Thursday, July 20, 2017

Our New Address

The Mad Robin Callers Collective is still active, but this website is not...
If you ended up here and want to know what we're currently up to, please look for us on our new site.

Hope to see you at a dance soon!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winging our way through winter

The Mad Robins have been busy this winter!  Our 4th Friday dance series started its third year in January - we have settled into a consistent space in the 1st Congregational Church hall on South Winooski Ave., in Burlington.  The new year has brought several new additions to our happy nest: we welcome Lydia Reese, Darren Schibler and Robin Wilke as our newest callers (finally, a Robin named Robin!).  Lydia and Robin received their official pins last month and Darren will soon!  We are attempting to hold regular practice sessions on third Wednesdays - let us know if you'd like to attend and we'll send you the details (e-mail

Brian plays a fanfare for
our newest members
We are also pleased to announce that Brian Perkins, local  treasured musician is now coordinating musicians for our regular dances.  We are honored to provide an arena for Brian to explore and foster new collaborations in our local music community.  Since joining us this winter he has gone above and beyond - besides providing musical direction Brian contributes to the over all operation of the dance series as well as hauling (sometimes by bicycle!) and running the sound system every month.  This January he was instrumental (no pun intended) in helping the Robins prepare for a special family dance we put on for the church.    Hooray for Brian!

Of course, some Robins must fly away.  Hannah Goodwin and Eliza Arsenault have both moved south (Hannah to Boston, Eliza to Montpelier) but what a happy reunion we had this month at the Dance Flurry in Saratoga Springs where the two of them were calling with Vermont's own troupe of teenage musicians The Irregulars.  They did a great job.  Look out - more Mad Robins are sure to be flocking to the Flurry in years to come.  With Eliza gone we needed a new treasurer.  Thank goodness for Eric Garza who has bravely stepped up to the task.  Eric deftly directs our finances and paperwork all with a smile.  Don't know what we'd do without him.

So there's our Collective news.  Next up: Pete Sutherland and Oliver Scanlon join Brian for our February 24th dance (come find out who their special guests will be!).  See you there!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 2011 Dance

Look! over to the left! It's a handy calendar, which says that the next Mad Robin Callers Collective dance will be Friday, June 24th! Join us at the First Congregational Church (38 South Winooski Ave, Burlington, VT 05401).
Karen Sutherland and Sarah Hotchkiss provide the tunes, with calling by some of your favorite Mad Robins!
Admission is $8. No partner is necessary, all dances are taught.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Klezmer Contras are an excellent idea. The band Forks of Nature proved this last Friday, as they went modal on some traditional tunes, and threw in some swing favorites, too. This great band really got the crowd going, and they're fun to call with.
This past dance at the Shelburne Town Hall also included an experiment. Since many Mad Robins adore waltzing, we've been looking for ways to have more of it at our dances. At the very beginning, we debated having four or five waltzes throughout the evening (if the band were willing), but realized that more waltzing means fewer contra dances, and our mission is to learn contra and square dance calling.
In April 2011, we found our answer: waltzing from 7-7:45 (followed by masterful and quick sound check by Rick Klein), then our regular dance from 8-11. Plenty of folks showed up to make it worthwhile, and the response was positive, even with recorded music. We will have to look into replicating that.

No rest for the weary, though, as we now turn our sights to Friday 4/29/11 and the workshop by David Millstone on calling chestnuts (older, more traditional dances). We are very excited about this opportunity to educate our collective about the roots of the dances we all love so much. We are also deeply grateful to the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) and their outreach grants, which generously subsidize the workshop, helping to keep it affordable for participants.
If any community members are interested, please let us know right away!
In addition to paying respect to our tradition, this workshop will help prepare us for some upcoming gigs that are specifically about calling chestnuts. Stay tuned for more on that!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Join us Friday, April 22nd 2011 for our sixteenth monthly dance! Clearly, our dance series and many other gigs have kept us busy and away from the keyboard for far too long! The new plan is to update this blog with all our upcoming events.
4/22/11 will feature Forks of Nature, a genre-defying Boston-area band promising to infuse some klezmer style into familiar contra settings.
NOTE: this dance will be held at the Shelburne Town Hall in the heart of Shelburne Village (just south of the traffic light). New dancer orientation begins at 7:45, the dance starts at 8pm.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gigs Galore!

