[Callers] Unusual Formations at Open, Public Contra Dances (Was: "Triplets")

Chrissy Fowler ktaadn_me at hotmail.com
Tue Aug 21 09:02:30 PDT 2012

We've had this programming discussion before on SharedWeight, and I doubt anyone's really going to change their personal/individual position dramatically.  Some like variety, some like repetition, some like a little of both.  We all have good reasons for our personal and/or professional preferences.

One thing that occurs to me is that programming expectations for a given dance series may be considered the purview of the dance organizers (individual/committee/whoever does the job).  Personally, I find it helpful to have input from a committee.  They know their series better than I as a caller, and they have much more invested in its continued success.

We give extensive input to the visiting callers at our monthly series, which is known for being extremely well-attended and energetic, with many happy newcomers and regulars of all ages at every dance.  I've copied the latest version of that info below.

Perhaps the proof is in the pudding.  If your dance series is thriving with a positive outlook for future good health, then it doesn't matter what any outside experts say.

Chrissy Fowler
Belfast, ME


- Our series welcomes new dancers.  Expect relative novices and rank
beginners of all ages to join the contradance.  

- Experienced Maine dancers at our series range in age from seven to seventy,
and are friendly, enthusiastic, and used to the core contra figures, although
our overall style has been described as evincing our lumberjack/fisherman/back-to-the-lander

- Our committee appreciates judiciously sprinkled tips and reminders of ways to
make dancing fun and safe for everyone.  A few of these style tips,
whether simply described from the stage or demonstrated on the floor, and
especially those issued with good cheer or humor, would benefit our

- Directly teach the swing at some
point in the first half.

- We prefer reasonably interesting dances with logical flow (enabling us to
enjoy the music and each other) over complex choreography that requires intense
concentration (hampering our enjoyment).  

- Most dancers will expect a program that is primarily modern contras. 
However, the committee strongly encourages inclusion of a few other dances, in
part to broaden our community's horizons.  ("Other" could be a
different formation, such as a circle, square, four-face-four, Sicilian circle,
or triplet; or another type, such as chestnuts or mixers.) 

- As you look out from the stage, the set furthest to your
left is the one most likely to fall apart.  Newcomers congregate
there.  Also, the floor slopes toward the stage on that side of the hall,
so with four or five sets, the left-most 2 sets will squash toward the
stage.  Remind those sets to leave space at the top, and to resist the urge
to slide toward the stage.

- The hall is often extremely crowded, with a very high
percentage of newcomers.  The mood is generally one of elation and good
cheer, but the combination of unskilled dancing, rowdy enthusiasm, and very
little elbow room makes for a dance experience that some might consider
unpleasant, perhaps even unsafe.  Keep this in mind when programming,
teaching and calling.  (Space and safety considerations trump any
committee expectations of varied formations such as squares or circles.)  

- We have an archive book listing past programs,
which you may refer to before/during the dance. 
Please record your actual program there – name of dance,
composer/author, etc.

- Check in with us before your dance is scheduled, to see if
things have changed, and to see what other insights we might offer.

dance calling:  chrissyfowler.com

monthly dance series:  belfastflyingshoes.org 

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