Tim Marriner – August 6, 2008
Bob Brundage – Well, hi again. This is Bob Brundage and today is August the 6th, 2008 and today I’m chatting with a gentleman back in South Carolina and looking forward to some interesting news about Callerlab in that Tim Marriner was recently retired as Chairman of Callerlab. So Tim, why don’t you tell us a little bit about life before square dancing, etc.
Tim Marriner – Well, let’s see. I was born in Maine, up around Waterville area, near Augusta and was relocated with my parents down to Norfolk, Virginia where they started square dancing. After several years of watching it they enticed me to get involved and I reluctantly went into the door and dragged my feet and went ahead and started the dance process. About half way through lessons the caller there who was teaching, his name was Charlie Pergrossi, he invited me to do some amateur work for an upcoming dance that they were having and provided me with several records to try to memorize so, I started that process and was doing singing calls fairly on a regular basis and about half way through my lessons they ….he started training me on the hash, the patter part of the calling. I was trained with him, sort of his mentor for several years there in the Norfolk area. Before long I was doing party dances in different groups and helping folks with their … assisting their classes and somebody got shipped out from the area and an opening came up and I started calling for a club on a regular basis. That was back in about 1975. So, ever since then I’ve been still calling, all the way up through schooling. I was thirteen when I started all of this.
BB – Oh yes. All right. That’s about the same age that I started but that was 1933. (Both chuckle) I noticed in your bio that, when you were in school you were a member of a jazz choir, I’m not quite sure what that is.
TM – Well, the university that I was a part of was Old Dominion University. They had a group that was forming that was going to be pretty much helping for public relations for the university and it was a jazz quartet made up of somewhere around twenty folks, twenty-five people. What we did was, we just performed different types of numbers. A lot of various things – show and song and dance type of routines and we traveled around the state to help kind of promote the university. I really didn’t get much formal training in singing along through that time. I sang in church choirs up to about that point and that was about all the training I’ve had. So, at that point I was kind of learning, as others were performing around me, enjoyed it very much and continued on with that through my final year after I got my degree and graduated. So, I had some…. I guess the training that I have right now is basically from that group and from those groups.
BB – Well, that’s great. Was yours a musical family?
TM – My parents both were musically inclined. Mother played the piano. Father played the harmonica and trombone and there was always guitar around. Those were things that …. I tried my hand at doing the piano a little bit, a little bit of guitar, a little banjo here and there but never really ever took a hold of any of those things because I was more involved in the singing and then doing the square dance calling. So, I just followed up doing that
BB – Yes. OK. Well, while you were getting into, or I should say, when did you first get introduced to square dancing? It was through your parents, obviously.
TM – That’s correct. Their home club there in the area.
BB – In Norfolk?
TM – In Norfolk, Virginia.
Bb – OK. Well, along the way, who were some of your mentors?
TM – Oh, I had a lot of them along the way. Right there in that Norfolk region there was a lot of very talented callers that were coming in and out. At the time there was …. Ken Beck was in the area. He was a well known caller in that region that did some traveling. Then there was Al Stevens that came through and had a stint in the Newport News, Virginia, Virginia Beach area as well. Then there were the callers that were just there, the area callers that sort of helped me along. I was a member of their caller’s association.
BB – Oh yes. Do you want to mention some of those? I’m trying to think of ….
TM – Well, let’s see. There would be Sid Arnold was there in that time frame. Bob Worley was in that region too for that time frame. Then there was Gene Chun – gosh, there’s a lot of them. I can’t think of all of the names but there were several there and they had some very good clubs. They had some ….one group had a youth group and an adult group as many of them did. In the group that I was with it was still a family orientated club. We had a lot of teenagers involved. Some of them were cloggers and were doing other things at the same time we were square dancing. So ….
BB – Well, the reason I was curious a little bit because I did a weekend at the Golden Triangle in Norfolk.
TM – That’s right. I knew you were there. That was the Azalea Festival. (Both laugh)
BB – Well yeah. I did a weekend there with Chuck Donahue.
