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
The post on walk-throughs for new dancers got me thinking about
recruiting new dancers. This straddles dance caller and dance
organizer, but I'd like to hear people's responses.
I'm curious about people's experiences recruiting new dancers. I've
seen several dances that do a lower cost for first time dancers to try
to lower the barrier for entry. Has any group tried doing a coupon for
a discount when they come back a second time?
I feel like the venues for dances are usually such that folks don't
randomly wander in. If folks show up for a first time, they've decided
to come (or were brought). Does knowing there is a discount for first
timers help make them come? When there is a discount, how often do the
first timers know that coming in? I'm pondering the scenario where you
charge full price for the first time, when they've committed to coming
out, and then give them a coupon to come back at a discount price
their second time.
I know a lot of people who tried contra once and were hooked, and I've
seen people who try for a little bit and then never come back. Is it
worth trying to up the likelihood of a second experience, at what
fractional cost for the first? Or should the focus be on that first
experience, and making the barriers for entry as low as possible?
If a group has the resources, then it can just say that the first two
dances are cheaper, but I feel like giving someone a reminder,
business card sized, with the website to check for more information,
is a nice way of having them think about the dance at least once more.
Do callers doing one night gigs announce local dance options if they
know them? Or do you only talk about it with the folks who come up and
ask? Presumably if a caller has been brought in, the organizer of the
party knows the folks at the party and the local dance scene. Is it on
the caller or the organizer to spread information about other chances
to dance? And do you broadcast wide, or focus on the folks who seem
really in to it. I think culturally, at a societal level, we've lost
the sense that we can dance after our 20s at things besides weddings,
which is a real shame.
Seems like I've called a kajillion dances for total beginners, including
many rowdy, well-lubricated wedding parties, some K-3rd-grade groups, and
one memorable reception in a gym full of of wound-up Russian high-school
exchange students, few of whom understood English, and their American peers,
none of whom had done any American traditional dance before. I largely agree
with everything that everyone else has said and recommended...
...And yet, in more than 75% of these cases I've chosen to include the
contra "Ellen's Green Jig" by Roy Dommett or one of several variations on it
I've evolved. It takes a little longer to walk through, which I do at least
twice, but it has never, ever failed (sorry if I'm duplicating some info I
think I've posted before). I think that's mostly because of the high level
of connection sustained and the small amount of movement away from original
places. The walkthrough demands enough attention that it actually defuses a
lot of that random unfocused adolescent energy. I disregard gender and
improper formation completely for the most challenging situations. Lots of
practice with such groups has significantly built up my comfort and
confidence, but this dance worked just as well way back when I was starting
out. If there are others that people can trust to work this well, please
share them. Here's the original and a couple tweaked versions:
A1: Dosido below; !s (actives) dosido;
A2: 1s bal, swing
B!: Circle L and R
B2: 2s arch, 1s take a peek; 1s arch, 2s peek;
2s carry arch over the 1s, who duck, then advance to next
Insisting that the 2s don't just stand still and let the 1s go through the
arch prevents the set getting dragged down the hall.
A1: As couples, 1s and 2s dosido; circle L
A2: All bal, swing
B1: Star R, circle R
A1: Dosido below; circle L
Depending upon how the group has responded to material such as others have
suggested, I mix and match the various components above...
...And meanwhile: just last summer, I was asked to guest-call at a MWSD club
retreat in northern Vermont. The saving grace was that my invitation was set
up through some musicians who had been invited to play at the retreat during
a break between SD sessions. Having that live music at the right tempo
totally uncoupled the wary "shuffle quickly, then wait" pattern that
characterized the 45 minutes of mixed-ability and advanced level MWSD done
to recorded SD beats (and genuinely skillful prompting) before we were on.
We did a Virginia Reel variant, then an Ellen's Green variant, and the
behavior of these mostly 40-plus-year-olds rapidly became almost identical
to what you often see with high-schoolers: lots of exhausting skipping and
sashaying through the figures, laughter, and the kind of giddiness that gets
in the way of hearing the next call. Who'da thunk it? And after it was all
over they asked where else they could do this sort of thing.
I followed the recent discussion of planning a dance for a highschool
audience. I'd love to hear what you consider to be your "favorite"
wedding dances for a wedding party of adults with some dancers in the
mix but not too many, where the dance will run 45 minutes to an hour.
I'm looking for non-contras, accessible to all dances.
I've got the spiral waltz and Do-Si-Three as part of my preliminary
planning.... Thank you very much Chrissy Fowler and Linda Leslie....
What else is tried and true and among your favorites?
Is it YOUR wedding dance? :-)
I suggest that you begin with a Grand March. Plan ahead (conspire) with the
newly wedded couple and families to assign an order of precedence. This
makes it a lot easier to "encourage"more attendees to join in. You might then
immediately try something simple like the Haste to the Wedding Sicilian
Circle dance. You will know how things will go by the end of the second dance. A
Fan Dance is another crowd-pleaser that can get virtually everyone in on it.
(I had a blind individual dance it and the Virginia Reel at a dance
yesterday!) The Pat-a-Cake Polka is also a very inclusive and easy dance to teach.
John B. Freeman, SFTPOCTJ
I'd like to say that I called Zodiac last night, but this community
knew it so well that a walk through or prompting through wasn't
required! The band started playing, it was obvious they all knew it,
and off we went! It was helpful to discover in advance of the
evening that there are variations to the lyrics and the moves. In
addition to the version that Martha shared, I now know this:
1) Here comes Zodiac, Zodiac, Zodiac, here comes Zodiac all night long.
2) Step-back Sally, make a little alley, step back Sally all night long.
3) Here comes Sally, walking down the alley, here comes Sally, all
4) Here comes the other one, just like the other 1, here comes the
other 1 all night long.
5) I looked down the alley, and what did I see? A big fat man from
6) I betcha five dollars, you can't do this! I betcha five dollars,
you can’t do that! To the front to the back, side-side-side! x2
7) Lean waaay back, you've got a hump on your back! x2
8) You do the camel’s walk, you do the camel’s walk. (Quietly)
1) Hands crossed with Partner across the set: sawing motion.
2) Step to beats, backing away from partner to make an "alley"
down center of set.
3) First one of top couple, makes way down set.
4) Second person (or couple) follows.
5) Hand flat above eyes across to Partner; hands delineate a
6) Wag right finger, then left finger at partner. Hop to pattern x 2
7) Lean way back; reverse to lean way forward x 2
8) Move one step at a time towards their partners again and take
Thanks for the help.
Techno contra is out there. It's an intriguing idea to adapt a ONS
approach to that context. I hope there's someone who will take it on!
~ Becky Nankivell
> Date: Fri, 28 May 2010 16:27:06 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing
> To: callers(a)sharedweight.net, trad-dance-callers(a)yahoo.com
> Subject: [Callers] Youthy gig (for free admission to a camp-based
> electronic music festival) in Northern Californa July 4 weekend
> Message-ID: <01NNNN6XTSOYA5TDBZ(a)SSRL.SLAC.STANFORD.EDU>
> Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; CHARSET=us-ascii
> Gang --
> Alan Winston here.
> I'm forwarding an offer/request from Liz Donnelly ( lizdonnelly(a)gmail.com ),
> which might be interesting for the right person. The deal is that this is
> something like the fifth year of a pretty-rustic electronic music camp (actual
> camping, but with Really Big Speakers) over the July 4th weekend, in rural
> California maybe 90 miles from Sacramento. They do a live-music party during
> the event, and Liz had been to a contra dance and that would be a cool thing to
> introduce to their group.
Alan Winston here.
I'm forwarding an offer/request from Liz Donnelly ( lizdonnelly(a)gmail.com ),
which might be interesting for the right person. The deal is that this is
something like the fifth year of a pretty-rustic electronic music camp (actual
camping, but with Really Big Speakers) over the July 4th weekend, in rural
California maybe 90 miles from Sacramento. They do a live-music party during
the event, and Liz had been to a contra dance and that would be a cool thing to
introduce to their group.
(I'm thinking barn dance/ONS material myself.)
