I can only speak with reference to calling at NEFFA, as I have never applied to DownEast. As some of you may know that Linda Leslie is NEFFA's program chair, I will note that the program chair does not select performers for contra sessions.
Regarding NEFFA 2007, the following notice is now posted at http://neffa.org/perf_app.html - The Program Committee is not prepared to take your application at this time, since it is too late to apply for this year's NEFFA Festival. Please note that the application to perform is always available during the month of September, with a deadline in October. If you'd like to get an e-mail notice of application availability, send a blank e-mail to NEFFA_Performers-subscribe(a)yahoogroups.com
So you can note on your calendar that September is a good time to check the NEFFA web site, and also arrange for a notice to pop up in your e-mail.
The NEFFA application invites you to come up with a briefly-described theme for your session, with a title of 20 characters or less. IMO, use your own judgment as to how important the theme is. If you are offering a concept that's really meaningful to you, don't be afraid to describe it. If what you really want to do is just call some hot contras, then IMO I wouldn't go overboard on the theme.
Unlike Northwest Folklife, callers and bands apply SEPARATELY to the New England Folk Festival. And I believe that this is a very good thing for beginning callers who hope to have a chance at getting onstage. This mix-and-match policy gives a fresh perspective for experienced performers, and can be an eye-opening experience for newcomers who may get to work with seasoned veterans. I will never forget calling at NEFFA with Northern Spy, a band that has worked with caller David Millstone for 25 years. And where was David during this session? Out on the floor, happily dancing to the music of his own band. NEFFA's selection process made that wonderful hour possible for me.
For what it's worth, the first year I successfully applied I asked for a "Festival Orchestra" slot, which means that instead of calling a themed, hour-long session I called two dances in the Main Hall with the assembled orchestra and then got off the stage as the next Festival Orchestra caller had a turn. IMO, the key here (as well as in submitting a session proposal) is to choose dances that you know by heart, can teach well, fully believe in, and love to share with a crowd. You don't want to have second thoughts as you approach the microphone.
If you're wondering why performer applications are required so far in advance of a festival, note that NEFFA may have 1700 performers, many of whom perform in multiple sessions (perhaps performing alone, and with a participatory dance group, and also with a concert performance group!). You can't doublebook a performer (or larger groups to which she may belong), you have to give her time to move from one venue to another, plus a bunch of other scheduling etceteras that would drive me loony to contemplate further. How scheduling was done in the days before computers is beyond me.
Robert Jon Golder
164 Maxfield St
New Bedford, MA 02740
I recently had the following exchange on a different list with Michael
Shapiro (guitarist with U4):
>>> U4 just played the SwingShift weekend in Lexington/Berea. The caller was
Barbara Groh. She did something that I think most callers should do, but I
haven't seen before. After the sets were formed and people had done the hand
four, she then broke up the beginners sets that had formed at the end of the
lines. She asked then to move forward and intersperse themselves with the
more advanced dancers (so that they were more toward the beggining of the
line and the foursomes were not all beginners).
She was also good at letting the music be heard ...
>> Regarding the caller asking sets to reform in order to spread the less
experienced dancers throughout the hall, much tact is required. Generally,
callers strive to avoid calling attention to particular dancers other than
when asking people to watch a demonstration, but asking people to change
sets can have the effect of making them feel like there is attention on
them. In addition, newish dancers want to dance with people they know, even
if those friends may also be newish dancers.
>> Speaking to the entire crowd, I do encourage experienced dancers to share
their experience by asking someone they've never met to dance at least once
in the evening, and praise the community for being so welcoming to newcomer
dancers. So while I might be thinking "let's break up this clump of
confusion," it would not be good to say something that draws attention to
"you people right here."
>> I have asked, off mic, for a set of experienced dancers to offer to
repartner with a set of inexperienced dancers down the line.
To this list, I ask:
I'd be interested in the wording that Barbara Groh used (which I'm assuming
was quite gentle). I'm also guessing other callers on this list have
developed tactful ways to address this issue.
Richard gave the figures for a dance on YouTube as follows:
A1 Neighbor Dosido
A2 Gents Allemande L 1.5
B1 Long Lines Forward & Back
R & L across
B2 Ladies Chain Across
I don't know the tune, but it sounds to me like the dance starts with the long
lines and finishes with the partner swing. So, the beginning of the dance is cut
off the beginning of the YouTube clip and then comes around again at :32. That
also makes better choreographic sense, IMHO, and if that's correct then this is
Becket formation, not duple improper.
If so, then the notation would be:
A1 Long Lines Forward & Back
R & L across
A2 Ladies Chain Across
B1 Neighbor Dosido
B2 Gents Allemande L 1.5
Just a quick reminder to all about how the digest mode works. Mailman
will collect the e-mails into a queue and then send the contents of that
queue to the digest subscribers under two conditions:
1. a day has gone by, or
2. 30kb of data has collected. (about 5-7 messages on average)
Sometimes, when traffic is heavy, there can be more than one digest
e-mail sent per day. This keeps the digest e-mails from getting too long
and harder to read. All the traffic on the list should be contained in
your digest e-mails, the first e-mail of the thread and the replies. Let
Seth and I know if you discover differently. An e-mail to
callers-owner(a)sharedweight.net will reach both of us.
On a side note, moderating this list is extremely easy for me. I do not
review messages before they are posted unless there is something unusual
about how it was sent (from a non-subscribed address, via BCC, etc.) and
most of those are from spam engines. The very few times that I had to
ask someone to change what or how they posted to the list, they have
been responsive and respectful for the most part. Thank you all for your
respectful discussion. You set the tone of this list and make it a great
Earlier (a year or two ago) I e-mailed sharedweight a question or
comment about squares. It never got sent around.
