The International Association of Contra Callers, Inc.
Updated December 5, 2013
Chairman’s Corner (Fall 2013)
Bless the autumn season. More groups think about having barn dances during this time of year and are open to the idea of dancing contras, whether they know they are doing them or not. Since contra dancing was the fore-runner of square dancing, many of the moves are recognizable as square dance moves. Because most of these “Barn Dances” (One Night Stands) consist of people new to this dance form, I keep it very easy. I’ll often start out with the “Virginia Reel” and perhaps tell them a bit about its history. We’ll try to keep it to sets of 6 couples or less, so it doesn’t take up too much time. A good mixer is the “10 O’Clock Mixer”. I’ll use mixers while I still have a large number of people on the floor. An easy Sicilian circle contra fits in well, also, while we have an abundant number of dancers, or perhaps use the mescolanza “Dumbarton Drums” which can be done to many appropriate tunes for the season. (I remember doing it in March to a definitely Irish tune.) Perhaps before that, I may do the “Jefferson Reel” for as many as will, because this will get them to understand progression and also use stars, circle left & right, and lines of 4 going down. Somewhere in the middle or later, I may use “Thady You Gander”. I’ll usually do it twice and suggest that each set is competing to be the best and end right when the music ends. “Canyon Contra” is another longways contra that is easy enough to use, but does require introducing them to an improper set.
I will often use some traditional square dances in order to vary the formations and keep the evening interesting. Some of these are: “Make an Arch”, “Texas Star”, “Solomon Levi”, “Right Hand High & Left Hand Low”, “Take a Peek & Duck for the Oyster”. Then I’ll end with “Weaver’s Circle” which is very easy and new dancers seem to like that.
I haven’t received any comments about the techno contras I wrote about in the last issue. We would also like to hear about things you are doing and dances you are using.
Don’t forget to visit our web site at http://www.contralab.net/ If you have information or links that you think should be included, please get that information to me.
Teaching & Using “Half Figure 8”
Ideas from Dottie Welch
The call “Half Figure Eight” applies to a group of four dancers. Two adjacent dancers will be designated. Each designated dancer will pass between the non-designated dancers and loop around the dancer who was their diagonal opposite to end in the starting position of the other designated dancer. The designated dancers must cross paths with each other – the lady goes before the gent, or if both are the same gender, the dancer on the right goes first.
Author: Dottie Welch, November 2011
Formation: Proper Duple Contra Lines
Music: Reels in groups of 64 beats
(before music Actives Swing, put lady on right and face down)
- - - - , Actives Center, Lines of four down the hall
- - - - , Turn Alone and Come Back
- - - - , - - Slow Cast Off
- - - - , - - Forward and Back
- - - - , Each four Circle Left
- - - - , - - Circle Right
- - - - , Actives above Half Figure Eight (lady cross up around lady, gent cross up around gent)
- - - - , - - Actives Swing
(Excerpts above were from the CONTRALAB Quarterly fall 2013 issue. Much more to be found in the Quarterly available to members.)