This page is part of The Caller's Box, a contra dance database.

Contra database search help

Table of contents


Welcome to the contra dance database!

To search for a contra dance, enter bits of figures, one per line. Not all figures need be entered. The search engine will look at the text string you typed in each line, and look for an exact match for that line in the database. (In some cases it will try for inexact searches, but this is a work in progress.) It may take some time to get a feel for this database's syntax.

Initially trying one word per figure

Say you're looking for a dance with a left-hand star, but you don't know if we notate it as "left-hand star" or "left hand star" or "LH star" or "star by the left" or "star left" or whatever. Now, you could look it up in the glossary, or in the sample database lines below, but if you're not that kind of person, the safest thing to put in the query box is just "star", since you can be pretty confident that however we've notated it, it will include the word "star". (We use very few abbreviations.)

Of course, the search results will also include dances with right-hand stars, but the idea is that, once you've looked at the figures for some of these dances, you'll find that the notation that we use for the figure in question is "star left", so you can refine your query and search again.

Or it may be that you don't even need to refine your query: we've found that you can often get a sufficiently focused search using a multi-figure query with only one word per figure (assuming you use one of the "all of these lines" search options). Consider the example searches below. The first example:

    cross trail

is sufficient to narrow the results to a single dance. ("Joel's in the Kitchen") That's using "all of these lines, in the given order". But even using the more general "all of these lines, in any order", the result set is still only 6 dances, which is a manageable number to look through.

When a search fails

If you're searching by figures, and you get "Warning: Line ... does not match any figure in the database" there are a few possibilities:

If you don't get that warning, but you still get no results, then the database may not have your dance, or may not have permission to search on the figures of the dance you're looking for. Or you could try being less specific. (See the next section.)

Searching on the key parts of the dance

Sometimes the folk process will slightly alter a dance from its original form, replacing a figure with another that accomplishes the same thing in a different way. The most common substitutions to be careful of are:

To allow for this in your searching, the simplest approach is to leave out any 'variable' parts of the dance. (You could also do multiple searches, successively trying a different figure for the 'variable' part, but if you're doing it for more than one 'variable' part, the combinations will get unwieldy.)

Levels of figure granularity

If you search for "pull by," you won't get results that include "square through," "hey with hands," "ladies chain," or "grand right and left." This is because in this database these figures are not broken down into their component pieces. Similarly, searching on "courtesy turn" will not pick up dance with "ladies chain," "gents chain," "promenade," or "right and left through."

(Some obscure figures, like "open ladies chain" or "spin the top" do include their individual pieces in their description. But you can't count on that.)

On the other hand, if you search for "balance and swing," you'll get no results, as the database lists balance as one figure, and swing as the next figure, on the next line.

Sadly, the main thing that will help here is experience using the database. However, looking at the sample lines below should give you some idea about what is considered one figure, and what isn't.

Sample database lines

Here are some common lines in the database:

Partner swing
N2 neighbor swing
Ones swing; face up
Men give-and-take partner
Women allemande left 1 & 1/2
Neighbor allemande left 1 & 1/2
Same-role neighbor allemande left 1
Shadow allemande left 1
N2 neighbor mirror allemande 1 (ones split twos)
Partner seesaw
Mad robin counterclockwise around neighbor
As couples, neighbor do-si-do
Neighbor do-si-do 1 & 1/4; form wave of four
Neighbor gypsy right 1 & 1/4
Balance long wave (NR, women face in)
Women balance long wave in center
Balance wave of four (NR,WL)
Balance ring [with N2, shadow]
In long lines, go forward and back
Gents chain to neighbor
Men do a right-hand ladies chain to partner
Ladies chain to neighbor N2
Ladies chain to partner (along the set)
On left diagonal, ladies chain to shadow
Same-role right and left through with neighbor N2
Single file promenade around set (women ccw in center, men cw on outside)
N2 neighbor promenade across
Partner promenade clockwise around set
Neighbor star promenade 1/2 (WR)
Partner butterfly whirl counterclockwise
Entire set oval left
Circle left 1
Circle left 3/4; form wave of four
Star left 1
Hands-across star right 1
Gypsy star clockwise 3/4 (MR, WL, free hand to neighbor)
Ricochet hey (WR;N2L;M ricochet;N2L;W ricochet;N2L;MR)
Broken hey 1/2 (ML;NR;women allemande left 1)
Hey 1/2 (ML;PR;WL)
On left diagonal, hey 1/2 (WR;N2L;MR;PL)
Petronella turn; face next
Ones turn contra corners
Women allemande left 1 || Men orbit clockwise 1/2
Ones arch, twos dive
Slide left, women slide two places (M past N, W past (N;W))
Slide right (past N)
Shift left
Centers turn as couples || Ends turn alone
Neighbor turn as couples
Form cozy line: Holding hands ones turn away from each other, bring hands over heads; twos join hands behind
In a line of four, go down the hall (W2-M1-W1-M2)
In a line of four, go up the hall (M2-W1-M1-W2)
Ones cast off
Ones cast down (past N1;N2)
Ones cast down, twos lead up
Hand cast
Ones lead down through twos; separate; cast up to place
Ones lead down
Ones lead down (past N1;N2)
Ones go down outside
Pass through across (PR)
Pass through along (N2L)
Ones cross diagonally down below twos, twos move up
Women cross by left
Pass the ocean
Women trade by right
Weave the line with partner (L;R to N2; R;L to N3)
Partner poussette clockwise 1/2
Double figure eight (ones cross down, twos cast up)
Ones figure eight 1/2 down
Neighbor two-hand turn 1
Neighbor mirror gate 1 (ones forward)
Cloverleaf left 1
Dip and dive 2:
Grand right and left (N1R;N2L)
Interrupted square through 2 (NR;PL)
Square through 3 without hands (NR;PL;NR)
Square through 4 (PR;NL;PR;NL)
Cross trail through (PR;NL)
Neighbor roll away (W roll L, M side-step R)
Partner roll away (across) (M roll R, W side-step L)
Slice left while partner roll away (W roll L, M side-step R)
In long lines, go forward and back while shadow roll away (W roll R, M side-step L)
Partner roll away (M roll R, W stay put)
Circulate: Men cross, women loop right
Neighbor clap (self; NR; self; NL)
Men walk forward; form long wave in center || Women fall back
Walk forward on right diagonal (optional spin); form wave of four with N2
Walk forward to N2
Walk forward; form wave of four with N2
[Ones] Gent around two and lady cut through

Example searches

Try some of these sample searches:

(Use the "Figures match" box, with clicking the button, "all of these lines, in the given order")