[Callers] Why I call squares (was Re: Contra / MWSD parallels?)

P. Campbell countrydancecaller at gmail.com
Wed Mar 21 14:52:55 PDT 2012


Okay....I had to finally jump in here. I've been reading
a lot of the posts from this list and other callers' lists,
and usually someone else has said what I would have
said, so I've remained quiet.

Now I realize that I have a bunch of opinions about this
whole topic (squares, contras, mixers, single-genre dances),
- be forewarned). I'm going to step out on a limb here and
give a whole lot of what are *my* opinions and feelings - not
necessarily anything anyone has to agree with or disagree
with, since they're mostly not facts, they're feelings.

Some background -
I don't call dances at the monthly (or more frequent),
what I call "circuit" dances - the ongoing monthly contra
or square or ECD or International folk dances. I did a
few many years ago, and then  discovered that my
personal enjoyment came from the community and
family dances (as well as historical dance programs).

What I usually end up telling people is that I am a caller
of "traditional social dance" or "traditional country dance."
Since almost no-one has any idea of what that means, I
get to follow it by describing it the way I want to.

My whole focus is to do a variety of dance styles - I'll have
dances combinations like a Virginia Reel, Galopede, at least
one International folk dance, a traditional square, a singing
square, and whatever else I feel that the particular group
who's standing in front of me would like to do next. I often
don't do "true" contras where people have to remember to
stay out one round at the top & bottom and change over.
I also don't usually run any one dance more than about
10 times through (depending on the dance).

My work often brings me to community organizations (girl
scouts, libraries, etc.), schools, family groups, fund-raising
organizations, and more. Since 99.9% of the people who
come to the event have no traditional dance background and
no pre-conceived ideas about mixing genres, I have carte
blanche to do any kind of program I'd like. I always have
an idea of what I'm going to do, but I don't have a set program
because I have to see and get a feel for the group that shows
up (I threw my pre-planned programs out the window years
ago).

I love the family and school dances because I can introduce
people (children especially) to the incredibly wonderful variety
of dances that fit under this category of traditional social dance.
And from what I've seen over the years - they love all the styles.
Maybe they like some more than others - but that might have
been the particular dance rather than the whole genre.

The only one I don't include is MWSD because I don't have a background
in it. If I did, I'd probably throw one in, if it were simple enough to
share with mostly beginners. (My thoughts about MWSD and traditional
square dance are for a different topic).

My personal experience has shown that, as with most things, how
you present something can make or break people's experience of
it. And, that if you love what you do, people respond to you. There
still is an unfortunate "group memory" of unpleasant phys ed square
dance experiences from early school days. For those too young to
have those memories, any of our types of dances slide into more of
an "old-fashioned" category.

Deciding what to call a dance has been problematic - I usually ask
the organizer NOT to call it a "contra dance" because contra dancers
would then expect a specific type of dance; I ask them not to call it
a "square dance" because of the many, varied pre-conceptions people
would have; I ask them not to call it a "barn dance" because around
here (Fairfield County, CT), they'll think it's hay bales & cowboy hats;
and so on. One time I asked them to call it a "traditional New England
country dance" and mostly we just call them "community dances" (which has
its own issues because it doesn't say anything about what kind of dancing
there will be). I'm mainly trying to not turn people off before they get
there and not create expectations (by using a term) that won't be fulfilled.

I figure that once people have experienced the dances, they can then decide
if they want to pursue some of the monthly, organized dances, and that what
I've done is give them an appetizer (or a buffet) - and they can go check
out main courses to see what suits them.

To get to a point (realizing I was about to go off in another
tangent)...there are many of us who enjoy a variety of dance styles,
both as callers and as dancers. And there are others who really only
enjoy a certain type. There's room for all of it! Though you will always
have some people who just won't entertain the idea of anything other than
what they want the way they want it. Some of those feelings, though, were
influenced, intentionally or not, by the callers and/or particular groups
of people who happened to come together in any given place. There are
people now and there were people years ago (more than 20) who would sit
down if they knew the next dance was going to be a mixer; or the next dance
was going to be a square; or the next dance was going to
be....fill-in-the-blank. Some people decided that after trying them out and
discovering they simply didn't enjoy them; others decided that because of a
group dynamic or a caller's attitude.

Having just been interrupted about 8 times as I've been writing this, I
apologize for losing the original train of thought I started with here...

My point is that for those who are leading community and/or family dances,
especially if you go into schools - please - give them an experience of a
variety of dance styles - I think that will go a long way in overcoming
some of the walls that may not be as solid as they appear.

