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
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
In Contra dancing, what is the difference between "Roll your ___ Across/along" and "Roll away with a half sashay"?
What are your favorite words to teach this move?
claire takemori (Bay Area, CA)
In general dancing there are two distinct moves:
Rollaway - where the roller stays stationary (moving backwards and forwards
Rollaway with a Half Sashay - where the roller steps sideways (sashays) into
the place of the person who is rolling across.
The Rollaway happens in dances like Circle Waltz, but is not very common.
The default is usually that the man rolls the lady on his right into his
place as he moves into her place, but either gender can roll either way.
You always need to specify who is rolling whom from where to where.
The MWSD definition is:
"From a couple, the dancer on the right (or the directed dancer) "rolls"
across in front of the other dancer, turning a full 360 degrees to end on
the other side, as the other dancer steps back and then forward, adjusting
sideways as necessary, to move smoothly into the vacated position. At the
completion of the call, the dancers have exchanged positions."
Note it says "or the directed dancer", again showing that anyone can roll
anyone in either direction.
MWSD goes on to say, "In the past, "Rollaway" has also been called
"Rollaway With A Half Sashay". This is improper language and should not be
That is OK if you are only doing MWSD, but is completely wrong in general
dancing where the two moves exist and are different and you need to make it
clear which one is happening. The default would appear to be "with a half
sashay", so it is probably most important to make it clear there is no
sashay on the rare occasions that that happens.
When walking through a contra I always state:
- who is rolling
- which hand they are rolling from
- whom they are rolling (partner or neighbour)
- the direction of the roll: along the set or across the set
- if there is no sashay
If it is "Men, roll neighbour from right to left, along the set" then it
usually works OK. For any other rollaway there will always be some who have
done that default roll without listening to the rest of the instruction! :-)
Most contra dance choreography uses the Half Sashay, but not all. For
example, "Roll Away" by Stohl & Rob uses two Rollaways without Half Sashays
to make the progression.
Hope that helps.
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
Aahz said, "Bob Elling likes to point out that there is in fact a sashay
that basically is a reversed Mad Robin".
Hmmm... not sure what he meant by a "reversed Mad Robin".
He can't be talking about the original Mad Robin, as the move in that dance
And the modern contra version of the Mad Robin move doesn't have an implicit
direction for you to reverse! Those Mad Robins can go clockwise around the
person beside you or counter-clockwise.
I guess he meant, "a sashay that basically is counter-clockwise Mad Robin" -
MWSD half sashays are always counter-clockwise.
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
I called it in Baltimore last Wednesday. It's helpful to tell the ladies that the first chain is to a shadow.
April Blum On Aug 24, 2015 10:06 AM, Jeremy Gmail via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
> I’m not sure if our American friends will realise it, but the name is a pun on the “Vickers Machine Gun”, one of the main weapons used by the British Army in the First World War (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_machine_gun).
> From: Callers [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Edmund Croft via Callers
> Sent: 17 August 2015 22:58
> To: callers(a)sharedweight.net
> Subject: [Callers] Misplaced a dance...
> Valerie Young is looking for a dance featuring ladies' chains all over the place, then circles and pass thrus to get your partner back. As she came across it in the USA, it's unlikely to be the one I know, which is by ex- Cambridge (UK) dancer/choreographer Jacob Steel, unless someone exported it, having danced it at the Inter-Varsity Folk Dance Festival.
> The story Jacob uses for this one is that clergy are not permitted to use certain sorts of weapon, so this particular gun fires ladies rather than bullets:
> THE VICAR’S MACHINE GUN (R32) Becket Jacob Steel
> 1-8 Circle left ¾ and pass through up and down
> Circle left ½ and the men roll their neighbour across to change places
> 9-16 Ladies chain on the right diagonal. LCh across
> 17-24 LCh on the left diagonal. Ladies pass RSh into half a reel of 4 across
> 25-32 Balance and swing partner.
> Edmund Croft,
> Cambridge Folk of various sorts
Im not sure if our American friends will realise it, but the name is a pun
on the Vickers Machine Gun, one of the main weapons used by the British
Army in the First World War
From: Callers [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of
Edmund Croft via Callers
Sent: 17 August 2015 22:58
Subject: [Callers] Misplaced a dance...
Valerie Young is looking for a dance featuring ladies' chains all over the
place, then circles and pass thrus to get your partner back. As she came
across it in the USA, it's unlikely to be the one I know, which is by ex-
Cambridge (UK) dancer/choreographer Jacob Steel, unless someone exported it,
having danced it at the Inter-Varsity Folk Dance Festival.
The story Jacob uses for this one is that clergy are not permitted to use
certain sorts of weapon, so this particular gun fires ladies rather than
THE VICARS MACHINE GUN (R32) Becket Jacob Steel
1-8 Circle left ¾ and pass through up and down
Circle left ½ and the men roll their neighbour across to change
9-16 Ladies chain on the right diagonal. LCh across
17-24 LCh on the left diagonal. Ladies pass RSh into half a reel of 4
25-32 Balance and swing partner.
Cambridge Folk of various sorts
Thank you for all the replies so far ! One other question,
What are the key elements/movements that you would emphasize teaching with kids?
giving weight, hearing the music beats, swing, star, do si do, allemande...... ?
And I don't think they will do ballroom swing, so which swing is easy and fun for kids? 2 hands crossed? or right elbows?
Thank you so much for your help!
Yes, the spiral is traditional! It is part of the Grand March which goes back at least a couple of centuries.
I call a Grand March by leading it, with my wife. I wear a wireless head mike so my hands are free.
We just start promenading around the dance-floor encouraging everyone to follow us.
For the stationary Arbor/Tunnel, once I have got couples making arches I drop out and go to the end to start leading people single-file through the tunnel.
When we get to the March By Platoons (2s, 4,s 8s) my wife goes to the bottom of the hall to direct the joinings, while I stay at the top to direct the alternate directions. We find linking elbows makes the best lines - they are more compact for the turns at the bottom of the hall.
I use the longest march/reel track I have at around 116 to 120 bpm - a good walking speed, or tell the band to keep playing.
It works with any group.
I often finish in a circle with
Everyone into the middle
Ladies in and clap
Men in and clap
Swing your partner
There are a number of references here:
Search for "grand march"
For example, select "Prof. M. J. Koncen's quadrille call book and ball room guide"
Turn to Page 15
You get descriptions of all these Grand March figures:
The Serpentine (Spiral)
By Platoons (2s, 4s, 8s)
In Column (Zig Zags)
In Single File
The Arbor (Tunnels)
We quite often do The Arbor as a two-handed tunnel, then I take one member of the rearmost couple by the hand and start a single file line up through the Arbor - that leaves us in a single file ready for The Serpentine. You can also do The Arbor with the arching couples moving back over the other couples - single-handed arches work best then.
When you finish By Platoons in lines of 8 or 16 across you take the left hand person of the front line by the hand and lead the front line across the front of the line then weave down between the lines, telling each left-hand end person to join the end of the line when it reaches them. If they have lots of energy I get them all doing step-kicks in the lines while waiting.
The following video shows a classic Grand March:
One version of a Grand March is described here:
I wouldn't use the chorus described, but it has nice description of a Serpentine/Spiral variant - that random tunneling is the only move I would be careful with if the group is inexperienced.
Another short section of Grand Marching is at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNHLBUi6d-w from 3:43
Hope that helps. ☺
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362 http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent