage, [livejournal.com profile] cuyahogarvr and much more. Unlike last year, we didn't have to shovel out a parking spot in order to unload the contents. And thanks to nearby friends, we were able to store the minivan in their parking spot at their condo while they were away in Rehoboth Beach, DE, for the weekend, saving a pile of parking fees. We did get a $100 parking ticket after unloading the minivan however for supposedly not displaying the parking receipt in our windshield. I'm planning to contest the ticket: our receipt was clearly displayed in the windshield as indicated and I took photos to prove it. More news on that later.

[livejournal.com profile] kent4str and I have been accumulating a lot more square dance calling equipment over the past year. Some of the leftover 2009 IAGSDC convention funds were used by DCLS to purchase two speaker stands and a Hilton MA-150 amp/mixer. Along with our existing equipment, we now have chez nous: two sets of yak stack speakers, three yak stands, an additional speaker & stand, three Hilton turntables, one Hilton amp/mixer and cables for all. I'd like to acquire another yak stack and longer speaker cables this year for more flexibility but we have enough systems to run a typical three-hall festival without scrambling to borrow additional systems from local callers --and we have systems to lend out to other non-DCLS festivals as needed.

I know we raised about $700 on 50/50 ticket sales; I don't know how much we might have raised on our small fly-in raffle fundraiser but I'd guess about $200.

While we've used the Almas Temple, a Shriners' center, at 14th & K Streets NW for several years now, this was the first year we've used the Hilton Garden Inn, a block to the south. Reviews from various folks seemed to agree the hotel was very pleasant and comfortable. From an organizational viewpoint, the hotel staff were more flexible & approachable than the staff at the Crowne Plaza we had used in prior years. So far, there haven't been any major screw-ups on our master account --the Crowne Plaza was a nightmare on that point the past two years.

As a personal indulgence, we arranged a small group of friends to go to Skewers (mediterranean cuisine at 17th & P Streets NW) for dinner Saturday. There was much ribbing at my expense about how far we walked but I purposefully proposed a restaurant far enough away that we wouldn't be competing with a hundred other square dancers for the waiter's attention. And in reality, it wasn't a huge trek and the food & service were well worth the effort. Certainly, most folks made quite a dent in the bar's inventory with multiple martinis, variations on iced tea and mojitos! I also don't recall anyone complaining about the quick stop at Pitango Gelato on the way back to the dance hall...

[livejournal.com profile] kent4str and I hosted a GCA guest caller hour, 7:30-8:30pm on Saturday; I hosted the C1 hall while [livejournal.com profile] kent4str emceed in the Advanced hall. I hosted Ken Sale, Michael Levy, Dayle Hodge and Ett McAtee guest-calling; Kent had Chris Phelan, Abe Feldman, Osamo Miyabe and Drew Allan. My C1 hall went spectacularly well, and I believe there were good reports from the Advanced hall.

I got to dance some this year too. I didn't dance continuously: I've been in this biz too long to feel the need to jump into every tip at every hour. Besides, as a committee staffer, I knew this was largely a working weekend and set my dance expectations as such. That said, I was happy to be the eighth dancer to finish an A2, C1 or C2 square as needed, danced some fine C2 Friday & Saturday and attend the C1 & C2 workshops Saturday & Sunday. During my brief attendance at the A2 take-no-prisoners session --they needed an eighth to fill a square-- I'm happy to say ours was the only square left standing in the first tip. I do regret missing the C1 and C2 TNP hours; I would have liked to have at least observed them but duties required me elsewhere.

We had five cakes delivered from a local bakery as a bonus dessert serving on Saturday evening. I think I demonstrated admirable restraint by not diving in face-first when they arrived; indeed, I only approached the table after I was confident everyone else had a chance to enjoy some cake. Then I gorged myself. And again the next morning with the leftovers. :-)

We had a very nice late luncheon at the 1409 Playbill Cafe after the event was done and the halls were cleaned out. John Z. is contemplating looking for an alternate venue; I'm quite happy with the Playbill but it doesn't hurt to look around for attractive alternatives, just for variety.

Steve & Rich kept the water coolers full and hung the club banners. Abe handled coordinated raffle prizes and assembling the restaurant guide. Cissie managed cash, booked the callers, devised the dance schedule and solicited table volunteers. John Z. booked the halls, the hotel and the cakes. Michael M. handled registrations. I kept notes & timetables and worked on the audio systems and GCA hosting with [livejournal.com profile] kent4str. [livejournal.com profile] cuyahogarvr handled our arrangements for the cast party at the 1409 Playbill Cafe. Tonnes o' volunteers staffed the registration desk, provided out-of-towners with local advice and assisted in a hundred small details which made a world of difference.

