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 know that "it varies" and probably quite widely, but I'm trying to get an idea of what is typically charged for one-time or semi-regular dance calling (not the high end festivals and balls and camps) or how receipts are divided between caller, band, and house. My interest is as caller, band, and dance organizer so all input would be appreciated. You can reply off-list to sue(a)manytracks.com.
Sue Robishaw, Upper Peninsula of Michigan
I chair the Thursday Night Dance Committee of NEFFA, which runs a weekly dance
at the Concord Scout House, in Massachusetts. I would characterize our pay as
good. Here are the basics:
1. We expect equal shares for all performers (musicians/callers). In only very
unusual circumstances will we pay different amounts.
2. Guarantee (per performer) is dependent on # of performers. 3 => $155; 4 =>
$145; 5 => $125; 6 => $104; 7 => $89.
3. Performers who travel a distance (say over 1 hour) to get to the dance get
4. Bonus *is* dependent on attendance. We assume that if people came out in
droves to dance, the performers probably had something to do with it, and they
should be rewarded. For a well-attended night, it is not unusual for performers
to make around $200 each. For an exceptionally well-attended night, they might
make $300 each.
A while ago, i was intending to call a 4x4 (The Warm Up) at our
local dance, the Chicago Barn Dance, but thought it might be nice to
use a dance that accomplished the same thing (swinging both opposites
during the sequence) but not using the star or a hey. Another idea to
incorporate was the give and take, which seemed a good move for the
standard introductory figure of many 4x4s. What i came up with is
called Villa Olivia (where i wrote the dance):
4x4 Tom Senior note "buddy" in your line of 4, (same
gender person) and the direction you face.
A1. Lines go forward, Men draw opposite back to swing (Give and
Take), end the swing facing your buddy across the line of direction of
A2. Make and ring, balance, twirl right one place (as in petronella),
swing opposite #2. End facing across to your buddy.
B1. Right and left across, ladies chain 1/2, turning to end facing
partner. (in the direction of progression)
B2. Lines go forwrd, Women draw partner back to swing. End swing
facing original direction.
Perhaps you may find this useful.
Dance while you can.
see my website: http://marblechimes.com/
The sharing of info on this thread has been great, and certainly helped
me a lot (and I know I'm not alone here). Thanks so much to all. My
calling experience has been more in the free or food paying level, and
when playing in a dance band for a new dance series we've been paid
$10-15 each from the proceeds of the Swing Dance night since the
contra/square night hasn't made enough money yet. So I'm happy to hear
others are paid sometimes and will aim to that goal in our own series.
If anyone has any input for ONS gigs that would be nice, too.
On a different level than the ongoing series, an annual week-end
traditional music festival in the region may pay festival callers
$200-250 for part of the Friday night dance plus one or two hour long
workshops during the weekend. Plus they get free admission and meals.
It varies a lot because the bands and callers are usually also
contracted for other performances at the festival. There have been in
the past a few single dance events where the caller was paid $50-75.
Bands may be paid $200-500.
Thanks Clark. Looks like it is indeed defunct, unless/until somebody is
willing to take on hosting duties for it.
From your link, I was able to find the webpage of Russell Owen, who
used to maintain American Country Dances Online. He has just recently
shut it down; he has this note on his webpage:
Note: if you are looking for American Country Dances On Line: I shut
down 2011-06-13 as I did not have time to maintain it. If you wish
to host it please contact me.
University of Washington
PO Box 351580
Seattle, WA 98195-1580
rowen uw edu
Russell's webpage is at
> From: Clark Baker<cmbaker(a)tiac.net>
> To: Caller's discussion list<callers(a)sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] American Country Dances Online
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
> Not a perfect answer, but perhaps this will help...
> On Jun 26, 2011, at 7:51 PM, Mark Widmer wrote:
>> Does anyone know what became of the website American Country Dances Online? It used to be at
>> It was a useful way to find dances when I was a newer caller, and I would like to pass it on somebody. But it is either defunct or has moved elsewhere.
>> Mark Widmer
One of those "aha!" moments: A new contradancer here in Charlotte, after his
first night dancing, said "Hey! This is just like marching band! I know I have
6 counts to get to the next place!" Gonna see how I can incorporate that idea
into Monday night's teaching...
Please feel free to pass on to callers new and experienced, wanna-be callers, friends, total strangers, dead people, whomever might want to come. Thanks! :)
Callers Week Intensive at Cumberland Dance Week (July 17-23)
Cumberland Dance Week will feature a callers' intensive program this year. Two full sessions each day of instruction, exercises, and practice time, led by Seth Tepfer. The week will feature 3 late night open mic calling times and opportunities to add more dance parties.
During the week we will cover:
* Introduction to calling
* Effective teaching
* Calling squares
* Programming an evening
* The Beginners workshop (new dancer session)
* Working with musicians
* The Business side (marketing, money, insurance)
* Dance Weekends
* and much more
This class is for people who want to:
* learn to call from scratch (contras or squares)
* take their calling to the next level
* call and teach more effectively
* practice calling in a safe space
Each day we will have one session where we will go over material in a setting that provides a mix of lecture, discussion, and active participatory exercises. The second session will be lab, where we will be practicing calling contras and squares with live music and dance guinea pigs.
Participants will have homework each day and be expected to participate in the open calling sessions and dance parties.
Cumberland Dance Week is July 17-23, 2011 at Lake Cumberland 4-H Educational Center, Nancy Kentucky.
More information about Cumberland Dance week is available at: www.cumberlanddanceweek.org/<http://www.cumberlanddanceweek.org/>
Cost starts at $699 (2 adults per room, all inclusive). Scholarships are available.
Call 770-289-3204 or email seth(a)danceRhapsody.com<http://www.dancerhapsody.com/redir.aspx?C=9ea99a1f8b424edba2141ac2e0fc0748&…> to discuss details.
This e-mail message (including any attachments) is for the sole use of
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Does anyone know what became of the website American Country Dances
Online? It used to be at
It was a useful way to find dances when I was a newer caller, and I
would like to pass it on somebody. But it is either defunct or has