[Callers] Gender free dances

Martha Edwards meedwards at westendweb.com
Thu Dec 2 15:10:52 PST 2010

Thanks, Luke. I feel the same way.

If we callers can get used to "right line" and "left line" being backwards
from the way we view it, that might work. I rather like the idea of
architectural details being an indicator (in our hall it would be "street
side" and "naked lady side", named for the lovely head/bust statues which
adorn the fireplace on the other side of the hall).

But in the end, we have two perfectly good words - six, actually - to
differentiate ourselves when there's just no other word (partner, corner,
neighbor, opposite, "person on the other side" etc.) that will do. And they
have the benefit of being traditional, and will develop skills that will be
of use when people dance with other groups.

I refer, of course to the following:

   1. men and women (my least favorite, since they are so phonetically
   2. gents and ladies (better - the "g" in "gents" is strong, though the
   "l" in ladies is a bit muffled.)
   3. boys and girls (I like this for the strength of the "b" in "boy" and
   the "g" in "girl". You can really make these heard!)

I am one of a few token "straights" in a gay square dance group, where the
typical grouping of partners would be two men, two women, a man and a woman
dancing opposite roles, and a man/woman couple dancing eponymous roles. We
call the two roles "boy" and "girl". Perhaps the gay community has an easier
time calling themselves or others by opposite genders, but honestly, I don't
see why the terms should be offensive to anyone. I dance both parts, and I'm
just as much myself when I dance boy as when I dance girl.

It might be reasonable to eliminate as many gendered terms as possible, but
when we just can't avoid it ("Gents allemande", or "ladies chain") why don't
we all just relax and not worry about it?

True sensitivity to gender issues goes a lot deeper than just man/woman,
gay/lesbian. In addition to sexual preference, there's biology, which can
occasionally be indeterminate, and there are people whose gender identity
does not match their assigned gender. It seems to me that we can just dance
these old (and new) dances, making it clear that anyone is welcome to dance
any part, and that their gender does not have to match the calls of the
dance, and so long as the attentions are welcome, they may flirt with
whomever they please. (Straight, gay, lesbian, bi, or other...)


On Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 4:07 PM, Luke Donev <luke.donev at gmail.com> wrote:

> Interesting discussion, thank you for starting it and the resources
> that have already come out.
> I haven't had the experience of calling for an explicitly gender free
> contra, so I can't attest to practice. I am a little wary of "bands
> and bares" though. The words start the same and sound similar; I'd
> worry (especially at a new dance where sound is still being figured
> out?) about the words not being clear on the floor.
> As a dancer, I actively dislike ties or markers. I feel it gets in the
> way of partners swapping back and forth and playing with both roles.
> I'd prefer dancers to be where they need to be and dance with whoever
> is coming at them. I've seen "helpful" people hang ties on a female
> dancer without asking, just because they saw two women dancing
> together. It annoyed both of the dancers, and didn't really help mark
> them as lead for the other dancers on the floor. When there's a gender
> imbalanced night, I still want as many people dancing as possible, and
> I want them to be as comfortable in any role as possible. That's
> tangential to the original thread, but an issue I have seen cause
> consternation.
> Looking forward to other people's comments.
> On Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 1:25 PM, Robert Golder <robertgolder at comcast.net>
> wrote:
> > For more than two decades, Chris Ricciotti has been the leading exponent
> of the armbands/barearms method of role free calling. Chris has made
> available a web-based Gender-Free Dancing Callers Manual and History as a
> callers' resource. This is the best available published source of
> information. Go to:
> >
> > http://lcfd.org/Articles/GFManual/
> >
> > >From this page you can download the Manual in PDF format. Subjects
> include a FAQ about calling and dancing role free (including "agenda"
> issues), sample dances with comparative instructions in both traditional and
> role-free notation, an essay on "Programming an Evening of Gender-Free
> Dancing," discussion of methods other than Armband/Barearm (from which you
> could further develop "lead" and "follow"), a history of role-free dancing,
> etc.  ... Bob
> >
> > Robert Golder
> > New Bedford, MA, USA
> >
> >
> > On Dec 2, 2010, at 1:02 PM, susie rudder wrote:
> >
> >>   I have been asked to call for a new dance group forming in a small
> town
> >>   near our regular dance. Experienced dancers were asked to come help
> >>   these absolute newbies, and some local musicians have volunteered
> their
> >>   services. It became obvious that about half the dancers were lesbians
> >>   who asked me to use non gender specific terms when calling. I tried
> >>   'lead' and 'follow' because the syllable numbers worked, but I'm not
> >>   happy with that. I also had some regular dancers comment on not
> wanting
> >>   to deal with 'some' peoples' political agendas as related to contra
> >>   calling. I have never dealt with gender free calling and would
> >>   appreciate ANY help from those of you who may have been doing it for
> >>   years. What terms seem to work best? Any other hints to make things go
> >>   more smoothly?  These people are very enthusiastic and I want to see
> >>   the dance succeed.
> > _______________________________________________
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> >
> --
> Luke Donev
> http://www.lukedonev.com
> Luke.Donev at gmail.com
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For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance. ~ William Butler Yeats

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