Contra Dances by Mark Widmer

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alphabetical listing:

Al & Mark's Quadruplet

Camp Harlam Reel
Cherokee Swing

David K's Reel
Hey Junior

Newlyweds' Jig
Robert's Ghost

Ross's Request

This Dance Has No Name -- Never Had One, Never Will



arranged chronologically, most recent first:



Al & Mark's Quadruplet     by Al Olson and Mark Widmer     4-couple contra line, improper


A1 Neighbor do-si-do
Circle left once around
A2 Dip & dive: 1's arch, 2's duck under to start
After top couple reaches bottom of set and returns to #2 spot (facing up):
B1 Top foursome: circle left halfway, neighbor swing
Bottom foursome: neighbor balance & swing.
B2 Promenade across (with neighbor you swung)
Partner swing (in middle), end facing up or down to form 2 foursomes

July 2010


Comments:  The dancers never wait out at the ends in this 4-couple dance, so it is well suited for when there are only 4 couples present in the dance hall.  It is a variation I wrote of Al's Quadruplet #1 by Al Olson.  In Al's dance, people alternate dancing with two of the other three couples but never dance with that third couple.  In this variant, people get to dance with everybody else in the set.


Teaching/calling pointers


It is desirable for the top couple to have an experienced dancer.  I recommend asking the 8 dancers to elect a Captain amongst themselves, one who is experienced, assertive, and  confident.  While the dancers hold their "election", the caller may confer with the band on how many times through the dance they will go; some multiple of 3 is preferable, and we ran it 9 times through the first (only) time I have called it.


Once the dancers have chosen a captain, the captain and her/his partner should move to the top of the set to become the top couple.  They will remain the top couple every time through the dance and can guide their foursome into the circle-left-halfway in B1, which may be an unexpected move for their neighbors.


A2 & B1:

A2.  Start with the 1's (couple #'s 1 & 3) making an arch, and the 2's duck under the arch as a couple to advance one place up or down the line.  Then the 2's arch while the 1's duck under.  The pattern repeats, each couple alternating between arching and ducking.  When out at the end, couples should turn as a couple, then take a cue from the dancers approaching them whether to arch or duck.

B1.  The caller can watch for when the top couple has nearly reached position #2 (after making an arch in a temporary middle foursome), and call out the moves for B1.  The call could be something along the lines of "bottoms balance, tops circle ... neighbor swing". 


More comments


Trivia fact: Nils Fredland was Captain the first time this dance was called.

The progression: couple #1 (includes the captain) remains couple #1; couple #2 becomes couple #4 at the bottom; couple #'s 3 & 4 each move one place up, towards the top of the set.




David K's Reel     by Mark Widmer     duple, Becket

A1 With partner, promenade across  
Ladies chain  
A2 Women allemande right once around  
Neighbor swing  
B1 Long lines forward ... 4 beats
  ... and back up doing a neighbor roll-way with a half-sashay
Men allemande right 3/4
Next man (along center line) allemande left 3/4
4 beats
4 beats
4 beats
B2 Partner balance & swing  

August 2008



Described as "a roller coaster ride for the men", this is a tribute to two people named David K:

David Kaynor's presence at Ashokan dance camps over the years has been a true joy.  His composition Mary Cay's Reel inspired the choreography for this dance.

David Keifer, a longtime attendee and volunteer at Princeton, NJ dances, retired and moved to the Finger Lakes region in August of 2008.  This was first called at his going away contra dance bash.


Teaching/calling pointers

When waiting out, looking up or down the set, the couple should get on the left side following the long lines (in B1), ready to promenade across.

For the roll-away in B1, the woman rolls from right to left.  The man half-sashays to the right.  Giving good weight here helps lead the men into the allemande sequence.




Newlyweds' Jig     by Mark Widmer     duple improper

A1 Long lines forward & back  
Neighbor swing  
A2 Circle left 3/4  
Men do-si-do  
B1 Partner balance & swing  
B2 Balance in a circle, petronella turn  
  Balance in a circle, neighbor roll-away w/ half sashay (along the set)  

Summer 2002


Relatively straightforward yet quite different from other dances, this can easily fit into most callers' programs.

It was composed during the summer of 2002 while my wife and I were newlyweds.  (I was going to call it Newlyweds' Reel until Chart Guthrie informed me that Ted Sannella wrote a dance by that name.)

Teaching/calling pointers 

The roll-away in B2 begins with the neighbor woman to the left of the man.  The woman rolls to the right while the man half-sashays to the left.



Ross's Request     by Mark Widmer     duple improper, double progression

A1 Neighbor balance and swing
A2 Long lines forward and back
1's swing, end facing down between new neighbors
B1 Down the hall four in line (1's between the 2's) 4 beats
Turn alone and make a cozy line 4 beats
Return 4 beats
Make a cloverleaf 4 beats
B2 Circle left in cloverleaf formation
Star left (and progress to new neighbors)

Jan. 2002

Comments:  During breaktime at a dance I was calling, Ross Harriss requested the dance that has a cozy-line-of-four which then morphs into a "cloverleaf" circle-of-four.  Though I had danced it in the past, it was not in my calling repertoire and so I wrote and called this one instead.  It is based somewhat on Don Armstrong's Broken Sixpence, with sufficient changes to warrant a new title and authorship.

Later research revealed that Ross's actual request was probably for either Fred Field's Symmetrical Force, or Triskaidekaphobia by Kirston Koths.