TM – Yep. I remember Chuck coming through the area and yourself and there were so many others that came through. There were a lot of clubs in that area. There was ah …..I know Cal Golden used to (go) through there. Ed Foote and Jack Lasry. Of course, there were just so many folks that had the opportunity
to come in. There was a lot of clubs and they were twenty square groups back in those days.
BB – Yes. Right. Well, I was scheduled to do a weekend the following year with Marshall Flippo but that somehow got cancelled. OK. Well, how about caller’s schools? I know you’re involved in one right now.
TM – Well, a part of the Rocky Mountain Caller’s School, which is a group right now where we’re based out of Durango, Colorado with Ron Marcus. We’re right now in the process of possibly moving that up to Denver and trying to get a better central location where people can get in and out of with an airport. What we’re finding is that, it’s difficult right now to …. I know we’re having to down size some dancers. We’re having the same problem with callers. So, that school’s been going on … but I think a part of others. We started a South Carolina school. Tony Oxendine and myself did and had it going quite well, in South Carolina. Then it moved up to Charlotte, the Carolina Caller’s School, and then I was a part of, years ago …. I attended the caller’s school that, right now, Randy Page is currently operating with Mike Jacobs. That was with your brother, Al and Clint McLean, Earl Johnston and Jack Lasry.
BB – Oh, that was quite a staff.
TM – Yeah, it was a great staff. It was….there’s three of us in the area that said. “Well, let’s go. We’ll get a room together and split the expenses” and so we did that. That was in the late ’70’s….. I believe was ’79 or something along that line that we attended that school. Boy, was it great. That was an eye opener because there were about 50 callers there (Bob chuckles) and, of course, we were the young, runny nose ones that were sitting on the sidelines, probably not paying as much attention as necessary (both chuckle). But we had the tape recorders going and recorded every bit of it and, ever
since then, I’ve gone back and listened to those tapes periodically. It’s amazing the amount of the material that was presented …
BB – I’ll bet. I’ll bet.
TM – Terrific.
BB – Right. So, I noticed you’ve done a lot of traveling overseas as well.
TM – Well, I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to do that. I guess we started off all area regional wise and then somebody from out of the state kind of contacts you because they were somewhere to hear you and then it sort of ripples around. It wound up where I was called to do some dances in Japan. So, I started traveling back into Japan where I’ve made now twenty-five different trips over to Japan …..
BB – Wow.
TM – ….and many trips into Europe and a couple of trips down to Australia and back. Of course, all across the states here, Canada, we did some cruises and several resorts. It’s been fortunate to be able to do that. I enjoy the opportunity. The expenses are a little steep now with the airlines fees going up and some of the downsizing of the activity. It’s still a treat to be able to do that.
BB – Right, How about festivals and national conventions, etc.
TM – Well Bob, I’ve attended a lot of the nation conventions back in those days starting out about ’79 when it was in Atlantic City I believe, somewhere up in that region. It could have been ’77. I don’t have that. After that point in time I was making just about every one of those….
(Some dialog was lost when the machine shut itself off.)
TM continues – …. more music was not present there so I pretty much asked them if they would have a problem with me doing other things and they thought not. So I ventured off and I had probably a year there I wasn’t doing anything and so, then I get a phone call from Elmer to record with ESP Records and that’s who I’m currently recording with at this time. I’ve enjoyed it because, in the short few months that I’ve been with them I’ve had the opportunity of already recording four different tunes and they’ve been all selling for him. It’s good. I enjoy it and I enjoy being able to put the vocals and coming up creatively-wise with the choreography.
BB – Right. Have you done any writing per se, outside of what you did as chairman of the Callerlab?
