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Notes on the Three Minute Rule

by Gene Hubert and Dot Kent

(These notes were originally posted to the Usenet newsgroup <rec.folk-dancing>.)

Gene writes:

I attended a dance event this weekend where the "3 minute rule" was invoked. This rule states that any caller who shall cause the dancers to spend more than 3 minutes walking through a dance shall receive a pie in the face.

In practice, using a real pie is awkward and expensive, so a stack of paper plates and an aerosol can of whipped cream is a handy way to produce "pies on demand." Such equipment was stationed in clear view of all the callers.

There were about 10 callers, each doing 2 or 3 dances of their choice. It was a very experienced crowd of dancers. It turned out that 3 minutes was ample for most dances. My first thought was that squares should be allowed an extra minute but my final conclusion was that the same time limit was fine for both contras and squares.

A few callers weren't quite finished as cries for "the pie" rang out from the floor and so they just started the dance anyway to "save face." Even in these cases, the dancers pulled together and the dance went smoothly in spite of the caller not feeling s/he was done with the walkthru.

In the end, nobody got a pie in the face. It was partly a joke but kind of serious too. In my opinion, it had a salubrious effect on the tone of the dance. There were times when nobody was really watching the clock. There were also at least a couple instances when a caller went a bit over the 3 minute limit and nothing was said. Also, it was not clear who was authorized to deliver the payload.

You might want to try this at your next dance weekend and see how it flies. It certainly makes you think twice before pulling out a complicated dance and trying to teach it.

Gene Hubert <ghubert@acpub.duke.edu>

Dot writes:

As far as I know, the pie plan originated at the dance weekend where Gene encountered it. Patt Plunkett was involved with the development of this uniquely effective method of communication between organizers and callers, and she was responsible for bringing it home to Breaking Up Thanksgiving.

It was a 5 minute rule, which nobody was having any trouble with, so Suzannah Park started filling the pie plate and licking her fingers at the 4 minute mark. Fred gallantly stretched his walk-through out the full 5 minutes and Suzannah lovingly applied the penalty. Unfortunately, after Suzannah goes to bed and the wee hours arrive, the vigilance suffers.

Breaking-Up started as a house party and we try to keep it fun for all. Late night energy dies with long walk-throughs and overly complex dances. It kills the musicians even worse than the dancers, and if the musicians aren't having fun anymore, there goes the party. Interestingly, the caller in charge of organizing callers in previous years had tried (verbally and in writing) to convey the request to stick to well-known dances that could be taught in one walk-through so as to keep the dance moving,etc. Many callers (who were after all not being paid and who each got to call only 2 dances) pretty much ignored the request and brought out the fancy stuff. The pie thing really got people to change their criteria in picking their 2 dances.

Dot Kent


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Last updated on July 30, 1996 by entropy@prismnet.com (Kiran Wagle)