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
Linda Leslie's suggestion of gyre as a replacement for gypsy bubbled around
in my brain and a new (I think) dance percolated up. It has a twist that
isn't the gyre (which I consider just new nomenclature); women casting out
of the swing to travel from one minor set to another (similar to gent's
movement in Scoot by Tom Hinds).
I haven't gotten to test it with dancers yet, as I just finished running it
through with pegs on my desk; but I wanted to share it in support of a new
A Gyre for Linda
by Luke Donforth
(4) Pass through to an ocean wave (ladies left, catch right with partner)
(4) Balance the short Wavy line
(2) Walk forward
(3) Shadow gyre right 1/2
(3) Gents gyre left 1/2 in the middle
(16) Neighbor gyre right and swing
(8) Men allemande Left 1-1/2 WHILE women cast cw around whole set one
(8) 1/2 Hey, passing partner by right shoulder
(16) Partner gyre right and swing at home
As for the other aspects that have been discussed:
I pronounce it with a softer g sound. For reasons unclear to me, gyre has
different accepted pronunciations; but (to my knowledge) gyration doesn't.
As for using the term (which I clearly support); it costs me nearly nothing
to switch and helps make the dance more accessible for some; both in
dropping a term some find offensive and making the name more descriptive of
the move. My job as a caller is to help share the joy of dancing, and if
this does that I'm in favor of it.
On the subject of gypsies and language, I've enjoyed reading the myriad
comments, and find myself feeling ambiguous (which I define as feeling
very strongly both ways). And, I know it's been thrashed about and we've
a request for acknowledging that we are unlikely to change any opinions
on this. That said:
* I have had this discussion with a number people in the past, about the
very strong negative connotations of the word "Gypsy." Ambivalent as I
am, I do think we should look for a replacement word.
* I thought I'd collect all the words that have been suggested so far
(unless I missed one or two) in one place. Here it is:
No Hand Turn
No Hand Allemande (and I do think Allemande comes from "The
German," a dance)
Dance Around, or Walk Around
Face to Face Do Si Do
Bine (binary stars -- snippet below)
Nose-to-Nose Do Si Do
Dance Around - or Dance About
Orbit Around - or Orbit About
Eyes or "Take Eyes"
Face à Face (facey-face...)
Right (Left) Shoulder (without the G-word)
Cyclone (though mentioned with a complaint - too "violent")
* I like "Single File with a Smile" to replace "Indian Style." Many
Indians don't like the moniker "Native American," and vice versa --
America is a name that comes from a European explorer, in some ways more
insulting than the misconstrued "Indians," from the name given by a
murderous European explorer... It is good, I think, to stop using words
that come from stereotyped images of an oppressed or victimized people.
* When thinking of our positive feelings about the word -- "happy,
colorful," think about people of the slave-holding South remembered with
great delight how "Nigras" were always happy, and how warm and wonderful
it was when they were slaves. Of course, they rarely considered that
that "happiness" stemmed from fear -- the fear of bodily injury, jail,
or even lynching...
* We are teaching dance in a public forum. Dog breeders use the word
"bitch" regularly -- no problem. Start calling a woman that word, and
the connotation is different. A chink in a chain, a dike to hold back
water or in a rock formation, etc. are all used in specialized
situations. I run into a similar problem as I love playing the Jews
Harp... Our use of the word Gypsy in a public forum could be said to
have that specialized meaning. But it can be construed to have those
* Eric Black says he uses "Gents & Ladies," never, "men & women." Years
ago I stopped using Ladies & Gents since their roots are steeped in
classism, and we live in a severely class society -- even though we
pretend we don't. Be that as it may, I started using Ladies & Gents
again when I realized most of us don't have those connotations
associated with those words. Now I've gone gender free, and use ravens &
larks. But when I was young we used "him," and "he" to mean "everyone.
We did notice the affect this had on young women as promoting that sense
of exclusion that still dominates our culture. Most of us now say "he
and she," or just "she", and it has changed how some of us think about
the power of women. Language does make a difference. Much of this came
about from discussions on how the words I choose to use affect some.
Most of are "unaffected," by the use of certain words. Or at least we
don't perceive an affect of the use of certain words. It's like those of
us who are White often don't know the scrutiny Black people are
subjected to throughout their everyday lives. Or the majority of us men
don't live with the fear and degradation women are subjected to. It is
important to understand how our language affects those around us,
especially from the podium.
Well, enough for now, as that's more than two-cents worth...
The Snippet on from Richard Fischer (richardallenfischer(a)verizon.net)
> I have a suggestion for a new word to replace "gypsy." My word is
"bine" and I derive it from
> "binary stars" which, especially if they are of similar mass, circle
each other as in our dance
> move. I consulted with an astrophysicist friend, who told me that
under certain circumstances
> binary stars may be "tidally locked," that is, facing each other as
they orbit about each other.
> (Our moon is tidally locked, but in the earth-moon case it's not a
> "Bine" can be used as a verb and a noun, it's one syllable and easy
to say, and its etymology is
> known. (And some dancers might enjoy the image).
> As others have said, I too have appreciated this thoughtful
discussion. It is hard to know when
> to retire an established term that has been used without intention to
offend anyone, but I know
> many of us are considering doing so. So I thought I'd put my
suggestion out there.
I just called a tiny dance last night, and went through several of my
triplets along with a big pile of English 3-couple dances that we did to
old-time tunes (that was a little weird for me but the dancers enjoyed
them, so what the heck). I was grateful to have the few triplets I had,
and I'd like to expand my collection. The ones I used were
Microchasmic, David's Triplet #7 and Ted's Triplet #24, which all have
distinctive bits in them (contra corners, round two/drop through, and a
cast to invert then 1s lead up, respectively). I like triplets that
have some choreographic substance to them, something for the dancers to
Do you have favorites you enjoy dancing as well as calling? I get the
impression sometimes that triplets are "that thing you do to fill time
until the real dancing starts," but 3-couple sets can be a whole lot of
fun. And sometimes they can save your butt as a caller.
