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
> Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2013 18:01:13 -0800
> From: Alan Winston <winston(a)slac.stanford.edu>
> To: callers(a)sharedweight.net
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Fw: Creating a CDSS dance depository
> Message-ID: <52A918E9.6090708(a)slac.stanford.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
> On 12/11/2013 5:35 PM, Chris Lahey wrote:
>> You're absolutely right that something like that could go up fairly
>> quickly. I'm just afraid that it would take away from the possibility
>> of something much more useful, though harder to obtain. I don't think
>> it's forking the discussion to discuss whether this is a good idea.
> Fair enough.
> I've witnessed a number of volunteer web things things that never got
> off the ground at all because the requirements snowballed to the point
> where it would be really hard to get started. I've now come around to
> the position that sometimes, given limited time and resources, and when
> one isn't working on life-critical projects, it's worth figuring out
> what the minimum effort to do something useful would be, with the idea
> that once something is useful it will be easier to find more resources,
> and if you get bogged down you've at least got something useful.
> So that's my bias in this discussion.
> -- Alan
Good point Alan.
It would be worth asking CDSS whether they are interested in officially supporting this effort in some way, perhaps even with resources - an intern??
Also it is worth thinking about the purpose of this database. I see two different distinctly different important ones:
- one is to provide a comprehensive historical archive of dances.
- the other is to provide good information to new callers to help them become better callers. I believe that Contra Dancing is going to get to be more popular and as a result there is going to be the need for more callers. A good database with demos, notations, etc. would help.
Compatibility with Caller's Companion would be valuable for this purpose.
The Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend committee is happy to announce
that the 2014 weekend will happen on MLK weekend in January at the
University of New Hampshire. We are also happy to welcome Dudley
Laufman and Susan Kevra as our featured callers, along with music by
Calliuope and Maivish. The Friday night dance will include calling by
Lisa Sieverts and Trip to Nelson, along with Susan and Dudley at the
Details at the website: http://www.ralphpage.neffa.org/
Square-through vs Cross-trail
Can anyone tell me what the difference is between these two figures, if
any? They show up in various different dances in my collection but they
both seem to be the figure that in English country dance we'd call "2
changes of rights and lefts" which is to say right hands to the person
across from you (either neighbor or partner, depending on where the
dance has taken you so far) and then left hands to the person in your
minor set who's next to you in line (again, either N or P). And in ECD
those 2 changes can sometimes start along the line instead of across,
which I assume can happen in contras as well though I haven't yet
And can anyone point to a really thorough online glossary of contra
I was going to put "Tofu Dances" in the subject line, but I thought that
might dissuade some of you from reading it.
I was thinking that tofu is a nutritious substance without a really
strong flavor of its own, and that can harmonize with a lot of different
treatments; it'll end up tasting like the dish you put it in.
Bill Olson's "Cranky Ingenuity" is a terrific dance - quick teach,
fairly low piece count, unusual enough figure (dosido as couples) that
it provides some variety in a program, useful as a first dance to let
you know the state of the crowd, useful as a last dance if you don't
have a lot of time, real teamwork with partner, adequate neighbor time.
And one of the things that's great about it is that it works with reels,
jigs, old-timey, rags, swing-dance tunes, French-Canadian tunes, Irish
polka - probably good for techno, too, although I haven't tried that.
While it has strong enough flow that dancers don't float in space
wondering what they're supposed to do yet, the transitions (other than
the closing balance-the-ring, California twirl) don't have hit precisely
to still be satisfying.
The dancers react to the music and the dance takes on the flavor of the
music. If there's some tune set the band wants to play - like, it's the
last dance and it's their showstopper - Cranky Ingenuity will likely
work out well. (It might not be the single best match possible to some
particular tune, but it's likely to be a good match, and having it handy
and walking it through in 30 seconds makes up for deficiencies.)
That's a great feature. But if I use it all the time - and worse, if
everybody uses it all the time - I'll wear it out.
What other dances have this feature?
(I think anything where the distinctive figure of the dance has short
phrases and tight timing - eg, Rory O More balances in long or short
waves; roll away across the set, catch partner and swing, Petronella
sequences, balance and square thru - is going to be disqualified. But if
you have experience that says otherwise, speak up!)
In the meantime, Happy New Year! I'm calling for an hour tonight at an
English dance and dancing for three at a contra dance; I hope you all
have agreeable New Year's Eves and 2014s full of satisfying music and dance.
One key aspect of a Square Through (as opposed to n changes of right & left,
cross trails, circular heys, etc.) that hasn't been mentioned, is that after
the last Pull By of a Square Through you do NOT turn. The initial Pull Bys
all have a quarter turn after the Pull By, but the last one leaves you back
to back with the last person you passed, facing in the opposite direction to
Square Throughs or changes of rights & lefts, in ECD, take as many beats as
there is music. Some dances require you to make each change in two beats,
some are more leisurely and allow you four beats for each one. Contra
dancers don't want to use four steps to pull past someone when they can do
it in two steps. Hence the Balanced Square Through: four beats to balance
forward & back; four beats for two changes - making a total of eight beats -
just right for a contra dance figure.
