[Callers] Gender free dances

Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing winston at slac.stanford.edu
Sat Dec 4 12:33:45 PST 2010


Jim McKinney wrote:

> I really like Amy's idea of Ns and Zs because it's based on shapes that
> most folks are familiar with, but I found out while trying to explain it
> to my wife that it's not as quick and easy to communicate the
> designation and the idea behind it as one might wish.  Which made me
> start thinking.  What if I started with the active person on the left of
> the duple minor set and numbered either way around the circle?  Then the
> old "gents" would be the new "odds" and the old "ladies" would be the
> new "evens".  Both terms are still brief, they have a different enough
> sound that they won't be easily confused and it only took me ten seconds
> to explain to my wife.

I like that.  (I'm somewhat hesitant to introduce yet more numbers to the 
occasion - we've got 1st and 2nd couples, occasional counting in the dancer's
heads to stick with the music - but the caller would (mostly) not be saying the
number, so it could work out.)

You'd need to take care to have people identify themselves before you
Beckettized a set, though.

-- Alan

> Amy Cann wrote:

> >Here's a thought I've been toying with for a while:
> >
> >A term we use in knitting to identify which way yarn twists is "N-wise or
> >Z-wise"
> >
> >(think of a piece of yarn, look at the slanty lines the plies make, look at
> >the center slashes of an N, then a Z. See it?)
> >
> >How many moves could be identified this way?
> >
> >"Facing up and down, the first corners on the N diagonal, allemande once and
> >a half."
> >"Facing across, Z diagonals start a hey by the left"
> >"Facing across, N's diagonal chain"
> >
> >As one who's life has been a little gender-role-freeish, I feel politically
> >entitled to come out and say I DON't like the band/bare thing, just because
> >the verbiage is less than euphonious to my ears. That said, I don't have any
> >better ideas .... yet. But I'm thinking, I'm thinking.
> >
> >In many dances the roles of the "gent" and "lady" are NOT the same -- one is
> >a little  more active, one is more reactive.
> >In any given pair of people, one PERson is often more active than the other.
> >It's the interplay of these two things (when do they match, support each
> >other? When do they work in opposition?) that make dances so unexpectedly
> >yummy.
> >There must be a way to acknowledge and embrace this -- if we get too neutral
> >we'll lose the story lines that make some of our best dances come to life.
> >
> >Hmmm.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >On Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 3:29 PM, Martha Edwards <meedwards at westendweb.com>wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> >>As always, Alan, your wisdom astounds.
> >>
> >>I'd probably like "bands and bares" if I (still) lived in Jamaica Plain,
> >>which I did from about 1978 to, oh, 1985 or so, BUT...
> >>
> >>But (she whined) I'm just not used to it, and it seems so...weird. Sigh.
> >>
> >>But I've gotten used to weirder things, so maybe there's hope for this one
> >>as well. I'll try to catch a JP dance or two next time I'm in Boston.
> >>
> >>M
> >>E
> >>
> >>On Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 1:17 AM, Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing <
> >>winston at slac.stanford.edu> wrote:
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>>Martha wrote:
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>>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).
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>I've been calling gender-free English sporadically for about 10 years,
> >>>
> >>>
> >>most
> >>
> >>
> >>>recently in Jamaica Plain this September.  Doing this teaches you to
> >>>
> >>>
> >>think
> >>
> >>
> >>>about the dances globally.  There's all kinds of not-that-old dance
> >>>instructions which say "first man turns second woman", which, first,
> >>>implies
> >>>active man and passive woman when we don't want to dance that way, and
> >>>second,
> >>>has a lot of syllables.  "First corners turn right hand", and you've
> >>>directed
> >>>both to actively do something.
> >>>
> >>>In English, there are a lot of dances where both members of a couple are
> >>>doing
> >>>the same thing, and you can nicely get through all the instructions with
> >>>"1s",
> >>>"2s", "1st corners", "2nd corners".  For gender-free, I usually try to
> >>>program
> >>>mostly dances where I can do that.
> >>>
> >>>But there are some lovely dances where you can't do that, and nobody
> >>>
> >>>
> >>seems
> >>
> >>
> >>>to
> >>>have much trouble with identifying lines by landmarks.  In Jamaica Plain,
> >>>it's
> >>>the clock and the window.
> >>>
> >>>So life is good on the gender-free English side.  Nobody needs to wear a
> >>>marker, you belong to the couple you're lined up in, you're on the side
> >>>
> >>>
> >>you
> >>
> >>
> >>>stood on this time - and the roles are very similar, and nobody feels the
