I'd appreciate some clarification about several relatively new terms in the contra
In her description of Fruit Punch, Joy wrote:
A1 With couple on L diagonal, Yearn to new Neighbors and fall straight back (8)
My understanding was that "yearn" means moving on the left diagonal toward one
set of dancers, and then back from there on the left diagonal so that a couple
has moved two places. If I understand Fruit Punch, the couple has only moved one
place, forward on the left diagonal and then straight back. I've heard Bob Isaacs
and others refer to that move as "slice" left but I don't know if that's common
"Yearn" was created by Seattle choreographer George Walker in his dance "A Quarter
I have Bob Isaacs’s dance Redbeard Reel, that I must have written down after hearing it called. I tried to find the dance via a web search and also to contact Bob via Facebook. Now I’m turning to this helpful and knowledgeable group for help.
Here’s the dance as I have it; my question is about B1. I’m pretty sure there’s a balance once the dancers are in an ocean wave, and would like to have that confirmed. If I made any (other) errors, please let me know!
A1 Long lines forward and back; Gents allmd Left 1 1/2
A2 Neighbor gypsy & swing
B1 Pass the ocean wave (Balance?) Pass thru along the set; with the next Mad Robin while facing partner across
B2 Women pass Left; Partner swing.
On introducing triplets David Smuckler wrote:
> Just do. Trust a good dance to "speak to" the dancers about why it is
> good. Anything unfamiliar requires a bit of a leap, but if we never take
> that leap our dances will feel more and more the same, and what fun is that?
Well, the fun in that is precisely that "sameness." Uncommon formations
and figures appeal to many dance enthusiasts. When calling an open, public
contra dance, however, it is good to keep a few things in mind:
- Our public contra dances are not merely a "gathering of dance
enthusiasts." They are an offering from our dancer communities to the
larger community--including new dancers and many non-enthusiasts. As such
we invite first-time dancers and first-time contra dancers to
participate--without any prior instruction or preparation. This is the
heart and soul of contra dancing and it's greatest strength is the dance
form's ability to "sweep in" new dancers without lessons.
- At open public dances the real fun comes from meeting and sharing your
passion for dance with many new, charming, and interesting partners. If
you offer too much that is "different" or "interesting" you run the risk of
undermining that core purpose of the event.
- There are many forms of social and expressive dance available in our
world today. If we attempt to compete by offering "interesting" or
"challenging" dances at our open, public events we will lose that race.
The purpose of open, public contra dances is to be a fun, community social
event. Too much teaching can easily undermine that purpose.
- The fun of an open, public social dance with joyful and spirited music,
is something all of us can share. This is true no matter how experienced
or sophisticated the dancer is. It is the caller's job to make this event
"work." If the caller dominates the evening with lots of verbal
instruction and lecturing then they are not making this open, public social
- The fun at open, public contra dances comes from the variety of people we
interact with and the spirited and varied music played by the live
orchestra. Being "challenged" by new material is not appealing to many who
attend these events. Why alienate a third of your audience?
- Everyone can enjoy the more simple dances that are accessible to
everyone. Experienced dancers can be "challenged" to lead the newcomers
quickly through the dance and to get everyone dancing with little or no
walk-through. The "challenge" at these dances is to be an effective host
and to work closely with the caller to make the event "work" well. The
caller's job is to make this process fun for everyone.
- Triplets and other unusual formations certainly have their place. Before
introducing such material at an open, public contra dance, however, the
caller should carefully consider how it will affect the social purpose of
the event and make sure that they can make the dance "work" for everyone
with little or no verbal "teaching-from-the-mike."
Enough for now.
- Greg McKenzie
I just encountered a triplet in the wild for the first time (they don't
get called much around here, and I've been out of the dancing loop for a
bit) at our Santa Rosa (CA) contra last Friday. It was Ted's Triplet
#24. Apparently wild cheering is traditional when one of Ted Triplets
As an English dancer, I found it to be a pretty simple and
straightforward dance and a nice break from loads o' longways, but the
contra dancers all around me were falling to bits, apparently completely
flummoxed by the small sets.