As has been mentioned the "Cross-Trail" found in modern contra dancers is
not really a cross trail; it is much more like two changes of a circular hey
or two changes of rights & lefts, without hands.
FYI, I am forwarding the message below. Mil contributed so much to the New England square dance community.
Dear SDFNE Board of Directors and Library Associates,
There is not much one can say at a time like this.
Milburn was at home with me from Wednesday, December 4th until Wednesday, December 11th
when he peacefully passed away at 9:45 p.m.
The world has lost someone very special. He was one of those truly gracious individuals who make life
so much more pleasant for everyone around him.
My "Thanks" to everyone for your thoughts, prayers, and good wishes. It made Mil's medical situation
more bearable. You are true friends.
Funeral arrangements are:
Wake - Monday, December 16th from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Location - Doherty-Berile Family Funeral Home, 11 Linden St., Reading MA
Funeral Mass - Tuesday, December 17th at 10:30 a.m.
Location: St. Agnes Church, 186 Woburn St., Reading MA
Internment - St. Bernard's Cemetery, Concord MA
In lieu of flowers, please honor Mil by making donations in his memory to the
Square Dance Foundation of New England, Inc.,
Attn: Treas. F. Turgeon
9 Carleton Street, Lawrence MA 01843-1105
Anna K. Dixon
238 Woburn Street
Reading MA 01867
This type of database already exists for Scottish dances: <http://my.strathspey.org/dd/>. It has written and diagram descriptions, links to videos, ratings and comments and a database searchable by figure, author, music type &c. I use it most weeks to pick appropriate music from my club's collection, when we don't have a recording intended for the dance in question.
It helps that quite a lot of the legwork has already been done e.g. MiniCrib, an existing unofficial publication of abbreviated dance instructions in a standard form, and there being a standard set of diagrams for figures. Not that this wouldn't be possible for contra, but it would be more work to start from scratch / different styles of crib.
If I understand correctly, only the (volunteer) administrators can add dances, but members of the public can comment on and rate dances if they have logged in, and submit cribs or video links, which are approved by moderators.
Evolution of dances by the folk process has certainly been documented (which shoulder to pass in Mairi's Wedding, popular variations in the possibly-palindromic Ian Powrie's Farewell to Auchterarder), but I get the impression such variations are less common in SCD (published programmes of existing dances people might practise in advance, rather than the caller calling their favourite version on the night).
I just read the results of the CDSS caller's survey. (http://www.cdss.org/tl_files/cdss/documents/how-to/CDSS_Contra_Task_Force_s…)
One of the resulting suggestions was for CDSS to set up a dance depository. Here are my thoughts on this.
Considering the 1000's of contra (and other formation) dances that have written, of varying quality and difficulty, I have reservations about a single global contra database. Such a database detracts from the folk process. And who is to say which dances are worthy of placement in such a database?
HOWEVER (part 1) .....
CDSS should have a depository of dances, somewhat like the one on the "Contra Dances by" section of Cary Ravitz's page http://ravitz.us/dance/
While Cary's page links to dance author's pages, the CDSS page should get copies of each author's dances, formatted however that author formatted them (e.g. .rtf, .pdf or .html), with the CDSS page containing links to these copies. Authors should be able to send an updated file to CDSS up to say 3 times a year. This will preserve the author's dances when s/he terminates his/her web site. These links could include .pdfs of out-of-proint dance book.
The folk process in some sense is maintained by people having to peruse these various author pages in order to find dances. A discussion board, maybe even the current Shared Weight forum, would be the place for for callers to discuss these dances.
HOWEVER (part 2) optional ....
The Caller's Companion (http://callerscompanion.com/) provides a good model of how an on-line database might work. Many aspects of this program will work as a model for an on-line dance database. So in addition to the pages susuggested in HOWEVER (part 1), CDSS could also set up an on-line database and intially populate it with at most 200-300 dances, selected by CDSS staff or a committee, of various difficulties and formations. Any CDSS member, and only CDSS members, should be allowed to add a dance to this database of remove a dance s/he inserted. Dances on a page from HOWEVER (part 1) may well end up in this database.
Michael Fuerst 802 N Broadway Urbana IL 61801 217-239-5844
Links to photos of many of my drawings and paintings are at www.ArtComesFuerst.com
This -- collaborative editing of persistent information -- is what Wiki's
were invented for.
Easy to set one up on a hosting server -- free at Dreamhost if we get
sponsorship from a 501(c)(3).