> >>>need
> >>>to swap during the dance, but if they did, it wouldn't be very confusing
> >>>because there's no expectation of a particular gender in a particular
> >>>
> >>>
> >>side.
> >>
> >>
> >>>(And, indeed, even gendered English skews so much more female that people
> >>>largely get over expecting plumbing that matches the role.)
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>I think things are different in modern contra choreography.  Because so
> >>>many of
> >>>the dances are improper and the roles are typically different (although
> >>>
> >>>
> >>men
> >>
> >>
> >>>can
> >>>get chained), it's often helpful to have some kind of signifier.
> >>>
> >>>Line up for an improper contra.  The 'nominal men' are in second corner
> >>>places,
> >>>the 'nominal women' are in first corner places.  "Clocks" would be first
> >>>woman
> >>>and second man, which is not so useful - typically if they're going to do
> >>>something, the windows are going to do it too, in modern contra dancing,
> >>>
> >>>
> >>so
> >>
> >>
> >>>you
> >>>might as well say "neighbors balance and swing" and get on with it.
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>Heather and Rose english/scottish style would have you say "right file"
> >>>
> >>>
> >>for
> >>
> >>
> >>>*that* line and "left file" for *that* line, which sometimes degenerates
> >>>
> >>>
> >>to
> >>
> >>
> >>>"righties" and "lefties".  Too many syllables, requires knowing right
> >>>
> >>>
> >>from
> >>
> >>
> >>>left, requires remembering which line you were in when the dance started,
> >>>etc.
> >>>
> >>>So I don't think that the geographical suggestion is any help for contra,
> >>>and I
> >>>don't think that the suggestion that people should just deal with whoever
> >>>they
> >>>come across and not fuss about what sex they're supposed to be (which I
> >>>heartily endorse!) is actually any help with solving the problem that
> >>>"bands"
> >>>and "bares" solves.  The idea is to have a clear way to assign a role,
> >>>which
> >>>role doesn't have a sex-linked component, so people know where they
> >>>
> >>>
> >>should
> >>
> >>
> >>>be
> >>>standing in an improper contra, and so they know who the caller is
> >>>
> >>>
> >>talking
> >>
> >>
> >>>to.
> >>>This also gives the caller _some_ chance of being able to see if the
> >>>
> >>>
> >>right
> >>
> >>
> >>>people are in the right places, which you don't get without external
> >>>markers.
> >>>
> >>>If you want to dance the band role one dance and the bare arm the next,
> >>>
> >>>
> >>you
> >>
> >>
> >>>take off the armband.  If you want to switch roles with your partner in
> >>>
> >>>
> >>the
> >>
> >>
> >>>middle of the dance, you can trade the band.
> >>>
> >>>So *for gender-free contra dance*, bands and bares - put on by the dancer
> >>>themself, by conscious decision, for each dance - make lots of sense,
> >>>
> >>>
> >>don't
> >>
> >>
> >>>enforce gender roles like a tie or a fedora or a head-scarf, don't push
> >>>
> >>>
> >>the
> >>
> >>
> >>>agenda down the throat as much as arbitrary designations ("hippos and
> >>>butterflies"), and are overall a Good Thing that Really Works.  Honest.
> >>> I've
> >>>seen it.
> >>>
> >>>While I'm pontificating:
> >>>
> >>>While I support the right of people to change roles in the middle of the
> >>>dance
> >>>at gendered contra if they want to, and think everybody ought to just
> >>>
> >>>
> >>swing
> >>
> >>
> >>>whoever they get (if you're dancing a woman's role at the moment you
> >>>
> >>>
> >>ought
> >>
> >>
> >>>to
> >>>take the woman's position in the swing), I also think people who insist
> >>>
> >>>
> >>on
> >>
> >>
> >>>doing that when it freaks out their neighbors are valuing their own fun
> >>>more
> >>>highly than the comfort of other people there and are behaving in an
> >>>anti-communitarian way - which is their perfect right, but it's not an
> >>>unalloyed good.
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>And some of the people who are freaked out are freaked out because if
> >>>somebody
> >>>they're not expecting comes at them they think somebody (maybe them) are
> >>>
> >>>
> >>in
> >>
> >>
> >>>the
> >>>wrong place and their anxiety level goes up.  Not homophobia - just
> >>>
> >>>
> >>hanging
> >>
> >>
> >>>onto the dance by their fingernails.  That's a good thing to be aware of
> >>>when
> >>>you're swapping sides in gendered contra land.
> >>>
> >>>-- Alan
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>
> >>--
> >>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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> >>
> >>
> >>
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> >
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-- 
===============================================================================
 Alan Winston --- WINSTON at SSRL.SLAC.STANFORD.EDU
 Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not SLAC or SSRL   Phone:  650/926-3056
 Paper mail to: SSRL -- SLAC BIN 99, 2575 Sand Hill Rd, Menlo Park CA   94025
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