Ricky - The very reason it is very important for a caller to dance the opposite role on a somewhat frequent basis!
I remember being at a callers workshop once and my partner (male) was going on and on about how great the dance was that we were in the middle of dancing. In my ever tactless way I swung him and put him in the ladies part. 60 seconds later he was complaining about how dizzy he was!
However to directly answer your question,(in my opinion) to go from a Becket - circle left 3 places and pass thru to a Do-Si-Do works very smooth - don't worry.
When I mentioned my dream of starting a new dance series in my
community of Woodstock VT to Jeremiah McLane at Pinewoods a few
summers ago, the main thing that I remember him saying is "Good luck,
it's a labor of love." His comment has stuck with me as we've
muddled along up to this point but, hey...
Friday night we had OUR FIRST DANCE in the "Third Friday Woodstock
Dance Series" and it was an awesome success, far exceeding our
expectations!!! I thought I might share some of what went well and
ask for your thoughts on starting new series in case you can help us
to maintain momentum.
The committee that finally came together with enough energy to make
this happen included several parents of young children, Waldorf
School parents, parents of kids with developmental disabilities and
members of a newish contra band that has been performing irregularly
over the past couple of years plus me as caller (my husband and son
are in the band). Here's what we came up with
We held two private parties in this venue this fall and early winter
that included members of the same band and me calling. Both
attracted big crowds and we promoted our dance series at both, at
least in concept. One of the parties was to celebrate my high school
son's new film and a ton of local HS kids came, which helped build up
a base of interest there and they turned out in force on Friday.
We decided to make this a very family-friendly dance. We came up
with a program that includes:
5:30 - dinner of vegetarian soup and bread.
6:30 - family dance
7:30 - break and pot luck desserts
8:00 - contra dance
Notes on dinner: the soup is made by committee members using veggies
bought from a local farmer and bread is donated by a local bakery.
We gathered up a bunch of mismatched cups, bowls and spoons and we'll
keep them together and use them each time.
We are currently charging $5 per adult, with children and teens
free. The cost includes both parts of the dance and dinner. We made
enough on Friday to pay for the food ingredients plus enough for seed
money for food for next time, some money to pay the guy who helped
cook, plus a modest amount for each band member -- we were thrilled
at how the finances came out, because of the large turn-out. Still,
we think we might try putting out a donation bucket for extra
donations next time to pay band members better (it's a big band),
donate to local non-profits, and and maybe invest in better sound
equipment over time.
Local Business Sponsor
One of our committee members owns two local businesses that recycle
and make compost. He offered to sponsor the dances, covering the
cost of the hall for the first five dances, which is $100 per night,
which is a reduced rate from their usual $150. We promoted his
businesses on all the posters and announced it at each part of the
dance, encouraging folks to give his hand a squeeze as they passed
him in line.
We also plan to try choosing a local non-profit to co-host each
dance, promoting it with their constituency and receiving a share of
We advertised all five dances in the series on one poster, but I
think we will also announce each separately again. A lot of the
promotion happened through local organizations, churches, and schools.
- I can't make all the dances so I will need to find a substitute,
which feels sad for me, but maybe it's a more sustainable pattern,
given how much I travel for work.
- A lot of the families with younger kids stayed through the break
and were still there at 8:00 so it was a little challenging to meet
their needs and still make all the high school students and adults
who had come feel like this wasn't a little kid event. They mostly
danced one or two dances, which I made appropriate for their level,
though, so it worked out fine.
- We jury-rigged our sound system, which was imperfect. More money/
attention needed for that as we go.
Do you have any suggestions for us about starting a new series?
We're all ears!!
Sorry to miss you at Ralph Page -- I'm sure it was wonderful.
