[Callers] Gender free dances

beth at hands4.com beth at hands4.com
Thu Dec 2 17:20:18 PST 2010

I am not suggesting this for a contra dance style event, but when calling for private party dances and needing role definitions, not gendered, I use birdie and crow (from the old dance "Birdie in the Cage") I find the syllables roll of my tongue very comfortably. Birdie used as the replacement (in my mind only) for lady and crow for gent. I've also used silly things like "the people over here" and "the people over there."  The vast majority of my private party dance material doesn't require any role definition at all.

I also call at the Jamaica Plain gender free dance using bare-arms and armbands. These terms have come to simply stand for the role, many people no longer requiring or using the armbands. There are little clip-on ribbons used by some in lieu of armbands, but no one really notices if someone isn't wearing one and is dancing the armband role.

I firmly believe that "lady" and "gent" are role descriptions that anyone can choose to "put on" for the dance and I try to express this at most contra dances. I made a careful decision many years ago to not use "man" and "woman" because to me these are real every day words. I would personally be more offended by "lead" and "follow," which imply action, than by "lady" and "gent" which are words describing a role for the dance. But that's just me and I wouldn't really expect anyone else to feel the same.

Just my $.02 worth.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: callers-bounces at sharedweight.net [mailto:callers-
> bounces at sharedweight.net] On Behalf Of Marianne Tatom Letts
> Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2010 5:58 PM
> To: callers at sharedweight.net
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Gender free dances
> 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? :) -Marianne
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