The Mad Robins have had a busy fall!  While starting our own dance series in Burlington is still on the agenda, we've put it off until early 2010 because there have been ample opportunities to call elsewhere.  Some of our most exciting gigs have been organized by local schools: students at St. Michael's college in Colchester have put together a series of dances throughout the school year, and a wonderful trend is developing at UVM of embellishing campus events with a contra dance.  This is a relatively new demographic to hit the dance floors in northern Vermont and we are excited to help the movement continue.

Dancers in UVM's Billings Hall

Indeed many students are so hooked they are venturing off campus as evidenced by the whopping 140 person crowd at Burlington's Queen City Contra this November, the largest in the dance's recent history.  We were so honored to call our "home town" dance.  The support from regular dancers, both for Mad Robins at the mic and for all those new folks on the floor, was overwhelming!  Thanks to then the evening went swimmingly.  We enjoyed fabulous tunes from Montreal's "Contraindicators," and as musician Sean McCutcheon said, "there was nothing even resembling a train wreck!"  We are blessed with a community that is eager to grow and excited to see us move from the dance floor to the stage.

With Atlantic Crossing at UVM's Localvore Dinner in October

We are learning as we go.  Each time we meet and each time we call our goals are recalibrated.  The biggest lesson so far is that there is more to calling than prompting a dance.  The potlucks continue, not only because we need energy to plan our next endeavors, but also because sharing food builds community.   As we spend time supporting each other as callers, leaders and friends we also learn how to bring that atmosphere of support to the events we call.  We have come this far because that support was extended to each one of us when we first discovered contra dancing.  Ever thankful for this, one of the biggest goals we have achieved has been simply to help strengthen and give back to the community that gives us all so much.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Mad Robin Callers Collective!  We will be celebrating all weekend long: join us Friday, Nov. 27th at the Tinmouth, VT dance, and Saturday the 28th in Bristol, VT.  Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Thanks for stopping by.  Welcome to the online home of the Mad Robin Callers Collective, newly formed in Burlington, Vermont this autumn, 2009.  This extraordinary group of contra dance callers was formed with several goals in mind:

1. Collaboration: Each one of us comes to the caller's mic with different backgrounds and experience; together we've found strength in numbers.  By pooling the wealth of information and ideas among us we find ourselves growing by leaps and bounds. 

2. Structure: We meet every first and third Friday evening of the month.  After tucking in for what thus far has been a fail-proof potluck supper, we get down to business.  Meetings are an open forum for discussing calling techniques, swapping success stories, revisiting and learning from our mistakes.  Perhaps most importantly though, meetings are a chance for us to practice calling!  Even crammed in a tiny living room with one or two "ghost partners," calling to live dancers is invaluable.  This is our chance to receive feedback, catch mistakes before they happen and feel the support of our fellow callers so that when we are lucky enough to take to the stage, we're ready to be the best we can be.  Doing this regularly inspires us to work on our calling individually between meetings so that we always have something new to bring to the group.

3. Gigs!: We love our potlucks, but we all joined the collective with aspirations of calling in our local (and not so local!) dance community, with more than an Ipod docking station behind us.  As a new caller, carrying a full evening can be intimidating, not to mention exhausting.  We've found that calling dances as a group is a great way to meet this challenge.  It's also fantastically fun!  Standing at the mic, you know you have help on the dance floor: the Mad Robins are out there, guarding the flock and cheering you on.

The Mad Robin Callers Collective held its founding meeting on September 3, 2009.  In just over a month, (three meetings later), we have already called one full scheduled dance, and also managed to call an evening on the fly when the hired caller was down with food poisoning.  We have three more gigs lined up this October and November.  Dance organizers in our area have been incredibly supportive and we are so proud to be strengthening our dance community.

This blog is not a pitch for you to come to our gigs (although we would love to see you there!).  We want you to spread the word.  We want you to join us.  This is a success story, and it can be easily replicated.  Most of us Mad Robins have been dancing together for years, it just took a few potlucks for us to realize that we have always had the support to do this.  The support is there in your community too, and we want to help you find it. 

If you live in the Burlington, VT area and want to be a Mad Robin, join us!  The more the merrier.  With no experience, or years of it, we want you!  If you don't live nearby, why don't you start your own Mad Robin chapter?  Seriously, why don't you?  We'll even let you use our logo (isn't it great?  Our friend Eliza West drew it), and share our potluck recipes.  If you want to start a callers group, we're here for you.  All our contact information is on this blog.

Stay tuned for more stories, discussions on calling, reports on our culinary adventures and gig info.  Need anything else?  Just let us know.