All are welcome to attend our workshops and open calling nights. If you are new to calling, however, it will be helpful to take these steps on your own before calling your first dance:
• Think about why you want to call. The reasoning is different for a lot of people, but it’s great to have an idea of what you want to get out of calling before you begin. William Watson’s article Should You Call Dances? is an excellent read if you are just considering getting started.
• Familiarize yourself with contra dance structure and notation. The CDSS has published an article on the contra dance form, which is a good introduction to how contra dances are written and how the choreography of a dance matches up to the music.
• Select a dance to call (and write it down). When you are first starting out, you will want to select dances that are easy to teach and call; these dances will usually contain only familiar moves which take either 8 or 16 counts each to execute, are written for duple improper or becket formation, and will not involve moves that progress individually or that have interactions outside of the minor set, such as a diagonal ladies chain. There are many great sources of these dances online, including the starter dance repertoire from the CDSS, Michael Fuerst’s file of easy contra dances, and Russell Owen’s database (sortable by difficulty). You may also ask local callers for dance suggestions; they’ll be happy to help.
• Study this dance. See if you can walk through the chosen dance in your head. Do you foresee any trouble spots? Go over (out loud!) the words which you would use to introduce the dance to a room full of expectant dancers, paying special attention to where the dancers should be at every step of the way.
• Put on some music and practice. Find some recorded music and practice calling to it. Work on delivering your prompts rhythmically and ending your prompts just before the dancers would be expected to execute the move. Also listen to the phrasing of the music to keep the choreography of the dance in sync with the tune. Good sources of music for calling include this Spotify playlist of traditional contra tunes, YouTube videos of contra dances, or CDs purchased from a hot band at your local dance. This YouTube playlist of great callers contains excellent examples of the timing and stylistic choices you can make with your calls, and also contains great music to practice with (skip past the first three minutes or so to call with the music after the caller has dropped out).
So, are you ready to drop in on a workshop or even try calling for the first time? Sign up for the Caller’s Collective mailing list above in order to receive information about all future workshops and calling opportunities!
For questions regarding the Caller’s Collective, contact Jacob LeGrone: firstname.lastname@example.org.