PO Box 45
Taftsville, VT 05073
A little more than a week ago, Chrissy Fowler called at the Scout House
on a Thursday night with some rocking musicians. I wrote her an e-mail
saying that there was a dance that I liked, wanted to get, but had a
minor change for it. This is the discussion that followed, forwarded
with her permission. Edited for clarity. Becky Hill's dance is in the
Rosen-Hill collection. Chrissy and I thought that it would be fun to get
other people's perspective on the stuff we were talking about. -Chris
I wanted to get a dance from you that you called on Thursday. It was the
second dance of the evening. It had a couple of ring balances (without
twirls) and I think the B1 had a long lines, ladies allemande left
1+1/2. I thought that the allemande left was a little awkward, but I
liked the rest of the dance. Thanks!!
I'm interested to know that the ladies all. L felt awkward, even though
the L hand is the near one to that other lady that one would allemande.
(I'm guessing you danced it as a lady?) Do you think All R would be
better? Other suggestions? I admit that I haven't danced it. The
dance is one I have down as Becky Hill's "Big Easy", which I got from
Diane Silver. Had to laugh when you named it as having "a couple of
ring balances" since when I reviewed what was left of my program in the
aftermath of the dance full of on-the-fly switches in the plan, I
realized that I ended up calling several dances with ring balances of
some sort or another. (holy repetition, batman!)
Ladies allemande left from facing couples is a pet peeve of mine from
the gent's perspective. When I'm dancing, I'm constantly giving cues and
leads to my partner and neighbor, and even the neighbor gent, when
necessary. Especially when they're new. From a long lines, ladies
allemande left, it's almost impossible for the gent to lead it. If the
ladies allemande right, then I can use her left hand to guide her out
and across my body. Her right hand is free and she has the diagonal
momentum to meet the other lady at the right angle. I can't speak to how
it feels from the lady's perspective, but from mine ladies allemande
left removes the feeling of connectedness from that part of the dance.
Since it doesn't matter which hand they use in the dance, I would call
it with an allemande right. It works either way, so call it the way you
We all have those repetitive nights. I seem to have less of them,
though, when I do my programming on the fly instead of having one worked
out beforehand. I have notes on every programmed I've called, so I
should analyze them someday and see just how repetitive I am.
Unfortunately, I had to leave at the half. But the first half of the
evening was great. Your dances worked, even for the beginners, and
nothing got in the way of enjoying the music. 8^)
Great explanation. I hadn't thought about it that way, but it makes a
lot of sense. And yes, I was thinking to myself "Well, if he has some
compelling reason why the all L 1.5 isn't good, I'll just call it as all
R!" And I guess that's why the men's all L is so ubiquitous, because
the woman can assist him to the center in that same way you explained.
Interesting that you say you have less repetition when you program on
the fly. For me it's the other way. When I am programming as it comes,
or seriously reworking (on the fly) a program that I'd done ahead of
time, I tend not to notice those repetition points until it's too late.
(or even after the fact.) I'm glad the dances worked for the new
folks. Always such a balancing act, to work both sides of that VFW/TNDC
crowd - the throngs of new/young folks and the core of jaded/bored
dancers who want spicy choreography.
Also glad to hear your impression that nothing got in the way of the
music - phenomenal as it was. Wowzer. It's so great to work with such
talent. Mmmmm. I danced in Rehoboth the next night and had a blast,
even doing the very simple dances required by the crowd. Such
life-affirming stuff we get to do!
When I create a program in advance, I nitpick it to death and put a lot
of effort into it. When I need to change something on the fly, I am
reluctant to change more than one or two dances. That makes it more
likely that the dance that I substitute will repeat something later in
the program. When I program on the fly, I'm more free to change the
dances later to match (and not repeat) the earlier ones.
To be honest, I haven't been doing my homework as a caller for a long
time due to the rest of my life being pretty busy. I haven't been
creating programs, so I've taught myself to program on the fly just by
doing it. I do record all of my programs, so I should really go back and
review to see how well I've been doing (or not!).
Well, I don't do my homework every time either, especially if it's a
dance where I can sort of get away with it. But I always like to have
something planned for some dances, including Boston, and even if I
change it a lot (which I do more than half the time) it changes my
tension level to have some sort of program done in advance. (And I
think I'm more attentive to the band and dancers when I'm less tense.)
