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Effect of Catapult

December 15th, 2016
contra  [amp]
Catapult is a contra dance weekend with the goal of making it easier for bands to start getting booked for dance weekends, festivals, etc. They get something like six bands and six callers together in Atlanta over memorial day weekend, and they encourage people who are involved in booking bands and callers elsewhere to come dance. This makes some sense: dance weekends are generally once a year, so they're generally pretty conservative in their booking because a bad band or caller could do a lot of damage. Instead you have one weekend that goes out on a limb with less proven performers, but they have a whole lot of different performers and dancers know what they're getting.

They're currently near the end of their application process, with applications due 12/29, and people were asking whether it was worth applying. Now, when I went with the Free Raisins in 2013 we had a blast, so I'd definitely recommend it as a fun weekend. But is it worth it from the perspective of it's goals? Will it get you booked for weekends and things?

This is a hard question to answer, because it could be that Catapult is just identifying people who would soon be getting booked for these things otherwise [1], as opposed to making the difference between getting booked and not. On the other hand we could at least look at bookings for bands and callers post-Catapult.

I have data [2] on how many weekend/festival gigs bands played in 2014, 2015, 2016, and part of 2017 . So if we go through the bands who played Catapult in 2012, 2013, and 2014, how many gigs do we see?

Bands:

  • 2012
    • Floorplay
    • Gypsy Caravan
    • La Banane Enchantee
    • The Noteboys
    • On The Fly
      • Birmingham 2014
    • Sassafras Stomp
      • Footfall 2014
      • Lava Meltdown 2014
      • Stellar Days & Nights 2014
      • Adirondack 2015
      • Balance the Bay 2016
      • Wintergreen 2016
      • Ooh La La 2016
  • 2013
    • Coracree
      • February Dancing Fool 2014
      • When in Doubt Swing 2015
    • The Free Raisins
      • Adirondack 2014
      • Appalachian Spring 2014
      • Fire Ant Frolic 2014
      • Spring Fling 2014
      • Youth Dance Weekend 2014
      • Florida Fall Ball 2015
      • Flamingo Fling 2015
      • Footfall 2015
      • Spring LEAF 2015
      • Pigtown Fling 2015
      • Pittsburgh Fall 2015
      • Swing into Summer 2015
      • Trillium Twirl 2016
      • Dance Trance 2016
      • IndepenDance 2016
      • Fly the Coop 2016
      • Solefest 2016
      • Hey Fever 2016
      • February Dancing Fool 2017
      • Springforth 2017
    • Ladies at Play
      • Spring Kimmswick 2014
      • When in Doubt Swing 2014
      • Flamingo Fling 2015
      • FolkMADness 2015
    • Steam!
      • Solefest 2014
      • FolkMADness 2016
      • Pilgrim's Progression 2016
      • Dancing with the GODS 2017
    • Uncle Farmer
      • Balance the Bay 2014
      • Faultline Frolic 2014
      • Fire Ant Frolic 2014
      • Camp Damp 2015
      • Chehalis 2015
      • Fall Lady of the Lake 2015
      • SF Bay Queer Camp 2017
    • Waxwing
  • 2014
    • Celador
      • Burning Man 2014
    • Eel House
    • Free Association
    • Frost and Fire
      • SF Bay Queer Camp 2015
      • Gender Free Camp 2016
      • Footfall 2016
    • Party of Three
      • Adirondack 2016
      • Gypsy Moon 2016
      • Whitewater Whirl 2017
    • Velocipede

The bands that played Catapult in 2013 seem to have gotten booked for many more things than the ones who played in 2012 or 2014. What's going on? Is it just that the dances I have data from are when the 2013 cohort was at its best? Let's look at counts by "years-since-Catapult" to correct for this:

cohort y1 y2 y3 y4
2012 missing 4 1 3
2013 12 13 8 future
2014 1 4 future future

In the years where we have comparable data, the 2013 cohort was booked much more widely than the 2012 or 2014 one. It's not just one outlier band distorting the numbers either—if we remove the most booked band from the 2013 cohort we still have:

cohort y1 y2 y3 y4
2012 missing 4 1 3
2013 7* 6* 2* future
2014 1 4 future future

Or we can look at the number of bands in each cohort with at least one gig in that year (each year had six bands):

cohort y1 y2 y3 y4
2012 missing 2 1 1
2013 5 4 2 future
2014 1 2 future future

That's pretty strange! Is it just that Catapult 2013 had especially good musicians, or that in 2013 lots of bookers came to Catapult? One factor is that La Banane Enchantee (2012) lost a band member to the UK. They were the most popular band of their cohort, winning the audience vote the only year Catapult did voting, and if they had continued to be playing gigs in the US they might have played a lot of them. But that's not enough to explain the difference.

I don't have as good data for callers, just 2016, which isn't even a consistent distance out from the three cohorts, but lets look at it. If we see many more callers from the 2013 cohort getting gigs then that suggests (a) Catapult was helping and (b) more bookers were at the 2013 event, while if we don't then it's more likely that 2013 just happened to select good bands.