TM – Well, other than….years ago I used to write square dance material. I had a couple of calls that I published with Bill Davis and others….and Jack Lasry. One of them was a quarterly selection but it didn’t take after the quarterly selection process – sort of fizzled out … and then went up through, I think, it’s probably sitting on a C4 list somewhere. (It’s) called Lock The Top. You know, those sorts of things. I had some articles that I did for the magazine here on occasion there and that was about it. As chairman though, you have more exposure to write more. So I’ve had the opportunity to do more articles and get some things published that way.
BB – Right. Well, I think that leads us into the main reason I wanted to talk to you today. That is, Callerlab itself. I know you’ve just recently retired as chairman. Perhaps you can tell us well …. When did you first get on the Board of Directors?
TM – I was on the Board of Governors there for three years back in the mid ‘90’s ….early to mid ‘90’s. Ernie Kinney, I believe, was chairman at the time there and we had …..were phasing in from John K (Kaltenthaller, Ed.) to George White and we were having the board work there and I did some work with the ….to get the foundation established for Callerlab. Then, I took a couple of years and got off the board for a while. And then, later on, decided, well, let me go back to work again. So, I carried back on and have been on the board ever since. I was elected to the Executive Committee and now I’m sitting on probably the eighth year of being part of that. In that time frame, I sort of watched others work as chairman and said, “Well, that’s not going to be too bad a shift to go from Vice- Chairman to Chairman so let me go ahead and do it”. And did that. I enjoyed the work. It took a lot of time because you have the amount of email today and the amount of correspondence and the commitment of having to attend the different conventions, the Roundalab, the different reciprocal groups. ARTS was being formed and it takes a lot of time. I’m glad that I was able to do it. I learned a lot, I mean, in that process while I was on the board, I worked my way as a caller/coach, an accredited caller/coach and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. I have a home group still that I teach and I enjoy mentoring other callers and that whole process. It’s something that I’ll probably always do. Now that I’m not chairman I have more free time to take a look at those types of things to be able to work on, helping different schools and organizing different things. So, that’s sort of what I’m looking for for the future with that.
BB – Right. What’s the …. how many callers are on the Board of Governors?
TM – We have a twenty-five member board.
BB – Yes, and the Executive committee?
TM – We have five for the Executive committee and out of the
Executive Committee, of course, then you have the Vice-Chairman and the Chairman.
BB – Yes. And, I guess, once you’re on a committee, or on the board or the Executive committee, I guess you serve as long as your are elected, right?
TM – Well, that’s correct. You have a three year term that you’re voted in and, as soon as you get your feet wet, you have to go back, it seems like, and petition to get back on the board every three years. I think that’s a good thing and, you know, you still want the membership support. That’s why you’re there, trying to represent what the members want. At the same time, trying to be assured that the work is getting done from convention to convention. We used to have committees that only operated at convention time. But, with the advent of email and being able to communicate faster, these committees are getting more work done now than ever. So, the process is getting set up. They’re doing more output. Of course, the home office is having to pick up that load a lot, too. So, kudos to them. They’ve done a great job of maintaining things … in keeping up with the increased work that’s going on with the committees.
BB – Right. Well, I know there’s a myriad of committees actually. You probably served on some yourself, actually.
TM – Well, I did. I was part of the different program committees from Mainstream all the way up to Advanced and Challenge because (that) was where I was working the most. Then I later got involved with the caller/coaching committee and some of the education committees. But, I think I still have a passion with the program committees. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done with fixing up the definitions, clarifying the definitions and then, having a comfortable teach order that
can be more concise where we can get dancers efficiently educated in a more proficient manner.
BB – Right. Well, what’s your take on the way various basics are shifting from Mainstream to Plus or Plus to Mainstream, etc.