I've already made some revisions to our restaurant guide as a boost to next year's event. I still need to make a financial report of my purchases & expeditures for reimbursement --some were ACDC related, others Harvest Festival related and yet others general club expenses. I'm looking forward to seeing the final financial statements. And we need to schedule a post-event committee meeting to summarize our results and to look to booking callers for 2013.
bjarvis: (DC Lambda Squares)
ACDC 2011, our Advanced & Challenge square dance fly-in, wrapped up about 12 hours ago. Once we were home and the minivan was unloaded, I crashed. Hard. I just woke up and am tending to a few minor timely items before I head back to bed.

By my count of the registration check-in list, we had about 135 dancers. We had perhaps four no-shows who will be rolled over to next year. These numbers don't include people in our current Advanced class (about a dozen came for the A1 blocks), caller spouses and misc other comped VIPs. In short, it's a record attendance.

I'm crediting a large part of the improvement in attendance to (a) the vastly improved weather over last year's snowpocalypse which kept the airports & highways closed until very nearly the last minute; (b) an attractive slate of callers (Vic Ceder, Dave Wilson, Lynette Bellini and Linda Kendall), (c) some aggressive marketing and (d) the vastly improved economy. While the overall economy still isn't great, it is rebounding: early last year, we were still speculating about a double-dip recession.

Now we have to keep the marketing momentum going. BTW, next year's callers will be Barry Clasper, Clark Baker and Ett McAtee with a fourth caller yet to be announced... if that's not a dream team, I'm not sure what would be.

Our overall activity checklist and project plan worked pretty well, especially since we had very few wrenches (such as weather) screwing us up as we did in 2010. For my part, I received the key documents (dance schedule, restaurant guide, etc.) for photocopying with sufficient lead time --that's always a personal pet peeve. Earlier helps but on-time is good enough.

I drove down Friday afternoon with the minivan loaded with materials: three sound systems plus a backup, the bin of stationery supplies for the registration desk, the hand-outs & flyers, our personal luggage, [livejournal.com profile] cuyahogarvr and much more. Unlike last year, we didn't have to shovel out a parking spot in order to unload the contents. And thanks to nearby friends, we were able to store the minivan in their parking spot at their condo while they were away in Rehoboth Beach, DE, for the weekend, saving a pile of parking fees. We did get a $100 parking ticket after unloading the minivan however for supposedly not displaying the parking receipt in our windshield. I'm planning to contest the ticket: our receipt was clearly displayed in the windshield as indicated and I took photos to prove it. More news on that later.

[livejournal.com profile] kent4str and I have been accumulating a lot more square dance calling equipment over the past year. Some of the leftover 2009 IAGSDC convention funds were used by DCLS to purchase two speaker stands and a Hilton MA-150 amp/mixer. Along with our existing equipment, we now have chez nous: two sets of yak stack speakers, three yak stands, an additional speaker & stand, three Hilton turntables, one Hilton amp/mixer and cables for all. I'd like to acquire another yak stack and longer speaker cables this year for more flexibility but we have enough systems to run a typical three-hall festival without scrambling to borrow additional systems from local callers --and we have systems to lend out to other non-DCLS festivals as needed.

I know we raised about $700 on 50/50 ticket sales; I don't know how much we might have raised on our small fly-in raffle fundraiser but I'd guess about $200.

While we've used the Almas Temple, a Shriners' center, at 14th & K Streets NW for several years now, this was the first year we've used the Hilton Garden Inn, a block to the south. Reviews from various folks seemed to agree the hotel was very pleasant and comfortable. From an organizational viewpoint, the hotel staff were more flexible & approachable than the staff at the Crowne Plaza we had used in prior years. So far, there haven't been any major screw-ups on our master account --the Crowne Plaza was a nightmare on that point the past two years.

As a personal indulgence, we arranged a small group of friends to go to Skewers (mediterranean cuisine at 17th & P Streets NW) for dinner Saturday. There was much ribbing at my expense about how far we walked but I purposefully proposed a restaurant far enough away that we wouldn't be competing with a hundred other square dancers for the waiter's attention. And in reality, it wasn't a huge trek and the food & service were well worth the effort. Certainly, most folks made quite a dent in the bar's inventory with multiple martinis, variations on iced tea and mojitos! I also don't recall anyone complaining about the quick stop at Pitango Gelato on the way back to the dance hall...

[livejournal.com profile] kent4str and I hosted a GCA guest caller hour, 7:30-8:30pm on Saturday; I hosted the C1 hall while [livejournal.com profile] kent4str emceed in the Advanced hall. I hosted Ken Sale, Michael Levy, Dayle Hodge and Ett McAtee guest-calling; Kent had Chris Phelan, Abe Feldman, Osamo Miyabe and Drew Allan. My C1 hall went spectacularly well, and I believe there were good reports from the Advanced hall.

