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

Robert Golder robertgolder at comcast.net
Sun Dec 5 22:39:52 PST 2010


Once again, I can only recommend Chris Ricciotti's Gender-Free Dancing Callers Manual and History, which among many other things in its 45 pages discusses the cowboy, saloon, and mining camp dances of the Old West. The first known experiments in arm bands for role-free dances were made in Jamaica Plain in 1989, adapting a method used by gay square dance clubs, and do not date from the mining camps. Discussions of many other questions raised in the past few days are found here:

http://lcfd.org/Articles/GFManual/

On that page, click for the PDF.


On Dec 6, 2010, at 1:15 AM, Greg McKenzie wrote:

> 
> 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?
> 
> Cheers,
> 
> - 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
>> 
>> 
>> --
>> ===============================================================================
>> 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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