[Callers] Gender free dances

Marianne Tatom Letts marianne at illuin.org
Thu Dec 2 14:58:04 PST 2010

A Rainbow contra dance was recently started here in Seattle. After much
research and discussion, the organizer decided she wanted callers to use
"lead" and "follow." The callers are emphasizing personal choice in
whichever role the dancer wants to play and that they're allowed to switch
throughout the evening and negotiate with each partner who's going to play
each role.

I have a personal dislike for ties, bands, bandannas, etc., because it
hampers movement on the dance floor and doesn't allow for changing roles
easily as you dance. If a person is coming toward you with an outstretched
hand for an allemande, why not assume they know what they're doing instead
of trying to figure out whether they're dancing the "right" role?

I've heard the argument that contra leading/following isn't the same as in
ballroom, but "lead" and "follow" seem less offensive to me than using
gender-specific terms in a gender-free dance. Yes, it's more of a
negotiation than leading in ballroom or swing or blues, but if you can get
past the idea that the lead is actually dictating every move for the follow,
then I think these terms are about as good as any.

Someone suggested using "ones" and "twos," but I'm not seeing how you would
then distinguish between active and inactive couples.

The bathrooms at the Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz are gender-neutral and use
the terms "robots" and "aliens." How about it? :)

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