Here is the vision statement for our family dance series. Our contra series
does not have such a statement (but IMHO it should).
Tapestry Family Dance
1. Fun. Dances will be fun!
2. Inclusiveness. Dances are open to all, regardless of age or dancing
ability. The smallest children will be welcomed, and dances will be
designed to enable them to participate in some fashion.
3. Community. A key purpose of the dance is build community among parents
and children and to create interconnections between younger dancers and the
contra dance community. Dances and activities will be designed to foster
shared experiences and interactions.
4. Familiarity. The dances presented will be similar each month, with a
number of core dances being repeated frequently. Children should be able to
request favorites and callers should (most of the time) be familiar with
the dances requested because they will be working from a common repertoire.
5. Safety. Dancers must be safe. Grown-ups are required to remain with the
children they are supervising. Children should not be swung off their feet
by grown-ups; grownups should not attempt to dance with others while
carrying children on their shoulders. All snack food provided should be
clearly labeled with ingredients for those with allergies.
6. Development. Over time, young dancers who come regularly should
gradually learn key dance skills:
a. Distinguishing between different sections of music
b. Dancing in harmony with those around them
c. Anticipating upcoming dance moves without dancing them prematurely
d. Calmly and good-naturedly resolving mistakes or confusion
e. Comfortably dancing with a variety of partners
f. Young dancers interested in calling or playing music will be
mentored to the extent possible
Callers will not expect young dancers to come with these skills or to
master them instantly. Any dance may involve young dancers at many
different levels of development.
St Paul, MN
I have been involved in a second group situation as you described
where an established group allowed our new group use of their sound
system. Initially it was free of charge, but eventually the
established group requested a yearly donation of $150 to help with
Since our group's focus shifted to music workshops and open bands, we
ended up acquiring a sound system that could be used by groups that
included numerous new participants. That meant lots of mics and a
feedback suppressor that could help with having a large number of mics
open and musicians with emerging mic technique.
Have you noticed any commonalities of which nights have good sound vs.
which nights don't? When I have run sound, the biggest problems have
resulted from musicians bringing their own gear. For example, a
guitarist insisting on using an omnidirectional mic that caused
feedback when used with stage monitors / a multi-instrumentalist
wanting to use a switch to connect two instruments that required very
different gain settings resulting in immediate feedback when the
hotter instrument was selected.
I have found it somewhat rare to encounter contra dance sound systems
using ducking and compression and wouldn't consider them a must-have.
The primary use I have seen with compression is on the caller channel
because sometimes a caller will get excited and yell at volumes that
are far too loud for anyone's enjoyment. I have seen bands resent the
use of compression, since it prevents use of dynamics as a musical
On Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 1:16 PM, Dana Dwinell-Yardley via Organizers
> Hi smart organizers,
> I wish I had some good suggestions to contribute to the conversation about
> callers, but I don't think I can say anything better than has already been
> said. Instead, I'll pose a new question!
> We are considering getting a sound system for our Grange hall. Right now,
> bands either bring their own sound, or we hire a local sound person to bring
> their system for the evening. Sometimes our sound is excellent, other times
> less so. We'd like to make it more consistently excellent, making the dance
> less stressful and more fun for everyone.
> Our main questions right now are about ownership and responsibility. There
> is one dance series at our hall now, but a second series is being organized
> to start this winter, and other groups use the Grange as well. Who should
> own the sound system? Who will be responsible for caring for it? Who makes
> decisions about it? What about insurance and storage and use by several
> different groups?
> Also, the idea is to own a sound board, speakers/monitors, and a mic for the
> caller, but ask bands to bring their own mics/stands/cables. Bands could
> either run our system themselves, or we could hire someone for the evening.
> For those of you who have sound systems, how to you handle these things? Any
> insights are welcome.
> Dana Dwinell-Yardley
> graphic design & layout
> Montpelier, Vermont
> Organizers mailing list
Thank you all for your feedback on this thread.
I think my recommendation to our board will be to start recording some of
the dances (with their knowledge, of course). This will help us, both for
feedback for those callers who want this feedback to improve their calling,
and for helping us with having evidence for those callers that aren't
meeting the needs of our dances. Then we can provide specific areas for
improvement, and if improvement isn't made, then we can have a procedure in
place for taking them "off the rotation". This will require a little more
work for a reviewer, but probably only in circumstances that require
Thanks to everyone. Specific feedback is below:
Walker, I agree that "banning" is too absolute.
Mac, yes, my situation is for local callers who are part of our community
and whom I don't want to exclude in other ways. We've also developed
several new talented callers through our New Mexico Callers Collective
(NMCC), so there is less pressure to rely on callers who don't meet our
Laur, yes, I agree that the challenge is honoring the relationships and
getting consensus. Also, the opinions of a community shift slowly, so
implementing change takes time.
Jeff, I agree that we shouldn't hire this sort of caller.
David, I like your idea for collecting evidence (through video or audio
recording) that make it clear what is working and what isn't, and that this
can simply apply for everyone.
Lindsay, I agree that feedback strategies are really helpful. I like the
recordings, they are objective.
Peter, the NMCC has been developing training materials and caller skills
for callers, with evaluation by our local org's board (FolkMADS). When
we've asked for feedback via online forms, all we get are the most vocal
being brutal, so we've stopped that practice. If the comments were
representative, it would be different.
Martha, I love Joseph in a Box!
So glad you're all here to help!
Prof. Erik B. Erhardt, UNM Statistics, (505)750-4424 stat.unm.edu/~erike
On Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 9:39 AM, Martha Edwards via Organizers <
> I definitely agree with David's suggestion about taking videos. We had
> Joseph Pimentel here for a Callers Workshop, and he talked about How to
> Give Feedback, which was to be perfectly objective - simply describe what
> happened, without being judgmental or injecting personal opinions.
> That, of course, is hard to do - we found we were pretty much incapable of
> giving feedback without injecting our own opinions. We had, however,
> already bought a cute little video camera to record our dances, and found
> out pretty quickly just how perfectly objective it was, and renamed the
> camera "Joseph in a Box."
> No matter what your calling level, you will learn an amazing amount in a
> short time if you have a Joseph in a Box. Boy, is it truthful!
> Organizers mailing list
This is something I am trying to develop and I was wondering if anyone
had some that they like to use. I like the "if square dancing and swing
dancing met in a bar, you'd get contra", but as someone pointed out to me,
if the person you are talking to doesn't really know what square dancing is
like it's not very helpful.
What are your favorite elevator pitches? How do you describe contra to
friends, family or potential new dancers?
Communications for ContraMontreal