At the time, I figured someone was filtering the various e-mails and
wanted to make sure the discussion was geared only towards contra.
Fine. Now I see that others can send questions etc. about squares.
Am I being treated any differently than other people who are signed
up for sharedweight?
When I recieve an e-mail from sharedweight, the question and the
answers are in the same e-mail!!! It must be that the others get to
see the question and then answer it before I get to see the
question. Am I left out of the loop -like you're afraid that I'm
always going to jump in with my 2 cents (maybe because I'm an
If this is the case, I just want you to know that I rarely want to
respond to the questions and requests. I also realize that it's very
important for the new callers to voice their opinion and have a
Am I being treated differently from the others?
On Jan 20, 2010, at 12:00 PM, callers-request(a)sharedweight.net wrote:
> Send Callers mailing list submissions to
> To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
> or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to
> You can reach the person managing the list at
> When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific
> than "Re: Contents of Callers digest..."
> Today's Topics:
> 1. Re: squares for house parties of mostly contra dancers?
> Message: 1
> Date: Tue, 19 Jan 2010 16:05:26 -0500
> From: <gtwood(a)worldpath.net>
> To: callers(a)sharedweight.net
> Subject: Re: [Callers] squares for house parties of mostly contra
> Message-ID: <RZ88iPEv.1263935126.1308590.gtwood(a)worldpath.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> All this talk of Squares, and with Ralph Page weekend and all
> reminded me that I found this on the web:
> for all you Rabbit fans:
> (we should always listen to the caller!)
> the scene: 2 mountain gents trying to get the best of Bugs
> of course Bugs turns the tables.....
> Bugs Bunnys Square
> Promenade across the floor. Sashay right on out the door.
> Out the door and into the glade and everybody promenade.
> Step right up you're doing fine.
> I'll pull your beard you'll pull mine.
> Yank it again like you did before.
> Break it up with a tug of war.
> Now into the brook and fish for the trout.
> Dive right in and splash about. Trout! Trout! Pretty little trout!
> One more splash and come right out.
> Shake like a hound-dog. Shake again.
> Wallow around in the old pig pen.
> Wallow some more. Y'all know how.
> Roll around like an old fat sow.
> Allemande left with your right hand.
> Follow through with a great left band. (?)
> Now lead your partner the dirty old thing.
> Follow through with an elbow swing.
> Grab a fence post. Hold it tight.
> Womp your partner with all your might.
> Hit him in the shin. Hit him in the head.
> Hit him again. The critter ain't dead.
> Womp him low and womp him high.
> Stick your finger in his eye.
> Pretty little ring. Pretty little sound. Bang your heads against the
> Promenade all around the room. Promenade like a bride and groom.
> Open up the door and step right in.
> Close the door and into a spin. Whirl! Whirl! Twist and twirl!
> Jump all around like a flying squirrel.
> Now don't you fuss and don't you swear.
> Just come right out and form a square.
> Now right hand over and left hand under.
> Both join hands and run like thunder.
> Over the hill and over the dale.
> Duck your head and lift your tail.
> Don't you stray and don't you roam.
> Turn to your partner. Promenade home.
> Corn in the cornfield. Wheat in the sack. Turn to your partner.
> And now you're home. Bow to your partner.
> Bow to the gent across the hall. And that is all!
> On 1/19/2010, "Jeff Kaufman" <jeff(a)alum.swarthmore.edu> wrote:
>> We ended up doing melanie's triplet (twice) and ladies star. There
>> turned out to be several non-dancer people so I gave up on the
>> "no-walkthrough" goal. The dances went pretty well; thanks!
> Callers mailing list
> End of Callers Digest, Vol 65, Issue 14
I have had just a little experience with this.
This may seem obvious but:
Always have the special needs person dance their gender. I have had
well-meaning partners put a woman with special needs (Down's) in the
man's role, and it makes it much harder for others to help them if
they get disoriented because the helpful person' s first thought is
to assume the special needs person is dancing their own gender.
Dances like the Virginia Reel (no gender critical) worked well with a
group of predominantly Down's Syndrome kids that I called for once.
Yes, it helps if the dance has a lot of connectedness and not walking
around by oneself. Even a do-si-do can be disorienting for a special
needs person, as opposed to an allemande.
I have had a couple of people that I am aware of who had borderline
autism come to the regular dances. They really enjoyed it and came
back many times. I think the good thing about the contra situation
for people with this condition is that the social interaction is
prescribed - they know exactly what to do with the people they meet,
star, do-si-do, swing, etc., there is structure, there is pattern.
Often open-ended social interactions are particularly difficult for
people with autism, and the social interaction during dancing in
contra is defined for them. Of course, it could be more difficult for
those with more severe disease.
Be flexible, and have a good time!
I am preparing for a public dance series where special needs folks, folks
with some learning disabilities, have been present in the past. I have my
share of easy dances but I am wondering if any of you have experience with
the special needs of special needs dancers. One of these dancers has been
described to me as on the autistic spectrum. Do you have experience
teaching such dancers? Were there approaches that worked well, or otherwise
good teaching that in this situation did not work well? Are there dances
you would suggest? Have you found that dances that keep dancers physically
connected are any better than those that do so less? Your help in giving as
many dancers a good time as possible will be appreciated by all.
P.S. The rest of the dancers at this series are already used to easy
Do you call squares? Are you available tonight (Friday, January 22)? Would
you like to come call a square or two or....
Tony's Rip-Snortin' Squares series is tonight and he has laryngitis. I
thought it would be cool if we could find several callers to call in his
place. If you are available and interested let me know, or just show up:
Calling by Tony Parkes//// ////// available callers
Music by Amy Cann & friends
8:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Payson Park Church
365 Belmont St
Belmont, MA 02478