TM – You know, I’d like to see a balance of all the programs. I’d like to see where there’d be maybe a thirty, thirty-five Basic and a thirty, thirty-five Mainstream. Right now we have a fifty-one Basic and a seventeen or fifteen or so Mainstream calls. I think it’s seventeen Mainstream calls. That’s an imbalance and what happens is, when people teach and if they apply the teaching to the order that we have currently, what happens is, they teach the Mainstream at the very end, which are the more difficult calls, and the dancers have very little floor time to become proficient at it. What I find is that, if you integrate the Mainstream calls with the Basic calls early enough, if that’s the destination is Mainstream, teach a few of those calls that have flow or have dance abilities that are similar to actions at Basics. For example, after you separate and go around one or two and come down the middle, it’s very easy to teach cloverleaf. It’s similar in action so the dancers can positively …. it will be influenced on how to do that call. So it’s not difficult but when you put it to the end, and you’re not relating it to some basic, if there’s a bridge and there’s a level of difficulty that increase, plus they’re getting a little floor time at the end. They may be learning Spin the Top and Recycle and Dixie Style all at the end of their lessons and they have five weeks to do it. Then they finish and they fumble over those calls because they haven’t had the floor time and the frequency of call rate to be able to dance those calls sufficiently. So, putting them in earlier, running Dixie Style early, I find that you can ….they will become proficient dancers and they will be more confident dancers when they finish. The bridge between the class, the new dancers and the club atmosphere is reduced and the club dancers are willing to accept the newer dancers because they’re more proficient. They’re able to kind of keep up like they used to. So, they’re less stand-offish, the club members are or they don’t frown whenever they break down as much because they’re not breaking down as much.
Bob, I think one of the ideas what I’d like to see the teach order be revised to and be more balanced…. it’s slowly happening in increments. We went and decided in the year 2000 that we wanted change and there were folks who were trying to make big change happen all at once, but I find that the membership likes little change and are willing to chew on changes ….small bits of changes in increments. And you can accomplish more by doing things incrementally than trying to have everybody swallow this big, huge difference that they want to have done. So OK, the Basic program has been reintroduced. Now we just need to balance it with the Mainstream program. It would be great to have thirty-three calls or so at Basic, thirty some odd calls at Mainstream and look, we have thirty-three calls at Plus. We’ve got about thirty-three calls at A1 and thirty-three or five or so at A2. What happens to Challenge is going to stay in Challenge and it won’t change. So, it’s fairly balanced if we can get it that way at the beginning. I think we’re starting to see it steer in that direction, although it’s been slow. Will it bring more dancers on the dance floor is a good question. I think that probably it’s going to take a lot of recruitment efforts to make changes in our numbers. We have to have more proficient teachers and educators to maintain those numbers too. So, that’s something that’s got to be answered later too.
BB – Right. Well, that’s an interesting concept. I noticed on the discussions groups, there’s quite a bit of talk today about changing the name of Trade By. Any thought on that?
TM – Trade By. I haven’t heard that one now. Didn’t they just do that with Barge Trough? I mean. …
BB – Well, that’s part of it I think. Tim laughs. And, someone said they used to call it Pass and Trade?
TM – Wow. I don’t know. I haven’t heard that one so, that’s pretty interesting. (Both laugh) There’s quite a few calls that we have that are questionable as far as the program goes. OK, we have, for example, Do sa Do and we have Do sa Do to a Wave. We have Step to a Wave so, why couldn’t we just say,” Do sa Do and Step to a Wave”? So, there’s some redundancy that I think could be cleaned up that would reduce some of our teaching.
BB – Yeah, OK. Well, I noticed that Callerlab also has several awards that, you know, like the Twenty-five Year Award and, what are some of the others?
TM – Well, we have the Twenty-five Year Award, Quarter Century and then we have the Century Award for fifty years. There was one Millennium Award that was awarded to the late Bob Osgood and then we have the Gold Card membership and, of course, the Milestone Awards.
BB – Yes. The Gold Card, are you presenting that to anybody new? It was fairly stagnant there for a while.
TM – We’ve ….we really ….. a lot of these awards we look at as an executive committee and try not to make it a situation where every year there’s going to be one. There’s a lot of people that are deserving of a lot of awards and we could be dishing out awards and have our evening dinners go on indefinitely because there’s just a lot of great people working. But, to make it and to keep those awards special, I think we’ve taken a little more diligence at narrowing out and making sure that the ones who are qualified are deserving and also as ….good is not the right word ….but as …..