There is such a huge need for our kinds of dances. I just did a community
dance for a Transition Town Initiating Committee - "grassroots and based on
creating inclusive conversations, encouraging neighbors to come together to
sustain and enhance their quality of life, the local economy and
environment". They were excited when they'd sold about 50 tickets. The
number of people who showed up was over 100 (the room capacity was 126, and
that was not for dancing). They had a great time - we did circle dances,
longways dances, square dances, mixers...and just about everyone stayed and
danced all the way to the end (we ended with La Bastringue with the
musicians in the middle of the circle). The committee who organized it was
still talking about it 3 days later. The opportunities we create for people
to connect, to touch, to look, to move together, is invaluable to our
society.

Respectfully submitted (though *much* longer than I originally anticipated),

Patricia

Patricia Campbell
Newtown, CT
www.countrydancecaller.com
http://www.youtube.com/user/countrydancecaller/videos
*
*
*"Dance First. Think Later. It's the natural order."*
*                                             ~ *Samuel Beckett





On Wed, Mar 21, 2012 at 4:40 PM, <callers-request at sharedweight.net> wrote:

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> Today's Topics:
>
>   1. Re: Contra / MWSD parallels? (Greg McKenzie)
>   2. Re: Contra / MWSD parallels? (Robert Golder)
>   3. Re: Contra/MWSD (tavi merrill)
>   4. Re: Contra / MWSD parallels? (Dave Casserly)
>   5. Re: Why I call squares (was Re: Contra / MWSD parallels?)
>      (Rich Goss)
>
>
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Greg McKenzie <grekenzie at gmail.com>
> To: millstone at valley.net, "Caller's discussion list" <
> callers at sharedweight.net>
> Cc:
> Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 10:26:16 -0700
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Contra / MWSD parallels?
> Oh my!
>
>
> My last post certainly generated some heated responses.  I was admonished
> for “name calling” (there was none, from anyone here).  I was told I was
> “intemperate,” and one person even said, off line, that my post was
> “hateful.”
>
>
>
> All of this because I questioned the common assertion that something is
> terribly wrong with the modern contra dance movement because most of those
> folks don’t enjoy dancing squares?
>
>
>
> I did not imply that anyone is ignorant of the traditions of their own
> favored dance form.  I certainly did not say that anyone had a
> “horse-blinder focus.”  And I most certainly have never gone to any dance
> series, presented a dance form that I knew was not an appreciated part of
> their tradition, and then admonished those folks for not being “open to new
> experiences.”  That would be insensitive and inconsiderate.
>
>
>
> We all need to remember that this is not a zero-sum game.  I know that the
> vast majority of people will never enjoy dancing contras.  This fact does
> not diminish my enjoyment of them, nor does it diminish the contra dance
> tradition.  As a caller I am working in service to that tradition, and in
> service to the community.
>
>
>
> Times have changed.  In some towns there was once only one venue for
> dancing.  These days most dancers have options, and are free to explore any
> new experience they choose.  That is a good thing.  Dance callers should
> consider respecting the choices the dancers, themselves, make.
>
>
>
> Greg McKenzie
>
>
>
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Robert Golder <robertgolder at comcast.net>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Cc:
> Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 14:00:38 -0400
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Contra / MWSD parallels?
> On Mar 21, 2012, at 1:26 PM, Greg McKenzie wrote:
>
> > All of this because I questioned the common assertion that something is
> > terribly wrong with the modern contra dance movement because most of
> those
> > folks don’t enjoy dancing squares?
> >
>
> Actually, no. "All of this" is because you missed the point. All of this
> has nothing to do with whether or not contra dancers enjoy dancing squares.
> The point is that modern western squares dancing took what some people
> think was a wrong turn that tended to make their events socially exclusive,
> rather than inclusive. Don Coffey is merely cautioning us not to follow
> that trend and go down a similar path.
>
> Note to Charles: I was president of NEFFA from 2008 to 2011. I can assure
> you that NEFFA and NESRDC do not snipe at each other, nor do they plan
> their festivals at times that intentionally conflict. In 2012, the
> festivals will be held one week apart.
>
>
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: tavi merrill <melodiouswoodchuck at gmail.com>
> To: callers at sharedweight.net
> Cc:
> Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 14:01:12 -0400
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Contra/MWSD
> This might seem to play right into "divisive", but hear me out: it's worth
> giving thought in the discussion to the reason some contradancers dislike