> I was considering adding some of the Chestnuts to my calling repertoire
--- end of quote ---
Huzzah! Do you have musicians who can learn the tunes that traditionally
accompany these dances? Not every dance has an associated tune, but for those
who do, part of the fun is hearing particular music accompany particulat
patterns, as is common in English country dance. In this way, of course, the
chestnuts remind us of the close linkage between early contras and their ECD
If you're in the part of the midwest where folks are accustomed to dancing
contras to Appalachian old-time string band music, one of the challenges you'll
face, possibly as great as teaching triple minor formation intricacies, is
helping dancers appreciate a different style of music. I mean, Sackett's Harbor
is typically played here to a jig, and that alone will sound alien to many ears
accustomed to old-time bands, who generally don't do things in 6/8. 'Tain't
> I was considering calling a triplet or a duple minor dance with contra
corners in the first half to make sure everyone was comfortable with that
figure, and then calling "Sackett's Harbor" in the second half
Hmm... contra corners (with one exception, described below) is actually more
easily taught in a dance such as Sackett's, because the twos and threes only
have to make one turn with the active couple. in a duple minor, the twos must be
ready to turn as a corner twice, with an active One coming at them first from
one direction and then from another.
The exception mentioned above is in timing. Typically, at the end of contra
corners the active couple meets in the middle for a balance and swing. In
Sackett's, they need to be back in their own lines, man #1 with the men and
woman #1 with the women, in time for the forward and back before the circle of
six circles right back to long lines. This requires active couples to move
through contra corners with greater "intentionality"-- i.e., no dilly-dallying!
Your rules for triple minors are just fine. We usually encourage dancers to
dance at the bottom with a ghost couple to carry out the progression. At the top
of the set, the rule is to wait out twice, using that time to pay attention to
the musicians or, if you're even slightly unsure about how to proceed, to watch
the active couples ahead of you to see the pattern of their movements.
Jerome, please let us know how it turns out.
And for other chestnut fans, be advised that CDSS is in the process of
publishing a book that contains all of David Smukler's "Cracking Chestnuts"
columns from the CDSS news plus additional material that he and I have
I was considering adding some of the Chestnuts to my calling repertoire, and
I was wondering if I could get your best advice on approaching triple minor
dances in the Midwest (Lawrence Kansas). I believe most of the contra
dancers here have never seen such a critter, although a very few will have
seen it at an English Country dance.
I was considering calling a triplet or a duple minor dance with contra
corners in the first half to make sure everyone was comfortable with that
figure, and then calling "Sackett's Harbor" in the second half, which turns
the minor set 90 degrees (or 270 degrees, to be technical) so all the men
are all facing the stage and the women are facing down.
I want to lay out the rules of triplets very succinctly: Ones remain ones
all the way down the hall, while the twos become threes and then twos again
as they progress up. Threes also alternate roles, becoming twos and then
threes again. At the top, the first couple out waits out two iterations of
the dance before becoming ones. At the bottom, the threes must trade places
with the ones or they will remain out indefinitely.
Are these rules accurate as stated?
Any suggestions from New England? Elsewhere in the Midwest? Points beyond?
1) All dances cost $8 and are pay at the door. The callers workshop
is $10 and requires advance registration
2) Friday's dance is at Pleasant Green Community Center in Durham,
NC, Saturday afternoon and evening are at the Carrboro Century Center
in Carrboro, NC.
The First Saturday Dance and Triangle Country Dancers will be hosting
the Winter Whirlwind weekend February 29 - March 2 in Durham and
Carrboro, NC. We will have three dances plus a callers workshop, all
led by Becky Hill. On Friday 2/29, there will be a dance at Pleasant
Green Community Center in Durham with the Elftones. On Saturday
(3/1) afternoon, we will have an advance dance, also with the
Elftones and Becky. Then on Saturday evening, we will have a dance
with Footloose and Becky. Finally, on Sunday afternoon (beginning at
12:30), Becky will lead an intermediate level callers workshop
(Becky's more detailed description of the workshop is at the end of
this message. More information about the weekend can be found at
www.winterwhirlwind.com. If you know if any other callers that might
be interseted in attending, please pass this on to them!
