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.
I call square dances for the Mission Hill School in downtown Boston. Ayla Gavins is the principal, the one who hired me, and dances with the second and third graders. Because of that, I received the following e-mail which I am passing along to you. Please contact Karen directly...
Hi Mr. Baker,
My name is Betsy Caruso. I'm the music program coordinator at Mission Hill School. I also work as an urban gardening volunteer, through the Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN). Ayla Gavins suggested I contact you regarding getting the word out to acoustic musicians who might be interested in playing at the cider pressing festival upcoming in Boston. McLaughlin Park is at Parker Hill Avenue & Fisher Avenue in Jamaica Plain. The message from BNAN's Karen Chaffee appears below. If you have any suggestions for a musician or musicians who would like to play that afternoon, would you be so kind as to be in touch with Karen? (You should also feel free to contact me, although we will be out of town from September 2 - 7).
Thank you so much for reading this, and for any help you may be able to provide. Giving families and especially urban children an opportunity to both enjoy live music and to learn a little about where our food comes from are wonderful gifts.
Tutor/Music Program Coordinator
Mission Hill School
From: Karen Chaffee <karen(a)bostonnatural.org>
Date: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 12:58 PM
Subject: Musician for Cider Pressing Event Needed
On Sunday, September 19th the Urban Wilds Council and the Friends of the Urban Orchard at McLaughlin Playground will be hosting a cider pressing festival from 3:00 - 5:00pm. In the past the event has included a musician. I am hoping that through all of our connections we will be able to come up with someone who can play great acoustic tunes. I think either the folk or Appalachian music genres would work well for the occasion but of course anything would work. We might have some room to pay small compensation but if anyone is willing to do it pro-bono that would be best.
Boston Natural Areas Network
Clark Baker, Belmont, MA
Living in the Bay Area, it's expected that most folks will drool over the newest
computer technology. I've managed to resist the iPad -- until also hitting on
the idea that Rich Goss mentioned:
<I've experimented with displaying dance cards on an IPad. Worked
wonderfully. I could keep my whole card file on there and also the file
specific to the evening.
It can display using the entire area of the IPad screen. Eventually I'll buy
one, but for now it's 6x4 cards.
Also works well for displaying sheet music. >
The illumination factor alone, in darkish halls, sounds very attractive. (I'd
carry the cards around too, of course, being dubious about gadgets' reliability
when you really need them.) What I've been wondering, though, is whether there
is a version of Callers' Companion in the works for the iPad. Ooo baby. This
would make a serious dent in my wallet, and I'm sure an even more serious
fattening of the developer Will Loving's...
I am looking for "new" callers in the "greater" Boston area who would like to attend a callers gathering and call a guest spot at the Concord Scout House.
The first of these would be Saturday, September 18. The gathering would be for dinner at my house (7 miles from the Scout House.) If you know of callers in the area who would be interested please pass this on to them. (For the moment I have not made this a public announcement.) If you fit the definition, let me know.
New: someone more or less just starting out, who is not getting much mic time and would like a little bit more.
Greater Boston: someone who is willing to travel to Billerica/Concord to attend such an event.
I hope some of you know of such folks!
David Millstone used a portion of that film in "The Other Way Back",
which all should see, if they haven't.
~ Becky Nankivell
Tucson, AZ & Long Beach, CA
On Tue, Aug 24, 2010 at 9:00 AM, <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. Contra History (Liz and Bill)
> 2. Re: Contra History (Lindsay Morris)
> Message: 1
> Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2010 20:21:48 +1200
> From: Liz and Bill <staf186(a)ext.canterbury.ac.nz>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
> Subject: [Callers] Contra History
> Message-ID: <4C73811C.4040105(a)ext.canterbury.ac.nz>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
> Have you seen this from 1964?
> Cheers, Bill
> Message: 2
> Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2010 09:01:26 -0400
> From: Lindsay Morris <lindsay(a)tsmworks.com>
> To: "Caller's discussion list" <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Contra History
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> Wow, that's beautiful!
> And JUST like today - even with a kid sleeping on the bench!
> Lindsay Morris
> CEO, TSMworks
> Tel. 1-859-539-9900 <skype:18595399900?call>
> On Tue, Aug 24, 2010 at 4:21 AM, Liz and Bill
>> Have you seen this from 1964?
>> Cheers, Bill
>> Callers mailing list
> Callers mailing list
> End of Callers Digest, Vol 72, Issue 16
I had the pleasure of touring interstate on the weekend and calling for a dance
workshop and dance. I worked out the programs on the assumption that the overall
skill level would probably be lower in the evening dance than the workshop. (The
Saturday night phenomenon). So, having survived by adapting the program to err
on the side of easier dances, after a group of about 8 total beginners arrived
part way into the dance, I am keen to hear other people's ideas on dealing with
The piano - 88 little mistakes waiting to happen; Peter Barnes
I've been thinking about buying a small netbook with the intention of
running Callers Companion software on it for calling contra dances.
Anyone have any experience with CC on netbooks or the like? Compatible
with Windows 7, battery issues, memory requirements, etc.
Will, if you're on this list and have time, I'm sure you've got the
most information. I'd like to hear it.
I am one of the organizers of FootFall Dance Weekend, and I dance at Glen
Echo. I teach the beginners class there on a regular basis. I always tell
beginners that they will learn more, faster, if they dance with experienced
dancers, and that includes coming to a dance weekend, where it's total
We've always had a least one inexperienced or brand new dancer at FootFall,
but never so many beginners at FootFall that I've felt a beginners' class
is necessary. In my experience, the dancers who are there (with a few
impatient exceptions) are genuinely pleased to bring new dancers "up to speed."
Personally it's a pleasure to watch the expression change from grim
concentration to smiling delight as these brave newbies find themselves floating
along the line.
In a message dated 8/14/2010 12:00:10 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
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..."
1. Re: newcomers' workshops at dance weekends (Greg McKenzie)
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2010 11:15:06 -0700
From: Greg McKenzie <gregmck(a)earthlink.net>
To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
Subject: Re: [Callers] newcomers' workshops at dance weekends
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed
Thank you for introducing this subject.
One of the greatest ironies of the contra dance "movement" is that,
by convention, the most wonderful bands, and callers--because of
their notoriety--are most often scheduled at events, camps,
festivals, and dances where newcomers seldom attend. Consequently,
the first experience, for most of us, with contradance is not the
inspiring experience of an exciting event in a hall filled with
regular dancers, a hot band, and a caller with the knowledge and
experience of integrating newcomers.
Thank you for considering alternatives to this convention.
Keep in mind that there are many ways to work on integrating
newcomers. A separate orientation is certainly not the best and, it
could be argued, is not even a good way to accomplish this integration.
Personally, I actively encourage newcomers to sign up for camps,
festivals, and special events. With a good caller this can be the
best introduction to the magic of contra dance.
I am interested in other views on this.
At 10:23 AM 8/12/2010, you wrote:
>My dance organization, Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca, likes to offer
>a beginners' workshops before an evening dance. We are now
>discussing whether or not to make this official policy for ALL
>events, including the day-long Fiddlehead Frolic in April. The
>Frolic begins in the early afternoon and, in 2011, will probably
>include a welcome contra dance with the featured band, then a couple
>of breakout sessions (contras with a second band vs. music workshop
>w/featured band; ECD vs. squares), then a contra medley; followed by
>potluck and an evening dance.
>What are people's thoughts about the value of a beginners' workshop
>at such an event?
>Callers mailing list
Callers mailing list
End of Callers Digest, Vol 72, Issue 13