> squares. Now, i speak as a dancer/caller who has had loads of fun dancing
> traditional New England squares at Ralph Page Legacy Weekend, among other
> places, and aspire to master the NESD form and add it to my calling
> repertoire. Yet i'm acutely aware of the fact that many of my peers among
> the GenY contra community aren't as appreciative of squares.
>
> One topic that has come up in several of my conversations with mentors is
> the concept of "staying on the mic" (when it's no longer necessary to the
> dance) as a bit of egotism on the caller's part. Of course, squares and
> contras require somewhat different approaches; a square caller can't "drop
> out", and that makes squares less conducive to the trance-dance experience
> some young contra folk want to achieve. Additionally, in that
> square-dancing is associated at times with Appalachian and "barn-dance"
> traditions, it tends toward somewhat different musical ground than some
> contradancers (including myself) prefer. (Please note that these are
> generalizations, and glaring exceptions aren't hard to find.)
>
> BUT... a big reason why some contradancers feel (to put it bluntly) like
> squares are the plague? Perhaps because when we try to explain contra to
> those uninitiated in traditional dance, they ask "is it like square
> dancing?" And i, for one, shudder at the ensuing task of acknowledging the
> very close relation between the two forms while trying to negate whatever
> pop-culture caricaturizations of square dance have popped into this
> person's head. Please forgive if i speak from partial ignorance here, but
> it seems to me square dancing took the brunt of mass culture's evolution
> away from traditional forms, and those who want to see contradancing as
> "cool" and "hip" struggle to maintain a distinction between the two forms.
> (see Don Coffey's "freight train/horse-blinder" comment).
>
> This is a good point to reiterate that i certainly enjoy squares. Jim Saxe
> put it nicely when he mentions (to paraphrase) bristling at the implication
> that callers choose squares out of motivations other than dancer fun, and
> lots of love to Chrissy for the "branches" analogy. It may be instructive,
> in smoothing relations between two grand branches of the social-dance
> tradition, to consider the more subtle underlying reasons for that
> "horse-blinder focus" in the hope that we as dance leaders can address them
> more fully.
>
> tavi
>
> >
> > Message: 1
> > Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2012 12:38:24 -0400
> > From: Chrissy Fowler <ktaadn_me at hotmail.com>
> > To: shared weight <callers at sharedweight.net>
> > Subject: Re: [Callers] Contra / MWSD parallels?
> > Message-ID: <COL113-W869A44897C010082499108D430 at phx.gbl>
> > Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Oh hooray!  Divisive politics are my favorite!  (Not)  But somewhere in
> > the SW archives I've already pointed out what a waste of time it is to
> > point fingers and deride each other. So just a couple other things,
> > starting with an example.
> >
> > On David Chandler's note of openness to new experiences, a year or so ago
> > our dance series celebrated the DEFFA Board (DownEast Friends of the Folk
> > Arts) and hired a fiddler and several dance callers who were DEFFA board
> > members.  Given the expertise of the callers, the program included a
> Czech
> > mixer-Doudlebska Polka, an English Country Dance-Knole Park, a Croatian
> > dance-Moja Diridika, and several contras (mostly modern compositions).
> >  Because none of the callers considered themselves skilled at calling
> > squares, there were no squares.  In some ways, this program was a first
> for
> > public contra dances in Maine.
> >
> > But (a) it seemed like everyone had a good time (dancers, callers,
> > organizers, and even musicians who were asked to learn some unfamiliar
> > music), and (b) it was still delivering our dance's usual fare -- namely,
> > accessible, fun, traditional social dances, taught & prompted, and danced
> > to excellent live music.  And on the plus side, we were also celebrating
> > the varied contributions to the world of the board members who serve our
> > local folk organization - board work that is done, as Linda Leslie points
> > out, with "good intentions" and "for the love of the art forms."
> >
> > What I got out of David Millstone's original post was a cautionary note -
> > asking us as dance leaders (organizers, callers, dancers) to be conscious
> > of the perils of rareifying or stultifying our social dance traditions
> > (making them so complex/exclusive or proscriptive/rigid that they lose
> > their capacity to live on into the future in good health.)  So, I got out
> > of it an exhortation to consider sustainability, but I also got a
> reminder
> > that we are connected inextricably to history - this isn't some brand new
> > movement.  It's got deep, strong roots.  And it's not a dead form.  It's
> > got branches.  And quite thankfully, it's got richness of variety.
>  There's
> > something for everyone, thanks to the variety of visions of the
> organizers
> > who make these dances happen.  But at the core it's about participatory
