Learning Calls

by Bill Heimann, 1980

The problem-solving, concept-oriented direction into which advanced challenge dancing has evolved necessitates knowing precise definitions. No longer can a dancer have a mental picture of a call and "feel" his way through it by blending in with the flow of the other seven dancers because, for one thing, phantoms don't flow well.

The really hard parts of challenge dancing are the concepts and the associated spontaneous probelm solving of unique situations. For example, the hard parts of the call interlocked phantom waves, step lively are identifying the correct group with which to work and applying breathing theory appropriately, not the call step lively. The challenge dancer should know the call step lively so well that it poses no challenge at all, and so his mind is free to work on the real problems.

Being successful at square dancing is no different than being successful at anything else. The common denominator is to form habits of doing those things it takes to be successful. In this case, you must form the habit of memorizing calls. Here are some suggestions.

Since most of us don't have photographic memories, repetition is the only answer. You need 15 minutes a day, but take heart, you don't need an extra 15 minutes. Find some mindless tasks that require little concentration and fill that non-thinking time with memorizing calls. For example, take four or five calls each week, write them on a piece of paper, and put a copy in the front seaet of the car to practice when you're commuting to work, on the mirror in the bathroom for when you're shaving or drying your hair, or on the refrigerator door or over the sink for when you're preparing meals. You can certainly devise others. These are just some that work for me. But the secret is to practice for 15 minutes each and every day in an an existing time slot.

The key to memorizing is to verbalize. Never look at step lively and say, "yes, I know that." or "yes, they go over here and the others do this." Always say, "detour, slimdown, circulate." Say it out loud or say it to yourself, but say it. Verbalize the call whenever you see or hear it. Quiz each other at supper - but always, always verbalize it. When you dance at any level, verbalize each and every call as you dance. If you do, you will be forming habits of the things you'll need at higher levels.

Every Wednesday at our workshop, I hand out a sheet of four calls which each person is expected to memorize cold during the week by the aforementioned means. During the week I write one or two sequences themed around the four calls as a final exam. We then review them periodically in succeeding weeks. The plan has been well received by the workshop members and is providing successful results.

In summary, form habits of doing those things necessary for success; fill 15 otherwise mindless minutes of each day with memorizing calls; and verbalize the call each and every time you see or hear it. Hard work? Sure it is. Did you ever know anything worthwhile that didn't exact a price? These ideas were designed to be successful, not necessarily easy.

Go forth and verbalize.

Bill Heimann