[Callers] dance guidelines

Lisa Greenleaf laleaf at verizon.net
Wed Jan 26 16:25:24 PST 2005

> So, my questions for you all are: 1) Have you ever received a set of 
> such guidelines (or sent them out from your dance), and if so, would 
> you be willing to share them with us? 2) As a caller, what information 
> would you like to have included in such a document? 3) As a dance 
> organizer, what information would you like to convey to incoming 
> callers? 4) How much detail would you like such documents contain?
Here are two sets of (long) guidelines prepared by the Cambridge
Thursday Night Committee. Lots of info, maybe more than folks want,
but as most of you know, we are a particular
committee with a demanding clientele ...).

The first document is what I send out to callers and musicians
as a confirmation. I also include a pointer to the flier on the web.

The second document I send to callers who have never called for us

Personally, I have never received such detailed info from a
series; I have from some dance weekends.
I'd like to point out that with attendance of over 200 people (more 
than half
of whom are competent, opinionated dancers), our dance can be
intimidating to new callers. Our aim in these guidelines is to
explain what a new caller should expect, and to detail what we expect 
a good evening of dancing.

I'd welcome your reactions, good and bad.  Yes, we are on the verge of
micromanaging, but once the caller steps in the building, it's her show 
and we
are hands off. However, I do send constructive feedback to callers if
dancers ask me to.


Lisa Greenleaf
(now that there are two Lisa's on the list, it might be a good idea to
sign or initial our last names :-)
The Thursday Night Dance Committee
Final Booking Confirmation

To: Performers in the next cycle of the VFW
contra series
From: Lisa Greenleaf  978-779-6077
email: laleaf at verizon.net

Thanks again for being a part of the VFW series in
Cambridge.  To see a copy of the current schedule,
go to http://www.neffa.org/Thurs.html
Those of you who are band contacts are responsible for
sharing this information with your group.

*Callers please read the reminder below!

LOCATION  The VFW is located in West Cambridge at
688 Huron Avenue, a little west of where Rte 16 splits
from Rte 2.  There is a parking lot behind the building
and another across the street. If you would like more
detailed directions, please call or email me, or use the
web at www.neffa.org.  Open up “Thursday Contras at
the VFW” and then “Directions.”

SET UP and SOUND  A committee member will be at the
hall by 7 PM.  If you have a standard set-up procedure,
arriving by 7:30 is fine; if you need to make more elaborate
arrangements, you might want to aim for 7:15.

We have arranged with Michael Bergman <eamil> and
Peter Olszowka <eamil>, both
experienced sound engineers, to provide sound services for our
dance. Certain bands provide their own sound, but this is on a very
occasional basis, and by prior arrangement. Feel free to correspond
with Michael and Peter if you have special sound requirements beyond
the norm such as a need for many channels, DI's, non-standard
monitoring, etc. (You know who you are.)

SCHEDULE  The sound check should be completed by 8 PM, so we
can start on time; ususally the band plays a warm up polka at about
7:55.  The first half ends with a waltz somewhere around 9:30.
The break lasts about 15 minutes; it's up to the band to get things
started again. Dancers expect a hambo or other couple dance; ask a
committee member for guidance on this if you have questions. The
last waltz should start no later than 11 PM; we do need to clear the
building promptly after that.

REMINDER TO CALLERS   We do not have a formal beginners session,
nor do we expect you to belabor the teaching of basic figures.
However, we do encourage you to be friendly and welcoming to the
beginners and to be aware of their location on the floor.  If more
than  half the hall is having trouble with a figure, then by all means
please adjust your teaching accordingly.  As for the experienced
dancers, they tend to be a noisy yet happy crowd.  They will respond
well to you if you are upbeat and friendly.  The committee likes to
promote an attitude of "We're all in this together; let's have fun."

If you would like more information on how to be a success
at our series, please write me and ask for the committee's guidelines.

PAYMENT  We assume that all performers will be happy with an
equal split. Our policy allows a caller who is teamed up with a musical
group larger than a trio to request to be paid 1/4th the available
performer money, with the band splitting the remaining 3/4 (in other
words, a larger share for the caller).  It is our experience that 
all callers are happy with an equal split, but if you'd like a different
arrangement, please notify our paymaster (usually Dan Pearl) before
the break that evening.

The available pay per person is a guarantee plus bonus (for sufficient
attendance).  The guarantee depends on the number of performers:

3    $155per person/$465 total
4    $145 / $580
5    $125 / $625

Larger groups don't earn additional guarantee group money, but they'll
earn a larger percentage of any bonus money available.

