[Callers] A Magical Moment: The Quiet Contra Dance

Will Loving will at dedicationtechnologies.com
Tue Dec 23 12:15:22 PST 2008

Dear friends,

I¹d like to share with you a lovely experience I had last Saturday night, an
experience unique in my 27+ years of contra dancing. The event was the
second of two consecutive nights of dancing with Wild Asparagus during which
the music for the entire dance was being recorded. The Guiding Star Grange
hall (Greenfield, MA) was filled with mostly experienced dancers who braved
the snowstorms and the stage was filled with extra musicians and miles of
microphone chords to support both the recording and the sound to the hall.
Lisa Greenleaf was calling so that George Marshall could focus on playing.

At most regular dances we have a walkthrough once, maybe twice, and then
four beats for nothing to start. This night was different for a number of
reasons to accommodate the recording. First, most of the bands intros were
longer, 8 or 16 beats, and second, the dancers were asked be quiet during
the intro and the first round of the dance (as well as during the waltzes).
In addition, in order to keep things quiet, there was no calling for the
first three moves or so of the first time through the dance.

In order to make this all happen smoothly, Lisa did two careful
walk-throughs followed by the entire hall listening to and then practicing
the introduction and first few moves a couple of times. In so doing, we were
able to all know when to come in and perform the first part of the dance
without cues. After that, Lisa would come in quietly as required.

Now here¹s the magical part: You have an entire hall of dancers, three sets,
standing in long wavy lines ready to balance. It¹s completely quiet. Becky
Tracy starts playing the introduction on her fiddle and 16 beats later, you
hear 100+ bodies balancing right, balancing left, and then sliding (ROM) to
the right ­ all with no talking and no calls, just the sound of the music
and everyone dancing in unison. And it continued from there and was repeated
throughout the night with each new dance.

Of course, people can¹t be quiet for long, especially when Wild Asparagus is
playing, but those first few moments were an extraordinary experience. The
Greenfield dance is often so noisy during the walkthroughs and dances and it
was sheer joy (for me at least) to have it all pared down to just the
essence of the music and the swish and step of dancers moving together.
Perhaps someday, if I get the opportunity and support from the dancers, I¹d
love to ask everyone to try being quiet just for the first time through a
dance, just to have some experience of that again.

Thanks to Lisa for her masterful management and calling and to Wild
Asparagus (extended) group on stage for the fabulous music. When the CD is
released, you are all in for a treat.

Will Loving
Amherst, MA


"A contra-dance is like an amusement park that we make for ourselves."

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