- Roger Hayes
On Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 12:00 PM, <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. Re: Fw: Creating a CDSS dance depository (Perry Shafran)
> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2013 03:51:32 -0800 (PST)
> From: Perry Shafran <pshaf(a)yahoo.com>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Fw: Creating a CDSS dance depository
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
> I'm trying to figure out why having a database of dances would detract
> from the folk process. ?Isn't the folk process considered the handing down
> of material from person to person, generation to generation? ?And should
> that not also include the way that material is handed down? ?I think that a
> database of dances is extremely helpful to the evolution of the folk
> process. ?When the web evolved, people put their dances on the web for all
> to see, use, adapt. ?Now we have the cloud, and callers can share their
> dances using a cloud-based database. ? Considering that this is what was
> highly requested on the survey, I think that we need to find ways to create
> this repository of dances that also respects the rights of the
> choreographers who write them. ?
> From: Delia Clark <deliaclark8(a)gmail.com>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
> Sent: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 11:05 PM
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Fw: Creating a CDSS dance depository
> I agree with Andrea.? I find the annotations that folks provide on this
> listserv to be the most helpful part.? If we allowed a wide range of dances
> in the database, but then opened it up for commentary, sort of like Yelp or
> Amazon or other user reviews, I think we'd get a lot of useful intel on
> each dance.
> On Dec 10, 2013, at 7:16 PM, Andrea Nettleton <twirly-girl(a)bellsouth.net>
> > Rather than limit which dances get on the database and how, why not
> allow reviews of said dances.? If it had a clunky moment for one dancer,
> tends to get saw toothed, or has other issues, it might get fewer stars and
> an explanation.? Choreographers could choose to pull or amend a dance so
> reviewed, and callers could decide for themselves whether the reviews will
> apply in their situation.? The folk process works better the more
> information and dances are out there, not by artificially limiting, based
> on some committees personal tastes and particular filters regarding
> appropriateness.? There might be some requirement that a dance needs to
> have been successfully danced by at least two or three communities to
> qualify or something so every person who thinks they can write doesn't post
> a bunch of useless dances.? I think making it be more work for CDSS? to put
> a dance up impedes the project unnecessarily.?
> > I do, however, like the idea of having links to choreographers'
> websites, and maybe even a caller's companion-sequel search engine, so one
> could look for say, an biter mediate dance with a hey and a mad robin, and
> come up with all the dances in the database which fulfill the request.
> > My two cents,
> > Andrea
> > Sent from my iPad
> >> On Dec 10, 2013, at 5:18 PM, Michael Fuerst <mjerryfuerst(a)yahoo.com>
> >> I just read the results of the CDSS caller's survey.? (
> >> One of the resulting suggestions was for CDSS to set up a dance
> depository.? ? Here are my thoughts on this.
> >> Considering the 1000's of contra (and other formation) dances that have
> written, of varying quality and difficulty, I have reservations about a
> single global contra database.? Such a database detracts from the folk
> process.? And who is to say which dances are worthy of placement in such a
> >> HOWEVER? (part 1) .....
> >> CDSS should have a depository of dances, somewhat like the one on the
> "Contra Dances by" section of Cary Ravitz's page http://ravitz.us/dance/
> >> While Cary's page links to dance author's pages, the CDSS page should
> get copies of each author's dances, formatted however that author formatted
> them (e.g. .rtf, .pdf or .html), with the CDSS page containing links to
> these copies.? Authors should be able to send an updated file to CDSS up to
> say 3 times a year.? This will preserve the author's dances when s/he?
> terminates his/her web site.? These links could include .pdfs of
> out-of-proint dance book.
> >> The folk process in some sense is maintained by people having to peruse
> these various author pages in order to find dances.? A discussion board,
> maybe even the current Shared Weight forum, would be the place for for
> callers to discuss these dances.?
> >> HOWEVER (part 2)? optional? ....
> >> The Caller's Companion (http://callerscompanion.com/)? provides a good
> model of how an on-line database might work.? Many? aspects of this program
> will work as a model for an on-line dance database.? So in addition to the
> pages susuggested in HOWEVER (part 1), CDSS could also set up an on-line
> database and intially populate it with at most 200-300 dances, selected by
> CDSS staff or a committee, of various difficulties and formations.? Any
> CDSS member, and only CDSS members, should be allowed to add a dance to
> this database of remove a dance s/he inserted.? Dances on a page from
> HOWEVER (part 1) may well end up in this database.?
> >> Michael Fuerst? ? ? 802 N Broadway? ? ? Urbana IL 61801? ? ?
> >> Links to photos of many of my drawings and paintings are at
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> Callers mailing list
> >> Callers(a)sharedweight.net
> >> http://www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers
> > _______________________________________________
> > Callers mailing list
> > Callers(a)sharedweight.net
> > http://www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers
> Delia Clark
> PO Box 45
> Taftsville, VT 05073
> Callers mailing list
> Callers mailing list
> End of Callers Digest, Vol 112, Issue 5