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
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.
I've been thinking about glossary dances, and building vocabulary for new
dancers. I'm curious what your favorite dance is for teaching a ladies
chain for a crowd of mostly new dancers? Or if you don't have a specific
dance, what do you look for in a dance to make the chain as accessible as
Just a chain over? Or a full chain over and back?
Chain to neighbor? Chain to partner?
What move best precedes the chain to set it up?
What move best follows the chain that still helps new dancers succeed?
Other factors you consider?
I don't have a go-to favorite, but I'll walk through some of the things I
I very seldom call a dance with a full chain. Experienced dancers don't
whoop and holler over them, and for new dancers, I'd worry the confusion
Programatically, in a hall with a reasonable mix of new and experienced
dancers, I shoot for the first chain to be to neighbor so that the new
dancers can feel it with different experienced dancers; rather than new
dancers (who will partner up and clump, no matter how many helpful dance
angels you have) continually chaining to each other. If I were trying to
teach a chain to ALL new dancers... well, I doubt I'd teach a chain to
completely new dancers... but if I were, I'd probably go to partner.
For moves, while I love the chain->left hand star transition; I'm not
convinced it's the best for teaching the chain. It often goes B2
chain->star, find new neighbor; and the new neighbor from a left hand star
is non-trivial for new dancers. Possibly a dance where the chain->star
wasn't followed by the progression would work, but it's such a great
progression when they're ready for it; I don't see many of those dances.
chain->star->left allemande maybe? I do like long lines either before or
after the chain as a set-up; but not on both ends. I'm not sure which side
of the chain the lines help more. The Trip to ___ dances that end with
chains and start with women walking in to long wavy lines flow well, but I
don't know that they're the best for teaching chains, since the long wavy
line is another new piece.
Anyway, just some of my thoughts (started by the other thread about simple
glossary dances). I look forward to hearing what others on Shared Weight
have to say about the dances they use to teach chains (and I certainly
won't be offended if folks tangent off into gent's chains; just start a new
The latest version of my Dance Organiser program (which runs on Windows, including a Windows tablet) has extra features which may
appeal to contra callers. Now you can see a grid of which figures appear in which dances of your event, and you can change things
to give more variety of figures. I realised the necessity of this while calling in the States in June!
Download a trial copy from http://colinhume.com/download.htm and experiment with some of my existing program(me)s.
Apologies to those of you who subscribe to two or three lists and will see this two or three times.
I'd like to give the choreographer credit:
A1. Ladies Chain (to N) (8)
Star L 1x (8)
A2. Gypsy/Face-to-face/Spiral R Next N 1x (6)
N1 Sw (10)
B1. Gents Alle L 1.5 (8)
1/2 Hey (PR, LL, NR, GL) (8)
B2. P Gypsy + Swing (16)
I have been poking at the idea of coming out of a star L, having a
next-neighbor/shadow peek, and then returning to swing the person you
starred with. (Thanks to the dance "Here's to the Ladies" for getting my
A more complex, partner heavy dance that I'm poking at:
A1. w/P pass thru across, turn left, single file to next (6)
w/n2s Star L 1+1/4 (10) (til on side w/N, gents home side)
A2. N3 Gypsy/F2F/Spiral Right 1x (6)
N2 Swing (10)
B1. Mad Robin (8) (CW, gents in front, same N2s)
1/2 Hey (8/ (GL, PR, LL, NR)
B2. G pass L (2)
I was just working a wedding gig and my old Samson headset mic crapped
out. If the piano player hadn't had hers along, I would have been in
serious trouble. Time for a new and more reliable headset mic. I use
my hands a LOT when I'm doing ONS gigs, so a handheld cordless isn't
really an option for me.
I'd love recommendations from any of you about models to look at. I'm
planning to plow the funds from this wedding and some of my caller piggy
bank into a new mic, so I want something that's really good quality. It
doesn't have to be tiny and invisible, but it does need to be reliable.
If it doesn't have a belt pack that's a plus, but it seems like most of
the good-quality headset mics have belt packs. I'll deal with it if
that's the best bet. So, recommendations?
For reference, the one I was working with was a Samson Airline 77, often
referred to as the "aerobic instructor mic." It had the transmitter on
the headset, so there were no wires or belt pack, and it worked just
fine for a long time until suddenly it didn't. I would like to hear
what folks are using who rely on a headset mic for their calling gigs.
