Calling your first contra dance

Find or make an opportunity to call

You can start selecting a dance before you have a prospect of calling, but you need to find a place to call before you can become a caller.

Select a dance

For your first few times calling, I suggest that you stick to "easy" dances. But what does that mean? Characteristics of easy dances

I have a small selection of simple, reliable dances on another page.

Learn your selected dance

While you could call a dance by reading it directly from the card, doing so makes it hard to watch the dancers. It can also deaden your vocal presentation. While some master callers insist that every caller completely memorize every dance they ever want to call, few succeed in doing so. For now, you need to study the dance you have selected sufficiently well so that you know what every more in the dance involves, know what words you want to use during the walk-through, and know the words and timing you'll use after the music starts. Note that these will usually be different sets of words!

Practice the timing of your calls

You should finish each call just before the music tells the dancers to move. For most easy dances, this means that you finish the call on the last beats of one musical phrase, so that the dancers will be ready to dance on the first beat of the next phrase.

Practice the timing with recordings. I find this more difficult than calling to dancers because a recording provides no visual clues that can help remind you what you need to do next. This may work better for you than it does for me; I am a visual learner.

Organize a set

Walk through the dance

Start the band and the dance

Call every move at first

Drop out some calls, then all calls

Decide when to end the dance and inform the band

Get feedback on how it went

Make sure you have at least one person to give you honest feedback. Listen to them. You can try to clarify the comments you receive by asking for specific clear observations ("What did you see?") instead of opinions or corrections ("What you need to do is ____" or "That last dance sucked!") so that you can form or correct your own opinions.

Next steps

Call dances with more complicated timing

Call dances with more complicated moves

Call dances with more moves

Select and call more than one dance in an evening

Work more closely with your musicians to seelct appropriate tunes

What I do NOT cover here (or cover elsewhere)

Return to my contra calling resources page