Information for Callers

Dear Caller,

Thank you for your interest in calling for our weekly Friday contra dance in Atlanta. The information about our dance below collectively constitutes the CCD Caller Contract. Please contact me with any and all questions, using the contact information listed below.


= Kimbi Hagen
CCD Music & Mic Magician Talent Wrangler



Booking a Gig

Please email me (Kimbi Hagen) at scheduler@contradance.org or call her at 404-310-0929 to book a gig.

Unless you call regularly at CCD, please include names and contact information for three schedulers from recent dances for which you have called. Also include, if available, a link to a YouTube video of you calling.


The Hall

Unless you are notified otherwise by me, we will be dancing at the Decatur Recreation Center (DecRec), one block from the square in downtown Decatur at 231 Sycamore, Decatur, GA 30030. See the "Directions" page for driving directions to the Hall.


The Band

If you have a specific tune you want played during your program please let me know so that I can help you contact them at least 2-3 weeks in advance of your gig in order to ensure that they have adequate time to learn / practice it, if necessary.

Speaking of bands... musicians have a tendency to write me later with laudatory praise for any Caller who goes beyond showing them a dance card or telling them about the sort of dance they are getting ready to call to ALSO telling them before a particular dance begins if it will be one in which he or she (the Caller) expects to drop out early (What the Band hears: "Play a tune you really want to showcase since it won't be competing with my voice") or late / not at all (What the Band hears: "Play a tune with a particularly pronounced beat because this dance will be sufficiently tricky that the dancers may need extra help staying on phrase").


Dance Host

Members of the CCD Steering Committee take turns hosting our Friday dances. A Host's duties include welcoming you and the Band to the Hall, making announcements before the Break, helping new dancers find partners for their first few dances, handling emergencies, monitoring the climate control technology, and serving as a central 411 operator for questions and concerns.

The Host the evening you will be playing will be listed on the CCD schedule page (which is updated once a quarter).


Payment to You

CCD pays callers $100 for stage time plus $50 for out of town caller travel expenses. This does not include what we will pay the band or sound crew; that will be handled separately. The doorkeeper will come to the stage and pay you in cash at the beginning of the break; you will need to sign that you received it.

NOTE: This rarely happens but if our dance has to be cancelled for circumstances beyond CCD's control* before you have left for Atlanta, this contract is considered to be null and void. If we have to cancel a dance for reasons beyond CCD's control* after you have left for Atlanta, we will pay your travel allowance in full, even if we are able to reach you with news of the cancellation before you arrive at the Hall.

*'Circumstances beyond CCD's control' include, but may not be limited to: closure of the Hall by our landlords or fire/flood/ice/snow/anything else that makes it unsafe to reach or enter the Hall.


Payment to Us

We warmly welcome all two-legged traveling companions you bring with you to the dance. If groupies, security guards, members of the paparazzi, wardrobe stylists, family members, investigative reporters, and any others who are travelling with you intend to join us in the dance, they will be expected to pay the standard entry fee at the door. If, on the other hand, they plan to do no more than sit and listen raptly as you Call, they may have free entry.


Housing

Please tell me whether or not you and any companion(s) traveling with you (see above) will need housing while you are in town and, if so, how many rooms you need and acceptable room configurations (e.g. people traveling together are a couple; not a couple but twin beds in same room are OK; unresolved snoring issues on the part of one or more people require residence in separate rooms, if not separate counties, etc.).

We will be happy to put you up with a local dancer so please also let me know if you are allergic to anything (e.g. beagles, bread) or have philosophic stances (e.g bologna, beer) that should be taken into consideration when selecting a host family.


Transportation

How will you be arriving in Atlanta? Please let me know what, if any, help you are going to need in transporting yourself to and from the dance.


Sound

Acoustical challenges are the responsibility of our Sound God du jour, an individual from our sound pool who is paid by CCD to give undivided attention to your every sound need during the dance basics workshop and dance.

