[Callers] Gender free dances

Andrea Nettleton twirly-girl at bellsouth.net
Sun Dec 5 16:10:45 PST 2010


Just a note on a courtesy turn.  Though the term and history may suggest 
a dominant/submissive role, the move is really dependent, as are most 
contra moves, on each person doing their part fully.  Though many 
callers teach the courtesy turn by telling the 'gent' to scoop the 
'lady' around, the real action is in the left hands, where the pivot 
point lies.  You can do a courtesy turn with only left hands.  I teach 
couples to be sure to /share weight/ through those left hands with 
gentle counter pressure, and use the rights as 'decoration'.   It is 
very awkward if the lady does nothing but put her hands in the right 
place leaving the gent to do all the work.  He would be at pains to get 
her around in four counts.  The tension between them makes them into a 
unit which rotates smoothly around a point between them.  A 
dominant/passively danced CT would tend to be unbalanced.  We use this 
fact about CT when we turn it into a twirl.  The right hands make no 
contact and the two use pressure between finger-tips in their left hands 
to effect the twirls, merely moving the balance point higher.
I dance either role at regular contra dances and neither feel demeaned 
by being labeled a lady, nor especially empowered by being labeled a 
gent.  They are convenient monikers.  I have danced at a gender-free 
dance and been hampered by the ribbons or tapes that indicated bands and 
bares and been frustrated that the easy mid dance 'gender swapping' that 
is so easy when we don't fuss so much about what we are being labeled, 
is actually made more difficult by those designating strips.  Many young 
dancers I have observed don't give a fig what you are calling things and 
gender swap and even partner swap mid dance with no fuss at all.  It is 
not for me or anyone to tell someone else what to prefer, but I have yet 
to hear of a system which is universally appealing and superior to just 
using the traditional terms, and don't really see the source of the 
offense.  Others have argued the case more compellingly than I.  I 
remain curious.
Andrea N.

On 12/5/2010 12:08 AM, Jim McKinney wrote:
> There's my inexperience showing.  Beckett formation never even crossed 
> my mind.
>
> Something I have been thinking about in regard to this gender free 
> discussion is ladies chain with a courtesy turn.  Having 
> Evens/Ns/Bares chain removes gender from the language but the act of 
> courtesy turn still seems very dominant/submissive to me.  My wife and 
> I tried walking through a couple options: a skater's/promenade 
> hand-hold in front or a no hand-hold, kind of gypsy to maintain the 
> interaction and still get turned around the right way.  The thing we 
> decided we liked best was evens chain across to an allemande left.  
> That seemed to keep the roles more neutral no matter which part was 
> danced by a man or woman and still get everyone into the right places.
>
> I love ladies chain with a courtesy turn and as a dancer would hate to 
> give that up but as a caller I think I need to be prepared for the 
> occasion when neutral is better.
> Jim
>
> Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing wrote:
>
>> 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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