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Article 021400 - Sight Calling


  All my life I wanted to be a Sight Caller, and I am still trying to perfect it.  If you ask another sight caller how he or she does it.  They probably can't answer it very well.

  So here is my attempt to describe how I learned sight calling, and what I would call, RULE 1, 2 and 3.  I sure hope this helps.

Rule 1

  Rule One: Learn to setup your dancers (1 and 2) or (3 and 4) like this (Lines).  You always know that the opposite couples are a mirror image (Don't worry about them).  While the dancers are setting up, choose the strongest dancers and call very simple moves.  Don't get fancy.  Start out with head couples lead to the right, circle 4 and make lines (see above).  This is your indicator that you are ready to get them squared up again.

You can at first just call left allemande from hear, our use a memorized figure to get to a better flowing left allemande.   Do not worry about the opposite couples (3 & 4) or (1 & 2), They are just a mirror of the two couples you memorized.  Once again, just call simple, you don't need your dancer to break down.

While they are dancing, and you see your first setup, let one go by and see what (1 & 2) or (3 & 4) looks like on the opposite side (Rule 2).  See picture below.

Rule Two:  You can still call your left allemande from here, or wait till you have them back to rule 1.  Just call a pass thru, bend the line and Rt & Lt thru and bend the line again. And your back at rule 1.

You may call some silly setups for a while, and you will mess up.  Be honest with you dancers and tell them you are trying to learn to sight call.  They won't kill you for trying to improve your abilities.

Rule 2

Also, do not have a back up plan.  Force yourself out of your comfort zone.  Do not fall back on memorized figures.  You will not learn to sight call with cue cards by your side.
The best way to practice this is with real people, that would be willing to be guinea pigs for a hour or so in your garage.  If you feed them well, they will come.  You cannot use dolls, or computer programs.  It must be real people.  Ask them to wear matching outfits with their partner, and hope they do not wear the same outfit of the rest of the couples.  You may as well shoot yourself, if that happens.

Just learn to sight call using rule 1 and 2, which can take months, or even years to smooth out.  And in time start looking at rule 3.

Rule Three: Is easier than you think, but is just as scary to start doing,  Once again you must force yourself to setup your dancers like this.  I didn't start using rule 3 till they quit letting us use cross trail thru.  That was my get-out move for rule 1 and 2.

If you look at rule 3 hard enough, you can still see your lines from rule 1 and 2.  Once you know couple 2 or 4 are secured, just worry about 1 and 3 in the middle.

Rule 3

Really you only worry about couple number one.  Couple 3 is just a mirror.  Just get couple 1 and 2 setup for a left allemande.  The opposite couple will be just fine. Once again, don't worry about this setup till you feel you are getting pretty good at rule 1 and 2.

So what's the benefit from all this torture? FREEDOM !

As a Sight Caller, you can call anything, at any level, anytime you want.  Your lessons will be so much easier, and you can call at any level, and be interesting.  You can call from any position and modify your singing calls while your actually calling them.  You can also buy sing calls you like for the music, not the figures.  You can adapt to any dancer, any level at anytime.

But this new skill comes with a warning:  Remember the dancers!  Your new skill can really make your dancers strong, but start to learn how to memorize not only the front squares, but some of the ones in the back.  You do not have to memorize them all at once, call a few allemande lefts and see what one of the back squares look like from rule 1 and 2, or even 3 position.  And don't call your patters to long.  You are suppose to entertain the dancers, not entertain yourself with your new skill.

Also, if you put on a good, clever dance, and miss a few allemande lefts, the dancers will not mind.  Laugh at it, and move on.  Most of the time the dancers think it was them.  Do not give them a chance to figure it out, just hit your next allemande left right and they are happy.

So, I hope this helps.  There are only a few Callers out there that really sight call, and I am sure they would have a hard time explaining it also.  I am sure some of them would do a better job than me explaining this.  But if it helps just one person, than I was successful.

Good luck, and don't hesitate to give me a holler if I can be of help.

By Rob Scribner

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