The International Association of Contra Callers, Inc.
Updated April 4, 2015
Chairmanís Corner (Winter 2015)
††††††††† You may have noticed that many square dance callers stand behind the table in front of their computer while calling. This has become a hot topic In caller schools and I heard discussion on this topic at the National Square Dance Convention in Little Rock. The issue at hand is dealing with the use of cue sheets for square dancing. I bring this up, because in the contra world, cue cards are the norm. But in the square dance world, it is highly discouraged (at least up through Plus.) A survey done among square dancers revealed that one of their major complaints was about callers that read the dance from a cue sheet. I can partially understand this having been at dances were the caller was so focused on his cue sheet that he was oblivious to the fact that 95% the floor was not dancing. Obviously, he needs to get his head out of the book. More and more callers are moving away from records and switching to notebooks and tablets. In caller schools, they go so far as to suggest that callers should always be in front of the table, especially if they are using notebooks for music. This is so that the caller will not even give the appearance of reading the cue sheet from his notebook. In other words, dancers donít even want the appearance of the possibility that the caller might be reading a cue sheet.
††††††††† In the contra world, nearly all the prompters/callers use cue cards, even if they have switched to tablets. (Square dance callers use notebooks more than tablets but it contains their music as well as cue sheets if they are using them. A lot of callers are now using SqView because it can keep the music and the cue cards in one place.) Contra callers, on the other hand, are more likely to use a tablet and they only need the cue cards since they often call with live bands. It has been my experience that if you like a contra dance, you can go to the caller and copy the cue card, something you canít do with square dances. I think contra dancers are comfortable with and maybe even expect callers to use cue cards. There are probably a lot of reasons why contra callers use cue cards and square dance callers donít which I will save for another time.
††††††††† Is this something that we in the contra community need to look at? These are two closely related folk dance traditions with very different views on the use of cue cards and many of us participate in both. I am putting this out there for discussion. Here are a few comments about cue cards and their use based on what I have witnessed. 1) Callers need to be confident and take command of the floor. You are in charge. If you bury you head in the card (hide behind it) you are showing a lack of confidence and authority. Make sure the cue card doesnít diminish your authority or enthusiasm. 2) Donít use the card without knowing how the dance works. 3) Donít use the card if you donít understand the dance and donít know how to teach it if there are questions. 4) Donít lose your focus on the floor. Keep track of what the dancers are doing (or not doing). Be ready to keep dancers on track if they look confused. Keep your eyes on the floor. The cue card does not justify losing eye contact with the dancers.
††††††††† Modern Western Square Dance is a fairly well defined dance style. Most of the discussions I have heard were addressed to MWSD callers. There is also a movement for barn dances or fun dances that tend to combine contra and square dancing and other forms of folk dance into one event. These are a little different than one-night-stands and are open to guests that donít have previous dance experience. Are cue cards acceptable in this dance environment? Contralab members have a wide variety of dance experiences. One of our goals it to introduce contra to those who have not been exposed to contra before. We at least need to be aware of practices that are or are not acceptable in other dance styles and find ways to make sure that what we do encourages others to step out and participate in contra.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Gary Chamberlain
TITLE: CHARLOTTE'S DREAM
AUTHOR: BOB HOWELL
FORMATION: PROPER TRIPLE
MUSIC: REFLECTION QUADRILLE on LSF 1011 (Lover's Waltz - speeded for comfort) or any of several selections from the "Waltzing with Jimmy Shand" LP.
A1:†††† LINES WALTZ FORWARD AND BACK.
††††††††††† ACTIVES PASS THRU, DOWN AROUND ONE. (Actives move slightly to center to begin a mirror hey for three on each side starting with couple three.)
A2:†††† MIRROR HEY FOR THREE.
††††††††††† -††† -††† -††† -†† -†† -†† -†† -†† -†† -†† -†† -
B1:†††† JOIN HANDS CIRCLE SIX ONCE AROUND. (Active couple backs out to join the opposite line, gent between two ladies, lady between two gents.)
B2:†††† ACTIVES GYPSY ONCE AROUND IN THE CENTER OF THE SET.† (End in butterfly banjo position, turn slowly half way and back out with a flourish to the original side of the set to acknowledge partner, ready to begin the dance again.
(from Contra Syllabus, 48th NSDC, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1999.)
AUTHOR: Stew Shacklette
FORMATION: PROPER TRIPLET - 3 cpl. set
MUSIC: I Don't Love Nobody Medley
1-8†††† NUMBER 1 COUPLE SWING
9-16†† NO. 1 CPLE DOWN CENTER, WHEEL AROUND
17-24† COME BACK, CAST OFF WITH THE 2'S
25-32† LINES GO FORWARD & BACK
33-48† NO. 1 CPLE TURN CONTRA CORNERS
49-56† LINES GO FORWARD & BACK
57-64† NO. 1 CPLE ROLL OUT & CAST OUT TO FOOT
(from Contra Syllabus, 51st NSDC, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2002.)
(Excerpts above were from the CONTRALAB Quarterly Winter 2015 issue.† Much more to be found in the Quarterly available to members.)