My name is Jonathan Janzen (though my friends call me JJ). I've been
calling for about 4 years, and have been calling outside of my home dance
for about 2 years or so now. I'm wanting to grow my skills in teaching,
building programs, and also to work on getting more gigs outside of my home
state. I have have asked questions of as many callers as I can, but I do
not yet have a Mentor who can work with me individually.
If anyone would be interested in Mentoring me as a Caller, please send me
an Email at jcgj95(a)gmail.com.
Many thanks in advance,
I'd like to hear examples of contra dances with combos of Mad Robins with
Lady/Raven figures, such as:
Mad Robin (Counterclockwise)
Ravens Alle R / DSD / Lead a hey
Or especiall a Mad Robin progression to Mad Robin with a Lady/Raven role on
There was a recent discussion of easy contra corners dances on here. As I have a nice body of beginner level CC dances, I am looking to add some more challenging contra corners dances into my repertoire. What do you all got? (Triplets are okay, but definitely some in contra formation ...)
Sent from my iPhone
Bob’s dance looks nice with all you want. Thus one has lady/raven move surrounding the mad robin.
> On 18/07/2019, at 05:30, Ron Blechner via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
> I'd like to hear examples of contra dances with combos of Mad Robins with Lady/Raven figures, such as:
> Mad Robin (Counterclockwise)
> Ravens Alle R / DSD / Lead a hey
> Or especiall a Mad Robin progression to Mad Robin with a Lady/Raven role on either/both end.
> Ron Blechner
> List Name: Callers mailing list
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I want to improve my spoken calling voice. Can anyone in the Boston area recommend a voice coach? How do I evaluate a coach before deciding to work with one?
If you reply privately I’ll assume you don’t want it republished to the group. Public replies might be more helpful to everyone, though.
I am excited to announce the dates for Helvetia Hoot 2019! We used to call
it Dare to Be Square, but we wanted to make it an event for more than just
musicians and dancers (so bring your friends). Food, craft, and mountain
culture workshops have been added to the usual gamut of music and dance
Helvetia, settled by Swiss in 1869, is a sweet mountaintop town with a
current population of 59. The community is known for maintaining Swiss
cultural traditions in their seasonal gatherings such as Fasnacht and
monthly dances. Rustic camping is available in a tree lined field alongside
the creek between the town's two dance halls, general store, and Swiss
restaurant. It's 1 hour from Elkins and a 3 hour drive from the Pittsburgh
I hope you'll put it on your calendar and try to bring the whole family.
I'm happy to help coordinate ride-shares and work trade if that makes it
easier for you to come. Even if you can't make it this year, we could
really use help promoting, so we get enough folks to keep it affordable.
Send me your mailing address if you want handbills to distribute.
Hold Fast and Never Let Go,
August 31 – September 2, 2019
Looking for a Labor Day Weekend adventure? This weekend, formally known as
Dare to be Square, is designed for aspiring and advanced callers, dancers,
musicians, singers and those eager to try something new. Foodways, craft,
and mountain culture sessions are also in the works. Workshops will be held
Saturday and Sunday. Come up for just a day, or the whole weekend! Come
experience a local West Virginia square dance Friday night at the Jackson
Mill Jubilee in Weston. Camping will be available Friday – Monday morning.
Workshops will be offered by Ginny Hawker, Val Mindel, Jesse Milnes, Mack
Samples, Bill Ohse, Lou Maiuri, Becky Hill, T- Claw, Ellen & Eugene
Ratcliffe and many others yet to be determined! Workshop highlights include
Helvetia Fiddle Tunes with Jesse Milnes, a Gospel Sing with Ginny Hawker,
Old Time Helvetia Baking, Calling 101 & 102 with T-Claw, Glenville Style
Square Dances with legendary WV Callers, Flatfooting 1 & 2 with Becky Hill
& friends, Appalachian Foodways with Mike Costello & Amy Dawson, Old-Time
Singing with Val Mindel and so much more!
There are two beautiful dance halls and there will be many opportunities to
practice calling! Evening dances are open to the public on Saturday &
Sunday nights with jam sessions at all hours.
