The CNY Callers Gathering


Our callers gatherings are an opportunity for callers and people interested in calling to get together and “workshop” dances in a friendly and supportive environment. We choose a topic to focus on for the day and work with each other to learn from specific dances and from the collective experiences brought to the gathering by the participants.

While many callers’ workshops use a teacher/student or mentor model, where a particularly skilled caller is brought in to teach and share experiences with the group, we have taken a different approach. The CNY Callers Gathering brings callers of all levels of experience together so that we can learn from the material we’re studying and from each other in a more egalitarian way. The focus is on the topic and dances that relate to it. We always learn much through the topic, and also enjoy connecting with other callers from all over New York State and beyond to “talk shop” to our hearts’ content.

Our most recent gathering (described below) was especially exciting, taking place as it did after a 5-year hiatus!

March 18, 2023
This Year’s Theme:
Global/Positional Teaching and Calling

Many dance communities are asking callers to use gender-free language when teaching or calling. Often this means using alternative terms for dance roles–most commonly “larks” and “robins” in place of “gents” and “ladies.” This trend had already begun pre-pandemic, and has continued as dancing has started up again over the past months. At this moment the landscape across multiple dance communities is potentially confusing for callers, as preferences vary both across and within communities.

Teaching and calling positionally eliminates both gendered language and terms that are substitutes for gendered language. Whether or not you have tried to do this, we hope you will find working together on the skills required to call positionally helpful to your teaching. Many have found this to be true, even if they continue to use historical or alternative role-terms.

Please note that the gathering is not intended to be a forum to debate the merits of global/positional calling, nor do we intend to discuss why you might prefer one set of role terms over another. Discussions about how and why norms and traditions change are certainly important and valuable, but they deserve much more attention than a one-day workshop can offer. As with callers gatherings of years past, we expect that this year’s workshop will benefit from remaining narrowly focused on skills and shop talk. 

Topics from Past Gatherings

The first annual CNY Callers Gathering in 2002 was one of three such gatherings nationwide where a group of callers attempted to dance all 41 of Ted Sannella’s triplets.

  • 2002- Ted’s Triplet Marathon (the button read: “I was there”)
  • 2003- Favorite Dances Exchange (modeled on a Christmas cookie exchange)
  • * 2004- “Cracking Chestnuts” (classic American contra dances)
  • 2005- “Beyond Hands Four” (dances in unusual formations)
  • 2006- ONS Dances (one night stands: family dances, parties, etc.)
  • 2007- Dances of Gene Hubert (honoring his contributions)
  • 2008- English Country Dancing (for many of us, an ESL workshop)
  • 2009- “Living Room Dances” (dances for small numbers of dancers)
  • 2010- “Zesty Contras” (exploring Larry Jennings’ game-changing book from 1983)
  • 2011- “Square ’em Up!” (contra callers taking the plunge into calling squares)
  • 2012- “Back of the Box” dances (the dances we keep looking at and are unwilling to discard, but somehow don’t get put into the programs we plan)
  • * 2013- “Cracking Chestnuts Revisited” (during which we videotaped several lesser known classic dances, and grew inordinately fond of the hands-free and proper right and left through)
  • 2014- “Exploring the Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend Syllabi” (diving into over a quarter century’s worth of the syllabi that document a dance event that bridges old and new)
  • 2015- “100 Years of CDSS” (part of the year-long celebration of the Country Dance and Song Society’s centennial)
  • 2016- Twenty-first Century Dances
  • (2017)- No Callers Gathering this year
  • 2018- “First of Its Kind” (the first dance where a particular figure or sequence appeared)
  • (2019)- No Callers Gathering this year (Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca sponsored a callers workshop with Kathy Anderson with a focus on calling squares)
  • (2020-2022)- No Callers Gatherings due to COVID-19 Pandemic
  • 2023- Global/Positional Teaching and Calling 

* The two gatherings related to contra chestnuts contributed to the creation of an online bank of annotated videos to illustrate these classic dances. Some of the videos were, in fact, made at our gathering, thanks to a grant from The Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS).-