Callers Gathering

March 21, 2020
This Year’s Theme:
“Something Borrowed.”

We plan to take a deep dive into contra dances that include figures originating from other genres. These elements might have been borrowed recently, or long ago. The gathering lasts from 9:00 AM-5:00 PM, and includes time for dancing, discussion and eating. You are welcome to come as a calling participant (pre-registration required), or a non-calling dancer (at lower cost) — allowing you to listen to and chime in on discussion as well as dance through lots of fascinating material.

To come as a caller: Pre-register by emailing Bob Nicholson. Calling slots are capped to ensure time at the mic for all calling participants. Bob will ask you to send some dances that fit the theme, and we’ll create a packet of these and send it to you before the gathering. We’ll also take notes of our discussions at the gathering and send those to calling participants.

To come as a non-calling dancer: Please email Bob Nicholson if you plan to come, whether or not you intend to call some of the dances. This helps us plan for food.

Sister Haggis

Music for both the gathering and the evening dance that follows will be provided by the multitalented duo, Sister Haggis: Jane Knoeck (piano) and Eileen Kalfass (fiddle).

Admission is $45 for callers and $25 for others, and includes breakfast snacks, a light lunch, and admission to that evening’s dance, which will be called by a panoply of highly-energized gathering participants. We’ll collect admission at the gathering. (As with all SCD events, if the price is an obstacle to your attending, please let us know and we will work out an alternative.)


Our (now biannual) callers gathering is 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 the 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 the dances that relate to it, and not directly on skill-building. But we do 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.

Themes from Gatherings Past

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”
  • (2019)- No Callers Gathering this year (Hands Four Dancers of Ithaca sponsored a callers workshop with Kathy Anderson with a focus on calling squares)

* 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).-