EVENT CHECK-IN: will start at 10am on Saturday, August 31 in the Community
Please bring CASH or CHECK when registering at the gate.
VOLUNTEER: Please let us know if you can't come due to not being able to
afford the admission price. There are several volunteer opportunities
available for partial and full tuition. There are also several scholarships
available to eager beginning callers!
calling.t.claw(a)gmail.com for inquiries.
Public Nightly Dances start at 8 p.m. Admission is $10.
Friday, August 30 – Jackson Mill Jubilee Square Dance
Saturday, August 31 – Jesse Milnes & Friends
Sunday, September 1 – Big Possum Stringband
More details about workshops and schedule coming soon...
Rooms are available for rent at the Hutte: 304-924-6435
and Kultur Haus: 304-924-5160. To reserve a room please tell them you are
with “Dare to be Square/ Helvetia Hoot”. For more information visit
Rustic camping is a $15 – 20 donation for the weekend.
No showers are available, there is a small creek to play around in.
There are real restrooms within walking distance of camping field.
Be warned that GPS to Helvetia doesn’t always work. There have been several
hilarious adventures that involve people getting stuck in swamps. Please
use these directions from the Hutte. There will be signs posted. Most cell
phones will not get reception in Helvetia.
Take Route 219 to 250 South for 16 miles to Mill Creek.
In Mill Creek Turn Right on County Route 46 (Helvetia Road)
20 Miles to Helvetia.
Take Route 20 South for 12 miles to the West Virginia Wildlife Center.
Turn Left onto County Route 11 (Alexander Helvetia Road)
20 Miles to Helvetia.
Saturday August 31st
Breakfast: We will have COFFEE available (please bring a mug)
Lunch is on your own.
Dinner: POTLUCK 6 – 8pm (please bring a dish to pass)
Sunday September 1st
Breakfast: We will have COFFEE available (please bring a mug)
Lunch is on your own. Hutte will be open noon to 7pm.
Snacks, beer, t-shirts, postcards and other small items are available at
the Helvetia General Store. There is no ATM, gas station or large grocery
store in Helvetia.
I have been asked to call a contra dance with contra corners in it. Can
anyone suggest an interesting dance that is relatively easy forr a dance
floor with many newbies?
Thanks for any ideas,
John Sweeny below hoped we callers would teach more about hand turns and the like.
I've been thinking on this for quite a while. Years ago I had a discussion with Brad Foster. We both lamented the loss of the allemande with mildly interlocking thumbs to the modern overprotective thumb against the side of the palm allemande. At that time I think I was still in Santa Barbara, thus it must have been pre 1994. I wrote an article for our dance rag called, "If Allemande Left, Where'd Allemande Go?"
I talked about what I do when someone grips my hand-and I think all of us should remove that word, "grip" from our caller's vocabulary...
But the most important thing I discussed is:
* Our Wrist is Strongest When It's Straight
* Our Fingers are Strongest When Curved
* Thus, however one does an allemande, it should be a hook, with curved fingers and a straight wrist.
Lately I've seen teachers promote the straight fingers, bent wrist, and flat palm method. The almost always makes one person's wrist uncomfortable. Not as bad as when someone draws the others hand into that almost-Aikido-put-them-on-the-ground position, but usually quite uncomfortable.
Thus I hope most of us learn the curved fingers, straight wrist, no grip, and, no thumb clamping allemande, ECD hand turn, two hand turn type hand connections.
From: Callers <callers-bounces(a)lists.sharedweight.net> On Behalf Of John Sweeney via Callers
Sent: Friday, May 17, 2019 2:09 PM
To: 'Caller's discussion list' <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
Subject: Re: [Callers] Name that Dance
I would just call it a "Big Set Mixer". It is a slight variation of the one in the Community Dances Manual. Callers just make up a 32 bar sequence that works for their dancers.