> > social dance.  And I say, the more people who join us in participatory
> > social dance, the better.  (Even if you don't want to think about dance
> as
> > positive social change...)
> >
> > Dance on,
> > Chrissy Fowler
> > Belfast, ME
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > ------------------------------
> >
> > Message: 2
> > Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 08:55:09 -0700
> > From: James Saxe <jim.saxe at gmail.com>
> > To: Caller's discussion list <callers at sharedweight.net>
> > Subject: [Callers] Why I call squares (was Re:  Contra / MWSD
> >        parallels?)
> > Message-ID: <15A670F1-03A6-4AE5-8148-714441BE3AC0 at gmail.com>
> > Content-Type: text/plain; charset=WINDOWS-1252; format=flowed;
> >        delsp=yes
> >
> > I'm finally feeling impelled to comment on this.
> >
> > The reason I include occasional squares at events billed as a
> > "contra dances" is that I have personally had a tremendous
> > amount of fun dancing them--much of it at events that included
> > both squares and contra.
> >
> > I first got into the traditional dance scene in Pittsburgh, PA,
> > in the early 1980s.  The events were mostly advertised as "square
> > dances" but a typical evening's program might (or might not,
> > depending on the caller) have included several contras as well.
> > I believe most of the dancers enjoyed both.
> >
> > The squares I'm talking about, by the way, were "traditional",
> > not modern western.  I'm sure there was an active MWSD community
> > in Pittsburgh at that time, and probably there were a very few
> > dancers who did both MWSD and "traditional" squares/contras, but
> > it was for all intents and purposes a completely separate activity
> > and community.  My intent in saying this is neither to disparage
> > nor to praise MWSD, but merely to point out that anyone who cites
> > anything about MWSD as a reason why contras and traditional squares
> > don't/can't/shouldn't mix is engaging in a complete non sequitur.
> > At the square dances I went to, we had no special attire, no
> > need for separate lessons, and no recorded music.  [Yes, I know
> > that not all MWSD groups require or even encourage the special
> > attire, and that some MWSD events have live music, but going
> > into more detail about MWSD here would be a digression from my
> > main topic.]  The dances were every bit as open to the public as
> > typical contra dances.
> >
> > As a new dancer, my experience of that mostly square-centric
> > Pittsburgh scene was that it was as welcoming a community as
> > I had ever encountered.  Dances were often followed by a
> > well-attended gathering at a local restaurant, or occasionally
> > by a house party where conversation and musical jamming would
> > go on into the wee hours of the morning.  I don't think the
> > community was particularly more or less eclectic than the
> > communities of contra dancers I know of.
> >
> > I found that squares and contras each offered their own kind of
> > fun.  These kinds of fun were different enough so that when I
> > moved to California and found a thriving contra dance scene, I
> > noticed after a while that I was missing the kind of exciting
> > squares I had danced in Pittsburgh.  On the other hand, the
> > kinds of fun and the skills involved in the two forms were
> > similar enough IMO that a lot of the same people could (and,
> > in at least in one community where I had danced regularly for
> > several years, actually did) enjoy both in the same evening.
> >
> > In short, the reason I sometimes call squares at "contra" dances
> > is that I believe they can add a special kind of fun to the
> > mix.  I also believe that most other callers who mix squares
> > with contras do so for the same reason--because they think
> > squares can add a different, but not too different, kind of
> > fun.  I'll freely admit that I, and other callers, haven't
> > always succeeded in sharing this kind of fun with the dancers.
> > present.  Certainly there have been times when I've chosen
> > inappropriate squares for the circumstances, and times when
> > I've ineptly taught and called whichever dance I've chosen.
> > (I'm sure most of us have also had experiences from time to
> > time with contras that were poorly chosen, poorly taught,
> > and/or poorly called.)  What I bristle at are (a) implications
> > that the fun I remember having with squares (including at mixed
> > square/contra events) is a figment of my imagination (except in
> > the sense that all fun and all memory are mental experiences)
> > and (b) implications the I or other callers call squares out of
> > motivations other than dancer fun, such as an abstract sense
> > of duty to preserve historic traditions or some other notion
> > of "making the dancers take their medicine".
> >
> > Regards,
> > --Jim
> >
> > On Mar 19, 2012, at 12:08 PM, Greg McKenzie wrote:
> >
> > > David Millstone quoted Don Coffee
> > [Coffey]
> > > as writing:
> > >
> > >
> > > Modern contra dancing has become a mass "movement" with the energy
> > > of a
> > >> greight train, but most of the young people who so love contras?and
> > >> contras
