[Callers] Gender Swapping - When?

Robert Golder robertgolder at comcast.net
Fri Sep 11 08:43:48 PDT 2009

On Sep 11, 2009, at 9:57 AM, Jack Mitchell wrote:

>    One other thing I had thought about doing in a workshop is to have a
>    few people in each line with a red ball cap or a particular shirt or
>    some other identifying mark,

Among the several methods of identifying dance roles without respect to 
gender, the most common in New England is the LCFD (Lavender Country 
and Folk Dancers) method pioneered by Chris Ricciotti in 1989 at the 
Jamaica Plain (MA) dance. Chris instituted the use of an armband for 
the person dancing the traditional gent's role, and no armband for the 
"barearm" dancer in the traditional lady's role. Orange surveyors tape 
has become the most popular material for this purpose at gender role 
free events. Although "bands" and "bares" are still the terms used to 
denote dance roles in place of "gents" and "ladies," sometimes the 
identifying mark is no longer worn on the arm. It may be a bright 
headband, or a clip-on rainbow ribbon adorning a shirt pocket; still, 
the meaning is clear as you approach a new couple within a contra set.

Skillful role-free calling depends upon much more than convincing half 
your dancers to wear an armband. For those who are planning to 
participate in a workshop or otherwise experiment with role free 
calling, I can't stress highly enough the importance of going to the 
LCFD site at   http://www.lcfd.org/   Scroll to the "News and Articles" 
section and click on "Gender-free caller's manual and history" to 
download Chris Ricciotti's history of and instructions for role-free 
dancing. This is the most important resource that I know of. It 
includes popular contra dances written out with traditional calling 
terminology and role-free terminology side by side.

Although popular within the gay and lesbian community, role-free 
dancing is available to and enjoyable for everyone. NEFFA's  first 
programmed role-free session, using armbands, took place in 1990, and 
these sessions have become a NEFFA tradition.

There are distinct advantages for callers who become fully comfortable 
with dancing either role, even if you never call a specifically 
role-free evening of dance. For example, as you plan an evening 
program, you will find that you develop better sequences of dances to 
call. As you review a dance for possible inclusion in your program, 
you'll think more about how the dance choreography works for either 
traditional role. After calling a dance that emphasizes the lady's 
role, you'll be less likely to follow up with one or two more dances 
that make the women do all the work, but will instead make sure that 
the gent's role receives proper attention within the overall flow of 
dance. The discovery of many more advantages awaits the caller who 
looks further into this subject. ... Bob

Robert Jon Golder
New Bedford, MA

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