Hi contra callers,
There's a new Shared Weight list that I wanted to tell you about.... it's
called Growing Up Trad!
Here's our mission:
*Growing up Trad! is an email discussion list for caregiving adults who
love traditional dance, music and song. The focus of our conversation is
around nurturing these traditions within our families and in particular
with the children in our care. *
*We are dancers, singers, callers, musicians, and/or lovers of the
traditions. We are seeking ways to network with others so that our children
can have increased opportunities to engage in our shared traditions,
especially if we are isolated in our local communities and have few kindred
*We welcome parents, grandparents, and anyone else interested in discussing
how to encourage the love of traditional dance, music, and song among
children in their families. We also hope that this online community will
help children and families prepare for connecting in person over time as we
are able to meet locally, regionally, and beyond.*
We'd love to have any of you join us.
More info and how to join is here:
I hope all is well out west.
I will avoid anything related to trying to get a new person to enjoy contra
by stepping by themselves around their living room -- I can't imagine how
that might be accomplished -- and focus on technical aspects.
1. As you point out there may be issues with sharing video on a Zoom screen
and, as you would know, the likelihood of trouble-free video is inversely
proportional to the percent of the screen that is displaying video (i.e.
the larger the percentage of the screen that is moving, the higher the
bandwidth required and Zoom server processing power). Thus, everyone should
also ditch the virtual background of the palm trees on the beach blowing
around with the waves rolling in. :)
2. I did share a movie on Zoom with family a few months back with some
success but the quality definitely improved after I resized the VLC window
to about half the screen. The connections just did not support a
full-screen video share. Note: Do not share only the video window (which, I
believe, will show up on the other ends as full screen), share the entire
screen with a small-ish video window displayed on that screen.
3. I am taking uni courses on-line at the moment, using both Zoom and
Teams. Last Friday I presented on Teams, window-in-window, a powerpoint
presentation covering the entire screen (but having low bandwidth needs)
and my smiling face in an inset window (about 25% of the screen) that pops
up using (free) OBS software, which actually worked incredibly well. So,
you might try putting a youtube video on one side of the screen (that would
mean the actual video would cover about 20-25% of the screen and the OBC
window (or other s/w that gives you a selfie window) of desired size
elsewhere on the screen. Then share the entire screen. Try that out with a
friend first and see how that would work.
Last note, it is minimal functionality that is needed in OBS to accomplish
this, so the learning curve is about 2 minutes long. Send me a note if I
can be of any help. I use a current, mid-range Win 10 laptop.
Also, let me add my YouTube contra playlist link to the one Sarah offered.
(I had a memorably magical Flurry dance with "Sarah from Asheville" a few
years ago! Don't know if that was with this Sarah or another. :) )
Saguenay, QC née Ottawa, ON née YVR (SEA)
At work, we have a Fun Friday thing where someone does a 1/2 hr
presentation on something of interest. It could be travel, a hobby, or
whatever. They're asking me to do one on contra dance. In the before times
when we could do it in person, I would have taught them a simple dance to
recorded music. But I'm trying to think about what to say about contra in
1/2 an hour that'll be fun. Someone else did latin ballroom dancing and
they tried to share their screen and play a bunch of videos, which was a
total fail, but then they shared the youtube links and people loved it.
Contra isn't quite as sexy as that, and he was doing performances rather
than taking videos of salsa at the club, so it was pretty impressive.
Thoughts? I know a little about contra history, but I'm not super
passionate about it. I can certainly play a bunch of the great music. I can
show clips of large events (Folklife), techno contra, family dances, and
other variants (tractor contas, anyone).
One thing I'd love to do is to get people up and dancing, but I realize
that's probably not going to work. I regularly attend Zoom dances, but I
don't think a bunch of non-dancers will just get up and have fun having
never learned any of the moves. If anyone's got a great dance that
beginners can do (no terminology) and that's designed for singles or the
occasional couple, please share. Luckily a bunch of singles dances are
being written now, but they mostly assume an experienced audience.