> > >> only-- have no idea it is but one component of a larger, very
> > >> wonderful,
> > >> tradition. This horse-blinder focus rather reminds me of...
> > >>
> > >
> > > Oh dear!  Here we go again.
> > >
> > >
> > > The square enthusiasts are putting forth another tome?complete with
> > > graphs
> > > and historical references? about how contra dancers are ?limited?,
> > > ?short-sighted?, ?narrow-minded? or just plain ignorant in their views
> > > about the dance tradition that they have loved for so many decades.
> > >
> > >
> > > This annual tradition of denigration would be humorous if it were
> > > not so
> > > insidious and insulting to people who have dedicated so much to
> > > building a
> > > new tradition that has made called dancing available to so many
> > > people who
> > > would not have otherwise ever tried it.
> > >
> > >
> > > Instead of repeating the old saws about how bad contra dancers are,
> > > our
> > > square dance calling friends might consider educating themselves
> > > about this
> > > new tradition that they seem to know so little about.  For those of us
> > > dedicated to holding open, public, contra dances for our communities
> > > this
> > > movement is much more than merely a ?component of a larger, very
> > > wonderful
> > > tradition.?  It is, in fact, an evolution of even older traditions
> > > and,
> > > perhaps, an alternative to the square dance tradition that has
> > > become so
> > > moribund and unavailable to the general public.
> > >
> > >
> > > For many of us, introduced to contras as our first social dance
> > > experience,
> > > one of the defining factors that drew us to contra dancing was the
> > > fact
> > > that it was NOT square dancing and it did NOT require that we attend
> > > separate classes to learn it.
> > >
> > > The fact is that contras are attended by a wildly eclectic crowd of
> > > people
> > > with varied dance experience and interests.  Yes, about half of
> > > those in
> > > the hall frequent contras almost exclusively (43% attend contras
> > > only), but
> > > almost 40% of those in the hall are enthusiasts of some other dance
> > > form
> > > and attend other dance forms at least six times a year.  About 20%
> > > of those
> > > in the hall are not enthusiasts of any dance form.
> > >
> > >
> > > (Note that only 3% of those in the hall attend square dances
> > > regularly.)
> > >
> > >
> > > Square dance calling enthusiasts should consider that the contra dance
> > > tradition might be something different from what you are familiar
> > > with, or
> > > from what you *assume* it is.  These open, public social events
> > > attract a
> > > different mix of people, have a different purpose, and require a
> > > different
> > > set of calling skills than many other forms of dance.   When
> > > callers?unfamiliar with the contra tradition?insist on presenting
> > > square
> > > formations while presuming to tell the dancers what they *ought* to
> > > enjoy,
> > > it is not surprising that many folks will decide to sit out.  It
> > > would be
> > > better to first educate yourselves about who is in the hall before
> > > calling
> > > one of these events.  Here is one place to start:
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > I look forward to an ongoing discussion about the evolution of
> > > social dance
> > > and the great contributions it can make to our world.  That
> > > discussion will
> > > be most productive, however, if we start with a clear understanding
> > > of what
> > > it is that we do NOT know.
> > >
> > >
> > > Regards,
> > >
> > >
> > > Greg McKenzie
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > Callers mailing list
> > > Callers at sharedweight.net
> > > http://www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers
> >
> >
> >
> > ------------------------------
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Callers mailing list
> > Callers at sharedweight.net
> > http://www.sharedweight.net/mailman/listinfo/callers
> >
> >
> > End of Callers Digest, Vol 91, Issue 37
> > ***************************************
> >
>
>
>
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Dave Casserly <david.j.casserly at gmail.com>
> To: "Caller's discussion list" <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Cc:
> Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 14:19:31 -0400
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Contra / MWSD parallels?
> I think Bob is absolutely right about the point of the original post;
> it's to point out supposed parallels between this community and the
> square dance community of the 50s as a cautionary tale.
>
> That said, I wholeheartedly disagree with the parallels Don Coffey's
> trying to draw here.  I just don't see how standardizing individual
> dance moves has anything to do with dancing more duple improper contra
> dances.  For the square dancers, standardizing dance moves led to
> lessons on how to do particular moves and a less inclusory dance
> space.  Dancing more duple impropers won't do the same thing-- if
> anything it's easier and more accessible for beginners to learn dances
> that happen in just one formation.
>
> Modern contra dances, in my understanding, have less standardized
