I am wondering if you have any dances for low numbers of dancers (perhaps 6
or less), when most or all of the dancers are beginners and adults. I am
also wondering if you have any dances (presumably different dances), that do
not require choosing a partner and are good openers for beginner adults.
Thanks as always to all,
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
Speaking of dances with missing details, I have a great dance called
Fruit Punch. Diane Silver called it at Bogue Banks Boogie a few years
ago. Not sure who wrote it (maybe Diane?).
I evidently wrote it down wrong since it doesn't progress but instead
keeps sending the dancers back and forth. Someone said it felt like
it was missing a circle somewhere. Does it start with a circle left
half way into a slide left? Does anyone have the correct
choreography? I haven't heard back from Diane yet about this question.
What I have is this:
Fruit Punch by Diane or?
I have Improper written down, but it looks like a Becket.
A1 With couple on L diagonal, Yearn to new Neighbors and fall straight
Ladies Allem R 1+1/2 (8)
A2 N Balance & Swing (16)
B1 Take hands in a ring.
Balance the ring (4)
Pass through to an ocean wave (4)
Balance the wave (4)
N Allemande R x1 (4)
B2 Ladies Allemande L 1+1/2 to partner (8)
Partner swing (8)
Thanks for any clarification anyone might have.
There was a two-part video previously available on the WMUR TV (Manchester,
NH) web site on the history of contra dancing. IIRC, it had footage from
the RPDLW. I'd linked to it from the http://mondaycontras.com site but WMUR
apparently redesigned their site and those links no longer work (and
searching uncovered nothing). Does anyone have an alternative location
where that material is posted?
Ron T Blechner <contraron(a)gmail.com> wrote:
> I've been finding circle mixers extremely valuable for dances with newer
> dancers. They provide a way both to expose them to many different
> experienced dancers as well as to make them comfortable with the idea of
> dancing with different people all night. (We've all seen The Couple That
> Shows Up And Dances Just With Each Other that doesn't come back because
> they don't really meet anyone ...)
With the address of "contraron" I'm going to assume that you are talking
about a regularly scheduled contra dance series that is open to the
public. (I really appreciate when posters make the context of their post
clear. There are a lot of different kinds of callers on this list and what
works in one setting may be inappropriate in another. We need to know what
we are talking about to have a useful discussion.)
Circle mixers can certainly play a role at open, public contra dances but
your comment seems to make some assumptions about the dancers and the local
dance culture. Are you using any strategies or techniques--other than
mixers--to integrate first-timers into the hall?
Your comment assumes that at least some of the newcomers will not be aware
of the tradition of switching partners after each dance and that the
regulars will not take any action to proactively integrate these folks.
When I call at public contra dances I always follow each dance with the
instruction: "Please find a new partner and form ___ contra dance lines."
I use the optional newcomers orientation, explicit instructions, careful
programming, clear and precise calling, as well as many implied messages to
make it clear that integration of first-timers is not only essential but
also fun. Very rarely I will see a couple of first-timers dancing
exclusively with each other. But this occurs only after they have ignored
multiple explicit and implied instructions and have fended off several
attempts by regulars to partner with them. In that case I will intervene
myself, personally, on the dance floor, approach the couple, and explain
the nature of our dance event. That has always had the desired effect.
Integration of newcomers is at the heart of these open, public social
events. I do use mixers occasionally, but tend to reserve them for other
types of events. If I do use a mixer at an open, public contra dance I
take care to announce it well in advance. I do this because an unexpected
mixer will derail the efforts of regulars to partner with first-timers. I
want to encourage the integration efforts of the regulars so I warn them of
an upcoming mixer to facilitate their cooperation.
Mixers do have a place but I see them as part of an overall integration
- Greg McKenzie
I've been finding circle mixers extremely valuable for dances with newer
dancers. They provide a way both to expose them to many different
experienced dancers as well as to make them comfortable with the idea of
dancing with different people all night. (We've all seen The Couple That
Shows Up And Dances Just With Each Other that doesn't come back because
they don't really meet anyone ...)
I was looking for some alternatives to La Bastringue that I can do early in
the evening, like 2nd or 3rd dance. Other mixers I've seen include doing
things like Do-Si-Do or Allemande one person and coming back to another;
I've found for new dancers that can often be confusing. ("Find another
partner-less person in the middle of the circle" is only amusing so many
Also, I called this at MIT on Tuesday evening and it worked pretty well
with a high percentage of new dancers.
It's a variation on La Bastringue which I'm tentatively calling "La String
Bean". If you've seen this or something really similar before, let me know
so I can start calling it by its proper name.
A1: Ladies to the center and back (4,4)
Gents to the center, turnaround and back (4,4)
A2: Current P Alle L 1.5x (8)
New P DSD (8, forgiving)
B1: Same New P B+S (4,12)
B2: Promenade the ring CCW, Gents turn in Ladies so all face in (14,2)
Optional: Make the promenade 8 beats and end the B2 with a courtesy turn
once and a little more.
One major point of this dance is to stealthily teach the Courtesy Turn from
the Promenade, something I stole from a new-dancer-lesson from, if I recall
correctly, Peter Stix.
Critique / suggestions welcome. (Thanks to Mr. Bob Isaacs for initial
suggestions earlier this week.)
Since my last mystery dance question got answered in a flash: I've been
going through some old papers and finding all these dances I wrote down at
various contras that don't have titles or authors attached. Any thoughts?
1) (improper: begin in long wavy lines with women facing in)
A1: Rory O'Moore
A2: (balance and?) swing neighbor (in RH)
B1: men by L 1 1/2; partner swing
B2: pass through to an ocean wave and balance (8)
men go on; women allemande L 1/2 (4); new neighbor turn R into long waves
(was called at the most recent Dawn Dance)
A1: neighbor balance and swing
A2: ladies chain; pull by partner L to gypsy shadow once
B1: partner balance and swing
B2: circle L 3/4; neighbor allemande R 1 1/2
A1: neighbor balance and swing
A2: pass the ocean, balance; neighbor alle R 1/2, men alle L 1/2
B1: partner gypsy; partner swing
B2: circle L 3/4; pass through, next neighbor do-si-do
A1: neighbor box the gnat (no balance), gents pull by L; partner swing
A2: circle left once; partner dosido once
B1: partner box the gnat (no balance), women pull by L; neighbor swing
B2: right and left through; star L
A1: (slide left to) circle L 3/4; neighbor swing
A2: right and left through; ladies chain
B1: balance ring and spin to swap (2x)
B2: partner balance and swing
Also, does anyone happen go have the dances Baracky Mountain High (author
unknown) or Young Adult Rose (David Kaynor)?
Thank you for your lovely collective wisdom!
Okay, I need some other perspectives on this. Last year we had a new couple
move to our area, and start attending our local contra dance. They had
danced "somewhere else" for several years, and the gentleman had obviously
been involved in some of the dance organizing duties in their last location
(web site upkeep, etc).
First impressions were positive - he came to the dances for a few months and
offered some worthwhile feedback, while also actually offering to take some
action. He suggested we offer a waltz "lesson" for a few minutes before we
have the first waltz, and he offered to "teach" the waltz, anytime and every
time. So far, we have taken him up on this and it does seem to have
encouraged more people to get up and waltz, which was the point. The
emerging problem (I see..) is that he now wants to insert himself in the
"contra dance lesson" before the dance, which we ask the caller of the
evening to conduct. Several times over the last year, after I have done
"the teach," (where I don't focus on new dancers learning moves, I focus on
making them comfortable and getting them moving to music) Mr. Know It All
has told me that several people "just weren't getting it" and he has offered
to take them into a separate room to give them "more training" so that they
"don't muck it up for everyone else." (Yes, these were his exact words). I
have consistently declined his offers, as tactfully as I could. At our last
dance, though, he had obviously made contact with the caller before hand,
as he was taking the microphone during the teach and offering his "two cents
worth" on contra dance set management, formations, etc. I don't think
anyone died in the train wreck, but I see trouble ahead. (Didn't John
Fogerty sing a song about this.??)
My concern is that we have "given someone an inch, and now he wants to take
a mile." This guy, due to his occupation, is used to coming into an
organization and being the new sheriff in town, and I get the distinct
feeling that he sees our dance group as one that he needs to "shape up." I
am personally quite troubled by what I am seeing, but unsure of the best
course of action. (In my view, he is a "bull in a China Shop" and he has
broken quite a bit of china already...) I have seen other dance communities
where a "dancer" does the beginner teach for every one of the dances, and
when people in the community find that they need to make a change, they
don't feel that they can, politically. (How do you "fire" a volunteer??)
Have any of you had a similar experience? Any suggestions? Thanks!
Martha Wild described "Black Cat Mixer"
A1) Forward and back, repeat
A2) Circle left; Single file back to the right! women TAP the person in
front of them, who turns to face them
B1) Do-si-do the person you are facing; Swing that person
B2) Promenade, form a circle again.
I have this one:
The Yellow Cat Jig (by Jim Gregory)
(Start by moving Men one place right so that they get to swing their
A1: Circle Left; Single File Promenade to the Right - Lady taps man
on the shoulder - he turns around
A2: With this Neighbour: Dosido; Swing - this is your new Partner
B1: Promenade AC around the Circle
Promenade to the middle; Fall Back
B2: Ladies into the Middle (Clap) & Back
Men: Partner Gypsy (Lady stands still)
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
Here in England we have a scatter mixer very much like this that is common at ceilidhs. It's called either Borrowdale Exchange or Dunedin Festival Dance (with different A parts, depending on who you ask).
Circle left. Dosido and swing. Six-person RH star. Pull out and scatter promenade.
I've always come across it as RH star only (by 'which Star first', do you mean your dances have both a RH and LH star?). If the man pulls the lady through, RH probably feels better, as she wouldn't have to cross in front of him once she's through, to get to the right hand side in the couple for the promenade. RH would flow better out of a cross-handed swing. And I'd default to RH in general - even if you do both, it's unusual to begin with LH star or circle right (and I've hardly ever come across a Swat the Flea that wasn't the second half of a figure starting with Box the Gnat).
Sue Robishaw wrote:
"Melanie's Triplet" and "Star Crazy" (with a note that it's also called "Six Hand Reel") that look to be the same (Circle / Star / Lowest pull out / promenade). And someone gave me yet another name… Also, on the "Lowest Pull Out" dance above, which Star first have you found to work best (Right Hand or Left Hand)?