While it is a good example of all ages having fun together, I really wish callers would teach the dancers just a tiny bit about how to do better hand/arm turns and swings :-)
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362 & 07802 940 574
http://contrafusion.co.uk/KentCeilidhs.html for Live Music Ceilidhs
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
http://www.modernjive.com for Modern Jive DVDs
I don't think theres any ill will intended, just a bit of laziness on the dancers part. So
Done has to WANT to change a habit and make a concerted effort to focus and practice to make the changes. Several folks don't think the caller is talking to them so they don't make the effort
On Monday, July 8, 2019 jim saxe via Callers <jim.saxe(a)gmail.com> wrote:
On May 18, 2019, at 11:28 AM, Rich Dempsey via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote, regarding flat-hand allemanders:
> ... I still don't understand what those people are thinking.
The question of "what those people are thinking" often comes to my mind in relation to dance style points in general. A caller (whether myself or someone else) describes something in terms that seem crystal clear; the thing they are suggesting is something simple (e.g., "straight wrist, bent fingers", as contrasted to, say, a complicated choreographic pattern or a long footwork sequence in 11/8 time); perhaps they even do a demonstration and specifically call dancers' attention to the details they mean to demonstrate ("Notice how my fingers ..."); and yet, once the music starts, a large number of dancers do something different from what the caller suggested. What on earth are all those people thinking?
When a caller's attempt to put something across to a group of dancers isn't very successful, it seems to me that figuring out *why* can be an important first step toward coming up with a better approach to teaching that thing in the future--or toward having better judgment in the future about whether or not to attempt to teach that particular thing (whether it's a styling nuance, an unfamiliar figure, a complete dance sequence, or whatever) in any particular situation.
So I'd like to get your thoughts about figuring out what's going on when a caller's attempt to teach a style point fall flat. What sorts of things do you think the nonconforming dancers might be thinking? How do you try to judge what the most significant issues are in any particular case, so that you can decide what to do differently next time? (I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be productive to go around cornering different dancers and saying, "Hey, <name>, I noticed that in that dance where I made a big point of teaching people to do such-and-such, you kept doing so-and-so. What's up with that?") Can you offer any specific stories about how you diagnosed a difficulty in putting across a particular style point (whether about allemandes or anything else) and how you improved your presentation later?
For anyone who feels like wading through more of my musings, below are some possible reasons I've thought of that dancers might not follow a caller's styling advice. Some of them may overlap or interact with others, and perhaps some of you can think of other important possibilities that I've omitted. I don't have any great ideas to offer about how to judge which of the possibilities listed below apply in any particular situation. I welcome your comments.
1. *Intentional rebellion*: Some dancers may get the vibe that "the caller is criticizing us" or "the caller thinks (s)he knows our idea of fun better than we do." They may find this presumption on the part of the caller extremely off-putting and may decide to show the pompous twit who's boss by visibly disobeying. [While it may be tempting to assume intentional rebellion as the explanation when you see dancers apparently making no effort to follow a very clearly explained suggestion from the caller, I think that such instances of outright contrariness are actually quite rare.]
2. *Informed dissent*: The dancers in question really, truly understand the styling the caller is recommending and have really, truly given it a fair try--perhaps more than once, and with a variety of different partners and/or neighbors at one or more previous dance events--but have concluded that they personally prefer a different styling from what the caller is suggesting. Furthermore, they have judged, after due consideration, that they will not impose awkwardness or discomfort on other dancers by using their own preferred styling. [I certainly must grant respect to the preferences of dancers in this category--and most especially so when they have some frailty or injury that would make it painful to dance in the style recommended by the caller. However, there are times when informed dissent strikes me as an unlikely explanation for dancer behavior. In particular, it seems unlikely to me that most of the dancers who allemande with flat hands, straight fingers, and sharply bent
wrists can really have given a fair try to the styling with gently curled fingers and straight wrists and found it wanting. Of course I haven't lived in all those people's bodies.]
3. *Genuine ambiguity*: The caller's words may have been ambiguous, and some dancers may have followed an interpretation that never occurred to the caller but that is just as plausible as the one that the caller intended. [This situation can occur not only for style suggestions, but also in cases involving the basic choreography of a dance. To give just one of many, many possible examples, a caller who identifies the role of "first corner" in Contra Corners as "the person to the right of your partner" may think the meaning is obvious, but a new dancer could quite plausibly interpret "the person to the right of your partner" to mean "the person adjacent to your partner's right shoulder".]
