Role Terms for Fall Contra Dances

After a year of soliciting input from the community, the CDNY Board is pleased to
announce our decision on the role terms to be used for the 2019-2020 contra dance
season. To accommodate the range of views of our community and provide
opportunities for all to experience the various calling terms, CDNY will alternate the
terms used at contra dances during the 2019-2020 season.

2nd and 4th Saturdays: called with Larks & Ravens
Other Saturdays: called with Ladies & Gents
Special dances: alternate between Larks & Ravens and Ladies & Gents – check the
calendar for which terms will be used


A guiding principle throughout our decision-making process was to hear and represent
the views of all members of our dance community. What we learned is that these views
vary greatly. Our aim in alternating calling terms for the upcoming season is to
accommodate this range of views and provide opportunities for all to experience the
various calling terms.

Step 1: Survey

The CDNY Board formed a committee which conducted on online survey which elicited
people’s feelings about different sets of role terms. The survey was sent to those
people who receive the weekly CDNY contra eblast. People could also access the
survey by requesting it via a post on our Facebook page.

Step 2: Determine Factors to be Considered in Choosing Terms
The committee generated a list of factors to consider in deciding which terms to use.

They were:

1. What we learned from the survey

2. What is happening regionally (from a questionnaire sent to dance communities in the

3. Desire to be inclusive and welcoming of all people and to show that all perspectives
and opinions are valued

4. Desire to attract new dancers and retain long-time dancers

Step 3: Set Goals

Our goal: to choose terms which are most likely to lead to a thriving dance community,
both in the short and long term.

• Choose role terms that will produce an inclusive mix of dancers, including dancers
from all skill levels, of all ages, and from a variety of backgrounds.

• Choose an option that will minimize negative outcomes (such as reduced
attendance or loss of regular dancers).

Step 4: Make a Decision

The CDNY Board looked at a number of options and chose the one that best met the
criteria stated above.

Step 5: Ongoing Evaluation

The use of alternate calling terms is changing and evolving in our region and across the
country. We plan to continue to check in with the community as to their feelings about
various calling terms so that the terms we use continue to reflect the desires of all
members of our diverse community.


There were four main takeaways from the survey:
1. Almost 3/4 of the people who responded are comfortable with Ladies & Gents, and
only 11% dislike the terms strongly.

2. Half the community supports the use of Larks and Ravens and half opposes. It is
notable that exposure to Larks & Ravens has led people to support it more, but it is
still not popular.

3. There is a powerful correlation between age and preferred terms. Younger dancers
have a strong preference for Larks & Ravens, and older dancers have a strong
preference for Ladies & Gents.

4. While all survey data should be looked at with some skepticism, all indications are
that this is a valid sample.

We sent a questionnaire to approximately 37 dance communities in the Northeast and
received responses from 18 of them. Here are the results:

10 use Ladies & Gents
7 use Larks & Ravens
0 use Leads and Follows
1 varies terms

Note: these results do not include local dances (Brooklyn Contra and Village Contra).