[Callers] Community/Family dance

Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing winston at slac.stanford.edu
Mon Jul 31 11:31:51 PDT 2006

Gale wrote:

> I am calling a Community/ Family dance in a couple of weeks, I'd
> appreciate it if you would share some of your favorite dances
> that are appropriate for the occasion. The dance will be attended by
> never-evers, families with children and a few old time dancers.
> I have on line for the evening: The Virginia Reel, Jefferson and
> Liberty, Portland Fancy, Lady of the Lake, La Bastranege(???)


These are delightful community dances for teens and adults, but may fail as
family dances.  In those 'families with children', young children may be
unwilling to leave  their parents (so you get three-or-four-person 'couples',
and swings, etc, may be difficult), and dances may end up being unphrased. 
With progressive dances in general (duple or triple minors, or mixers where you
go on to a new partner) you need to be with the music or things will break
down, so choosing those dances can set the dancers up for a failure.

Of course you never know what you're going to have to deal with until 
you're there and the people turn up for it.
> It seems most of the 'easy dances I have been looking at are quite
> similar in structure so I am looking for some different dances in the
> Contra/ circle/ square traditions.

Watch out!  In the interested-in-dancing world, people are looking for variety
and contrast throughout the evening.  In the community dance/ONS world, you're
not looking to make every dance a new challenge - each dance needs to be really
accessible.  So if it's just like the last dance except you have arches instead
of pass through, that's probably okay.

But to be accessible - not for added variety, because the crowd doesn't really
need added variety - I think you should also be looking for scatter mixers and
whole set dances. You don't have to use 'em if you get a suitable audience for
your duple minors, but if you've got a bunch of kids at your dance, or slightly
toasted adults,  you'll want em.

A couple of excellent books:

Marian Rose's "Step Lively" and "Step Lively 2".  (I bet "Step Lively 3" is
great too, but I don't have it and can't vouch for it.)  "Blobs", in the first
book, is a contra formation whole set dance for family groups; it's helpful.
So is Sasha!  The other dances are good for this environment as well, and
there's an accompanying CD.  

Dudley Laufman's "Sir Roger de Coverly's Whole Set Catalog", although I think
this is out of print now.  

The "Community Dances Manuals" (published by the English Folk Dance & Song
Society but available in the US through the Country Dance & Song Society at 
www.cdss.org/sales ) have a ton of easy whole set dances with suggested tunes.
You might be interested in "Cumberland Square 8", "Up the Sides and Down the
Middle", "Circle Waltz".)  You can google around for dance notes on many of
these things.

A web site with useful dance notation, including most of the ones I call
out for CDM:


Check out these dances:

Pat-a-cake Polka  (make it an open two hands instead of ballroom position for
the chassays, and the dance works beautifully for 7 and up.)

[Here are differentish square and contra-formation dances, not particularly
suitable for kids-too-small-to-leave-parents, but very accessible to, eg,

Strip the Willow

Leaving for Barbados (needs six-couple sets, but very cool)

OXO Reel

Cumberland Square 8

Hope this helps!

-- Alan
 Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not SLAC or SSRL   Phone:  650/926-3056
 Paper mail to: SSRL -- SLAC BIN 99, 2575 Sand Hill Rd, Menlo Park CA   94025

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