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
Perry brings up a couple things which are often on my mind. As i write
this, i'm thinking there are a few folks out there rolling their eyes or
gritting their teeth at the recent flood of progressive dialogue on this
thread. Bear with me, please...
I consider myself a trans-role dancer (as opposed to cis-gendered; i fully
identify as male, but my gender identity has no bearing on which role i
dance). When i first encountered contradance, it was with callers who
emphasized that "gent/lady" are merely titles of traditional roles which
anyone can play regardless of their gender identity. That idea stuck. At
those dances in rural Maine, there was often a surfeit of female dancers,
and the callers brought along a briefcase full of neckties to help folks
denote roles. (That practice suffers the same limitations that physical
armbands do, if dancers plan on "flipping the ship" mid-dance.)
I'm going to focus this next bit on "same gender neighboring" versus
partnering, so as to include heteropartner-pairs who have swapped roles,
and speak from my experience as a trans-role male (a slightly different
topic than trans-role female partner/neighbor issues, i recognize). The
interpersonal dynamics of same-gender neighbor swings (particularly those
following from a gypsy!) are never far from my mind. It seems that no
matter where i dance, from Maine to Massachusetts to North Carolina, the
sample composition is the same: most men are comfortable with limited
same-gender neighboring; many are energized by the apparent physical
opportunity to swing or flourish more vigorously; some are merely
disoriented by it; and a few are downright uncomfortable.
A friend of mine, a male in his 60s, describes his initial discomfort at
same-gender dance floor encounters giving way to an appreciation for the
inclusivity of the community. He still prefers to partner
heteronormatively, but he recognizes the value of making the dance
community as inclusive as it is, and on occasion actively supports that
value by partnering same-gender. I think that position describes where a
lot of dancers are. Whatever a person's experience of the folkdance
meta-community is, i believe we can agree that one thing which sets it
apart from other social spheres is its inclusivity.
In a few locations i've danced, most recently Bangor, Maine, i've noted a
phenomenon where multiple sets forming seemed to segregate into cisgendered
dancers versus trans-role dancers. I foresee a potentially vehement tangent
in response to this observation. Yes, having sets segregate by some set of
partnering preferences, be it age or role-flexibility (the two often
co-occur) does begin to fragment the community - but it is a patch solution
which minimizes the discomfort to some dancers, offering a choice of
expressions and comfort levels in communities where a strictly gender-free
dance outlet is unavailable.
Will we ever move contradancing to a completely gender-free system? I hope
not. Good or bad, the genderedness of the form is an intrinsic aspect of
the tradition, more so even than in couple dancing; without it, where would
the "proper" dance formation be? Gender-free dance can be a "safe space",
or a playground for more adventurous dancers - offering an experiential
contrast to traditionally gendered dance we would be unable to enjoy or
appreciate if the distinction were erased.
But... terminology, gender, dance roles, partnering issues (broadening to
include other characteristics like age, physical characteristics, dance
skill...). In a discussion thread elsewhere, Scott Higgs described
partnering issues as an "elephant in the room" that can be a major factor
determining whether individuals' experience of the dance is positive or
negative. I agree wholeheartedly, and hope that we as a community can be
more attentive to these issues, following on opportunities like the session
he and Lisa Greenleaf led at NEFFA 2012 to discuss partnering choices and
behavior patterns in a judgment-free zone.
The thing that's really on my mind right now, and seems to be on others',
is that contradance is a unique form, and terms which accurately describe
other dance forms don't really fit here. Can we as a community find a
system of our own, one that innovates while honoring the tradition,
transcending yet including our historical antecedents?
As we move into 2013, i hope we can continue to decloak this elephantine
polylogue, finding ways to both honor individuals' comfort level and
enhance the inclusivity of the community... and get rid of that damn
happy new year, btw!
> Message: 3
> Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2013 08:12:42 -0800 (PST)
> From: Perry Shafran <pshaf(a)yahoo.com>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] gender
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
> There are several issues here.? One is the terminology that is used to
> differentiate the two dance roles and second, whether we will ever move
> contra dancing to a completely gender-free system.
> I think that
> we all have to understand that everyone has their own comfort zone.?
> Some people do NOT want to dance with a same-gendered person no matter
> how much you prod them, shame them, or even force them to do so.?? Some
> are willing to try it from time to time, others enjoy it a lot, and others
> want to make all
> contra dances completely gender free regardless of whether or not it
> will chase some members from the community.?
> It is a strong
> uphill battle to at least move from a heteronormative way of thinking.?
> Just recently it was suggested that the way to get someone to contra
> dance (a man) was to tell him that a
> new woman will be thrown into his arms every 30 seconds.? Reason being
> that most people are heterosexual and might be drawn to dance thinking
> he's going to dance with women.? I suggested that this was a bad idea
> due to the fact that in most dances you'll see men dancing with men,
> women dancing with women, and people switching roles.?
> I think
> that the best compromise is to continue with the gents/ladies
> terminology, but emphasize that these are merely titles of traditional
> roles, but anyone can play them regardless of physical gender.? That is
> what I say in my workshops, and it's usually generally understood.? Any
> new terminology that you use will force people to translate which means
> "man" and which means "woman".?? However, I do understand the baggage
> that these gender-loaded terms do bring.??
Rhodri Davies and I are both running Zesty Playford workshops at
Eastbourne Folk Festival in a weeks' time. I've written a set of
notes, some of which I intend to use then, and would welcome feedback
either through the list or direct to me.
Holy Ghost (improper) by Maia McCormick
A1: neighbor gypsy (right)
half hey, women by L
A1: neighbor gypsy (right)
B1: circle L 3/4
B2: R/L through across
circle left 3/4 and pass through
Aside from "partner" and "neighbor," "balance" may be the most frequently
used word in calling, and experienced dancers and callers alike tend to
forget that beginners do not automatically know what it is. I teach it at the
very top of the lesson, particularly because it's used to launch other
moves -- balance and swing, balance the ring and.... I describe it as a
step-forward+tap and step-backward+tap, and emphasize that the convention is to
shift your weight forward onto the right foot first (many beginners will
start with the left foot), and then shift it onto the left foot, because the
next move is frequently to the right, but that either is acceptable.
> This won't be for everybody -- but -- in an orientation I sometimes tell people that a balance is a lot like some relationships I have been in: when the other person gets too close you push them away, and when they get too far away you pull them closer. Another way of saying it's all in the arms, and there is always tension in the arms.
Hopkinsrs at Comcast.net
There have been a number of references to balances always involving a
I was under the impression that there were lots of ways to balance, many
of which don't involve a stomp. I usually teach "balance to the
right-2-3, to the left-2-3".
I did notice more stomping than I was familiar with at The Flurry this
year, just step right, stamp left, step left, stamp right.
Is stomping now the standard across America?
What do YOU teach as the footwork in a balance?
01.p13.htm for 50 variations of the balance.
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
This sounds like a program suitable for a dance weekend or festival--but
not for an open, public contra dance. What would you offer as a "high
energy" dance at an open, public contra dance with first-timers in the mix?
Now I understand, that's where lots of balances would be good. They would help to anchor the dancers.
Salmonella Evening by Steve ZA
More 'O More by Jim Kitch
The Baby Rose by David Kaynor