Kalia Kliban in Sebastopol, CA
I use Chain 'n' Hey http://contrafusion.co.uk/Dances/ChainnHey.html a lot with groups where at least some of the people know what they are doing. No, I don't generally draw imaginary lines on the floor for ordinary heys (yes, for a Lichfield Hey!), but I often demonstrate and tell them to watch how we are walking figure eights (with extra loops) and weaving between each other.
I teach the Courtesy turn first, hand positions and hips together - tell them to imagine a pole between them and the man walks backwards around the pole, the lady walks forwards. Once they get it I tell them, "OK. Now you are Pole Dancing". :-)
I then tell the ladies to make sure they only "touch & go" with their right hands - no holding on - and that their objective is to get around the man by passing him with their left shoulder - and to walk forwards all the time (so many try to back into the man's arm!). Then I tell the men that their job is to step in and scoop up the lady with their right arm (I used to focus on the left hand, but have found that focussing on the right arm has more success), then do the courtesy turn that they have learnt.
Once they get it (reasonably well) I tell the ladies to step forwards and the men to step back and make a line of four ready for the hey (it really helps to get the men to step back!). Now the ladies already know the path since it is exactly the same as two ladies' chains. As long as I can persuade them to keep their eye on the last person they pass so they turn the easy way, and to make that turn a big loop, then there is a high level of success. The dance is also forgiving since they have 16 beats of partner balance and swing to get back to their own side and get ready for the lines.
I think the R & L Through is the worst move of all! It is completely counter-intuitive. The lady pulls by with her right hand, and especially if the man hangs on, she automatically starts to turn to the right, when she needs to turn to the left. There are areas and styles where it is the standard to pass through without hands, then do the courtesy turn with hands. I have a much higher success rate when I teach it that way. I quite often change a R & L Through to a Half Promenade if there is only one dance I want to do in an evening that has a R & L Through.
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362 http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
From: Luke Donforth via Callers [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 23 August 2016 13:42
Subject: Re: [Callers] Favorite dance to teach a ladies chain?
Interesting approach John. I'd personally hesitate to introduce both chain and a hey in the same dance for mostly new dancers. Do you draw an extensive parallel of the motion on the floor for the ladies?
There’s been a discussion on balancing forward & back, or right & left, or starting the balance left, then right when the balance precedes a left allemande. And there’s been a discussion on the timing of circles. Like, does a circle left ¾ take 6 or 8 beats? And how long should a circle left 1¼ take?
Balances & Direction
I think it was Cammy Kaynor who told me he always teaches, “Balance in the direction you’re going to go.” This, as stated, is obvious in a box circulate: you’re going to go forward after the balance. It’s also obvious in a Rory O’More type balance: the balance is right, then left making that right slide or twirl gratifying. And it’s the one place where we do teach the left then right balance, to make that slide/twirl left so cool. Now, consider the allemande:
The initial motion of an allemande is forward. The connection of arms is what turns the forward motion into a circular motion. It is not very satisfying to balance right—tension in the left arm—then left—no tension in the left arm—then go into an allemande left. But a forward & back creates some loss of tension in both arms, then tension in both arms, and you can even favor tension in the left arm facilitating a wonderful launch into that left allemande. When doing this there is no need to alter our “normal” right then left balance. Thus I’ve strongly adopted the above rule: Balance in the Direction you’re going to go. And remember: the initial direction of an allemande—any allemande—is forward. Thus following this rule yields satisfying results whether the balance precedes a left or a right allemande. I try to bring this up whenever I teach a dance.
Circles, Allemandes, & Circumference
Back in the old days (when I started dancing in the 1980s), callers could and would give styling points. We did dances where, in 8 beats, we might allemande left once, dances with an 8 beat 1½ allemande, and dances, like Hull’s Victory, where we’d make it twice around in 8 beats. Some of us were taught that we could get a good connection and give good weight by varying the circumference of the circle we traveled. Keep arms wide, travel a larger circle, and once around in 8 beats feels great! Pull in close, and you can make it around twice in 8 beats.
At times there has been discussion about how a circle left ¾, swing someone is a 6, then 10 beat set of figures. I think of it as 8 & 8, but let dancers do whatever they want. Then we have a circle left ¾, ring balance, California twirl. The timing of this is definitely 8, 4, 4.
It is easy to have a good connection, give good weight in a circle ¾, and make it last 6 or 8 beats by expanding or contracting the circle. Aware dancers will adjust to make the move fit the timing of the dance. Circle left ¾ into a balance: make the circle bigger so the path is a bit longer. Want that extra two beats of swing? Contract the circle, and get there early…
I do agree that a circle left 1¼ in 8 beats does not work well. So, make the circle a bit bigger and turn it into a zesty 12 beats.