How often do triplets show up in programs where you dance? How often,
and in what sorts of settings, do you call them? What do you do
differently to teach them, to help contra dancers with the unusual
formation? They seem like useful dances, both for a change of pace and
for those dreaded dinky crowds, but as I mentioned, this was my first
time encountering one in years of dancing. Are they more common on the
We've had this programming discussion before on SharedWeight, and I doubt anyone's really going to change their personal/individual position dramatically. Some like variety, some like repetition, some like a little of both. We all have good reasons for our personal and/or professional preferences.
One thing that occurs to me is that programming expectations for a given dance series may be considered the purview of the dance organizers (individual/committee/whoever does the job). Personally, I find it helpful to have input from a committee. They know their series better than I as a caller, and they have much more invested in its continued success.
We give extensive input to the visiting callers at our monthly series, which is known for being extremely well-attended and energetic, with many happy newcomers and regulars of all ages at every dance. I've copied the latest version of that info below.
Perhaps the proof is in the pudding. If your dance series is thriving with a positive outlook for future good health, then it doesn't matter what any outside experts say.
** CALLERS **
- Our series welcomes new dancers. Expect relative novices and rank
beginners of all ages to join the contradance.
- Experienced Maine dancers at our series range in age from seven to seventy,
and are friendly, enthusiastic, and used to the core contra figures, although
our overall style has been described as evincing our lumberjack/fisherman/back-to-the-lander
- Our committee appreciates judiciously sprinkled tips and reminders of ways to
make dancing fun and safe for everyone. A few of these style tips,
whether simply described from the stage or demonstrated on the floor, and
especially those issued with good cheer or humor, would benefit our
- Directly teach the swing at some
point in the first half.
- We prefer reasonably interesting dances with logical flow (enabling us to
enjoy the music and each other) over complex choreography that requires intense
concentration (hampering our enjoyment).
- Most dancers will expect a program that is primarily modern contras.
However, the committee strongly encourages inclusion of a few other dances, in
part to broaden our community's horizons. ("Other" could be a
different formation, such as a circle, square, four-face-four, Sicilian circle,
or triplet; or another type, such as chestnuts or mixers.)
- As you look out from the stage, the set furthest to your
left is the one most likely to fall apart. Newcomers congregate
there. Also, the floor slopes toward the stage on that side of the hall,
so with four or five sets, the left-most 2 sets will squash toward the
stage. Remind those sets to leave space at the top, and to resist the urge
to slide toward the stage.
- The hall is often extremely crowded, with a very high
percentage of newcomers. The mood is generally one of elation and good
cheer, but the combination of unskilled dancing, rowdy enthusiasm, and very
little elbow room makes for a dance experience that some might consider
unpleasant, perhaps even unsafe. Keep this in mind when programming,
teaching and calling. (Space and safety considerations trump any
committee expectations of varied formations such as squares or circles.)
- We have an archive book listing past programs,
which you may refer to before/during the dance.
Please record your actual program there – name of dance,
- Check in with us before your dance is scheduled, to see if
things have changed, and to see what other insights we might offer.
dance calling: chrissyfowler.com
monthly dance series: belfastflyingshoes.org
Triplets don't have to be longways, they can also be in circles. This
one usually goes down well:
Gypsy A Trois (by John Sweeney)
Three Couples in a Circle
A1: Circle Left One Place; Balance the Ring
Three Men DosiAll
A2: Circle Left One Place; Balance the Ring
Three Ladies DosiAll
B1: Partner Allemande Left to
Three Ladies' Gypsy in the middle WHILE Men Single File
Promenade CCW outside
B2: Meet your Partner (second time, at home): Partner Allemande
Left (full Allemande to the person who started opposite you)
This Neighbour Swing - this is your new Partner
x3 should take you home (at least to your original partner, if not the
exact spot on the dance-floor!).
Details of exactly what a DosiAll is, and how to teach it, are below,
with this standard contra dance that uses it.
DosiAll (by John Sweeney)
A1: Circle Right Half Way; Balance the Ring
A2: Circle Left Half Way; Balance the Ring
B1: Partner Balance & Swing
B2: On the Left Diagonal: Half Hey - Ladies lead by Right Shoulder
Half Promenade back across to your own side and flow into
the Circle Right
The DosiAll is a Dosido for all four people simultaneously.