  • 2012
    • Jean Gibson-Gorrindo
    • Michael Hamilton
      • Swing into Summer 2016
      • Looking Glass 2016
      • Pittsburgh Fall 2016
    • Valerie Helbert
    • Rachel Shapiro
    • Susan Taylor
    • Mary Wesley
      • Lava Meltdown 2016
      • FolkMADness 2016
      • Flamingo Fling 2016
      • Balance the Bay 2016
      • Dance Camp North 2016
      • Rochester Thanksgiving 2016
  • 2013
    • Quena Crain
    • Luke Donforth
      • Fiddling Frog 2016
      • IndepenDance 2016
    • JoLaine Jones-Pokorney
    • Tavi Merrill
    • Kristin Seibert
    • Keith Tuxhorn
  • 2014
    • Jerome Grisanti
    • Brian Hamshar
      • Adirondack 2016
    • Ridge Kennedy
    • Frannie Marr
      • Florida Snow Ball 2016
      • February Dancing Fool 2016
      • Corvallis 2016
      • SF Bay Queer Camp 2016
      • FolkMADness 2016
      • Burning Man 2016
      • Dance in the Desert 2016
      • Florida Fall Ball 2016
    • Dana Parkinson
      • Swing Shift 2016
      • Harvest Moon 2016
    • Anna Rain

Interesting! Both the 2012 and 2014 cohorts had substantially more bookings for 2016 (four and two years out) then the 2013 cohort did (three years out). So it's probably not that there were more dance bookers at Catapult 2013.

Another thing we could look at is whether the same weekends tend to book Catapult talent. If there's a lot of overlap, that's more reason to think catapult had an effect. Here are dances by their frequency in the two lists above:

  • Adirondack (4 of 9 slots)

    • 2014: The Free Raisins (2013 cohort)
    • 2015: Sassafras Stomp (2012 cohort)
    • 2016: Party of Three (2014 cohort)
    • 2016: Brian Hamshar (2014 cohort)
  • FolkMADness (4 of 8 slots)

    • 2015: Ladies at Play (2013 cohort)
    • 2016: Steam! (2013 chort)
    • 2016: Frannie Marr (2014 cohort)
    • 2016: Mary Wesley (2012 cohort)
  • Balance the Bay (3 of 8 slots)

    • 2014: Uncle Farmer (2013 cohort)
    • 2016: Mary Wesley (2012 cohort)
    • 2016: Sassafras Stomp (2012 cohort)
  • February Dancing Fool (3 of 10 slots)

    • 2014: Coracree (2013 cohort)
    • 2016: Frannie Marr (2014 cohort)
    • 2017: Free Raisins (2013 cohort)
  • Flamingo Fling (3 of 5 slots)

    • 2015: The Free Raisins (2013 cohort)
    • 2015: Ladies at Play (2013 cohort)
    • 2016: Mary Wesley (2012 cohort)
  • Footfall (3 of 11 slots)

    • 2014: Sassafras Stomp (2012 cohort)
    • 2015: The Free Raisins (2013 cohort)
    • 2016: Frost and Fire (2014 cohort)
  • SF Bay Queer Camp (3 of 7 slots)

    • 2015: Frost and Fire (2014 cohort)
    • 2016: Frannie Marr (2014 cohort)
    • 2017: Uncle Farmer (2013 cohort)
  • Fire Ant Frolic (2 of 6 slots)

    • 2014: The Free Raisins (2013 cohort)
    • 2014: Uncle Farmer (2013 cohort)
  • Florida Fall Ball (2 of 4 slots)

    • 2015: The Free Raisins (2013 cohort)
    • 2016: Frannie Marr (2014 cohort)
  • IndepenDance (2 of 7 slots)

    • 2016: Luke Donforth (2013 cohort)
    • 2016: The Free Raisins (2013 cohort)
  • Lava Meltdown (2 of 10 slots)

    • 2014: Sasafras Stomp (2012 cohort)
    • 2016: Mary Wesley (2012 cohort)
  • Pittsburgh Fall (2 of 8 slots)

    • 2015: The Free Raisins (2013 cohort)
    • 2016: Michael Hamilton (2012 cohort)
  • Solefest (2 of 4 slots)

    • 2014: Steam! (2013 cohort)
    • 2016: The Free Raisins (2013 cohort)
  • Swing into Summer (2 of 8 slots)

    • 2015: The Free Raisins (2013 cohort)
    • 2016: Michael Hamilton (2012 cohort)
  • When in Doubt Swing (2 of 5 slots)

    • 2014: Ladies at Play (2013 cohort)
    • 2015: Coracree (2013 cohort)

(Keep in mind that I only have caller data for 2016, my 2017 band data is incomplete, and I don't have any 2013 data. With those included there would probably be more overlap. This is also why the number of slots is kind of strange.)

Weekends by how many catapult performers were booked in the sample:

number of catapult bands and callers booked number of weekends
4 2
3 5
2 8
1 34
0 80

This is 73 slots out of approximately 1,088. [3] With ~6% of slots going to Catapult alums, it doesn't sound like Adirondack, FolkMADness, etc being nearly half Catapult alums is a coincidence. Except that we still can't tell the difference between those weekends selecting people the same way Catapult does, and Catapult helping them get selected.


[1] Some people say this is what top colleges do.

[2] For this post I'm using the raw data in Dance Weekends, Festivals, and Long Dances, and I'm not counting things like the Brattleboro Dawn Dance or other gigs where bands play much less than you do at a typical dance weekend.

[3] 1,088 comes from totalling:

  • 2014: 238 band slots
  • 2015: 254 band slots
  • 2016: 269 band slots, 241 caller slots
  • 2017: 86 band slots announced so far

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