BB – Deserving.
TM – ….deserving as the ones who already have it. That’s a great word.
BB – Right. Well, I noticed you also have scholarships available?
TM – That’s correct. Through the foundation mostly we have some….the Callerlab organization, we have the George White Scholarship. We had a Jerry Schatzer Scholarship but most of the funds have dwindled in some of those. Several scholarships that are available, mostly for education purposes so folks can apply those to those….to get these grants, if you will, to attend different matriculated or Callerlab curriculum schools. You know, it helps. $250 here somewhat helps for these folks to be able to attend some of these schools. We also did a grant. We gave some money to a organization, an organization in Sweden who needed money to start a radio program that was going to be utilized on, say every Monday they were going to have a big interview and a dance that was going to be put on public radio. So we got start-up money started for that program to get going and it did very well for them over there. So, we’ve also utilized funds for different surveys and those sorts of things to kind of keep the feel of the pulse of where the activity is and where we’re headed.
BB – Right. And another ambitious project you’ve taken on a few years ago are the Mini Labs.
TM – That’s right. Mini Labs were put in place because we felt, at one time, it was too difficult to attend a Callerlab convention. So, the membership regulations and rules have sort of been modified and changed to make it somewhat easier to be able to attend but still it’s relatively expensive to be able
to do so even if you’re overseas, more so if you’re overseas. So the Mini Labs were set up to be able to have a program very similar to Callerlab Convention but on a smaller scale operated in those countries. So, we had one in Germany, we’ve had them in Canada, we’ve just finished one in Canada, we’ve now had three in Australia. I just came back from one from Australia. New England had one many years ago and so we found that, by having these conventions and Mini Labs in these different areas we are able to communicate directly to the region and say, “This is what we do. This is what we offer as an organization.” And our members have increased. I think, way back in the ….as a matter of fact way back, when the …
we’ll say the late 90’s or so there was a fallout of some of our foreign membership. They weren’t involved. They weren’t actively involved. And so, we had a lot of communication just within the states. And so we started making changes to our program without a lot of heat to what reaction would take place overseas.
Subsequently, it was the thing that woke the lion . They woke up and said, “Hey, hey, hey. Why are you making these changes?” and, “We like this the way it was and now you’ve changed it. Why did you change it?”. “Well, if you were a member of the committees, you would have been in the process“. So, we’ve increased now our awareness overseas and have an overseas advisory committee and membership is easier in different committees. They can just get their email and vote. If they don’t, it’s still mailed to them in a timely manner that they can still get a vote back. And they have a bigger voice than before now because of that. At least we have a worldly view of what the programs should (be) and how they should be maintained and I think that’s a fair balance. Otherwise, it would just be totally all of just American square dancing which is what we have but it’s still…..we’d like to have it be modern and up to date and more of a world class activity that is going to be achievable and obtainable in all countries across the world.
BB – Right. When you’re calling overseas in any of these countries, do you find that they’re experiencing the same thing that we had, we always refer to as the Rush To Plus?
TM – Hmm. Not quite so much Bob. I think that’s because they, 1) have to take the time to learn the language, not just the language of square dancing, but they have to learn some of the English innuendos, Move On to the Next and those sorts of types of calls that are still being used that aren’t on the program anywhere. So they have to learn English terms and, in that process, I think they take a stronger approach at learning the fundamentals. We’ll have some who are in the Basic program for a year and then they’ll learn Mainstream later. But they’re integrated in the club immediately and I think that’s something that, here in the U.S. we really aught to take heed to. Rather than keeping them at a distance away from us on a different night and keeping them thirty weeks to a year off on their own and then try to incorporate them into our club, we should be trying to have the class, the new dancers involved with the club activity immediately. Then the transition between the new dancers and the club is less….they’re friends immediately. There’s a bond. there’s a glue that keeps everybody together. Unfortunately, I think, we all probably focus too much on the puzzle and not enough on the social. And what happens is, at that point in time, we’ve created puzzle goers and puzzle movers and puzzle re-solvers on the floor rather than create a social network where they’re going to be maintained and enjoy the fellowship of what we have to offer. And, I think the groups that are having those types of problems need to start looking at what they offer socially. We used to always go do our dances and go out to somebody’s house and sit around and we’d do things other than square dancing on weekends be it campout groups and we might square dance or we might not.
