Family Dance

Family Dances

adapted from a
post to the trad-dance-callers group, 2005

Last night, as
it happens, I was calling at the 22nd annual family dance sponsored by the PTO
in the small city where I live in northern NH. I’ve called at each of these
dances for no pay—"community service" is how I think of it—though I
do ask for a fee at the other such dances I do in neighboring towns. Music was
provided by a family band—a mother who is a fine fiddler and two of her
kids—which adds a nice touch to a family dance. (One parent came up to ask the
pianist, age 14, if she would be interested in giving piano lessons to his

Good turnout,
somewhere between 150 and 175, with kids as young as 3 (and a few who were
probably younger than that as well) on the dance floor. They could walk without
falling over, but just barely! Two hours and a little bit more, with a short

Writing Contra Dances

Writing contra dances

adapted from a letter to a dancing friend who had expressed interest in writing his own dances

I’d like to try to write some dances – I guess start with a contra.  Would you please send me some standards in the correct format and provide any pointers? Writing dances somehow seems similar to blocking actors, and I enjoy working that puzzle.

Basics: A generic contra dance consists of 32 bars of music, an A part (8 bars, or 16 steps), which is repeated, followed by two B parts. There are exceptions (Money Musk is only 24 bars, for example, and David Kaynor’s original Cherokee Shuffle fit that slightly crooked tune); similarly, some tunes follow a different musical pattern (e.g., ABCB). For now, stick with the standards.