Unfortunately, our Hall is just as infamous for its lively acoustics as it is famous for its lively dancers and, despite the Sound God's best efforts, people in the back of the Hall occasionally have difficulty making out the individual words being said by the Caller, particularly if s/he is talking rapidly. This alone can be the cause of catastrophic line breakdown, particularly towards the beginning of a dance when the pattern for an unfamiliar one has not yet had a chance to become imprinted on the dancers' DNA. You definitely do not have to shout into the mic but please speak (relatively) slowly at first and e-n-u-n-c-i-a-t-e. 
Thanks!


Equipment

What special equipment requirements do you have that I should I pass on to our Sound God? Our standard setup for callers includes a handheld cordless mic, a hot spot monitor, and a callers box to stand on so you can more easily see the seemingly deaf dancers in the overcrowded center line deal with the consequences of their inaction* regarding your pleas to even up the lines -- i.e. when you call a four-facing-four with butterfly whirl or a four in line down the hall followed by a star promenade.

Some visiting Callers prefer to bring their own headset or cordless mic with them. We have had mixed results with this in the past. So while you are welcome to bring your own equipment we can neither guarantee compatibility with our equipment nor sound fidelity in the Hall.

*On the subject of consequences .... Please do not request a Super Soaker, nor bring your own, to use in reinforcing the plea that dancers even up the lines. This behavior, while totally understandable, is not permitted. Our landlord objects to the ensuing water damage to the floor.

See other things that are not permitted in the Behavior section below.


Our Dancers

The Atlanta dance is a multi-generational mix of newbies and veterans, dance gypsies and dance occasionalies. You will find our dancers to be good natured and welcoming to newcomers.

Also sociable. Highly sociable (read: talkative). Particularly during instruction and announcements.


Our New Dancers

Although a standard Friday night will have 80 or so dancers, on average, you can count on at least the first half of the evening to contain a heavy percentage of newcomers (occasionally carloads of them ... arriving at 9:00pm).

As you may remember from your very own new dancer days, new dancers tend to travel in packs, routinely have trouble remembering their left from their right while under pressure of Dance, tend to get completely turned around when they come back into the dance from the top or bottom of the line, may only hear the music as (at best) a background buzz, can not be relied upon to spontaneously notice that any music they DO hear has a beat to it, may be oblivious to the fact that the dance steps they are doing should be in time with that beat, and have been known to totally panic when the caller stops talking.

To top it all off, contra dance lexicon is NOT a part of the standard school curriculum in Georgia (a puzzling omission, I agree) so, as far as new dancers are concerned, you might as well be standing up on that stage spouting Greek.

For all of these reasons, our regular dancers are quite accustomed to having the Caller come out into the Hall and ask a set or two of them to participate in a 'dance move demo' during walk throughs, as needed.


Programming: Weekly Friday Dance

One of the most frequent questions that I get from visiting Callers is: "Do Atlanta dancers like circles, squares and mixers?" The answer to that is an absolutely unambiguous: "It depends!" What our Atlanta dancers uniformly love is a heads up at least one dance in advance before a non-contra is called so they can plan their partnering (or lack of) accordingly and either thunder enthusiastically onto the floor or flee rapidly in horror from it, as individual tastes decree, without leaving anyone in the lurch.

If you do this you will find that our dancers are pretty open to circles, squares, triplets, and other alternative forms of dance. They will also not be surprised at all if you Call a mixer towards the beginning of the first half.

Beyond that, the usual conventions hold true. Because new dancers are too shy to make eye contact with their partners, and are terminally dizzy after the first hour as a result, most of them usually go home at the break. Not coincidentally, our hardest core dancers have a tendency to show up near the break, when they expect (read: Demand) the duration of walk throughs to dwindle down towards nothing and the dance diversity and challenge level to escalate. In other words, this would be an excellent time to pull out your favorite four facing fours, contra corners, proper contras, Sicilian circles, and triple progression dances.


Programming: Special Occasion Advanced Dance

If you are being booked to call for one of our occasional "Advanced Challenge Dances" it means that we are counting on you to pull out all the stops and act as if the dancers are under the hypnotic impression that it is actually Saturday night at a high octane festival weekend (only cheaper and with less crowding).

