Internet resources for contra dance callers
The Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS)
publisher of books, recordings,
and a monthly newsletter,
organizer of week-long dance
for many recordings and publications.
The Traditional Dance Callers'
A "medium traffic" mailing list, with many discussions of interest to callers.
Occasional dances posted, but more often discussions
of topics like contracts, bookings,
"one night stand" gigs,
techniques for getting folks out of chairs and dancing.
The "Shared Weight"
Lower traffic, discussions with a closer focus on contra dance calling.
Initially started as a forum for newer callers,
in some ways this is an "electronic support group".
Some sources of dances
Conta Dance Index
A very good attempt to document sources for EVERY contra dance ever published,
whether in physical print form or on the WWW.
Michael added a database query function,
which allows a user to search for a dance by name, author, or both,
without having to download the entire listing of roughly 7000 contra dance titles.
Note that this is NOT a database of the dance sequences,
but rather an index that provides references to the places you can find the sequences!
American Country Dances On-Line
This is a simple dump of the database of dances that Russell Owen edited and made available.
- "Back pocket" dances
Some easy, reliable contra dances
"to keep in your back pocket"
in case you need a fall back,
or want some easy material when you start calling.
- My Dance Compositions
- A few contra dances, and a Four-Face-Four dance
collection of dance cards
A very large file (~800 kB)
in Microsoft Word format
containing a snapshot of
Rich Goss' collection of dance cards.
Rich formatted the dances for printing directly on 4x6 inch index cards.
Articles and web pages about contra dance calling written by a variety of people
A succint two page overview of the job of a caller
for an evening dance.
Callers Workshop Materials
A total of FIFTY topics, covered at various depths.
Fifteen topics of "basics"
(such as "The Caller's Job", "Planning a Programme", "The Walkthrough")
and 35 "specialized subjects"
("The Caller's Atitude", "Making people want to dance to you",
"Changing the mood").
I think I need to read thourgh these,
they look to cover quite a lot of territory!
Washington DC Callers' Collective, March 30, 2002,
roughly 7 printed pages.
and Mike Courthold, 1998,
roughly 9 printed pages.
Notes on Calling Contra Dances
Thorough and opinionated view of many aspects of calling contras.
Roughly 13 printed pages.
Choreography for Duple Minor Improper Contra Dances
The author says
"This information is based on my experiences dancing, calling, and
It is part fact and part opinion.
For choreographers, I expect that you will disagree with many parts of
it, but perhaps it will give you something to consider.
For callers, I hope that you will learn something that will help you
understand complex dances more easily and choose better dances to call."
Resources for Callers
Roughly five printed pages, with a lists of links.
Sections include "Basics," "Some Philosophy," "Teaching Tips,"
the links and a request for feedback.
- From his vantage point of calling contras over 30+ years,
David shares some thoughts and insights.
about new and old contras (the dance sequences)
about long walk-throughs
experienced folks to dance
- The Montague Center
- David's comments on his
on calling contra dances for beginners
Seth Tepfer's calling workshop
At his DanceRhapsody site,
Seth makes available
a collection of handouts that he uses at calling workshops.
They are living documents, in that Seth continues to make changes over time.
You can find his thoughts on,
"The Beginners Workshop,"
"Programming an evening,"
"Checklist for a gig,"
"Calling for Non Dancers," and
"The Big Picture,"
plus his though-provoking questionnaire
"What kind of caller are you?"
Seth also provides several PDF files of dances,
"Groovin' contras to end an evening,"
and "Dances for non-Dancers!"
Dance Calling for Weddings, Parties, and One-Night Stands"
"no articles, just a bunch of dances and a few tunes"
Four articles (linked below) and more than 30 dances
Some articles and 20-some dances.
Two sample chapters are on-line.
Intended for teaching couples dance, but with
pointers that contra dance callers may find useful.
list of resources
A very long list of links, amounting to 16 printed pages.
It lists materials on contra dancing,
and quite a bit more.
I selected a number of articles from this long list
and included them below.
The Contra Sound Forum
A low traffic mailing list,
discussing all aspects of sound reinforcement at contra dances.
Program Matrix Spreadsheet
A Microsoft Excel spreadsheet
version of the Program Planning Matrix
found in the back of Larry Jennings' book Give and Take.
You can also find an example of a
completed program matrix
My articles and web pages about contra dance calling.
- Should you call dances?
Some thoughts about calling,
to help you decide IF, WHERE, WHAT, HOW, and WHY you should call dances.
- Outline for a new callers' session
A first-draft outline for a new callers' session at a dance weekend,
intended for dancers first thinking about calling,
or folks VERY early in their calling career.
- Thoughts for calling your first dance
So you're going to do it.
How do you go about it?
- Contra Dance Calling Card Examples
Examples of a dance written out using different formats
I've seen callers use for calling cards.
- Contra dances at weddings
Some musings on the challenges of contra dances at weddings
- A list of useful recordings
- A list of recordings with tracks of lengths useful to contra dance callers.
Note that this list so far only covers bands with names starting with the letters
A through L.
I also have not double-checked the recordings to ensure
that the tracks are all appropriate.
Some selected books on contra dance calling
I believe that all of these are available through the
They also stock any number of recordings of fine contra dance bands,
and books of dance compositions
by dozens of composers.
- Contra Dance Calling: A Basic Text
copyright 2010, ISBN 0-9632880-3-2.
A comprehensive guide to calling contra dances
in 324 "perfect-bound" pages.
(Original edition was
copyright 1992, ISBN 0-9632880-1-6, 300 pages)
The new edition was released in November, 2010.
and is available
directly from Tony,
The CDSS store,
Tony has the complete table of contents on his site,
along with the complete first chapter.
- Balance and Swing
by Ted Sannella, copyright 1982, ISBN 0-917-02405-2.
"A collection of fifty-five squares, contras, and triplets
in the New England Tradition
with music for each dance."
Each dance gets its own page,
with the moves followed by paragraphs of
"Dancing Tips," "Comments," and "Background."
On a facing page, you'll find a music for a tune
that Ted thought fit the dance particularly well.
- Swing the Next
copyright 1996 by the estate of Ted Sannella, ISBN 0-917024-08-7.
"A second collection of squares, contras, triplets, and circles
in the New England Tradition,
with music for each dance."
"A collection of eighty squares, contras, triplets, & circle dances."
Format very similar to Balance and Swing, with tips and comments.
Another caller pointed out to me that
in addition to the tips,
which may be of particular value to the newer caller.
many of the dances contained in these volumes
avoid the complications that can trip up newer callers.
published by NEFFA.
"a sequel to ZESTY CONTRAS featuring
628 dances in the New England Style,
and Arcane analyses
presented by Larry Jennings".
Larry told me that in his first volume, Zesty Contras,
he tried to scour the entire contra dance world for dances,
but that many no longer fit his vision of "zesty" dancing.
This collection includes a selection of many more dances
that fit his vision.
- Zesty Contras
published by NEFFA.
"A Selection of 500 New England Style Dances
Provocative Explanatory Text
by Larry Jennings".
Over 30 pages of text and over 50 pages of dances.
(Note that that implies nearly ten dances per page!
"If you can't figure out the dance from
the notes in Zesty, you have no business trying to call it!")
90 pages, saddle-stapled.
Return to my
contra calling page