I used to write pretty often….
October 8, 2020 – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic More than 50 years ago, the noted New England caller and dance historian Ralph Page started sharing information he had gleaned from searching through old newspapers and other journals. In more than a
Ted Sannella was an internationally-known caller, choreographer, author, and mentor for many in the traditional square and contra dance community. He published more than 170 dances, including 41 of Ted’s Triplets, a three-couple dance form adapted from English country dance. David Smukler and I have collected
Dance historian Allison Thompson and I had been independently researching the “dolphin hey,” a figure that in recent decades migrated from Scottish country dance to English country dance and thence into contras. We combined our articles and came up with what is almost certainly
Becoming a Better Dancer (This post is aimed articularly at English country dancers, but contra and square dance enthusiasts may also find food for thought.) One of the challenges that callers face is that of teaching style to dancers. Note: by “style” I’m not talking about the over-the-top mannerisms that
Ralph Page kept a regular column in his Northern Junket magazine in which he shared tidbits that he unearthed in his research into newspapers in the 1800s. I share his fascination with the roots of our contemporary dances, so have borrowed his “It’s Fun
Many years ago, our local Revels North mounted a Scandinavian-themed show that featured Norwegian dancing. In one particularly lovely moment, a male dancer led two women, one in each hand, through a Telespringar. I watched, entranced, as the dancers formed a kaleidoscope of motion,
I’ve written elsewhere about the push toward ever-more-complex choreography on the contra and square dance floor. The short story is that the number of figures one might expect to meet today in a few nights of dancing has nearly doubled from the early 1970s
This list comes from a group that’s far removed from the country dance world—”bop” is an inclusive term for related couple dances including swing, lindy, jitterbug, and shag—but it’s fascinating how so many of the guidelines offered here apply to contras, squares, or English country dance.
ALL YOU EVER NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS
CAN BE LEARNED IN A DANCE CLASS
Published by American Bop Association in November, 2003 Newsletter
Lead her GENTLY and she’ll follow you anywhere. (For every ACTION there is an equal and opposite REACTION.)
Never CRITICIZE YOUR DANCE PARTNER. The only person you can even consider fixing is YOU. (The person who is responsible for making the adjustment is the one who knows an adjustment is needed.)
A lead is an INDICATION of some desired direction. (It’s a SUGGESTION, not DEMAND.)
I recently came upon a well-written and decidedly opinionated piece about good dancing. Since the opinions reflect much of my own thinking on the subject, I’d like to draw your attention to it. Written some twenty years ago by a respected caller of contras and squares, a choreographer (“Al’s Advice” is a classic contra written by Paul) and a fiddler (Volo Bogtrotters), the article presents six concise points.
“A good dancer has complete awareness of how it all fits together: the music, the calls, the figures, his/her partner, neighbor, corner, opposites, etc., the whole set, the whole floor, and, maybe most importantly, his/her own body and all its parts. There are lots of things that the good dancer does that are seemingly unknown or totally unimaginable to many twirl and barf dancers.”
Planning a Program
While clearing out some files from an old computer, I recently came across this piece published in the CDSS News, #157, November/December 2000, under the title “Contra Calling.” I tried to outline the sorts of decisions—choreographic and musical—that a caller makes behind the scenes. One of my programs today might include different dances, but the process I go through, 15 years later, is much the same.
Inside the Caller’s Mind
Planning an Evening’s Contra Dance Program
by David Millstone
Planning a program of dances involves more than just picking dance cards at random. An evening of contra dancing is a expression of a caller’s vision brought into focus by a sponsor’s expectations. How do you plan an evening for a public dance which will include a mixture of beginners and experienced dancers? What are the questions that the caller must ask when working with an unfamiliar group? Here’s the process I went through in planning an evening program this summer for the Round Hill Country Dancers in Greenwich, CT, a venue where I had neither danced nor called before.
I coordinate the Square Dance History Project, which among other things helps provide me with a useful perspective on the contra dance scene. Square dancing was huge, involving far more people than today’s thriving contra scene, and this at a time when the population
A friend recently forwarded comments from the English country dance listserv; people were talking about videotaping dances so that others could see how dances work. I passed along these comments: I want to emphasize what most people on this list already know, that it’s
My home contra dance, taking place each month with the Northern Spy band, has been taking place since November of 1980. From time to time, it’s worth trying something just a little bit different, and so this month’s dance was billed as a Black and White Ball. We talked it up for the several preceding months and I sent out extra publicity to my e-mail list, including a post the day beforehand saying, in essence, “This is for real! We are hoping that people will dress up.”
Mirabile dictu! They did. As the hall started to fill, I watched in delight as a steady stream of dancers appeared, most in fact wearing black and white, with enough bright colors mixed in to provide a sparkle.
One of the happiest places to spend the time between Christmas and New Year’s is Winter Dance Week held at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC, held each year between December 26 – January 1. I’ve been fortunate to be hired at the Folk School in the past to call American dances, English country dances, or, as was the case this year, a combination of the two.
WDW was full this year, just over 100 people registered. It’s a smaller event than the Christmas Country Dance School in Berea, Kentucky, which I’ve never attended. One of the terrific things about the smaller size is you really have an an opportunity to dance and to talk with virtually every other person at the week. The sociability is enhanced by everyone living on campus and taking meals together. The food is good, the ambiance warm and welcoming, and the dance floor in Keith House is one of my very favorite dance venues. What’s not to like?
One of my classes was billed as Challenging English, and it attracted about half of the camp each day.
Members of the governing board of Country Dance and Song Society recently had an e-mail exchange about how to boost attendance at some of our summer camp weeks. Among other topics, we talked about how American dances might best be incorporated into other programs. One energetic and thoughtful young dancer ended his post with this comment: “For young American-only dancers, the key to enthusiasm is to have age peers enthusiastically interested in whatever is being danced. We all know this. My point is that “[contras and squares] vs English” is not the right grouping with regard to enthusiasm, but rather “contras vs [squares or English].”
This one has appeared on various other people’s websites, so I thought it was time to put it on my own. published in CDSS News, #169, November/December 2002 It started simply enough, with a question posted from Baltimore to rec.folk-dancing, an Internet discussion group:
We’re seeing a proliferation of contra dance videos in recent years, spurred by the availability of equipment (some fine footage being captured on cameras as simple as cell phones) and sharing sites such as Vimeo and YouTube. Two individuals in particular are creating uniformly