BB – Yeah. There were always after-parties
TM – Sure. The after-parties we’d just hang out and someone would play a guitar or tell stories and there was a social glue. I think we have it in today’s dance but it’s limited. People go to the dances, they attend and then leave and you don’t know somebody personally at all.
BB – Yes, that’s true.
TM – That’s a problem. And, we have that in our own society too, because there’s a lot of folks who have no idea who their neighbors are.
BB – Oh sure. That’s true. What about the musical aspects of it? I mean, I get the impression that they don’t really teach people to really dance.
TM – Well, that’s a thing that the activity has when you’re working puzzles so much. Your dancers go here, stop, wait and go over there, stop and wait and the advent of flowing from one call to the next is lost. So, I think it’s still important to be able to instill what dancing is and I like the wind-in-my-face type dancing when it goes continuously from one call to the next and you get back to home and you really go wow, you know, we did that and everybody celebrates because they got there. Like, that was super how, you know, how did we get back? And so, the flow of the dance, I think, is important, not just at Basic and Mainstream, but through all the programs. I’ve seen Advanced and Challenge groups where they’re playing the music still at 135 beats a minute but the dancers just hurry and go over there and wait after every call. That’s not enjoyable to me at all. I don’t know, you know, how much club will you use. If it flows from one call to the next, something you didn’t anticipate and you get on and move on to the next call. To me, that’s what I enjoy and then, you know, you come up with some sort of re-solver that’s interesting and you get back home and you go, oh, that was great,
BB – Right. Well, we’re about to the end of this side of the tape. There’s still a little bit of time but….. I wanted ….is there anything else about Callerlab you want to tell us about before I switch to some other questions?
TM – Sure. It’s, you know, it’s an organization I wish more people would get involved with. We have people today that are a little apathetic. They’re very set in their ways. They’re very content with the way things are right now. They might not be buying or purchasing any new music. They may not be involved with any of the committees. They might not even get their license through Callerlab. They might get it on their own
Or through another organization but, I think, as much as we get out of it we need to put something back into the activity. Callerlab is an organization where they can do that. They can get back and roll up their sleeves a little bit and help out with different committee work, some expertise or something that they have of some interest. We have Women In Calling committees and all the different program committees. We have Recruitment committees and New Initiative committees and those types of things and if they really want to get involved, they could and they would be amazed at how it recharges and energizes their batteries when they come back from convention. They’ve done this work. Sure, there’s times when things change slowly but, sometimes that’s a good thing and we don’t need to be so radical in that approach to change things totally. I think we’re at crossroads and we do have a modern activity that needs to breath and needs to have some changes. But we can adapt and I think Callerlab always has been an organization there for the betterment of the activity. I would encourage anyone who is not involved to get involved just to see what it’s about and to energize themselves so that they can be motivators and leaders in their own clubs again.
BB- Right. OK. Well let me take a minute and turn this tape over and I’ll get back to you in just a second. Hold on.
TM – OK Bob.
(End of Side A – Tim Marriner Interview)
BB – Ok, so we’ve turned the tape over and we’re ready to continue along. We were just talking about the musical aspects of dancing which brings up the point ….do you do any contras?
