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.
A quick question:
How many callers believe that one role does the majority of the work in a
courtesy turn or a butterfly whirl? If so, can you explain how the shared
weight that differs from an allemande?
I've always been taught about shared weight being essential in all contra
moves, and I guess I'm still surprised when I hear callers prompt "pick her
up and take her to the other side" as if the person in lady/raven role is
not giving any weight. (Or similar one-role-biased prompting.)
I'm remembering a few workshops I'd taken with Rick Mohr a few years ago,
and also an occasion where I collected a dance from his calling. He happily
gave me the name and author of the dance, but was also quick to note that
he had substituted out different moves for 16 counts of the dance, so that
it would work better with his evening's program.
Now, someone like Rick can just do this in his head. He has a data base of
common combinations of dance moves, and where everyone ends up after
executing them. As such, he can easily make substitutions on the fly,
because he knows offhand that A+B=X+Y.**
What I'm wondering is, has anyone bothered to write down and compile a list
of common choreography substitutions? I'm thinking a spreadsheet of some
sort, where we think about the net product of various combinations of dance
moves, and categorize the combinations based on their output.
For example: Neighbor Promenade across, Ladies Chain = Long Lines Forward
and Back, Gents Allemande L 11/2.
If no one has already done this, I'll start a new thread where we can begin
to collaboratively write one up!
**Yes, the momentum in each of these scenarios is probably different, and
one might be better than another. But this depends on the rest of the
dance's choreography, and for these purposes I don't especially care. :)
***Also worth acknowledging that substituting out an entire 16-count phrase
could easily result in calling a different dance written by a different
author, but I'm more concerned about using this technique for practical
First, it's been quite a while since I've contributed, and I have 767 unread Callers' List emails... Life's been busy. And, I've just replied to a couple emails without reading the whole thread. Hope I didn't butt in too soon..
Then, I've recently written a couple of dances. One I'm sure is new. The other I need to check with y'all to see if I actually did come up with it, or if I just recalled it from some distant or recent dance...
>>>>>>>> The new one >>>>>>>>>
A1) Circle Left ¾; Pass Thru up & down, New Neighbor Swing
A2) Women Chain Right to Shadow; Men Allemande Left 1½
NOTE: actually, men are start an allemande for 3 full turns!
B1) Pick woman across, take her half way,
Women loop back WHILE men (continue) allemande half
Pick up Partner, take her half way (to original side)
B2) Women (across) Do Si Do; Partner swing
For some reason, men want to end the allemande every time they pick someone up... The second time I called this I had the men allemande three times around, in the hopes they would get the feel of it. I also developed the call:
Men Allemande one and a half,
Pick up that neighbor there, take her just half way
Drop her off & go another half
Pick up your partner
Or something like that.
There are two square dances: The Texas Star (in some versions), and The Chinese Fan, that have men (or women) in a double star, and have the women (or men) looping back to the men (or women) behind.
>>>>>>> The second dance >>>>>>>>>
This is the one that needs to be checked.
If I did make it up I'm calling it Sole Delight, as it was first danced at the Springfield, Missouri Sole Fest.
(The proposed) Sole Delight
A1) Petronella Balance with an overspin to new Neighbor
A2) Hey, Men start, Left shoulder-end in long waves, Men facing in, Women out, same Neighbor in Right Hand
B1) Box Circulate x 2
(Balance wave, Men Cross while Women loop Right; Balance Wave, Women Cross as Men loop)
B2) Box Circulate x 1 (Men Cross, Women Loop) Partner Swing
Is it new?
Recently called a dance with an allemande R into long waves, balance wave,
allemande L. Because of personal preference, I taught the balance as
"balance left, then right", but cuz I didn't teach it all that clearly, the
dancers defaulted back into balancing right first, and enough tricky stuff
was happening in the dance that I didn't wanna correct them in flight.
I'm just wondering: do others agree that a balance left makes more sense /
flows better in this context, or is this a weird personal preference? In
your opinion, does the flow of the balance left outweigh its potential
I had a Girl Scout Dance coming up Sunday and I was thinking how I would
get 150 six to nine year old girls to know which hand was right and which
hand is left. On the way to my contra calling gig on Saturday, the thought
arose that right hand sounds very close to red hand. On the way to the
Scout Dance, I stopped and purchased scissors and some red ribbon (the
store did not carry yarn) and asked that the leaders tie a red ribbon
bracelet around each scout as they entered the hall. When I called dances
with arm turns I called, "Turn your partner with your red hand, change
hands, other way back." It worked so well that I know I will do it again.
I thought I would share this trick, and then ask if anyone has useful
methods when working with only children. Please share some trade secrets.
A balance, ideally, is first toward, then away from, the dancer with whom one is about to interact, and even better if it is in, then against, the flow of movement. Even better if the choreography does the work for you by flowing into the balance.
In this particular dance, you have the best of all worlds, but I slightly disagree with your preference.
The Allemande R has everyone flowing forward. The flow of the Allemande L is also, fundamentally, forward. In my opinion, a balance (gently) forward, and back, is ideal. The choreography helps a little with a left first lean as you reach for the next person's L hand. But in this case, I think the safe teach is for both balances to be forward and back. Noting before you say F&B, that body flow is supported by that choice helps mark it in people's minds. To further get people's minds away from the R balance, I'd not say R after the word balance at all, even if you decide to go for L instead of back.. You want them to only have in their heads words which reinforce the movement you want. Well worth the extra moment to emphasize the gathering of LEFT hands with the next, and letting the body flow of the forward movement of the first Allemande to go into the balance Fwd.
if the following move had been, for example, a Rory o More, I would have completely agreed with the L balance, FWIW. Body flow is partly there getting in, and the person you are interacting with and eventually moving past is on the L.
Sent from my external brain
Accidentally sent only to Maia.
Sent from my iPad
Begin forwarded message:
> From: "Winston, Alan P." <winston(a)slac.stanford.edu>
> Date: November 8, 2017 at 11:30:06 AM PST
> To: Maia McCormick <maia.mcc(a)gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Balancing LEFT in a wave?
> I would say the potential unidiomaticness of the balance left is *very high*. In a regular Rory O’More kind of balance R&L, slide R, balance L&R, slide L, I always see a quarter to an eighth of the dancers balance right first both times. (I can get it down a lot by pointing out that you always balance to the same person first, but very rarely can get everybody.).
> So as you saw, if you try to overcome the “right first” balance you’re really fighting the tide, and it’s going to be a lot of work.
> In the particular case you describe I’d think you’d do a lot better (both for flow of the dance and for getting the dancers to do what you tell them) to strongly suggest they balance forward and back to set up the allemande rather than L&R *or* R&L.
> That said, to answer what you specifically asked, I agree that L&R makes more sense than R&L, but I don’t think it’s a *lot* more sense (that is, R&L isn’t even close to fatal) , and it’s not the hill I’d choose to die on.
> -- Alan
> From: Callers <callers-bounces(a)lists.sharedweight.net> on behalf of Maia McCormick via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
> Sent: Wednesday, November 8, 2017 11:07:20 AM
> To: callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net
> Subject: [Callers] Balancing LEFT in a wave?
> Recently called a dance with an allemande R into long waves, balance wave, allemande L. Because of personal preference, I taught the balance as "balance left, then right", but cuz I didn't teach it all that clearly, the dancers defaulted back into balancing right first, and enough tricky stuff was happening in the dance that I didn't wanna correct them in flight.
> I'm just wondering: do others agree that a balance left makes more sense / flows better in this context, or is this a weird personal preference? In your opinion, does the flow of the balance left outweigh its potential unidiomaticness?