We had lots of odd numbers last night, so in addition to the triplets
and 3-couple English dances I used dances like Domino 5 (5 dancers) and
Pride of Dingle (for 9). For a short while we had 4 couples and did
contras but most of the evening was "other." Got any good dances for
I am looking for some EASY wholeset dancers for a Civil War event that is
mostly teenage boys. Wholesets seem to be the best option, but I am open
to othe suggestions. Virginia Reel is an obvious choice.
Peace & Thanks!
Pleas could you clarify how you intend to pronounce "gyre"?
I have been saying "gyre" with a hard "g" as in "give" or "gimble".
But if it is related to "gyrate" then maybe people are using a soft "g" and
making it sound like "jire".
Which do you use? Thanks.
By the way, I am still having major problems with understanding why the word
needs to be changed. "Gypsy" is not inherently bad.
Just Google, say, "gypsy pope" and you will find countless articles in
countless papers and other media (including Vatican Radio) referring to
"gypsies". Are they and the pope all racist? And that is just one example.
It is only racist if you use tone or context to make it so. But that can
apply to just about any word.
And in a dance environment it is definitely not racist.
If anyone ever asks me (and I doubt it will ever happen) I will tell them
that we call people who travel to dances "dance gypsies", just using the
word to mean someone who travels; the move likewise is just a move where you
travel around each other. No deep meaning!
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
On Wed, Oct 28, 2015, Michael Fuerst via Callers wrote:
> I have been contra dancing for 30 years or so and this is the first
> time I've encountered a question about "gypsy" being controversial.
> The people who contra dance on average are well left of center
> politically--people who would never use an ethnically offensive
> word.(Finding a bumper sticker at a contra dance gathering supporting
> a Republican candidate is quite impossible.)As you noted, language
> evolves, and the use of "gypsy" in contra dancing never had any
> offensive baggage or intent. Given the thousands of left-wing contra
> dancers who have guiltlessly gypsied over the years, having a single
> individual (who may not well be a member of the allegedly offended
> group) come to a dance, and for some reason makes the connection she
> did, does not seem adequate to drop the word.
<belly laugh> Your suggestion that progressive people promoting
political correctness always stick to their progressive principles is
risible. I suggest that you do some research into the countless number
of times that "progressive" people have screwed over minorities who
weren't in their own demographic.
To save you a bit of time, here's one specific example that consumed
large amounts of time and emotional energy in one of my other social
> Your examples of "nigger" and "faggot" are not comparable, as they are
> today often sill used with intended hate.
Please re-read the messages pointing out that in Europe, particularly,
"gypsy" still definitely gets used as a hateful slur. And I don't know
enough about *ALL* of American culture to presume that "gypsy" isn't used
that way here in significant subcultures. Certainly "gyp" (as a verb)
does get used.
Hugs and backrubs -- I break Rule 6 http://rule6.info/
<*> <*> <*>
Help a hearing-impaired person: http://rule6.info/hearing.html
If the term is to be changed I think there should be agreement as to what the replacement is and not have a variety of terms. The health of many contra dance series is very dependent upon new dancers coming and having a good time so they return. There is a big vocabulary to learn and having it not be the same at successive or neighboring dances would add to the confusion.
On Oct 28, 2015, at 3:21 PM, Don Veino via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
> Might I suggest at this point there's been enough shared such that folks have figured out where they are on this subject? And, while the discussion has been informative, that further posts will do little to change anyone's beliefs?
> If that's accepted, I further suggest we move forward with our own personal belief and act as conscience dictates:
> Should you wish to continue with the status quo call, then do so and incorporate whatever learning you've taken from this exchange to improve your teaching and leading. Your further experience and learning from dance participants may inform your future view.
> Should you be motivated to change the term, have a conversation with your dance organizer(s) and try out an alternate call/description, should they be willing - see how it goes. That learning may inform the culture by example.
> I hope we can trust the Folk Process to be robust enough to do its thing in this matter - as it has so many times before.
> Callers mailing list
For those interested in the historical derivation of our terms:
As Alan said, the Allemande was a couple dance from the late 1700s. In it,
both hands were held, and the arms moved through various positions. This
put the couple in much closer contact than they were in the minuet, in
which the only physical contact was through hands held at arm's length.
This makes the Allemande an important part of the transition of couple
dancing from the minuet to the waltz.
The dance form known as Germans was shortened from German Cotillions.
These were musical games which were popular in ballrooms in the 1800s.
Here's a link to an example of the Allemande being danced:
On Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 6:00 AM, Alan Winston via Callers <
> On 10/29/15 2:45 AM, Jeff Kaufman via Callers wrote:
> On Oct 29, 2015 4:24 AM, "Erik Hoffman via Callers" <
> callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
> > No Hand Allemande (and I do think Allemande comes from "The
> German," a dance)
> I wonder what we'll do if we discover that to some Germans the French term
> "Allemande" is derogatory and they prefer to be called "Deutsche".
> Given that "allemande" is an incredibly-overloaded term in different dance
> genres - it's a progressive figure for two or three couples in Scottish
> dancing; it's a kind of 1700s couple dance; it's a pretzel-armed turn in
> cotillions, it's a not-100%-clearly-understood-thing-with-a-circular-track
> in Regency-era longways dances, it's an elbow turn, it's a hand turn - it
> wouldn't ruin my life if we started saying "hand turn" instead of
> Just sayin'. (Although I would miss "allemande left with your left hand,
> walk right in to a right and left grand" and the allemande alphabet.)
> -- Alan
> Callers mailing list