They have no budget, but would offer free admission to the whole campout (which
is somewhere between $85 and $125, and has sold out, so you don't get in any
other way) for somebody to do this one-evening gig.
That's obviously a lot more interesting if you want to bring a tent and hang
out in the woods and swimming hole with a bunch of artsy, communitarian,
youngish, electronic music heads. (The sponsoring group runs a Tuesday night
party at Burning Man, if that sets your expectations at all.)
(I am not a big tent-camping fan and I have a limited tolerance for Really
Loud, and I'm busy that weekend, so I'm really not the guy. But I kinda think
anybody who took the gig and enjoyed being there would be doing god's work in
bringing them some engaged-with-each-over community dancing, so I volunteered
to put the opportunity in front of the biggest caller groups I could find.)
If you want to do this or find out more about it, write to
lizdonnelly(a)gmail.com, not to me. (But if you end up doing it, or find out
some utter showstopper, report back!)
Here's Liz's note:
My name is liz and i've got a long shot request for you: I am helping to
coordinate a camp out party in Beldon CA this summer. It is largely an
electronic music party, but each year we have a smaller party within the
party that often has live music. This year the theme for that party with in
the party is county/southern themed. In brainstorming activities for that
part of the event, there was lots of enthusiasm exposing our group to contra
dancing or partner dancing style.
*So, I am looking for someone who might be able to teach contra, or two step
or some other partner/group dance that fits well with in a country style
I've done some contra dance & loved it: I love the way it is truly a
community dance and gives one an opportunity interact with so many other
dancers through the dance, for this reason, I think it would be fun to bring
to a community of dancers who mostly dance solo to electronic music.
However, I think part of why I loved it so much was I was dancing with lots
of people who knew what they were doing, so my missteps were easily
corrected and I could still feel the flow of the dance. I don't know how
well it would work in a group where just about no one will have ever done
contra before. So, this is why I am reaching out to you all... is this
something that is doable? or should we focus on finding a teacher for a more
partnered style of dance?
Lastly, and perhaps most awkwardly :-) this event is put on at low cost and
most of the folks involved volunteer their time for the fun of it. We do
pay the musicians & artist but all of the budget for the party within the
party has already been allocated for the band. So, I'm looking for someone
who might think this sounds like such a super fun event that they would want
to go to, and in exchange for a ticket could teach some dance. Here is the
link to the event. http://priceless.false-profit.com/.
Please let me know if you or someone you know might be a good fit.
Over to you.
-- Alan Winston
SF Bay Area, California
Alan Winston --- WINSTON(a)SSRL.SLAC.STANFORD.EDU
Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not SLAC or SSRL Phone: 650/926-3056
Paper mail to: SSRL -- SLAC BIN 99, 2575 Sand Hill Rd, Menlo Park CA 94025
I am also concerned about the decibel levels at our area dances. In
some cases it can, over the long term, cause some hearing loss. I am
also concerned that the high sound levels contribute to a higher
stress level in the hall.
As a caller I work to address this problem with several tactics:
- I try to have the sound on my mike adjusted for more higher
frequencies so that I can be heard clearly.
- I work with the sound engineer to lower the overall volume.
- I give the dancers time to socialize.
- I try to never shout over the socializing but rather use other
- I establish a predictable routine so the dancers will know exactly
when it is time to quiet down and pay attention.
I would be interested in any other ideas.
- Greg McKenzie
At 04:01 AM 5/27/2010, you wrote:
>Surprisingly it can be damaging over a prolonged time. Decibels are
>measured ( logarithmic scale) from a base line (the existing sound) Nelson's
>baseline for instance would be 40 to 45 decibels, add the crowd talking, add
>another 15-20 and the music and the caller.. total, a scary 95
>plus decibels. Standing at the microphone (next to the speaker
>is higher and is damaging week after week.
>I do contemplate earplugs.
>On Wed, May 26, 2010 at 10:50 PM, Chrissy Fowler <ktaadn_me(a)hotmail.com>wrote:
> > does anyone on SW know how many decibels a typical contradance is?
> > thx!
> > Chrissy Fowler
> > Belfast
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