Camberley Reel Club

Library - On Being an MC

Musings on the Art of being an MC at regular club dances, by a Dancing Addict

(Dedicated to those good MCs who have given me many hours of pleasure)
By Enid Woollett

The Programme

1.   The sequence: reel, strathspey, jig, should be followed rigidly unless there is a good reason for not doing so.

2.   The programme should include a proportion of dances which only contain standard movements, and which can be recapitulated quickly and danced immediately. These are known in the trade as "Bread and Butter" dances. (Other dancers should suspend their judgement, remembering that an unknown name does not mean a difficult dance.)

3.   The dance is not an opportunity for flogging the MCs personal favourites, although he or she may be allowed some.

4.   New dances should be spread through the evening, although they are best placed fairly near the interval. They should not be too early, as not everyone will have arrived; nor should they be too late, as dancers' brains do not function so well as the evening progresses.

5.   The balance of movements within successive dances should be watched carefully. A table should be drawn up as in the following example:



R of 3

fig 8






Ld down

















Falconer Hall






      Too many crosses in one column means a poor score as MC.

6.   It may be possible to include all the proposed dances by rearranging the order.

7.   Good tunes are essential. As far a record libraries permit, the original tune for a dance should always be used.

The Conduct of the Dance

1.   The MC should be attuned to the mood of the dancers, and allow a suitable interval before announcing the next dance, so that the dancers are recovering their breath but are not making up sets before the announcement.

2.   The MC should encourage the practice of the first person on the man's side numbering off the sets. Counting down the middle helps to allow for 'missing' partners.

3.   The MC must do his or her homework. Dances should be checked at source whenever possible, and MCs should have their own shorthand which they can read. It is better to have some references in the hand than a sudden blackout.

4.   The MC should be positioned in the hall so that he or she can be heard. Clapping the hands for silence helps. Buy a referee's whistle if necessary.

5.   To be an MC is not a shameful profession. Stand with your head up, and project your voice. Act as if you are enjoying it. Some back chat (brief) with old friends is permitted.

6.   Dances should be called with the phrasing of the dance in mind, ie the instructions should usually be delivered in 8 bar phrases. Pauses in delivery act as normal punctuations, and help understanding. Vary the pitch of the voice to avoid monotony.

7.   If a dance degenerates into a complete shambles, do not despair. More laughter is often generated in these circumstances than in perfectly executed sets. However, the MC should conduct a post-mortem to discover the reason for the error, when the evening is over.

8.   MCs should accept their own limitations, for example, if you cannot see to place the stylus correctly on the record, get someone else to do it. Dancers are notoriously impatient.

Most dancers should be encouraged to try practising the art of MCing. They will then be more sympathetic to the fools public spirited who rush in', and we need a good supply of MCs. It gets easier with practice. A good MC cannot, alone make a good dance, but a bad MC can spoil a good programme.

Some of these comments also apply to the construction of Ball programmes.

E. R. Woollett 1977

The Art of being an M.C. at a Ball

The following additions are the results of comments on article above. They are all worthy of consideration.

1.   If possible the M.C. should be on the platform with the band and a microphone so that he may more readily check that sets are properly made up before giving the signal to the band to start. The first man in the line should count the sets if stewards are not being used.

2.   The M.C. should not dance, so that he or she may be seen to be in control of the proceedings.

3.   The M.C. should have a time scale for the programme so that he or she knows what margin there is for encores and extras.

4.   He or she should make up his or her mind quickly if an encore is to be done.

5.   An extra should be announced at least one dance, and preferably two, before it occurs.

6.   An extra should not be put in if encores are asked for and never if the published programme cannot be completed.

7.   An extra should never be put in after the last dance on the published programme unless it is announced much earlier in the evening that there has been a change of plan by the committee.

8.   The floor should always be cleared between dances and remain cleared until the M.C. announces the next dance.

9.   The M.C. should never take the programme so fast that dancers cannot change partners between dances. This has been known to cause great embarrassment.

E. R. Woollett 1978

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