Caller Info

Contra Caller Information For Country Dance New York Contra Dances at The Church of the Village (unless otherwise noted)

CDNY has prepared the following information to help each caller make the best possible impression when calling for us. It is our goal that both the caller and the dancers have a satisfying experience at our series. Feel free to contact Alexandra Deis-Lauby if you have questions about preparing for our series. Much of this document was borrowed from NEFFA’s Thursday night caller page.

About CDNY

The CDNY contra dance is an upbeat, urban contra dance featuring great music and friendly, competent calling. Our dancers prefer callers who use appropriate and satisfying material for the level of the crowd and who offer safety and style guidance while maintaining an upbeat and positive attitude. The dancers are used to just one efficient walk-through for most dances.

A caller whose reputation in NYC is not well established is better advised to offer a well-prepared program of current standard material rather than individualistic material or “gimmick” dances. If you are unsure of your program, please feel free to talk with Alexandra Deis-Lauby in advance.

If you are a new caller to our series, we expect to share dancer feedback with you. If you haven’t called a full evening for us within the last two years, you might be interested in how you were received by the crowd. Please contact Alexandra Deis-Lauby by email.

Our Community

We have a mixed-age group with a lively young adult population, as well as older dancers. We have anywhere from 3-20 new dancers on any given night and 30-70 overall. Most of our dancers have had some experience. Our expectation is that callers will be aware of the new people and call appropriate dances for all to enjoy. If there are many new dancers present, interesting yet accessible dances are encouraged rather than a slew of survey dances. If you have any questions about the capabilities of the crowd at hand, consult with that evening’s dance manager.

Please remind dancers to welcome the new dancers and to ask folks who are sitting out to dance.

When the hall is full, it can be noisy during walk-throughs. It is the caller’s job to make sure that all contra lines are set up correctly (hands four, ones crossed over, for example) before teaching the dance. The dancers are used to one concise walk through for most dances. Use your best judgment.

We encourage you to offer brief styling points throughout the evening.

Evening Format unless otherwise noted:

Introductory lesson: 7:30/7:35

The dance manager will let you know how many beginners there are. The lesson is usually small; if you don’t know our dancers, then ask a committee member to help you recruit experienced dancers to pair up with the new people.

First half: 8:00-9:30

Please start on time.  The dance manager will make announcements before the last contra of the first half. This half ends with a waltz.

15 minute break

Second half: until 10:45

The 10:45 ending is soft. The waltz can begin at 10:45.

Programming Features

  • An evening that can be reasonably characterized as a typical urban New England style contra dance, with a balanced mixture of flowing dances and clear calling with a minimum of extraneous talk.
  • Between 10 and 13 slots, no more than three of which are not contras. (Couples dances do not count as a slot.)
  • A good amount of neighbor interaction, especially early in the evening.
  • Variety in figures, particularly with allemandes, which can be tiring if repeated from dance to dance.
  • No more than one mixer (most callers don’t call a mixer). If you do call one, program it for within the first hour of the dance.
  • Squares and other non-contra formations in moderation. Most dancers prefer contras, but are willing to dance well-called squares and four-face-fours.
  • No more than two dances so challenging that they seem a struggle. Dancers do not respond well to an evening of idiosyncratic material. If you are constantly having to do more than one walk-through, then simplify your program.
  • If you have any questions on your program, email Alexandra Deis-Lauby in advance.

Role Terms and Language

  • We use Larks and Robins and gender-neutral pronouns such as “they/them” to refer to our dancers (e.g. “larks, catch the robin and scoop them around”).
  • Clarify that larks and robins are just positional roles and that anyone can dance either role. Many of our dancers dance both roles.
  • We do NOT use Men and Women, nor Ladies and Gents
  • Many of our callers use “Right shoulder round” instead of “gypsy”.
  • Please do not use language about flirting or suggest that some dance figures or dances are flirty (e.g. “tease your partner with that eye contact, then turn away and start the hey”; “walk around, and when you can’t stand the tension any more, swing”).

Last edited 1/2023