I got to dance some this year too. I didn't dance continuously: I've been in this biz too long to feel the need to jump into every tip at every hour. Besides, as a committee staffer, I knew this was largely a working weekend and set my dance expectations as such. That said, I was happy to be the eighth dancer to finish an A2, C1 or C2 square as needed, danced some fine C2 Friday & Saturday and attend the C1 & C2 workshops Saturday & Sunday. During my brief attendance at the A2 take-no-prisoners session --they needed an eighth to fill a square-- I'm happy to say ours was the only square left standing in the first tip. I do regret missing the C1 and C2 TNP hours; I would have liked to have at least observed them but duties required me elsewhere.

We had five cakes delivered from a local bakery as a bonus dessert serving on Saturday evening. I think I demonstrated admirable restraint by not diving in face-first when they arrived; indeed, I only approached the table after I was confident everyone else had a chance to enjoy some cake. Then I gorged myself. And again the next morning with the leftovers. :-)

We had a very nice late luncheon at the 1409 Playbill Cafe after the event was done and the halls were cleaned out. John Z. is contemplating looking for an alternate venue; I'm quite happy with the Playbill but it doesn't hurt to look around for attractive alternatives, just for variety.

Steve & Rich kept the water coolers full and hung the club banners. Abe handled coordinated raffle prizes and assembling the restaurant guide. Cissie managed cash, booked the callers, devised the dance schedule and solicited table volunteers. John Z. booked the halls, the hotel and the cakes. Michael M. handled registrations. I kept notes & timetables and worked on the audio systems and GCA hosting with [livejournal.com profile] kent4str. [livejournal.com profile] cuyahogarvr handled our arrangements for the cast party at the 1409 Playbill Cafe. Tonnes o' volunteers staffed the registration desk, provided out-of-towners with local advice and assisted in a hundred small details which made a world of difference.

I've already made some revisions to our restaurant guide as a boost to next year's event. I still need to make a financial report of my purchases & expeditures for reimbursement --some were ACDC related, others Harvest Festival related and yet others general club expenses. I'm looking forward to seeing the final financial statements. And we need to schedule a post-event committee meeting to summarize our results and to look to booking callers for 2013.
bjarvis: (DC Lambda Squares)
DC Lambda Squares' Advanced & Challenge weekend square dance festival in downtown Washington DC (ACDC) begins today. We have callers Dave Wilson, Vic Ceder, Lynette Bellini and Linda Kendall.

Per usual, there's a lot of lead-up work to get to this point. In the past week, I've:
  • made a boat load of photocopies of the dance schedule, pre-registration forms, restaurant lists, etc..
  • tested the sound systems we're planning to use (two Hilton turntables and a Hilton amp/mixer, plus speakers, speaker stands and cables;
  • collected the stationery supplies we'll need for the registration table;
  • sought out --and successfully found-- free parking for our minivan we'll need to move the sound systems but we'll save the $35/day hotel parking rates;
  • solicited GCA callers for our guest calling spots;
  • and a tonne of other minor tasks & issues.

And I did this while still doing my normal full-time job, calling gigs and other tasks. No wonder I slept so well last night.

Others on the committee have done still more tasks: arranging a restaurant for the after-party, soliciting door prizes from local vendors, arranging fly-in registration swaps with regional clubs, compiling the full registration list & stats, obtaining a cash float for at-the-door registrations, booking callers for 2012 and 2013 so we can have pre-registration forms ready, updating our restaurant list with locations, address & hours, and so on.

In another hour or so, [livejournal.com profile] cuyahogarvr and I will be heading downtown with our personal luggage, the DCLS front desk stuff and the sound systems. I just hope we can find a temporary parking spot close by the dance hall so we can unload the contents safely & quickly before putting away the minivan for the weekend. Once the equipment is dropped off, we'll check into the hotel and return to the halls to set up the sound systems and run audio-checks.

BTW, we have a great line-up of callers for next year: Barry Clasper, Clark Baker, Todd Fellegy and Ett McAtee. Register by 2pm Sunday and it's only $80 for the weekend!
bjarvis: (DC Lambda Squares)
DC Lambda Squares' Advanced & Challenge weekend square dance festival in downtown Washington DC (ACDC) begins today. We have callers Dave Wilson, Vic Ceder, Lynette Bellini and Linda Kendall.

