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.
Sure they're all fun (we hope). I'm looking for a few dances that are particularly playful, quirky, silly....something that typically gets the dancers laughing.
Some examples would be "Over the Hill and Still Chased" with the lady round two/gent cut through figure, or Beneficial Tradition when the dancers throw their free arm up and shout "Wooo!"
You get the idea. What are your favorites?
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 haven't heard anyone suggest standardization and I'm not pushing for it. My whole issue has been freedom so whatever people want to use if fine by me.
At one time, around 2011 I thought the use of different terms by callers might lead to problems but now I don't think that's the case.
Sent from my iPad
Preserving tradition and being appropriate to our day and age are not
I actually love rich traditions that we keep alive. We talk about "living"
traditions, so what do we mean by this phrase?
For something to be alive, it changes. It adapts. What it doesn't do is
stay stagnant and unchanging. The whole reason contra dancing is still
alive today is because it's alive and changing.
By insisting on holding onto traditions verbatim, we are actually doing
more to kill them than save them. Sure, we'll preserve them this way - as
one does a taxidermied animal: perfectly preserved, sitting on a shelf,
I'd prefer my traditions alive. I'd like to keep sharing them with younger
generations. That means that people like Rich are asking the right
questions. That means we need to consider that language changes and that we
need to speak in a language that reaches an audience not merely just our
Hey, isn't that the whole point of being a dance caller? Being heard by
In dance, again,
On Wed, Mar 28, 2018, 1:33 AM Ron Blechner <contraron(a)gmail.com> wrote:
> I want to echo the words of Alex D-L and Dave Casserly.
> I'm also appalled at the casual use of the n-word on this thread without
> anyone whatsoever calling it out. This is really giving me pause. :(
> Contra's attendance is dwindling - I hear it from every organizer I talk
> to, with a couple exceptions. I also hear about the desire to "get the
> young people to dance". Hmmm.
> Ron Blechner
> On Tue, Mar 27, 2018, 11:39 AM Dave Casserly via Callers <
> callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
>> I don't think your situation here is exactly what Colin describes--
>> you're not worried about any of the particular words, as many of us are
>> regarding the word "gypsy," for instance. The question here is whether the
>> phrase has an offensive *meaning* of "women are things," and if so, is
>> that a good reason not to use it. Personally, I'd probably alter it or do
>> a different singing square. I don't subscribe to the extreme position that
>> you should never sing lyrics to a folk song unless you agree with those
>> lyrics; that would make singing folk songs very difficult to do at all.
>> That said, there are some times where the meanings of lyrics are offensive
>> enough, without any redeeming qualities, that I leave a verse out or alter
>> a few words in the singing sessions that I lead. There is nothing
>> sacrosanct about a particular set of lyrics to a folk song; people have
>> been changing them for whatever reason for generations, and will continue
>> to do so. If future singers don't like my revisions, they can sing a
>> different version, just like I sometimes prefer to ignore Victorian-era
>> revisions to bawdier songs.
>> Here, I'd lean toward not using the lyrics for three reasons: 1) they
>> imply that women are objects; 2) there's nothing redeeming or valuable
>> about them, as they're the only things sung, with no context; and 3)
>> similarly, they don't represent the meaning of the song, and when repeated
>> on their own, sort of pervert that meaning (at least going by the lyrics
>> Yoyo posted).
>> I also think there are good reasons to err on the side of inclusive
>> language, particularly in our community. Contra dancing is overwhelmingly
>> white, and for a long time, contra dance calling was dominated by men. The
>> loudest voices on this forum are those of older white men. Contra dancers
>> and particularly organizers are disproportionately white baby boomers.
>> We're seeing the effects of that now; dance attendance has been dwindling
>> as older dancers stop attending and aren't replaced by younger dancers. If
>> we want our dance form to continue to thrive, when there's a question on
>> which there's a generational divide (as you, in my view correctly, note
>> here), I would err toward using the language less likely to turn off our
>> younger generations, which are also our most diverse generations. This
>> isn't an issue where changing the lyrics is going to bother people-- very
>> few would know the original lyrics well enough to notice-- and certainly
>> nobody would know if you selected a different singing square instead.
>> David Casserly
>> (cell) 781 258-2761
>> List Name: Callers mailing list
>> List Address: Callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net
>> Archives: https://firstname.lastname@example.org/
Some of you may have known Susan Moffett, who was a dancer and a caller and
a musician (and an artist and a mother and a wife and a friend and a
professor and a teacher in the truest sense). She danced and called dances
in Louisville and the surrounding region.
She was consistently positive and supportive, a great communicator who
modeled so many things for me as a caller and as a human.
Her celebration of life will include both a service and, of course, a
dance, on Saturday, May 19 in Louisville. (Service at 4:30, dance at 8:00).
"Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power
and magic in it." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Several replies are of the "it's OK in context" or "that's how things were
back then" variety.
To use that as the sole argument, however, leads me to a cute little rhyme
my friends and I would sing out when we were about 5 years old and playing
in the yard out on the west coast. It began, "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe..."
I hope no one would suggest that the rhyme in question is fine in this day,
"if only it is put in context."
Granted, your example is a little tamer (in my eyes, but others may find it
equally offensive to the rhyme mentioned; I don't know).
Maybe there are other arguments for retaining the original that stand up
better to true scrutiny. It would be a shame to retain, in common usage
(thereby prolonging the insult), cultural relics that would be unacceptable
in civilized society today.
It would also be a shame to lose past cultural joys.
What about those pop songs that get altered to remove a "derogatory term
for a homosexual" here (Dire Straits) or a "medication usually prescribed
by a physician" there (Meatloaf)?
Where does one draw the line?
Adapt to current mores or die, Relic!
Good luck with that, Rich!
ps. We have just recently had pass in parliament a change to our national
anthem, to make it gender-neutral, from "in all our sons command" to "in
all of us command". Wasn't THAT a challenge!
Then some smart guy pointed out:
"FYI: The original lyric to the 1908 version of “O Canada” was “Thou dost
in us command.” Was changed to “All Thy Sons” in 1914. So for you
traditionalists, Robert Stanley Weir’s original lyric was, in fact,
I have been calling singing squares for years, and there is one I love by
Dick Leger titled Billy Boy. The tag line that is sung during the
Promenade is "She's a young thing, that cannot leave her mother."
Here is a link to a version of the full song, not within a square.
My question is, is this song appropriate for the contra dance crowd with
the tag line above? (The tag line is the only line that is sung.)