I hope that many of you will be able to join us for some or all of
these events. If you are interested in attending the callers'
workshop, please let me know as soon as possible. We do require
advance registration for the workshop. Since I'm also the one that's
coordinating housing for out of town folks, if you need housing with
a local dancer, please let me know that as well (even if you think I
So, I need the following information:
Who you are
That you're planning on coming to the workshop
What calling experience (in a sentence or so) you've had (ie. "Called
some single dances in an evening." "Been calling for 20 years." etc)
If you need housing with a dancer (and if so, for which nights)
--if you need housing, are you allergic to anything (cats, dogs,
Let me know if you have any questions!!
Hope to see many of you next month.
1. We will begin the workshop by pairing new callers with experienced
ones. Each team of two will "chart" a dance which will enable callers
to parse the dance for the walkthrus, including specifics such as who
and where each person lands in the line, discovering shadows, and
negotiating knotty end effects.
2. Programming: each team will be given 11 dances sequenced in the
best order to program for a given evening. We will all share the
outcome and explain how each team made their decisions.
3. Precision calling: the participants will be given dances with
dicey timing issues. Using the empty timing sheets in the large
handout, the participants will fill in the blanks so that the timing
is precise with the music.
4. Voice control: breathing from the diaphragm and "on the fly" deep
relaxation techniques in the face of adversity. We will do some
exercises for both men and women, so that they may avoid shrill
female voices and angry sounding male voices.
5. Positive teaching techniques; avoiding the use of negative words;
praising the dancers and the band for a job well done.
6. Maintaining variety; the participants will fill out the "Dance-at
-a Glance" sheets with a sample program using the previous
programming exercise to check for variety of dance moves.
Hi.... I'll give you some help....
grammar and spelling you can forget about ..I failed those subjects for years .. but I can check all but the most complicated contra dances for format.. sufficient timing etc.......
I can even link you to my page at contrausa.com if you like after you get your website set up
Also if you need any web help I may be able to give it to you.... but maybe not .....I'm not an expert at that just have had my feet gotten wet is all
-- "Chris Page" <chriscpage(a)gmail.com> wrote:
I'm getting close to finishing a web page with my dance
sequences, and was wondering if anyone out there would be
interested in volunteering to check it in the near future?
It's about 35-40 dances of varying complexities, primarily contras.
Primarily I'm looking for someone to verify the sequences are
correct, and that the descriptions of the strange bits are
sufficiently complete. (Secondary is stuff like grammar, format,
links, and presentation, but I'm not as much worried about that.)
Any help, either partial or whole, would be greatly appreciated.
Please email me for details.
Callers mailing list
Click to create your dream Las Vegas vacation now.
I'll be there, too. That makes three of us Californians flying to New Hampshire in January. Hmmmmm
----- Original Message ----
From: Cynthia Phinney <online(a)starleft.org>
To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 7:16:57 AM
Subject: [Callers] Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend
Who will be attending the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend in Durham, NH this
weekend and is there interest in again meeting as a group for lunch? I'll be
Callers mailing list
I'm looking forward to seeing all of the aforementioned at the RPDL weekend - a long-standing favorite! I agree with Jeremy that there's a wealth of interesting content this year -- dancing, Ralph Sweet retrospective, workshops, videos, tune jams -- perhaps we can spread ourselves out and go to different sessions and then do some debriefing during our lunchtime gatherings. (And by the way, much appreciation to Chris for initiating these SW gatherings at RP -- it's a perfect weekend to think about dances, share calling experiences in person, and really just hunker right down for a satisfying little "caller geek fest." Delicious!
Speaking of delicious... Potluck lunch again for those bringing food?
Safe travels all,
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