The House contributes $10 per person 'gas/time money' for performers
traveling a 'distance'.

HOUSING  Most performers either live within easy driving
distance or have friends with whom they can stay.  If you
would like help in finding hospitality, please let me know
at least two weeks before your date.

PROBLEMS  If there is any question of a bad weather cancellation,
or if any other problem presents itself, check in with me or
Dan.  In an emergency on the night of the dance, you can try
the VFW pay phone after 7 PM; the number is 617-547-9771.

COMMITTEE MEMBERS Please contact any of the following if
you have any questions during the evening:
Dan Pearl (Chair), Cal Howard, Larry Jennings, Sue Rosen,
Ernie Spence, Victor Troll, Nell Wright, and Lisa Greenleaf.

Caller Information
For The VFW Thursday Series in Cambridge

The Thursday Night Dance Committee has prepared the following
information to help each caller  make the best possible impression when
calling for us.  It is our goal that both the caller and the dancers 
have a
satisfying experience at our series. If you wish, committee members Sue
Rosen <eamil  >, Dan Pearl
<email> and/or Lisa Greenleaf <laleaf at verizon.net>
would be happy to talk with you about the vision of the series, perhaps
in the context of a proposed program.

What can you expect?

• A committee member will try to be at the hall by 7:00.  If anyone
wants to set up in advance, the key is available from the bartender
(entry at rear of building).
• A sound system supplied and operated by the Committee.  The
sound check, to which the dancers customarily polka, starts a few
minutes before 8:00 and ends at about 8:00 so we can start on time.
• A hall with good acoustics, wood floor, stage and piano.  It
comfortably holds six contra sets of 16 couples.
• Usually between 180 and 210 dancers.   Although we expect to
have a large number of experienced dancers, we encourage you to ask a
committee member for a read on the crowd of your particular evening
in case there are more beginners than usual. We do not have a formal
teaching session before the start of the dance.
•An attitude of confidence and enthusiasm on the part of the dancers
(some might say they are over-confident and slightly rude!).

What are the features of a typical dance?

•  The caller is in charge from the end of the sound check until
the end of the evening.  Of course, the Committee is available for
advice on things like announcements (we discourage them) and
length of the break (15 minutes).
• An evening that can be reasonably characterized as a typical urban
New England-style contra dance, featuring a balanced mixture of
flowing dances and clear calling with a minimum of extraneous talk.
• We don't have a formal teaching period for beginners, nor do
we expect the caller to belabor the teaching of figures during the 
Our expectation is that the new dancers will be swept in by the 
dancers, aided by clear and concise instructions from the caller.  
should be made to feel welcome by the caller, and attention should be 
to their location on the floor.
• A good amount of neighbor interaction, especially early in the 
Please do not do two dances in a row with no neighbor swings.
• Between 11 and 13 slots, no more than four of which are not contras.
(Couples dances do not count as a slot.)
• No more than one mixer.
• A pre-intermission waltz starting  at around 9:30 and a final waltz
starting by 11:00. It is customary to end intermission with a couple
dance, usually a hambo. Additional couple dances are not out of place,
but the dancers are not expecting them.  Please do not begin a new 
dance if it's 10:55.
• No more than two dances so challenging that they seem a struggle.

Remarks based on our experience:

• It is the caller’s responsibility to make sure that each set is viably
long.  We  tend to have a lot of crowded center sets which the dancers
are reluctant to leave.  One ploy, which the dancers don’t mind as long
as it is not overused, is to form a new set (or move a short side set) 
the center of the hall.  Many of the reluctant dancers are willing to 
such a set.
• Our full hall can be noisy during walk-throughs.  It is the caller's 
to make sure that all contra lines are set up correctly (hands four, 
crossed over, for example) before teaching the dance.
• Squares and other non-contra formations are perfectly acceptable to
the dancers and to the Committee.  However, the dancers are less
familiar with the calls and conventions of squares.  The dancers will
happily do two sets of squares, but may grumble if there are more.
• Occasional brief remarks which give additional insight into the
dance  or dancing are acceptable as long as the dancers do not perceive
them as needless teaching or lecturing.
• Our experience is that a caller whose reputation in Boston is not well
established is better advised to offer a well-prepared program of 
standard material rather than individualistic material.  If you are 
of your program, please feel free to talk with one of the aforementioned
committee members.

We hope you enjoy your evening with us!

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