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.
Thanks everyone who chimed in to help! Makes perfect sense now that I look
at it, that the circle and rollaway should be in the first phrase of the A2,
and the gents allemanding and ladies orbiting in the second phrase.
Thank you David for reminding me about the RPLDW syllabi. I've said for
years that I need to get to that weekend and still haven't made it. Probably
why I never think to look there but I've added the link to my favorites now.
Bill actually got the answer to me first since I get this list as the digest
version and he emailed me directly as well. I was going to call the dance
again tonight but ended up switching it out for Money Musk instead!!
Yes Martha, I know all about your husband! I met both of you at the English
Weekend in STL last Labor Day.
I think it's really cool that you went to school with Martin, Lisa.
What a great resource this group is! Thanks again everyone.
I have a dance called "Venus & Mars" noted as written by a Martin Sirk. I
believe that I've danced it a number of times but had never called it until
a week ago. I can't remember how/where I got the calls. I've tried searching
for it online but can't seem to find anything resembling what I have. So, I
thought I'd consult my panel of experts. First question is, do I have this
A1: Neighbor balance & swing
A2: Circle L 3/4
Partners rollaway w half sashay (up/down)*
B1: Gents allemande L 1 1/2, while the ladies orbit CW 1/2 way
B2: Circle L 3/4
Balance ring, partners california twirl
My second question is about the timing in the A2, which is why I keep
wondering if I've transcribed this incorrectly. There seems to be leftover
time. I think people are used to circling L 3/4 in 8 counts. * But I'd say
that the rollaway w half sashay is only worth 4 counts maybe 6, but not 8,
especially if people have good weight and really move the circle around. Is
the timing really that mushy?
I found that many of the gents started the allemande early. The ladies often
took a split second to remember they were orbiting, but everyone had quite a
bit longer than 8 counts for the partner swing. While I was watching the
dancers, it seemed like every circle of 4 was in a slightly different place
in the dance.
As it happened, I was calling the dance with an old time band and the tune
didn't have particularly distinct phrasing, so I didn't think it was
particularly problematic. I just don't remember there being that much spare
time when I've danced it. Anyone call this dance that can comment?
You have the bare bones of the dance transcribed correclty, but not the timing.
>From the 2004 Syllabus for the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend:
A2- Circle left 3/4, with partner on the side rollaway with a half sashay
Gents allemande left 1&1/2 while women orbit clockwise halfway round
I'll just repeat a suggestion I've made before: The collection of syllabi from
the RPDLW is a great place to look for dances, especially given the handy index
that David Smukler updates each year:
David's notes for this dance:
---quoted material follows:
The author, an astronomer says, "The only thing I would add is that when the
ladies orbit, they pass right shoulders with the lady in the next square [i.e.,
minor set], that is they go around each other. This really adds to the sensation
of swirling planets." Note that, except for its title, this contra dance is
entirely unrelated to the "Venus and Mars" square dance figure.
---end quoted material
Rich Goss wrote:
> That would be an interesting discussion topic.? Has anyone encountered a
> mad robin that is reversed?
In the English dance "Mad Robin," the ones do the mad robin figure following
the path of the do-si-do, but when the twos do the figure they are following
the path of a see-saw.
Not sure about modern contras, but I expect at least some involve a
see-saw-path mad robin.
For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance. ~ William Butler Yeats
That would be an interesting discussion topic. Has anyone encountered a mad robin that is reversed?
I can't recall one. I know sometimes it's the gents passing in front and sometimes it's the ladies, but that just depends on where you start from. I think a mad robin always follows the dosido path, just depends on if you start from the gent below, or gent above.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack Mitchell" <jamitch3(a)mindspring.com>
To: "Caller's discussion list" <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
Sent: Friday, March 26, 2010 7:34:32 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Re: [Callers] Teaching Mad Robin
If you teach it that way, make sure that it is actually the path of a Do
Si Do and not a See Saw....
I am looking for suggestions on how best to teach a "Mad Robin" to contra
dancers who have not encountered it before. It is in "Joyride" after a
Gypsy and I have tried suggesting that they just let their feet take them
around on the same path as the Gypsy did while turning to face their
partner, and I have tried describing how the women start going up and inside
and the men down and outside - but there is still a bit too much confusion
out there. I am planning on doing this in a venue where it may not be
feasible to do a demo. Any additional ideas?
Callers' Workshop -- Beyond the basics
An intensive three-day workshop with Lisa Greenleaf
May 21-23 near Durham, NC
In this three day workshop, intermediate callers will have a chance to
further develop as a caller and dance leader. The workshop will include
discussion of such things as the language of teaching, time to practice
calling with feedback from Lisa and the other workshop participants, and
an evening dance on Saturday night with participants doing the calling.
This weekend will also be an opportunity for callers who are just
getting established to network with other callers and establish ties in
I've attached the flyer and registration information. Please pass this
on to others who you think might be interested. This is being sent out
to a number of mailing lists, so I apologize to folks who receive it
If you don't have it, get it.
-------- Original Message --------
So in late breaking news, CDSS now has callers insurance again! it is a policy with Philadelphia, similar to what we had in past years. There was a slight increase in price this year, it will be $55 per year The year for this policy begins on April1 this year, so there will be no lapse in coverage!
Information and applications can be found at http://www.cdss.org/caller-insurance.html