[Callers] Community Dancing in the Old West (Was "Gender Free Dances")

Greg McKenzie gregmck at earthlink.net
Sun Dec 5 22:15:09 PST 2010

Thank you Alan for this information.  It is a great thing to have a 
dance scholar on this list.  I am not one and I thank you for keeping us real.

I would be interested in your recommendation of a source for 
information about community dancing in the early west.  Perhaps there 
are others here who would also appreciate a good reference.

The "arm band" idea troubles me a bit.  If the mining camps were only 
doing couple dances, why would they need arm bands?


- Greg


At 10:52 AM 12/5/2010, Alan Winston - SSRL Central Computing wrote:
>Greg wrote:
>>I was hired to call a dance and noticed, when I arrived, that there
>>were only two other men in the room besides myself.  When I commented
>>on this I was informed that the group who hired me was a local
>>lesbian club.  They specifically asked that I not make any
>>accommodations, even though many of them were new to contras.  I
>>believe that they made a point of NOT informing me of their makeup
>>specifically so that I would not try to dance around the gender 
>>specific terms.
>>It worked out very well.  All had a great time, and this in spite of
>>the fact that there were also two deaf dancers in the room as well.
>>Attitude is a key factor.  I understand a lot of dances were called
>>here in California at mining towns during the gold rush.  The men
>>danced with each other and half of them played the part of ladies.  I
>>don't think they ever asked for "gender neutral" terms.  A few shots
>>of whisky probably helped as well.
>All the references I've read to the all-male dances at the mining camps:
>- don't mention contra dancing
>- do mention wearing armbands to distinguish roles
>- call out waltzes and polkas
>so given that it seems to have been all-couple dancing and no called dancing,
>there wasn't a lot of need for terminology.
>(Incidentally, the gender-free couple dance is the only place where I feel
>fully comfortable calling the roles "lead" and "follow" because that's what
>they are.)
>-- Alan
>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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