Category Archives: Circle Mixers

The Oddball In Charge – Mixer for 5, 7 or ? Dancers – Don Veino 20171210, rev. 20180112

a.k.a. “The Magic Charm”

Type: Circle Mixer for odd number of dancers, Gender-free
Status: Proven

At smaller venue dances you may find yourself at the beginning or end of the evening below the comfortable number of dancers for a contra or square dance for an extended time. The Levi Jackson Rag or Triplets are nice but then you have the situation where you have 7 willing dancers or just 5 and there’s something up such that you as a caller can’t easily jump in to dance and call…

So I wanted to create another dance that would fit this situation and have some chance to work with beginning dancers – fitting the traditional tunes that smaller venue bands’ repertoires often contain. This is one attempt at such a thing.

Since writing this dance, I’ve not run into a situation where I could use it! I hadn’t wanted to share it until I had a chance to try it out with dancers but some local callers facing the same venues asked for the dance as word got around (we all dread the tiny crowd issue). It became a private joke because for a long time it held some weird form of protective charm power for our group – a caller would have 7 people and walk through this dance… and then a wave of dancers would show up such that they could swap to a conventional contra or square. We’d have an upcoming gig where we expected it would be used and then have to report back that we didn’t. And then one night Linda Leslie called to a crowd of 7 people at the start and 5 at the end of an evening – so they danced it twice as bookends with success.

Some people might object to the term “Oddball” – it’s not intended to be negative but rather as descriptive. I’d be sure to explain to dancers that we all sometimes feel like the Oddball in a situation, and this dance will give you several times to experience the power of that unique role. There can be a somewhat competitive aspect to the B parts – encourage folks to watch out for each other and be safe!

Starts with an even number of dancers in a ring with an extra dancer (“Oddball”) in the center. Minimum 5 or possibly up to 9 (or more?) dancers – works with any mix, i.e. “gender free.” If there’s any question of who does what, have dancers note the Oddball (the person in the center at the moment) is always in charge (so they select and raise their hand for the twirls, etc. – FWIW, some dancers have played this back as “the Oddball is always the Gent/Lark”).

Ring Balance, Petronella Slide/Twirl Right
Ring Balance, Petronella Slide/Twirl Right

Oddball picks any outside dancer to LH Balance & Swat the Flea to swap (center person lifts, outside twirls under)
New center/Oddball reaches out RH at angle to Balance and Box the Gnat (center lifts, outside twirls) to swap with the other adjacent outside dancer

This New Oddball Circle Left 1x (with grace in 8 counts) with the dancers who did the twirls (anyone bracketed by this set of Oddballs if more than 5 dancers in set)
Oddball look away to Circle Right with the other remaining dancers (use up remaining 8 counts)

Everyone find another dancer to Balance and Swing (Gender Free Swing in some form)
[end with the one dancer left over in the center and all the others form a ring to…]

End effects: N/A
Tune suggestions: Written for trad tune Petronella, other traditional tunes may work
See also:

First called (twice!) by Linda Leslie at the East Sandwich, MA Grange on January 20, 2018.

Clap Happy – Gender Free Longways or Circle – Don Veino 20180115

Type: Longways or Circle Family/Ceilidh Dance – Gender Free
Status: Proven

Clap Happy being danced
Clap Happy dancers!
This dance always gets smiles with the right crowds. Very useful for those community dances where you want want to sense the crowd or provide some variety without the possibility of a crash and burn. Works well as a keeper with smaller kids paired to a bigger kid or parent. Can be used as a mixer with older kids or adults.

In larger crowds run this in multiple “longways for as many as will” sets with partners opposite.

In smaller venues as a circle dance, I get folks to take hands in a single circle with Partner, then have them adjust to have one person in each couple face me or put their back to me in the center so the couples form radial spokes for two concentric circles. Then I have them compare wingspans and move the bigger folks to face in on the outside circle and narrower wingspans to face out from the inner circle.

Starts facing Partner opposite:

(8 @ 1 beat/move) Clap two hands over (own! 🙂 ) left leg, under left leg, over right leg, under right leg, in front at waist, behind back at waist, in front again and then two handed “high five” with Partner
(8) Repeat pattern
[Encourage adjustments for mobility issues as required – can clap high/low instead of over/under leg, etc.]

(8) Partner Right Elbow turn 1x
(8) Partner Left Elbow turn 1x (so back at starting spot)

(8,8) Facing Circles or Big Oval to your own personal RIGHT (opposite direction from Partner) and back left
[as a keeper, left is return to Partner – as mixer, go one person past Partner to next]

(keep or new) Partner Balance & Swing (two-hand, whatever – end in place, facing in or out)

End effects: Never out
Tune suggestions: Bouncy 32 bar jigs, marches – bouncy A1 is key to the fun!
See also: Probably some traditional dances that are similar…
First called by me at Hancock UCC Barn Dance on 1/20/2018.

Trip to Santa Fe – Circle Mixer – Don Veino 20170622

Type: Circle Mixer
Status: Proven

During a trip to New Mexico for other reasons I arranged to be booked for the Santa Fe FolkMADS Contra Dance. Shortly before the event I was informed that a group of 20+ international students who’d never done contra were planning on attending (turned out to be ~60% of the attendees at the start). In planning my program I realized the existing mixers in my deck were either too risky for those folks or too simple for the regulars. I wanted something that would build on the sequence of moves introduced in my teaching plan (which factored in language challenge) so I came up with the following. It worked out well with that group.

Into the Center and Back
Circle Left

Circle Right
Partner Dosido (and turn away from P)
[so Gents look CW, Ladies CCW]

Neighbor Balance and Swing

(new) Partner Promenade

First called by me at the FolkMADS Contra Dance in Santa Fe, NM on 6/24/2017. They created a nice flyer for the event (featuring our respective state birds!), which I’ve included below. Hope to get back together with them sometime!

Santa Fe Contra 6/24/17 Flyer

Sue Said it was Ted – Circle Mixer – Don Veino var. 20170201

Type: Circle Mixer
Status: Public, Proven

My further variation on a folk-processed variant of Ted’s Mixer by Ted Sannella. I collected something from Sue Rosen’s calling in Carlisle MA which she said was Ted’s Mixer (but differed in the B1/B2 from his published dance). I further modified her variation’s A1 to be more interesting by breaking up the 2x in to the center & out, by role. See here for Ted’s original.

This variation first called by me at the Thursday Contras dance at the Concord Scout House on February 2, 2017.

Ladies into the Center & Out
Gents into the Center, Turn over Right Shoulder as come out
(to face P, so L face in & G out)

Partner Allemande Right 1+1/2 (G face in, L out)
Partner Dosido 1x (to face P)

Partner Allemande Left 1+1/2 (L face in, G out, all look RIGHT)
RH Neighbor Swing

Neighbor (new P) Promenade and face center