There will be no beginner's workshop and programming for these dances should include, as Atlanta Caller Seth Tepfer puts it: "Black Belt contras, no walk thru contras, strange and illicit dance formations rarely allowed to see the light of dance and all manner of things that will tease and tantalize their baser dance natures." So feel free to explode out of the starting block with new things, push the envelope, and take creative risks -- if you teach it, they'll try it. We've been doing these Advanced Challenge dances for awhile now and no one has yet complained that the dances were too hard -- but boy howdee do I ever hear about it later if they think the dance was "just another Friday night."


Schedule

Please arrive at the Hall no later than 7:15pm (earlier if you want to go over your program with the band).  When you arrive please check in with the sound god du jour and confirm that sound check will be finished before the dance basics workshop is scheduled to begin at 7:30pm.

1. Sound check: 7:00 - 7:30pm.
2. Dance Basics Workshop: 7:30 - 8:00pm*
3. Dance Part I: 8:00 - 9:15
4. Break: 9:15-9:30pm**
5. Dance Part II: 9:30 - 10:45pm 

*The Dance Basics workshop takes place in the main Hall and we prefer that you lead it. Sound check will be done before the lesson so you won't have to shout over the band and we will have a cordless mic available so you won't have to shout at all. Please tell me in advance if you will be unavailable to lead the beginners' lesson so that I can find a local caller or dancer to do it for you.

**The Break lasts the length of one live waltz followed by two recorded or locally provided acoustic waltzes. You are free to engage in contra commerce (see below) or take a quick turn about the dance floor during the break. NOTE: Some bands like to play a couples dance of their style choice instead of the second recorded waltz, to help signal that the break is almost over. If they want to do this they should arrange that with you and the Sound God du jour in advance so that everyone is on the same page.


Merch

Feel free to use the edge of the band containment area to sell CDs or any Contra band, non-contraband items you want before/after the dance and during the break. If sales are still brisk when the break is due to be over the Host can assign someone to take over sales for you so that business (yours) and pleasure (ours) can co-exist to our mutual satisfaction and without undue delay of either.


Announcements

While it is no doubt different in your own home Hall, many Atlanta contra dancers view the "Announcements" portion of the evening as their personal cue to do just about anything EXCEPT be quiet and pay attention to that evening's Dance Host. It is not your job to fix that but you can help by tricking the dancers into facing the front of the Hall at the beginning of the last dance before the break. The weekly Dance Host will take it from there. You have permission to accomplish your task in any legal way you can think of (see comment below about the use of Tasers).

Some callers have resorted to bribes -- e.g. promising a dance that involves contra corners or something else delicious after the Announcements are over if everyone stands quietly and pays attention -- and while I am not saying that this has completely replaced the traditional "herding cats" competitive event (Solo class, Swiss national timing standards) to get people gathered and quiet for Announcements, it seems to help.


The Weekly Safety Moment

In Atlanta we typically have two types of dancers who are known to exhibit poor dance mechanics: 1) New dancers; 2) Experienced dancers. As far as the new dancers are concerned, even though you will no doubt have spent the dance basics workshop teaching them to (literally) not jerk people around, beginners have just about as much as they can handle simply keeping it between the lines once the music starts playing, so the occasional reminder would not be amiss.

On the other hand, a recent Gallup Poll has found that 4 out of every 5 contra dancers who have been the victim of a physically abusive 30 second dance relationship at some point in their life most commonly cite an 'experienced dancer' as the perpetrator. So a safe dancing reminder somewhere in the evening will be appreciated for, if not by, the dance mechanics-challenged as well.

Our local callers like to do their weekly safety moment by picking a move from the standard contra dance lexicon and focusing on teaching how to do it in a stylish, safe way (with the emphasis on 'safe'). Feel free to emulate them on this.

Don't teach dipping.


