“[Louise] provided just the right amount of easy-to-follow instruction, and then let the dancers enjoy the flow of the dance and the music from there. It was wonderful!”

–Dance organizer, Dallas, TX

Positional Calling for Contra Callers

January 15, January 22, January 29, 2023

a 3-week online course
2:00-4:00 p.m. ET
(11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. PT/19:00-21:00 GMT)
Taught by Louise Siddons

Register Now!

This course is geared toward contra dance callers with any level of experience and a high level of enthusiasm for improving their teaching and calling. We will start from the assumption that positional calling strategies can and will further those aims.

Positional calling invites us to use what we know about dance structure, momentum, and flow to teach and call for diverse dancers effectively and efficiently. In this course, we will move from the macro to the micro in order to explore dance structure, craft robust walkthroughs, develop effective calls, and design well-structured dance programs. 

  • How do we teach dancers about the overarching form of contra? 
  • What specific calls do we use, and how can we be both clear and concise without resorting to role terms? 
  • Does the way we teach really matter to our dance communities—and why? 

This discussion- and activity-based course will build on the ideas presented in Louise’s booklet, Dancing the Whole Dance: Positional Calling for Contra. A PDF copy of the booklet is included in the cost of registration for all participants.

Louise Siddons

Louise Siddons was born in the UK but moved to the United States as a child, where she grew up surrounded by folk music and song. She began folk dancing seriously in 2008, and calling in 2009. Now back in the UK permanently, she is known on both sides of the Atlantic as a contra, English country dance, and ceilidh caller as well as a committee member for the Friends of English Dance. She received the 2016 Mary Judson/Brad Foster Award for English Dance Teachers from the Country Dance and Song Society (USA) and recently received a diversity grant from the English Folk Dance and Song Society (UK) in support of her gender-free teaching and calling.

Louise believes that we should invest in the evolution and sustainability of folk traditions and their ongoing relevance to contemporary culture—whether that’s through gender-free calling or adapting dances for Zoom. As a caller and dance teacher, she strives to create a fun and welcoming atmosphere with her low-key and lighthearted stage presence. At its best, social folk dance is a living tradition that balances accessibility with challenge and discovery. Louise calls a mixture of modern and historic dances in a variety of formations, and enjoys helping dancers discover the musicality of choreography, from the familiar to the unexpected.

Registration and Cost

Course fees are on a sliding scale: you decide the price that works for you! The suggested price for the three sessions is $75; the minimum price is $15.

The course is limited to 15 participants. 

If the course is oversubscribed, we will place you on the waiting list.  Your full course fee will be refunded if your application is not accepted.  

Click here to apply. You will be prompted to log in with your CDSS Commons account or create a new account. If you have any issues with accessing the registration form or logging into the CDSS Commons, please email camp@cdss.org.

After you complete your application through the Commons, you will get a link to a survey which form asks a few questions about your calling experience. Your application will be considered complete once we receive your filled-out survey. We will review the information you provide and attempt to create a balance of experience levels among the participants.  Priority will be given to people who haven’t taken a similar course in the past. 

Course Details

This discussion- and activity-based course will build on the ideas presented in Louise’s booklet, Dancing the Whole Dance: Positional Calling for Contra. A PDF copy of the booklet is included in the cost of registration for all participants.

The course includes homework between the sessions.

Homework prior to Session One

  • Read Dancing the Whole Dance, a booklet by Louise Siddons

Session 1: The things we don’t say or do

  • Understanding the history, mechanics, and geometry of contra dance choreography, and translating that knowledge into effective teaching for a variety of audiences.

Session 2: The things we do say and do

  • Crafting a walkthrough, devising useful prompts, and reminding dancers to think positionally: in this session we’ll consider all the things we say over the mic, and why.

Session 3: Beyond individual dances

  • Getting feedback, effective programming, reinforcing values: callers do so much more than prompt individual dances, so in the final session we will consider the bigger picture.