Teaching/calling pointers


Here's a detailed description of the cozy line and cloverleaf moves:

Down the hall four in line (1's in center between the 2's).

Never letting go of any hands, 1's turn outward (to face the 2's) and then face up, backing under their joined hands, while the 2's turn in to face up.  2's join their free hands with each other behind the 1's.

Return in a cozy line of four.

To make the cloverleaf: 1's bend forward and 2's bring joined hands up and over.  Circle left in this formation.



Camp Harlam Reel     by Mark Widmer     duple, Becket

A1 Circle left 3/4 and pass through to new neighbors
(New) neighbor do-si-do
A2 Neighbor balance and swing
B1 Long lines forward and back
Women allemande right 1-1/2
B2 Partner gypsy and swing

Nov. 2001

Comments:  Smooth.  Dancers can "get in the zone" with this one.

While looking for a Becket dance that ends with a partner gypsy-and-swing to close out a contra medley at Head For The Hills (AND be able to transition to it from an improper formation dance), I was unable to find one that was straightforward enough to call with no walkthrough.  I wrote this dance to fit the bill, and named it after the camp where HFTH is held every year in November.

For medley transitions from an improper dance: have the dancers circle left one full time in A1 and do NOT pass through to new neighbors the first time through this dance.

The A1 and A2 are identical to Orace Johnson's Midwest Folklore, something I realized after having written this one.  (Note, this link to Midwest Folklore has a different way to progress than the circle-3/4-and-pass-through that I am used to.)


Robert's Ghost     by Mark Widmer     duple improper

A1 Neighbor do-si-do
Neighbor swing
A2 Circle left
Star right (hands-across style)
B1 Women allemande right 1-1/2
Partner swing
B2 Long lines forward and back
Ladies chain

Aug. 2001

Comments: A dance that appears easy at first glance.  However, the women do spend a lot of time spinning around in the same direction, so it may be best to use this one in a medley.

The dance is named for Robert, a pet bird of ours (a java rice finch) who sadly passed away in the spring of 2001.


Cherokee Swing     by Mark Widmer     Becket

A1 Long lines forward and back   8 beats
Ladies chain to neighbor, progress to next neighbor   8
A2 (New) neighbor do-si-do   8
Balance in a circle   4
Circle left halfway   4
B1 Neighbor allemande right 1-1/2   8
Men allemande left 1-1/2   8
Partner box-the-gnat (if crooked tune)   4

Partner balance and swing (extra 4 beats if crooked tune)


June-July 2001

Comments: Inspired by David Kaynor's Cherokee Shuffle dance, this dance fits tunes which, like the tune Cherokee Shuffle, have an extra 4 beats in each B part.  If you call this dance , make sure the band understands that you want such a tune.  Cherokee Shuffle (the tune) can be played in a variety of ways; make sure the band understands you want two A parts (standard length) and two B parts (with an extra 4 beats each).

Alternatively, you could call this to a straight tune.  There are several options:

Another variation:  Bob Isaacs, after having danced the crooked version of this, says he prefers to balance first (at the end of B1), and then box-the-gnat (start of B2) before swinging.

This makes for a nice two-dance medley with Cherokee Shuffle, provided the band is willing to either play that tune throughout the entire dance, or has another similarly crooked tune to play along with it.



This Dance Has No Name -- Never Had One, Never Will     by Mark Widmer     4-facing-4

(a.k.a. The No-Name Four-Face-Four Dance)

A1 Lines of 4 go forward & back
Corner swing
A2 Grand right & left, 1/2-way around:

Right hand to corner (whom you just swung), left to partner,

Right hand to next, left hand to next,

Corner (whom you swung) do-si-do 1-1/2

B1 Partner swing, end facing up or down toward the original group (not original direction)
B2 Circle left, as foursomes, once around  

Balance the ring

  Partner California twirl

Dec. 2000

Comments:  A severe case of writer's block prevented me from naming this dance for years, until finally I gave up.

Teaching/calling pointers

End the partner swing facing up or down the set at the same people you have been dancing with.  Ignore the couple who are your "traveling partners", and dance B2 in groups of four.

There is something about the grand right and left that disorients a number of dancers, and they might take a while to get around in time to enjoy a reasonably long partner swing.  Bob Isaacs suggests this variation:

A2 Turn away from your corner (whom you just swung) and, with somebody new, allemende left once around.

Grand right & left, about 1/2-way around:

Right hand to corner (whom you swung), left to partner,

Right hand to next, left hand to next,

Right hand to the next (the corner you swung)


Either way, the grand right and left moves around in the standard direction, with women going clockwise.



Hey Junior     by Mark Widmer, var. by Chart Guthrie     duple improper

A1 Neighbor balance and swing
A2 Circle left
Men allemande left 1-1/2
B1 Partner swing
B2 Women pull by the right

4 beats

Neighbor allemande left once

4 beats

Half-hey, women pass right shoulders to start

Spring 1995

Comments:  I wrote the original version of this to call at Sherri & Chart Guthrie's first baby shower, one day after having called for the very first time.  The title was to honor the yet-to-be-born child, who turned out to be their daughter Carla (in spite of the normal association of "Junior" with male offspring).

The original version had the partner swing end awkwardly in the middle of B1.  Thanks to Chart for fixing this up!


Updated 09 Dec 2010 .

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