TM – You know, I do some simple contras. I do a lot more party dances than I think the average caller does and I enjoy them. I still enjoy them and they’re of all ages. I’ll take the youth and right up through the … to adult groups and introduce different types of folk dancing to the group. Not necessarily always square but dancing … but in that process I do some simple contras and some reels and I’ll do the big circle dances, mixers, a few easy rounds and line dances, country western two-step things that will get a group off the floor, on the floor rather, and moving around. I have something on my web site that’s interesting. It’s like I say, “D J’s play music but we offer an experience ….on the floor experience to be able to get out and to get the people active. It’s not a participating ….it’s not a spectator sport, it’s a participating sport”. You have to get involved where you really enjoy it. So, I have the opportunity to still do some dance parties and I enjoy those. I know that people used to call them one night stands and those sorts of things and they are having trouble figuring out a better term so they call them party nights or one-nighters, party nights. I like to call them dance parties because that’s what we do. We provide different types of dances at this party that we’re involved with.
BB – Right. Looking back at your long career, do you have any regrets?
TM – Oh, that I didn’t start sooner? (Both laugh)
BB – That’s a thought.
TM – You know, not really. I can’t say that I have. I’ve enjoyed things the way they’ve been going. I’ve had thirty-five years of being able to help out and to learn and go. I’m always learning. Every time I attend a caller’s school, or even help work one, I learn from material and information that others are seeing as a fresh approach. So, I’m always learning and will continue to learn. I wish I had an opportunity to meet and be able to be more involved with some of the, what we call, legends of our activity before they had passed on. I would have loved to been able to tap into their mindset and understand the way they thought about some of the things. That’s the only regret I would have.
BB – Yes. Well, of course, that’s one of the reasons that I started this project in the first place.
TM – Absolutely. I think it’s a great thing you’re doing.
BB – Well, thank you. We’re up to well over 100 now that I’ve interviewed. When I first started out I decided to try to to interview all the living Hall of Fame, Milestone and Silver Halo people which I was able to do. Of course, a few of them have passed since then. But, what’s your take on this ABC type of program?
TM – Well, I think any type of program of teaching, any type of getting the dancers in a ….to become more proficient in a timely manner is going to be successful. If it’s ABC, DEF, any alphabet thing that comes up, it doesn’t matter. If it’s blast, if it’s fast track, if it’s the traditional method or multi-cycle, if it’s bringing in people together and they’re learning our activity
and they’re able to do it and are maintained and are consistent I think it’s a good thing. Now, ABC has had a try. I like the way they approach the idea of having three groupings and then moving on. It’s very similar to some of the Community Dance Program work that we had earlier. That didn’t take and there’s a lot of reasons and speculations as to why that was. But, I think what we have is…. anything will go and will work but, what happens is, when you ….if you had it a vacuum and you were able to teach dancers whatever it was you wanted, it would probably work for you. But, in today’s dance world we have groups that are members of the standard, traditional club atmosphere and they’re going out and they’ll say, “Oh well, you’ve learned that. That’s terrific. Now you ought to learn the rest of it. Come with us” and they start cherry-picking out of those groups. Now that’s just going to disintegrate. It’s just inevitable. So, if we had a shortened Basic program and somebody were to be able to successfully make that go here in the States, people would mimic that or model that. Maybe that would be a program, or something that would run parallel to what we have now then maybe eventually segue back to what we have in our modern groups.
I think there’s some evolution that still has to take place. I think we have call redundancy. Personally, I think we have a bit of calls that are archaic that probably aren’t providing as much dance action as necessary, Now, granted, I like the traditional type’s of dances too but I think there’s a point in time where, if it’s hindering our group, then it’s probably not necessary. And there are some movements that we have in our program that are relatively ….you have to be almost be ambidextrous to be able to perform them. You’ve got to reach over your shoulders and twirl around and those sorts of things and, with the aging of our groups, maybe those are the types of calls that aren’t quite as necessary today as it used to be. You know, I can go on a long time. It’s a fascinating subject but, I think if we can (have) a shortened teach time and still allow the dancers that dancing experience as the social side of what we have, I think we’ll be able to recruit and maintain good numbers. I’m having satisfactory results in my region that I’m teaching and I think other people can too if they were to mimic it.
BB – Right. Well, that poses the question of where do think square dancing will end up or where do you think it’s going?
