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?
The name of my local dance community, chosen >30 years ago, is Tallahassee Community Friends of Old-time Dance. Many dancers now prefer evenings made up entirely of contras, narrowly defined, but some still prefer our traditional mix of formations. When I advertise our dances on Facebook, I subtly call the events that I expect to be all-contras ‘contradances’, and the others ‘old-time dances’. I don’t know whether anyone notices. We aren’t the only such organization with ‘old-time’ in our name.
Sent from my iPhone
I'm in Germany, and I'm speaking for the next few days at a Conference run by the European Callers and Teachers Association.
Several of my sessions are about Contras, and speaking to the Contra Coordinator as we drove to the hotel I realised we had very
different ideas about what a contra is. I say it is an American (or American-style) dance, longways duple or triple. He classes
three-couple dances (such as Ted's Triplets), four-couple dances and circles as contras. He even classes my dance "Sting in the
Tail" as a contra. This is for two three-couple sets side-by-side and involves siding into line, set and turn single. I would
regard this quite definitely as "Playford"-style, and I think Americans would categorise it as English. But what is a contra? I
know the hot-shots would say that it's longways duple improper or Becket with a partner swing and preferably a neighbor swing, but
is that your definition? What about an early American dance such as "The Young Widow" - is that a contra? Can a dance in waltz
time be a contra? I think of a contra as mainly danced to reels or jigs, though I know there are a few to slip-jigs. Within
reels I would include marches and American hornpipes, which are smooth, but not English hornpipes which I would dance to a
step-hop. And not Strathspeys. I would say contras are done to a walking step, apart from the swing which is often a buzz step.
But do you agree with me?
Answers fairly quickly please!
Email colin(a)colinhume.com Web site http://colinhume.com
Also from ECTA's definition:
"Contra Dance is mainly danced in two long, facing lines of couples, the
longways. There are different setups relating to the position of the
partner in the formation (e. g. Proper, Improper and Becket) and relating
to the number of couples dancing together (Duple, Triple, Triplet). A
different formation is the Sicilian Circle. Facing couples create a ring in
which in each group one couple is dancing counter clockwise and the other
Contra Dances are mostly danced to reels and jigs, but also to hornpipes.
The music consists of the melodies A and B, which each contain 16 bats and
are repeated so that a melodic structure of AABB is created. The set of
figures is danced to this AA BB structure of 64 beats. There also are
deviant structures like AB BA.
The Prompter explains each dance and calls the figures to the music a
little ahead of time. Like this it is possible for both experienced and new
dancers to dance. Through the repetition of the set of figures the dancers
learn the dance and the Prompter can shorten his calls or reduce them bit
by bit. The set of figures is written so that after dancing through it once
a new group of dancers meet. This is called the progression. In formations
with a fixed group of couples the position within the formation changes.
I ran this at a monthly dance, and it was well received; so I figured I'd
share it around. To my knowledge it's new. Please correct me if you know of
The interesting/odd bit is the transition from B2 to A1, where the ladies
role comes out of a left hand star with old neighbors to start a hey by the
left shoulder in the middle with new neighbors. It flows well, but is
*Hubert Humphrey Deserves More Than Just a Song By Tom Lehrer*
by Luke Donforth
Improper, duple minor contra
Ladies start full hey by the left
Neighbor gyre and swing
Circle Left 3/4
Ladies chain across
Left Hand Star 1x
As for the title, well, I was on a presidents and folk music kick. Writing
titles is harder than writing dances...
thanks for providing this outlet for us!
does anyone have experience with hearing impaired calling?
has anyone used signing for dances?
or other solutions to make the dance accessible?
grateful for your thoughts
312 litchfield turnpike
bethany ct 06524
Karen and I like to get some winter sunshine (temperature
averaging at least mid-sixties) with lots of dancing (ECD, contra, square,
etc.) on our USA vacations in January or February, taking in a dance
festival if we can.
Any recommendations as to the best place to go?
John Sweeney, Caller, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362 &
07802 940 574
http://www.modernjive.com for Modern Jive Events & DVDs
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent