[Callers] Calling medleys for the first time

Lisa Greenleaf laleaf at verizon.net
Tue Dec 28 11:12:55 PST 2010

I'm sending along my modified guidelines for the New England Folk Festival medleys,
which are comprised of 6 dances done 6 times through each (the last is done
either 5 or 7).  The 21 minute medley was originated at Neffa by caller Susan Elberger.

--Lisa Greenleaf

Neffa Contra Medley reminders

1.  You need to have 6 callers, one for each dance.  We’ve found that it’s
best to have 3 women and 3 men alternating, so that there is good vocal
distinction between callers.  The callers need to be competent in this
format.  In years past, some callers have frozen or have not worked out
their word choices to fit the format. You can have only 3 or 4 callers
if you space them in such a way that each dance is called by a 
'distinctly difernt voice.

2.  If you are choreographing as a group, remember to strive for flow from
one dance to the next.  It’s OK to give the last round of one of the dances
a different ending so that it can go into the next dance (ie you can
manipulate the last round so you can go from proper to improper or improper
to Becket), but please do this gimmick only once in the medley.  There are
no walk throughs, so complex sequences are not appropriate.  
Just the fact that the medley is a half hour of non-stop dancing is a thrill
for most folks, although they do enjoy mastering the transitions from one
dance to the other.

3.  Send a draft of the medley to your callers and any advisors.
 Once you receive approval on your sequences,
send out the medley to your callers. Ask them which dances
they would feel comfortable calling.

4. Assign dances to the callers. Remind callers of the no-walk thru format and
advise them to writeout their cues ahead of time, paying attention to timing.  The first time
through the dance the calls must come extra early!

5.  Consult with your band leader for tune selection.  The band will play a
total of 6 tunes, each 6 times through (the last dance is either 5 or 7
times).  it can often be effective to mix jigs and reels, but this depends
on the dances and on the band.  In general, you do want to work towards a
climax by the last dance.  However, bands need to be aware that
when they change tunes, the dancers really have to
be able to hear the caller, so this is not the time for the horn or drum section (!) to
play loudly. There may be time for a waltz, so make sure the
band is ready for it; it will probably be very short.

6.  Make sure your performers know where to meet you and at what time.  Have
extra copies of the medley available.

7.  Talk with the sound man before you go on.  It may be helpful to list the
callers in order of appearance and make notes about soft voices.
Our sound guys have done this before, so they're usually prepared, but
it never hurts to check.

8.  As the sets are forming, remind the dancers that the session is rated X
for expereinced, the dances will not be taught and that they will keep the
same partner for the next 23 minutes or so. Each dance will be called 6
times and the 6th time they will hear a new voice, which is the cue to pay
attention as the next sequence will be a new dance. Encourage them to move
down and get in the correct formation (hands 4, 1s crossed over, eg).  Most
dancers are familiar with the medley, so there is no need for lengthy
explanations.  It’s a nice idea to introduce the band and the callers, or
you may do this afterward.

9.  Designate a counter and band cuer to keep track of how many times
through each dance (usually it’s the last caller who does this).  A notebook
with flip pages with numbers 1-6 is very helpful; put the 6th page and
number on a different color as a visual cue for the band.  

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