TM – Well, I think it’s still on a down-sizing trend right now and I see it that way because of the aging of our activity. We have ….. the upper echelons of callers, if you will, that are ….that echelon of callers are getting pretty old and, not that they aren’t affective but, the idea that, in a realistically ten years where are we going to be. We will have lost some of those great members. I think we have a gap of bringing in newer or younger dancers. So, unfortunately, where, when I started thirty-five years ago I was one of the younger callers in the activity. Thirty-five years later I still am. I mean, we’ve got a problem. We’ve got over three decades, if not four, where we’ve neglected to recruit and maintain a younger group of dancers to be able to continue the activity in the long run. We sort of got this wave, we’re riding the crest while that wave has already hit the shore. Now, we’re looking back trying to see where’s the wave again. Now, we don’t seem to have one and that bothers me.
There are a couple of areas where they are recruiting younger people and there are a few folks that are having some good results. But not the big wave that we had in the early sixty’s and seventy’s where we had, you know, younger groups and family groups. We don’t seem to have that today quite as much. So, I think the trend is still ….there’s going to be some down-sizing until we can find the niche or whatever it’s going to take to make this interesting and appealing to a younger public that right now, we’ve got so much competition with the internet and movies and other entertainment values that
they’re seeking other than square dancing. I think we have a society unfortunately, that’s secluding themselves in their homes. They’re not coming out and worried about neighbors and learning or having much social activity at all with the exception of maybe now that they are learning that they can talk to people on the internet and where’s that getting them? (Both laugh) A lot of them in trouble.
BB – Yeah. Do you think there’s any possibility of big corporation sponsorship?
TM – I don’t see the need yet for corporations to take that on. We don’t have the …. I’d love to think that we had a product that would be appealing, that they would like to be a part of but I think, right now, we don’t have the numbers there to be able to do that. It would be great if we could find something or a group that would take that on and be able to be a sponsor for the activity but, most of them right now don’t ….they just don’t need the fewer numbers that we have and the demographics of who we are.
BB – Yes. Do you think that competition is part of it?
TM – Competition in which field?
BB – Of square dancing. There are, you know, up in the northwest corner of the country there’s that teenage competition thing.
TM – I think that’s a hoot. I think an interesting twist that is actually helping the competitive groups that we have in some of that northwest ….and there’s also groups in Pennsylvania and a few in other areas where they’re having the 4-H or farm show type competitive groups dancing. And what it’s doing is it’s shedding the light of the misconceptions that people have
about the activity. These stereotypes are falling down because they’ve got some great leaders in those regions that are taking modern music, taking typical choreography and applying it to the younger groups. They’re having a ball doing it. Now, whether they’ll stay with the activity, maybe, maybe not but somewhere down the line, if somebody talks about square dancing they’re going to have … because they’ve had positive meaning and results, they’re going to think positive about the activity and maybe will join again. So, I think that they’re laying good roots in those regions and I’d like to see it spread.
BB – Right. Well I did a thing with the 4-H and the Future Farmers of America, etc. back in New York state many years ago and it went on for quite a while. I thought it was a very, very advantageous program. I thought there was a lot of enthusiasm ….
TM – What it does, the younger market of the younger groups that are involved, that you‘ll find …..and they’re finding already that there are younger people interested in taking up the activity for calling wise. Of course, the magnet that needs that attraction for bringing in more younger people to be able to have those.
BB – Yes. Well golly, this has really been an interesting conversation today Tim and …..
TM – Well Bob, I appreciate the opportunity. I hope you have good luck with the teacher folks in getting the interviews going and it’s been fun talking with you.
BB – Well, I appreciate your taking the time and I’ll let you get back in your back yard and enjoy the rest of the day. (Both chuckle) So, why don’t we wrap it up then and I’ll shut the tape off and I’ll look forward to seeing you sometime in the future.
TM – It’s been an honor. Thank you, Bob.
BB – Thank you Tim.
(End of interview with Tim Marriner)