Building Cultural Equity in Communities

October 25, 2022

An online discussion to support organizers of dance, music, and song groups

This Web Chat provided firsthand experiences from organizers who have used CDSS grants to provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training for their groups. We heard about ways they have been applying what they’ve learned from these valuable workshops, and what’s next for their groups. We also included plenty of time for Q&A. Our special guests were:

  • Cindy Culbert and Rich Dempsey: Country Dancers of Rochester (Rochester, NY)
  • Janet Yeracaris and Vince O’Donnell: New England Folk Festival Association (New England region)
  • Lauren Keeley: DanceFlurry Organization (Albany, NY)

Read More

Let’s Talk About Reentry, Part 7: Singing Together Safely

May 3, 2022

An online discussion to support organizers of song groups

Two organizers offered firsthand experiences about keeping their song groups alive and well through the pandemic by hosting in-person and online singing events. Our third guest provided the latest COVID-19 news from her public health perspective, with suggestions especially pertinent for song group organizers. Q&A with all three guests included:

  • Janice Hanson from Golden Link Folk Singing Society in Rochester, NY
  • Steve Deering from Vancouver Folk Song Society in Vancouver, BC
  • Dr. Kimbi Hagen, public health professor from Atlanta, GA

Read More

Let’s Talk About Reentry, Part 6: Prioritizing Safety at In-person Dances

February 28, 2022

CDSS Executive Director Katy German had a conversation with three contra dance organizers who have resumed in-person dancing. They described adjustments they’ve made to their “normal” processes, what impacted their decision to resume, what they’re asking of participants, and what they recommend to others. We also presented a new online resource: Groups that Have Resumed In-person Events.

Read More

Weathering the Winter Together

November 1, 2021

We used this Web Chat to generate lots of ideas for keeping communities safe and engaged during another pandemic winter. Small groups brainstormed further ideas in breakout rooms. Also, public health professor Dr. Kimbi Hagen shared news and perspectives about how the pandemic is progressing.

Read More

In June 2018, CDSS began a new Web Chat series to support organizers of dance, music, and song communities across the continent and beyond. For each Web Chat, a pertinent topic is chosen and guest organizers from communities having success with that topic are invited to share their valuable experiences and suggestions (Q&A included).

Web Chats for OrganizersJoin us for our next Web Chat:
Details coming soon.

Questions? Contact resources@cdss.org


Help us expand this reentry resource!

Is your group considering reentry? Check out Groups that Have Resumed In-person Events to access firsthand experiences from groups that have reopened their events. If your group has resumed and would like to pass along what you’ve been learning, please take our survey. Questions? Email resources@cdss.org.

Latest Web Chat:

  • Dancers taking hands across a line

    Building Cultural Equity in Communities

    October 25, 2022

    An online discussion to support organizers of dance, music, and song groups

    This Web Chat provided firsthand experiences from organizers who have used CDSS grants to provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training for their groups. We heard about ways they have been applying what they’ve learned from these valuable workshops, and what’s next for their groups. We also included plenty of time for Q&A. Our special guests were:

    • Cindy Culbert and Rich Dempsey: Country Dancers of Rochester (Rochester, NY)
    • Janet Yeracaris and Vince O’Donnell: New England Folk Festival Association (New England region)
    • Lauren Keeley: DanceFlurry Organization (Albany, NY)

    Read More

Previous Web Chats

Let’s Talk About Reentry, Part 5: News from Groups That Have Resumed In-person Events

August 12, 2021

There is strong interest amongst organizers in hearing news from communities that have already resumed in-person events. This Web Chat provided valuable experiences and suggestions from two dance and song organizers ​who are already navigating their reentry, as well as perspectives from a public health professional.

Read More

Let’s Talk About Reentry, Part 4: Addressing Legal and Other Burning Questions

May 19, 2021

For this Web Chat, CDSS hired an attorney to address some of our broader community’s legal questions. Other panelists provided resources and considerations to help organizers chart their group’s course for safely emerging from the pandemic. Ultimately, each group needs to ask their own questions and find answers that are right for their location, type of event, and community. We’re all in this together!

Read More

Let’s Talk About Reentry, Part 3: An MD Discusses Vaccines, and We Discuss Our Sector’s Needs

March 1, 2021

In this third installment of the “Let’s Talk About Reentry” Web Chat series, we featured presentations and discussions about how the pandemic has altered our communities’ needs and how we can best prepare for returning to in-person dancing, singing, and music-making.

Read More