Clothing

Think "layers." Unfairly, the temperature in our Hall is set for dancer comfort, not yours. Which means that in cold weather the caller and dancers can eventually occupy parallel but non-contiguous states -- specifically the states of Wisconsin and South Florida. If you are calling under these conditions I have one word for you: Layers.

On the other hand, during the warm months it can get to be a sauna in the Hall, even with fans and the AC on full tilt. This is the Deep South after all. Calling in a bathing suit is not illegal in the state of Georgia but since we dance down the road from a Baptist Church it should probably be a modest one.


Behavior

As the Caller we have booked for the evening, you are representing CCD. Our dance community includes an extremely diverse cross-section of ages as well as political, ethnic, religious, sexual, and cultural identities. We work hard to make our dance inviting to as wide a population as possible. As part of that we ask that the caller refrain from jokes or statements that poke fun of any broad category of people, except Callers. Callers are open season.

This is particularly true where politics are concerned. Political affiliation has proven to be a flashpoint issue among our dancers and even innocently-intended political jokes and remarks have led to Internet Flame Wars on our listserv on more than one occasion so please channel your inner Switzerland and stay well away from the battleground.

Although it may be different in other places you have called, Atlanta contra dancers just never seem to see that whole "Hands Four" request coming. Takes 'em by surprise Every. Single. Time. And while we understand that this can be a source of severe frustration to Callers, please recognize that the use of Tasers is restricted to law enforcement officers in Georgia and that, bizarrely, Georgia legal code does not include "Contra Dance Callers" on the list of people authorized to serve in that capacity.


Great Calling

You are being booked because your references or previous experience at our dance has shown you to be a Great Caller. Just in case you are wondering what that means exactly, some years ago I conducted an utterly unscientific, statistically meaningless straw poll (read: I talked and listened to dancers during weekly Breaks) to identify what factors dancers think make someone a "Great Caller." What I came up with is:

  1. Their demeanor. Great Callers have an infectious enthusiasm for the dance, are able to inject humor when needed, and are able to laugh at themselves when things go wrong. And they never, EVER yell at the dancers (even on those occasions in which the dancers richly deserve it).
  2. Their teaching. Great Callers have mastered the magic of rapidly and efficiently teaching a physical skill through the use of words alone— truly not an easy task!!
  3. Their willingness to work with the band to match dances and tunes. Great Callers see themselves as a team with the musicians and work with them to match sultry tunes with slinky dances and jivin' tunes with bouncy dances.
  4. Their ability to stop talking. Great Callers are willing to let the dancers be alone with the music sooner rather than later. Which means that Great Callers are adept at avoiding dances that are so overly complex the dancers' lack of experience (beginning of evening) or available brain cells (end of evening) make it impossible to drop out without risking catastrophic line break down.
  5. The dances they call.  Everyone I listened in on agreed that this is last on the list of what makes someone a "Great Caller" because if #1-4 are done right even a simple or familiar dance can be magical.

Food

Will you be coming into town early enough to eat dinner before the dance? There are oodles of choices lining the Square in downtown Decatur, one block from the dance. I'd love to join you unless you are planning to speak exclusively in Esperanto or have a desire for some alone time.

After the dance is over you are welcome to join our dancers for a late nite opportunity to relax, eat, and converse at a pub two blocks from the dance.


Pre-Dance Check In

If you think that you might be late for any reason, please give me a call so that I can activate the Emergency Back Up Standby Caller Plan. And if I haven't already run into you by then, please call me the moment you arrive at the Hall. Humoring me on this will help me breathe a little easier knowing the dance can actually happen now that we have a Caller in the house. Believe me, there would be a riot you'd hear about on CNN if we had to rely only on my calling abilities for a whole evening; I only know how to call one dance (Broken Sixpence) and I think people would get pretty tired of it after the first couple of hours. My cell phone number is below.


Special Requests

What additional information or requests do you have that, if fill-able and filled, would make your visit with us as enjoyable as possible?


We look forward to you keeping us on our toes!

=Kimbi Hagen=
CCD Music & Mic Magician Talent Wrangler