Caller Information For Boston Contra Dances at The Concord Scout House

Feel free to contact committee members Dan Pearl, Sue Rosen, Dereck Kalish and/or Lisa Greenleaf if you have questions about preparing for our series.

Our Vision

The Thursday dance features great music and friendly, skillful calling. We strive for an evening that is enjoyable to all, with occasional challenges that are appropriate to the level of the crowd. We encourage callers to provide safety and style guidance while maintaining an upbeat and positive attitude.

While there is a lot of new choreography available to callers, we prefer dances with good flow that aren’t so complicated or unusual that they lead to dancer frustration. Although many of our dancers are used to just one walk-through for most dances, they will appreciate your extra attention if there are a lot of beginners, so by all means, do a second walk-through if necessary.

If you are a new caller to our series, we expect to share dancer feedback with you. If you haven’t called a full evening for us within the last two years, you might be interested in how you were received by the crowd. Please contact Lisa Greenleaf by email.

Our Community

There are a few new people each week (more in the summer), but most of the dancers have had some experience. Our expectation is that caller will be aware of the new people and call appropriate dances for all to enjoy. If you have any questions about the capabilities of the crowd at hand, consult with committee members at the dance that night (and note that beginners often arrive after the introductory lesson).

Please remind everyone to welcome the new dancers and to ask folks who are sitting out to dance. It’s always good to reassure new dancers that we are glad they are there! NB: The Scout House has a ‘no-aerials’ policy (dancers should not be lifted off the ground by other dancers). We like to say, “Keep one foot on the floor.” Seek out committee members to address any situations you feel uncomfortable addressing.

Evening Format

7:10 Introductory lesson. A committee member will let you know how many beginners there are. The lesson is usually small; if you don’t know our dancers, then ask a committee member to help you recruit experienced dancers to pair up with the new people. This lesson is done off-mic.

First half: 7:30-9:00 (or a bit later). Please start on time, even if dancers are still putting on their shoes. This half ends with a waltz.

15 minute break

Second Half: It is customary, but not required, to start the second half with a couple dance, usually a hambo, but occasionally a swing dance tune, a cajun two-step, or a schottische. The last contra must end by 10:25 so that the last waltz is done by 10:30.

Programming Features

  • Between 11 and 13 slots, no more than three of which are not contras. Most dancers prefer contras, but are willing to dance well-called squares, four-face-fours and the occasional mixer.
  • A good amount of neighbor interaction, especially early in the evening. The dancers prefer no more than two dances without neighbor swings.
  • Variety in figures, particularly with allemandes, which can be tiring if repeated from dance to dance. Email Lisa Greenleaf if you would like a programming matrix to track the figures in your program.
  • No more than two dances so challenging that they seem a struggle. Dancers do not respond well to an evening of idiosyncratic material. If you are consistently having to do more than one walk through, then simplify your program.


  • We use Ladies and Gents for the roles. It is good to clarify that these are just roles (as in, “If you are dancing the Gent’s role…”). Please do not refer to the roles as Lead/Follow, and do not use gendered pronouns.
  • As for the figure formerly known as Gypsy, we use “Right/Left Shoulder Round your Neighbor”. You may add, ”Maintaining eye contact, if that is comfortable for you.” Please do not use other terminology.