Per usual, there's a lot of lead-up work to get to this point. In the past week, I've:
  • made a boat load of photocopies of the dance schedule, pre-registration forms, restaurant lists, etc..
  • tested the sound systems we're planning to use (two Hilton turntables and a Hilton amp/mixer, plus speakers, speaker stands and cables;
  • collected the stationery supplies we'll need for the registration table;
  • sought out --and successfully found-- free parking for our minivan we'll need to move the sound systems but we'll save the $35/day hotel parking rates;
  • solicited GCA callers for our guest calling spots;
  • and a tonne of other minor tasks & issues.

And I did this while still doing my normal full-time job, calling gigs and other tasks. No wonder I slept so well last night.

Others on the committee have done still more tasks: arranging a restaurant for the after-party, soliciting door prizes from local vendors, arranging fly-in registration swaps with regional clubs, compiling the full registration list & stats, obtaining a cash float for at-the-door registrations, booking callers for 2012 and 2013 so we can have pre-registration forms ready, updating our restaurant list with locations, address & hours, and so on.

In another hour or so, [livejournal.com profile] cuyahogarvr and I will be heading downtown with our personal luggage, the DCLS front desk stuff and the sound systems. I just hope we can find a temporary parking spot close by the dance hall so we can unload the contents safely & quickly before putting away the minivan for the weekend. Once the equipment is dropped off, we'll check into the hotel and return to the halls to set up the sound systems and run audio-checks.

BTW, we have a great line-up of callers for next year: Barry Clasper, Clark Baker, Todd Fellegy and Ett McAtee. Register by 2pm Sunday and it's only $80 for the weekend!

New Toy!

Feb. 6th, 2011 10:53 pm
bjarvis: (DC Lambda Squares)


The DC Lambda Squares has purchased a new mixer/amp combo for our club nights and weekend festivals. To this point, we've been using Hilton amp/mixer turntables; while none of our club callers actually use vinyl any longer, the turntables are perfectly good for mixing a music feed from our laptops with two active microphones.

The newer unit is vastly smaller and lighter, making it easier to transport and requiring less space on the caller's table. Being able to have four callers connect in simultaneously is a huge win for us as well. The lack of moving parts also leads me to think it may have a longer working lifetime than the older turntables.

I can't wait to use it this coming weekend when we're teaching a Mainstream class!

New Toy!

Feb. 6th, 2011 10:53 pm
bjarvis: (DC Lambda Squares)


The DC Lambda Squares has purchased a new mixer/amp combo for our club nights and weekend festivals. To this point, we've been using Hilton amp/mixer turntables; while none of our club callers actually use vinyl any longer, the turntables are perfectly good for mixing a music feed from our laptops with two active microphones.

The newer unit is vastly smaller and lighter, making it easier to transport and requiring less space on the caller's table. Being able to have four callers connect in simultaneously is a huge win for us as well. The lack of moving parts also leads me to think it may have a longer working lifetime than the older turntables.

I can't wait to use it this coming weekend when we're teaching a Mainstream class!
bjarvis: (DC Lambda Squares)
I haven't danced a step in weeks. There was little activity through the xmas holidays and I've been traveling a lot during the first part of January. I'm OK with that, it's just a little unusual.

Last night, I was calling A2/C1 for the DC Lambda Squares. That was the plan, anyway. We only had four C1 square dancers so that part was dropped. We had two Plus-only dancers including one out-of-town guest so I called some Plus. The Advanced class has finished the A1 list but only half of the A2 list so I dropped the A2 material down to A1 only. It was fun, just not exactly what we had advertised or planned.

For a Plus singing call in the second tip, I called "Prop Me Up By the Jukebox [When I Die]." Alas, this was immediately followed by announcements in which we learned that the mother of one of our club members (not present tonight) had passed away the previous day. Oops.

The Chesapeake Squares has a Mainstream class coming up in Baltimore in early February... if you're interested, let me know!

DC Lambda Squares' Plus class starts Jan 22. Let me know if you're interested in that one too!
bjarvis: (DC Lambda Squares)
I haven't danced a step in weeks. There was little activity through the xmas holidays and I've been traveling a lot during the first part of January. I'm OK with that, it's just a little unusual.

Last night, I was calling A2/C1 for the DC Lambda Squares. That was the plan, anyway. We only had four C1 square dancers so that part was dropped. We had two Plus-only dancers including one out-of-town guest so I called some Plus. The Advanced class has finished the A1 list but only half of the A2 list so I dropped the A2 material down to A1 only. It was fun, just not exactly what we had advertised or planned.

For a Plus singing call in the second tip, I called "Prop Me Up By the Jukebox [When I Die]." Alas, this was immediately followed by announcements in which we learned that the mother of one of our club members (not present tonight) had passed away the previous day. Oops.

The Chesapeake Squares has a Mainstream class coming up in Baltimore in early February... if you're interested, let me know!

DC Lambda Squares' Plus class starts Jan 22. Let me know if you're interested in that one too!

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