After I had been calling a year or two, I attended a callers'
school run by the late, great Bill Peters. We met once a week
during weekend afternoons at Monroe Hall in Santa Rosa. There
were about a dozen of us in the class, and we were all required
to bring our wives or partners along.
||Bill was one of
my square dance heroes. By then, I had attended a couple
of his Mad Hatter beginner dances, and was in awe of the
ingenuity of his choreography and delighted by his vaudevillian's
sense of showmanship. Bill was the dean of square dance
caller coaches, the greatest teacher of callers. He had
authored several of the best books in the field, like
Sight Calling Made Easy and The Mighty Module.
When it was time for Callerlab to define the roles and
course of study for caller coaches, they turned to Bill
to lead the process. I subscribed to his note service,
Choreo Breakdown, which I thought was brilliant. During
class, I hung on his every word. And I was thrilled to
hear how encouraging he was to me at the end of the class,
especially since I had seen how scathingly honest he had
been to some of the others.
Over the years I saw Bill from time to time. I almost always
managed to find a seat at his table at Callerlab
conventions. But after he retired to Lake Tahoe, and I became
less active in Callerlab, we lost track of each other for a
Then, amazingly, we reconnected through the internet and our
mutual love of jazz we realized we were both posters
on the web's busiest jazz bulletin board, Jazz
Corner. This time we became real friends, exchanging dozens
of letters, e-mails and annotated packages of music.
We discovered we were of the same mind regarding the recurrent
"What have we done wrong?" hand-wringing of callers,
and even used the same term "self-flagellation"
to describe the situation. I wrote a piece on the subject
that reflected our views, and was reprinted in American
Square Dance Magazine and in the Callerlab bulletin, Directions.
Bill had a deep appreciation and understanding of the unique
charms of modern square dancing. I often use the term "multi-dimensional"
to describe square dancing. Bill had figured this out long ago:
he taught that people had three recreational needs, physical,
social and mental. Crosswords satisfy the need for mental recreation,
ballroom dancing provides for both the social and the physical,
bridge clubs satisfy the social and mental... but square dancing
is unique among recreations in that it satisfies all three
recreational needs at once.
|My most memorable
experience as a caller was working with Bill at the Maui
No Ka Oi Square Dance Festival in April, 2003. In ways
difficult to describe, it was a rite of passage for me,
as well as a chance to work and spend time with my mentor,
my friend, and kindred spirit. I'll always treasure the
time I spent collaborating with Bill in preparing for
the weekend and talking about everything under the sun.
Failing health for both Bill and Betty forced them to
return to California to be close to their children, and
complications from Parkinson's eventually claimed Bill's
life. He left an enduring contribution to the square dance
tradition and an indelible impression on all of us who
Billís autobiography is available to read on-line here: www.dosado.com/peters