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 try and call the dances of Rich Blazej whenever I can and this one's a
Halloween favorite, re-done as "Werewolves and Zombies".
*Garfield's Escape* -- circle of couples PLUS ONE EXTRA in the center
A1 All into the center EIGHT steps and back, menacing the Garfield
A2 Circle left, circle right
B1 Women (werewolves) promenade single file to the right, while men
(zombies) "star" by the right -- each man puts his right hand on right
shoulder of the man in front - including Garfield.
B2 Caller hollers "Escape!" ("Boo!", or maybe "Braaaiiins") and all men
run to the outside and swing with a woman in the outer circle. A new
Garfield remains in the center.
Rich himself named this after Garfield the comic-strip cat, way back when
he was cynical and funny (the cat, not Rich).
"The single man remaining at the end of the dance is entitled to a pan of
lasagna and some fresh kitty litter".
My favorite normal tune for this is the minor jig Coleraine, played at a
slightly slower lurch-y tempo, but if I'm lucky the band'll do the Alfred
Have fun, just thought I'd share -- and I'd love to hear how it goes if you
do it, and what variations emerge.
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.
Hi Shared Weight,
I'd like to hear some examples of things you as a caller (or you as an
organizer encouraging callers) say on the mic during a dance to promote
positive dance values.
I ask because I'm reviewing my own dance's "calling our dance"
communication with callers, as well as evaluating my own statements on mic.
I'll get us started.
I like to say, a couple times per evening, for dancers to look to the
sidelines for dancers who were sitting out, in considering a partner.
Often it is hard to hear the caller during the Walkthrough because of chatter from some of the dancers and the people sitting out.
Any thoughts as to what the caller should say to politely get people to be quiet?
I am looking for the title and author of the following dance. Can anyone
A1 CL 3/4, N Swg
A2 LL, Partner Balance, Pull R, Pull L
B1 Along Line RH Bal, Bx Gnat, Gents Alle Left 1 1/2
B2 P Bal & Swg
This is not a calling question, but I thought I'd ask, since so many of you
Is there a single microphone that would be good to pick up two
I am thinking of the type of mic a bluegrass band might use for
performance, not for studio work.
What a great suggestion! Thanks Amy.
Here's another: Haunted Woods of Athlone. As Bridge of Athlone, but with a
few Halloween changes:
A1 Forward and Back, and Change with Partner* Zombie Style*
A2 Repeat back to place
B1 Top couple chasse down the center and back 8 steps
B2 Top couple casts off, lines follow down to the bottom *Witches Broom (Or
Gliding Ghost) style.* Top couple make an arch, everyone under the arch and
back to place
C1 Top couple back up the outside while everyone else makes the Haunted
Woods (instead of the Bridge). Top couple runs through the haunted woods to
C2....? Not ever sure of the timing of this dance! But it's usually not
done in distinct phrases.
On Sat, Oct 29, 2016 at 3:01 PM, via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net
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> I try and call the dances of Rich Blazej whenever I can and this one's a
> Halloween favorite, re-done as "Werewolves and Zombies".
> *Garfield's Escape* -- circle of couples PLUS ONE EXTRA in the center
> A1 All into the center EIGHT steps and back, menacing the Garfield
> A2 Circle left, circle right
> B1 Women (werewolves) promenade single file to the right, while men
> (zombies) "star" by the right -- each man puts his right hand on right
> shoulder of the man in front - including Garfield.
> B2 Caller hollers "Escape!" ("Boo!", or maybe "Braaaiiins") and all men
> run to the outside and swing with a woman in the outer circle. A new
> Garfield remains in the center.
> Rich himself named this after Garfield the comic-strip cat, way back when
> he was cynical and funny (the cat, not Rich).
> "The single man remaining at the end of the dance is entitled to a pan of
> lasagna and some fresh kitty litter".
> My favorite normal tune for this is the minor jig Coleraine, played at a
> slightly slower lurch-y tempo, but if I'm lucky the band'll do the Alfred
> Hitchcock theme.
> Have fun, just thought I'd share -- and I'd love to hear how it goes if you
> do it, and what variations emerge.
Richard Hart wrote:
> How about an answer to the question, Can contra callers who don't sing call squares, if so, how?
The answer seems obvious to me, but that’s because I grew up with an eclectic assortment of squares in various styles, some of which involve no singing at all. Some square dance communities do singing calls exclusively; in others, the squares are done to fiddle tunes but in a chanting style in which every word is pitched to a note of the musical scale. If one’s background is in such a tradition, it can be hard to imagine calling a square without singing.
I enjoy playing around with the harmony when I call. But it’s not necessary at all for effective calling. In fact, if you’re not comfortable doing it, it can get in the way.
It’s quite possible to use either a patter or prompting style, or a combination of both, without singing a note. Ted Sannella, as he was the first to admit, was not a singer. He avoided singing calls for the most part; when he did one, such as Life on the Ocean Wave, it was obvious that he was uncomfortable and he had trouble finding the pitches. Yet he was one of the most successful and influential phrased-square callers of the 20th century. He simply spoke his calls rather than singing or harmonizing.
If you look at YouTube videos of callers doing traditional squares (Eastern, Southern or Western), you can see that most of them don’t try to pitch their voices to the music. Some have a more shouting style, some are mellower, but nearly all are effective in their own way.
Luke Donforth wrote:
I often wonder about pairing breaks with figures… there's some meta-level stuff I'd like to hear unpacked.
Another meta-level thing; which squares do you want to stay square to phrasing (besides singing), and when does it not matter?
A break-out of expected teaching and time it takes: i.e. this is a figure you'll have to walk once, versus this should be walked for heads & sides or everyone... A category of "these squares won't take longer than a contra to teach (but are still engaging)"
Thanks for your feedback, Luke.
Several folks have responded off-list to my book announcement, and I’m grateful for all their thoughts. No one has suggested a broad category that I’d neglected to include, but all have made good points and/or forced me to clarify my thinking about several sub-categories. The more input I can get from a wide variety of callers and prospective callers, the better off I and my readers will be.
Turning now to Luke’s requests:
On pairing breaks with figures, I’m not sure there’s much to say beyond: (1) Avoid duplication. If the figure is based on stars, avoid them in the break; likewise with chains. There’s a break that alternates “all circle left” with “corner swing” four times; use it with a keeper figure, not one with a corner progression. (1a) Avoid immediate repetition. If the figure begins with heads or sides promenade, don’t call a promenade at the end of the opener and middle break. The same goes for forward and back. (2) Keep the break simpler than the figure in most of the squares you call. If you have a favorite tricky break, pair it with the simplest figure you know, one that barely needs a walkthrough, or save it for a workshop.
Strict phrasing vs. loose or no phrasing: If a figure consists mainly of moves similar to contras – moves that position the dancers precisely (e.g. chain, R&L through, certain types of circles) – the moves should be synchronized with the musical phrases and the calls should be prompted. Unphrased dancing and calling is a hallmark of the Southern Mountain tradition, which favors figures in which the dancers describe circular paths around and between one another. Even some of these “swooping” figures can be phrased if desired; e.g. Lady Round the Lady is well-known as a singing or semi-singing call in the Northeast. Grand Square should always be phrased; Grapevine Twist is hard to phrase. But there’s a middle ground of figures where it’s the caller’s choice.
All this will be in the book, of course. I’ll also point out which squares are likely to require enough teaching time to relegate them to workshops at camps and festivals, and which can be safely used at mostly-contra evenings.
Keep the requests coming!