Teaching: First you get the two men to Dosido. Then you get the two
ladies to Dosido. Then you get all four to do a four-person Gypsy. Then
you say "OK, now I want you all to do the Dosido simultaneously. You
are going to follow the track you walked in the Gypsy, but you are doing
a Dosido. Go slightly to your left as you start forwards so that you
don't crash." Once they get the basic idea you can get them spinning
counterclockwise in the Dosidos - it is even better if all four spin.
Warn them to check the speed of the person in front and adjust so they
don't catch up.
The Balance the Ring is to synchronise the start of the DosiAll. It
means all four people start forwards at the same time.
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
Here are a few stray thoughts about triplets.
- Which ones to try first
Ted's #24 is a great dance, but not necessarily the first one I'd try to introduce triplets to a group.
Ted's #3 is probably the safest and easiest for a community dance.
I've found Ted's #29 to be fairly "contra friendly." It starts with a partner bal & sw for all and has very satisfying "flow."
Of the triplets I've composed, I'd recommend #5 as most likely to succeed (rather than #4).
Of course, all such decisions depend on the crowd.
- Where to find them
Ted's 41 triplets have all been published. Between Ted's two books, Zesty Contras and Give-and-Take (all available from CDSS) you can find directions for any of them. I will say that I think they are brilliant, but not all of the same quality. Many are quite challenging, especially for groups that are not used to them. Lots of other triplets exist if you go hunting. I'm rather fond of my son Micah's Triplet #pi, which can be found at <http://www.math.uchicago.edu/~msmukler/dances.html>.
Why use them?
Triplets are a good way to introduce variety into an evening. They don't take very long, so if they are less than perfect you can move on. The whole set is easily visible and "process-able" to all the dancers. We six can work this out. They introduce some fun interaction. For example, I follow Ted's custom of asking all the dancers to introduce themselves and shake hands round their set. There's also the cheering (pretending we recognize which one is #29), which always gets smiles.
Triplets can also be a great way to teach certain actions. For example, Linda Leslie's Corner Triplet (sometimes called David's Triplet #1.5) is a wonderful and easy dance for introducing contra corners.
- How to introduce them
Just do. Trust a good dance to "speak to" the dancers about why it is good. Anything unfamiliar requires a bit of a leap, but if we never take that leap our dances will feel more and more the same, and what fun is that?
On Aug 20, 2012, at 11:07 PM, callers-request(a)sharedweight.net wrote:
> Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2012 15:28:14 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Laur <lcpgr(a)yahoo.com>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Triplets
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
> Thanks for starting the thread,?
> Kalia.? I would like to start to include Triplets in one of our community series. ?And tips like these from Louise are helpful. ?I'll look at Ted's 24 later tonight.
> I was thinking of Ted's #41 which I have heard referenced either here or on Trad-dance-caller. I also was interested in David's Triplet #4 by David Smukler; also Packing the Boxes... ?I believe David is on either this list or on Trad-Dance-Caller. ?If here, David, can you give me any tips?
> Laurie PWest MI
How do inexperienced dancers get on with Proper Right & Left Throughs?
I have had lots of confusion when I have tried that sort of thing. The
newer dancers are used to Becket or First Couples Improper and the man
courtesy turning the lady. Many of the men, when they find they have
crossed the set and met another man, don't know what to do. (The ladies
are slightly better at it as many of them have danced the man's part.)
Do the dancers at modern public contras know how to handle this sort of
same gender move?
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
At the organizer's request, I called Hull's Victory at the Rochester,
Vermont contra evening on Thursday, August 16th -- to great music by
The Turning Stile (Joanne Garton and organizer Aaron Marcus).
Thanks, David, for bringing the dance's (and naval victory's) 200th
anniversary to our attention! Val
Good for you, Chris! With Crowfoot providing the music, I'm sure the crowd responded
with enthusiasm. I read in this morning's paper that the USS Constitution was
going to take a sail around Boston Harbor, ony the second time in more than 100
years that this would take place. A momentous day in many ways!
Thanks for letting me know.
I'd be interested to know what else you put on your program.