[Callers] What is the best contra dance(s) ever written?

James Saxe jim.saxe at gmail.com
Sat Dec 1 10:27:06 PST 2012


Here are some more requirements for your list:

* It must not have a shadow swing.  (Imagine having to swing every
time through with someone you didn't choose [shudder].)
* It must not have any gypsy figures.  (Forced mock flirtation--yuck!)
* The ladies chain must be over and back.  (All those one-way figures
in dances these days seem somehow incomplete.)
* It must not have any "over and back" figures.  (Bo-o-o-oring.)
* It must not have a gents chain (too often danced awkwardly).
* It must have a same-sex swing.
* It must not have a same-sex swing.
* All the figures and transitions must be comfortably familiar.
* It must have at least one excitingly novel figure or transition.
* It must have a special tune that fits it like a glove.
* It must have lots of partner interaction, not just a (balance and)
* It must separate dancers from their partners and then reunite them
in a surprising (but comfortably familiar) way.
* It must not have out-of-minor-set actions that make for confusing
end effects.
* It must start in improper formation with "New neighbors balance
and swing".
* It must end in Becket formation with "Partners balance and swing".
[BTW, if we only get to pick three best/favorite dances, no two should
start or end the same way.]
* It must be the dance I dance with a superbly skilled partner (who
is also oblivious to any of my own imperfections).
* It must be the dance where my first-time-dancer partner's eyes
light up.


On Nov 30, 2012, at 2:58 PM, Jonathan Sivier wrote:

> ...
>   So far this has been a list of favorites, and they have all been  
> great dances.  However Michael asked for the name of the BEST DANCE  
> EVER WRITTEN, not our personal favorites.  While I don't have a  
> candidate dance to put forward at this time, I do think I can list  
> some criteria which could be used to judge the dance.  Here is my  
> list of requirements.
> 1. It must be smooth with great flow.
> 2. It must be bouncy and energetic with lots of balances.
> 3. It must have at least 3 swings (partner, neighbor and shadow).
> 4. It must have several gypsy figures.
> 5. It must be an equal dance.
> 6. It must give the actives a chance to shine, while the 2's  
> appreciate them.
> 7. It must have all the usual glossary figures; stars, circles,  
> allemandes, do-si-do's, etc.
> 8. It must have a ladies chain.
> 9. It must have a gents chain.
> 10. It must have contra corners.
> 11. It must have a hey.
> 12. It must have 4 Petronella balance and turn figures.
> 13. It must not require more than one walk-through, even for  
> absolute beginners with no experience at all.
> 14. The caller must be able to drop out after no more than 3 times  
> through the dance with no effect on the set.
> 15. It must work equally well with reels, jigs, hornpipes, slip  
> jigs, or any other tune the band decides to play, including crooked  
> tunes.
> 16. It must be traditional, with lots of historical significance.
> 17. It must be modern, with all the latest bells and whistles.
>   That's all I can think of at the moment.  I'm sure others will  
> have additional requirements.  As I say I can't think of one offhand  
> that fulfills these needs, but I look forward to dancing it at the  
> next dance I go to.
> Jonathan
> P.S.  ;-)

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