[Callers] Gender free dances

David Harding dharding101 at comcast.net
Thu Dec 2 20:05:11 PST 2010

I'll observe that there are multiple reasons for needing gender-free 
terms.  Our dance series is family-oriented and usually heavy with first 
time dancers.  So, we often have mother dancing with daughter, son 
dancing with son, father with son, daughter with best friend, and so 
forth.  The kids are generally uninhibited in pairing up, but often 
retreat when they realize they are playing the "wrong" role (especially 
the boys).  We sometimes use "cats" and "dogs", at least for some of the 
playful, non-contra dances.

As with so many of the discussions here, how well random designations 
with no visible association works depends very strongly on the level of 
the dancers.  At some dances you can assume that whoever is coming 
toward you is the right person.  At our dances you cannot make that 
assumption.  The odds are quite high that the crow did not leave his 
birdie on the right or that instead of allemanding 1 and 1/2 times they 
allemanded once (and with the wrong hands).  We find ties very useful.

Perseverating on this theme, it is not unusual for us to have enough 
first time dancers so that there are not enough experienced dancers to 
go around, leaving us with two beginners dancing together.  Children and 
their parents are often understandably uncomfortable having the children 
dancing with strange adults, again leaving us with two neophytes dancing 
together.  And sometimes a couple will come, expecting to dance with 
each other.

I am not complaining about the dancers.  Part of our mission is to 
expose new people to traditional dancing, and this is what it takes.  I 
just ask that here we not dogmatically assert that our way is the only 
way without acknowledging the context.


On 12/2/2010 7:20 PM, beth at hands4.com wrote:
> 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.

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