You may find some of these new articles of interest. They relate to Contra,
ECD, eCeilidh, Country Dance, Folk Dance, Traditional Dance, Barn Dance,
Square Dance, etc. in varying amounts. They are all at:
* The Hey or Reel - Origins and Over 25 Variations
* Grand Square - History and Variations
* Star and Hands Across and Variants
* Rights & Lefts - Circular Hey - Square Thru - Right & Left Through - Two
* Lead & Follow
* The Dance Is Not The Tune!
* An Essay on the Best Position for the Lady's Left Hand in a Ballroom-Hold
* English or American? - Country Dance - Barn Dance
Or maybe some of these old ones:
* Country Dance & Contra Dance Formations - Over 100!
* Allemandes, Hand Turns and Arming
* Gypsy: The Move & The Name
* The Virtues of Good Swinging!
* The Well-Connected Dancer
* Siding & Variants
* Dances from English Dance & Song - Over 150 Dances!
* The Lovelace Manuscript
Comments, corrections, feedback, updates, etc. are all welcome - please send
them to john(a)modernjive.com <mailto:email@example.com> .
I hope you are all well and enjoying life in these troubled times!
Looking forward to seeing you on the dance-floor again one day.
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362 & 07802
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
The Friends of Cecil Sharp House are pleased to announce our second Positional Calling Workshop, led by Louise Siddons, on 14 November 2020 at 7 pm UK time (2pm Eastern, 11am Pacific).
The first workshop, which focused on English country dance calling, was recorded and is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGowupPiIig
This second workshop is intended to introduce participants to positional calling for contra dancing. Discover how the skills you already cultivate as a caller can be enhanced by positional thinking, teaching and calling — and learn how to use those skills to create a more welcoming, inclusive atmosphere at your dances. This workshop will be participatory rather than prescriptive, although Louise will introduce the strategies that she uses in her own teaching and calling as helpful starting points. Louise has been calling both contra and ECD positionally since 2017 in both the US and the UK.
If you wish to attend this workshop, please register your interest by sending a brief email to judith(a)fcsh.org.uk.
Louise is waiving her fees and costs in organising these sessions, and would like AKT to benefit from her efforts and your generosity. You can make a contribution online at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fcsh. Thank you.
Louise Siddons, dance caller
Dear Contra Caller friends,
November 18, 2020, marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Ted Sannella. Ted shaped our lives as dancers and callers, and we remember him vividly. Before more time goes by and memories fade, we'd like to use this occasion to collect stories and tributes from others who knew Ted.
Ted published some 170 dances, including contras, squares, triplets, and mixers in various configurations. After the death of Ralph Page, Ted was widely considered the “Dean of New England Callers.” He left behind a vast collection of dance materials, which were donated along with his personal papers to the New Hampshire Library of Traditional Music and Dance at the University of New Hampshire to form the Ted Sannella Collection.
Please send your stories to SannellaStories(a)gmail.com; we'll collect them and will arrange for them to be shared more widely. This may happen through a print or web publication of some kind, or—once the COVID-19 pandemic has abated enough that we can dance safely—in dance camp or festival settings. We could even arrange a special Ted Talk!
We will also make sure that all contributions are passed along to the Ted Sannella Collection at UNH and shared with members of Ted's family.
David Millstone and David Smukler
The Friends of Cecil Sharp House presents:
Positional Calling Workshops with Louise Siddons
Saturday 17th October and Saturday 14th November 2020 at 7 pm (UK)
These workshops are intended to introduce participants to positional calling — sometimes described as global terminology — for both ECD/Playford (on October 17) and contra (on November 14). Discover how the skills you already cultivate as a caller can be enhanced by positional thinking, teaching, and calling — and learn how to use those skills to create a more welcoming, inclusive atmosphere at your dances. This workshop will be participatory rather than prescriptive, although Louise will introduce the strategies that she uses in her own teaching and calling as helpful starting points. Louise has been calling both contra and ECD positionally since 2017 in both the US and the UK.
Register by email to judith(a)fcsh.org.uk <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
In case you don't know about them, I'd like to bring a series of videos to your attention.