4. *Weak attention, but with good intention*: Some dancers might genuinely believe that they are being completely cooperative with the caller when in fact they have not paid careful attention to hearing and interpreting the caller's words. For example, when some experienced dancers hear a caller start to go into details of styling for some figure, they might assume that the caller is addressing only newer dancers and that they themselves already know how to do whatever it is. So they may turn their attention to modeling (their idea of) standard styling with the new dancers around them and meanwhile not fully attend to the actual words coming over the P.A. system. [It's easy to dismiss such dancers with expressions like "smug" or "overconfident" or "dancers who imagine themselves to be 'experienced'", but I think we humans have a natural tendency to be only as attentive as we imagine circumstances to warrant. And our idea of how much attentiveness a situation warrants may be base
d more on habit than on careful intellectual consideration. Numerous street crossings in London are painted with the words "LOOK RIGHT" just off the curb (or "LOOK LEFT" just off center islands of divided streets) as shown in these photos:
That's for the benefit of tourists who genuinely imagine that we're in the habit of looking both ways before crossing a street, when our actual habit may be to look in the direction that we normally expect traffic to come from and then to take a few steps into the street before we look the other way. If people can be less than hyper-vigilant in situations where it can literally be a matter of life and death, it's hardly surprising that we can tune out a little when we imagine that a dance caller is about to go over familiar ground. By the way, notice the arrows in the photos cited above. Perhaps those are primarily for the benefit of non-English-speaking tourists, but I also think they're a useful addition to the words even for literate native speakers of English.]
5. *Verbal/spatial processing issues*: Some dancers may find it more difficult than others to make sense of a caller's verbal description of a spatial situation. [As an example, a pair of dancers might have their hands in an allemande hold where the tips of each dancer's fingers are near the other dancer's index finger, approximately as shown in the supposed depiction of arm wrestling at
and when the caller says something about each dancer curving their fingers around the other dancer's hand "between the base of the thumb and the wrist", they may simply not make sense of what that could mean. Similarly, to give an example involving basic choreography rather than styling, when a caller talks about one person in a courtesy turn backing up while the other goes forward, the person who is told to "back up" may be unable to imagine what that could mean except to back completely away from the other dancer. And if the caller tries to clarify by talking about a "common axis of rotation" or some such thing, it might be like expecting someone who has never seen the inside of a jet engine, or the outside of kangaroo, to make a recognizable drawing of one based on a verbal description.]
6. *Mental overload and reversion to habit*: Some dancers may need to devote so much of their attention to the basic choreography of the dance that they don't have any left over for details of styling, which therefore revert to the habitual. [I've sometimes danced with new dancer partners who have had a tendency to press their thumb against the back of my hand, for example during circles. When an opportunity presents--say, while we're waiting out at the top or the bottom of the set--I might tell/show them about how pressing with the thumb is unnecessary, and a bit painful. The result is sometimes that they keep the thumb out of play for a round or two of the dance but soon go back to pressing it against the back of my hand. I presume that their attention is all taken up dealing with things like what to do next and who to do it with and the unfamiliarity of things being turned around 180 degrees now that we've come back in after being out at the end, and the thing about what (not
) to do with their thumbs is what ends of getting dropped.]
7. *Acoustic issues*: Perhaps the caller chose excellent words to explain a particular style point but some combination of acoustic issues rendered the callers words unintelligible to some of the dancers. [Issues could include poor room acoustics, poor adjustment of the P.A. system, noise from fans and/or from conversations on the sidelines, poor enunciation, or poor mic technique. There could also be dancers who have various degrees of hearing deficits. Acoustic difficulties can interact with issuers attention (item 4 above) and verbal processing (item 5). One source of distracting noise can be other dancers who begin talking among themselves as soon as they detect that the caller has stopped teaching the essentials of the dance sequence and begun to prattle about styling.]
8. *Unseen demo*: During a demonstration, people might have crowded around so that only the nearest ones had ha clear view.
9-?. *???*: What possibilities have I missed?
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