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(???)
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.
Thanks in advance
In the dance Cornish 6-hand reel there is a hey for 6 (not a surprise given
the name of the dance). Several sources agree that this gets 32 beats of
music (B1 and B2), which seems like too much music. In our contras a hey
for 4 (over and back) gets 16 counts. Reasoning from proportions (probably
a dangerous thing) it would seem that 32 beats (B1,B2) would be enough music
for a hey for 8 (God forbid), and that a hey for 6 should take 16+8 or 24
counts and leave ½ of a B undanced. I ask because I called the dance in
Exeter last Saturday and several dancers seemed to be getting through the
hey early. The tradition is to use B1 and B2 to do this hey. Its English.
How do they do it? Perhaps it would be more danceable for us if an 8 count
move were added at the end of the hey but what move would this be. It
would need to be a move done only with your partner and do-si-do, allemande
left and right, and 2-hand turns are all already used. Its a puzzle. Do
you call this dance? Its a great dance. Have you had this problem?
--- Rickey wrote:
In the dance Cornish 6-hand reel there is a hey for 6 (not a surprise given the
name of the dance). Several sources agree that this gets 32 beats of music (B1
and B2), which seems like too much music.
--- end of quote ---
I'll get to this particular dance in a moment, but first a digression:
One of the tasks dancers face as they become more skilled is to make their
dancing fit the music. Thus, on a simple figure such as right and left through
(the full version, over and back), while this certainly can be accomplished in
far fewer than 16 steps, experienced dancers have learned to slow down a little,
to enjoy the time-- four steps to cross, four steps to turn, and the same on the
One of the strongest things that we in the contra and traditional square dance
community have going for us is that close connection with the music. Modern
Western Square Dance, for example, no longer has everything fitting the music,
and moves which we would do in, say, 8 steps, they often do in six, thereby
losing that connection with the musical phrases.
As a further aside, many intermediate level dancers have the same difficulty
fitting their movements to the phrase, hence the appearance of all those extra
twirls, designed to fill up the time while they're waiting for the next move.
And now, to the topic at hand:
I've never danced Cornish 6-hand reel, but I danced the Dorset 4-hand reel just
a few weeks ago. In many of these traditional English dances the dancers aren't
just moving with a simple walking step as we do in contras. They move with a
variety of steps, such as rants or polka steps. We actually see some of that
tradition in the sort of shuffle clog two-step that some older dancers prefer--
watch Dudley Laufman on the dance floor, for example, dancing Chorus Jig. On
that simple down the outside and back, he doesn't take 7 or 8 long steps down
the outside, but rather three or four two-steps, moving only a short way down
and a short way back.
Now, the question is, if you want to introduce Cornish 6-hand-reel, do you want
to take your allotment of talking time at the mic to introduce the notion of
stepping to your dancers? In some situations you may decide it's worth the
effort and the time-- you're presenting a dance which seems quite similar but
actually has an added challenge for folks to explore-- or you may decide that
it's not appropriate for that given venue.
Hope this is helpful.
The topic of preparing to call a program sent me off on a tangent here, hence the different title.
One of the best pieces of advice I got early in my dance calling career was how to organize my cards, including the idea of making notes every time I called that dance. It got me used to analyzing the dance that night, while it was fresh in my head, to see where I might have been clearer in my teaching (or where I went wrong, if you want to think that way).
Then, before calling that dance again, I could benefit from my hard-won experience in the form of my notes on the backs of my cards.
I also notice that the tone of these notes changed over time, so on some of my very earliest notes I was very frustrated with those dancers who were ** intentionally ** mishearing my very clear and concise instructions (wink). Somehow, as I gained experience, these same dancers got better and better. It was very enlightening how this process worked.
I also luckily received the advice to publicly accept the blame for any problems that occured, even if I thought the problem lay elsewhere. These days, any problems are easy to own, as I'm much more sure of the things I did to cause the problems and much more adept at correcting them smoothly and quickly. Life is good.
I concur with practicing to tapes, and to practicing while walking, and while driving, and to visualizing and scripting the walkthroughs, though I may not actually write down the script.
I have just come back from a wonderful caller's workshop and have gotten
addicted to having other caller's to talk to. So I have two questions for
you. First, how do you prepare for an upcoming evening of calling? I am
wondering how you prepare AFTER you have selected the dances and programmed
the evening. Do you memorize the dances? Do you call to music and an empty
room? How do you keep focused on what might happen when nothing is
happening in front of you? How do you learn new dances that you want to
call? I have recently tried scripting a dance. It took over an hour to do
the one dance, but seemed very useful. Do you script your teaching in
advance? If so how do you use that script during the evening? Second, I
have heard dance described as controlled falling. In another form of dance
I was taught to lean into the direction of travel in order to commit my
weight to the dance. I have been watching experienced dancers recently and
see no evidence of this. I have danced for perhaps 30 years, and I cannot
remember what we used to do. AS A DANCER, how do you commit your weight to
Recently got this from Dale Rempert and am forwarding along. Cheers!
>From: Dale Rempert <drempert(a)ix.netcom.com>
>To: "Chrissy Fowler" <ktaadn_me(a)hotmail.com>
>Subject: Re: FW: [Callers] FW: Re: dance title & author mystery
>Date: Tue, 06 Jun 2006 02:04:28 -0500
>A friend in the discussion group forwarded this thread on to me. I am Dale
>Rempert. I did crate the dance Feet in Flight. It was published on the
>Austin Barn Dancers web site. It was also published in Larry Jennings
>The "real" dance, at least the way I wrote it has B1 as Corners cross (8)
>then circle left (8). On the corners cross the men pass right shoulder
>with a 1/2 gypsy. Then the ladies do the same. See
>http://blake.prohosting.com/austinbd for this and other dances you might
>Yes the folk process is very interesting. I did not know that there were
>that many versions of the dance out there. But then, I'm a big
>contributor to that same process too. I will change up other peoples
>dances to fit my mood or the crowd or just to "correct" a minor annoyance.
>When I do that I usually say the dane is a variation of ... when I call it.
>Anyway, feel free to pass this info along the discussion thread.
--- Rickey Holt wrote:
I have just come back from a wonderful caller's workshop
--- end of quote ---
I'm guessing that this was the intermediate callers' workshop sponsored by
Country Dance and Song Society and led by Lisa Greenleaf and Brad Foster.
[Insert pitch here for everyone to join or renew their CDSS membership.]
Rickey, I'm sure many of us on the list would love to hear more details about
the workshop and what made it so successful from your point of view.
I'll pass on your first set of questions and instead will turn to the second:
> In another form of dance I was taught to lean into the direction of travel in
order to commit my weight to the dance.
The sort of motion you describe strikes me as more applicable to English country
dance, done well and vigorously, than to American contras and squares. At least
in New England style dancing, the weight is back farther, with the the heels
often touching before the toes, a walking gait or a flat footed shuffle,
depending on your own style.
In ECD, by contrast, the weight is on the balls of the feet. I've heard many ECD
leaders talk about leaning forward until you have to take a step, and using that
sort of driving motion to propel you through your steps. When you look at early
photos of dancers trained by Cecil Sharp, you see them leaning at what strikes
us now as almost impossible angles.
Now, granted, this sort of energetic movement isn't what you see in all
dancers-- in the UK, apparently, they grapple with the norm being what some have
termed the "Playford plod"-- but there are American dancers who do bring that
zest to their English country dancing.
New England style contra dancing, in contrast, when dancers go beyond the
initial flailing about in all directions phase, has a smooth, almost level
motion, not a lot of hopping or bouncing about. Granted, this can be with lots
of energy or it can be more sedate, depending on the choreography of the dance
and the music being played. At least that's how the movement goes in my vision
of how things should be. ;-)