[Callers] Estimating space and couples

James Saxe jim.saxe at gmail.com
Fri Oct 19 21:37:40 PDT 2012

On Oct 19, 2012, at 6:06 PM, Leslie Gotfrit wrote:

> I am a new caller trying to log calling hours by hosting kitchen  
> contra parties (with live music, beer and food). Could anyone tell  
> me how many linear feet I need per couple?

Larry Jennings (_Give-and-Take_, section III-3, "Set Spacing")
recommends three feet per couple (six feet per foursome) as a
"just right" spacing, in which "sets are neither too crowded
nor too stretched out."  I agree.

During crowded sessions at the Northwest Folklife Festival, I
think I've counted as many as 19 foursomes in the 92' length
of the floor, which would be an average spacing of 2'5" per
couple.  I've seen dancers in the bottom portion of the floor
spaced even a little more tightly than that.  The floor is
made of 4'x8' panels with very conspicuous tape lines at the
joints.  I'm sure I've seen as many as 6 foursomes in a length
of 28' (seven 4' panels widths), giving a spacing of 2'4" per
couple.  That's pretty darned crowded, though.

If you're dancing in cramped quarters, you'll of course want
to avoid dances that include "down the hall".  You'll also
discover which figures start to become uncomfortable as the
couple spacing gets tighter.

Dancers at the Northwest Folklife Festival commonly gravitate
into the 8'-wide "lanes" defined by the tape joining the floor
panels.  This is a somewhat crowded, but workable spacing.
I think a width of 10' per set is generally quite comfortable.
It doesn't sound like the room you're talking about has room to
have two sets and still provide space for the band or for anyone
to sit, unless there's a big opening to an adjacent space that
the dancing can't spread into.

> My friends' home is about 24 feet on the diagonal: how many couple  
> in a longways can I (safely) accommodate?

Unless the purpose is to avoid obstacles that are impossible or
impractical to move (fireplace hearths, heavy furniture) I don't
think you'll gain much, if anything, by running a set diagonally
in a room of that size.  A square room 17' on a side would be 24
feet (plus about one half inch) on the diagonal.  Subtract 4'
from each end of the diagonal in order to allow the set to be
8' wide and you're down to 16' in usable length (ok, perhaps a
bit more, since a set might not need the full 8' width all the
way to the end).

> And what's the minimum number of couples in a contra line so that is  
> still fun?

I have nothing to add to Alan Winston's response on this subject.


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