These are produced by the Historical Tea and Dance Society based in Pasadena, California,
and each week they interview a caller, musician or organiser and ask them to talk about 5 things they are passionate about.
Many of these relate to "English" (i.e. Playford-style) dancing but certainly not all, and this week the interviewee was the
wonderful Lisa Greenleaf. She has a lot of good advice for callers of any genre, and I believe dancers would also be interested
in her attitude to calling and dancing. Did you know that when she lived in Boston she was a regular dancer with the English
group led by Helene Cornelius with music by Bare Necessities? Well I didn't.
You can view the recording at:
and you can see an index of all the available sessions (over 30 of them) at
I wanted to share some dances I've written over the past few months, in
case they are of use to others. I wrote these dances to call during
Bloomington’s weekly Wednesday night zoom dance. They are written for one
person to dance alone, but they can be adapted or improvised for more
people. I have been walking through the dances twice (while demonstrating
the moves) and calling for the duration of the dance (while also dancing by
myself on camera to continue demonstrating). I am lucky to have musicians
in my small pandemic circle, so I’ve been calling to live music.
The easiest way to view the dances (as far as formatting goes) is with this
google doc link. I will also copy and paste them below as well.
I'm curious for thoughts and feedback, too!
*“Solo Dance #1”*
Circle left, 1 time
Balance and swing yourself, end facing down/away from your device
B1: Down the hall, turn alone, come back
B2: Balance, move one spot to the right (Petronella turn)
Balance, move one spot to the left
*“Solo Dance #2”*
A1: Figure eight (start facing your device, figure eight starts as if
you’re doing an allemande right ¾ so that your figure eight moves away from
A2: Right shoulder round (melt into it as you finish figure eight)
Swing (end facing across with your left side closest to your device)
B1: Short lines forward and back
Balance right then left, slide right (or spin, think Rory O’Moore)
B2: Balance left then right, slide left
*“Solo Dance #3”*
A1: Balance and swing yourself (end facing device)
A2: Balance right then left, walk back four steps
Balance right then left, walk back for steps
B1: Zig left, zag right, zig left, zag right (8) (sashay forward in a
zig zag pattern)
Freestyle clogging (8)
B2: Freestyle clogging (16)
*Variation: Instead of freestyle clogging, repeat A2 and the first eight
counts of B1.Tips: For the long swing, move slowly or not in a tight circle
to avoid dizziness!*
A1: Balance the ring, balance again
Circle left, 1 time
A2: Balance the ring, balance again
Circle right, 1 time
B1: Right foot - heal, toe, heal, toe (4); sashay right (4)
Left foot - heal, toe, heal, toe (4); sashay left (4)
B2: Balance, walk back four steps
Zig zag forward (sashay back and forth to your starting place)
*Notes: For this dance, encourage dancers to place two objects on the
floor, about a body-length apart. The dance starts by facing the two
objects and “connecting” right hands with the first object. Works well with
music with a bouncy A part and flowy B part.*
A1: Right hand balance, turn halfway (then give your left hand to the
Left hand balance, turn halfway (keep left hand connected there)
A2: Left hand balance, turn halfway (give right hand to the first object)
Right hand balance, turn halfway
B1 Melt into a figure eight (follow the same path you just made with the
balance/turn sequence, but flowy this time. 8 counts down, 8 counts back)
B2: Melt into a swing when you get home (end facing your floor objects)
Big circle left halfway (so that you are now in front of your second
object - in “progressed” position; you will progress back and forth, i.e.,
alternate your starting place, throughout the dance)
*“Untitled” (as of now)*
*Note: Start facing your device, with plenty of space for dancing between
you and the device.*
A1: Right hand balance, pull by (6) left hand pull by (2)
Right hand balance, pull by (6) left hand pull by (2) (square through
with RH balances; end back at starting place)
Swing yourself (end facing down/away from your device)
B1: Go down the hall, turn alone, come back
B2: Balance side to side (4), walk back (4)
Balance side to side (4), walk forward (4)