> dance moves than what people were doing thirty years ago (though
> perhaps not than what people were doing 150 years ago).  Moreover,
> unlike the square dance club community, we have a vibrant live music
> tradition that is showing no signs of erosion.
>
> As people on this list have discussed over the past few days, there
> are advantages and disadvantages to including forms other than duple
> improper in nightly programs.  But the view that a contras-only
> movement will lead to the decline of contra dance, the way the western
> square dance club movement declined, is in my view misplaced.
>
> -Dave
>
> On 3/21/12, Robert Golder <robertgolder at comcast.net> wrote:
> > On Mar 21, 2012, at 1:26 PM, Greg McKenzie wrote:
> >
> >> All of this because I questioned the common assertion that something is
> >> terribly wrong with the modern contra dance movement because most of
> those
> >> folks don’t enjoy dancing squares?
> >>
> >
> > Actually, no. "All of this" is because you missed the point. All of this
> has
> > nothing to do with whether or not contra dancers enjoy dancing squares.
> The
> > point is that modern western squares dancing took what some people think
> was
> > a wrong turn that tended to make their events socially exclusive, rather
> > than inclusive. Don Coffey is merely cautioning us not to follow that
> trend
> > and go down a similar path.
> >
> > Note to Charles: I was president of NEFFA from 2008 to 2011. I can assure
> > you that NEFFA and NESRDC do not snipe at each other, nor do they plan
> their
> > festivals at times that intentionally conflict. In 2012, the festivals
> will
> > be held one week apart.
> > _______________________________________________
> > Callers mailing list
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> --
> David Casserly
> (cell) 781 258-2761
>
>
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> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Rich Goss <richgoss at comcast.net>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers at sharedweight.net>
> Cc:
> Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2012 13:40:03 -0700
> Subject: Re: [Callers] Why I call squares (was Re: Contra / MWSD
> parallels?)
> Well put Jim!  I totally agree that dancer fun should be our main
> objective as callers. Or programs should have variety or the dance form
> will become boring.
>
> Thank you Jim.
>
> Rich
>
> On Mar 21, 2012, at 8:55 AM, James Saxe <jim.saxe at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > I'm finally feeling impelled to comment on this.
> >
> > The reason I include occasional squares at events billed as a
> > "contra dances" is that I have personally had a tremendous
> > amount of fun dancing them--much of it at events that included
> > both squares and contra.
> >
> > I first got into the traditional dance scene in Pittsburgh, PA,
> > in the early 1980s.  The events were mostly advertised as "square
> > dances" but a typical evening's program might (or might not,
> > depending on the caller) have included several contras as well.
> > I believe most of the dancers enjoyed both.
> >
> > The squares I'm talking about, by the way, were "traditional",
> > not modern western.  I'm sure there was an active MWSD community
> > in Pittsburgh at that time, and probably there were a very few
> > dancers who did both MWSD and "traditional" squares/contras, but
> > it was for all intents and purposes a completely separate activity
> > and community.  My intent in saying this is neither to disparage
> > nor to praise MWSD, but merely to point out that anyone who cites
> > anything about MWSD as a reason why contras and traditional squares
> > don't/can't/shouldn't mix is engaging in a complete non sequitur.
> > At the square dances I went to, we had no special attire, no
> > need for separate lessons, and no recorded music.  [Yes, I know
> > that not all MWSD groups require or even encourage the special
> > attire, and that some MWSD events have live music, but going
> > into more detail about MWSD here would be a digression from my
> > main topic.]  The dances were every bit as open to the public as
> > typical contra dances.
> >
> > As a new dancer, my experience of that mostly square-centric
> > Pittsburgh scene was that it was as welcoming a community as
> > I had ever encountered.  Dances were often followed by a
> > well-attended gathering at a local restaurant, or occasionally
> > by a house party where conversation and musical jamming would
> > go on into the wee hours of the morning.  I don't think the
> > community was particularly more or less eclectic than the
> > communities of contra dancers I know of.
> >
> > I found that squares and contras each offered their own kind of
> > fun.  These kinds of fun were different enough so that when I
> > moved to California and found a thriving contra dance scene, I
> > noticed after a while that I was missing the kind of exciting
> > squares I had danced in Pittsburgh.  On the other hand, the
> > kinds of fun and the skills involved in the two forms were
> > similar enough IMO that a lot of the same people could (and,
> > in at least in one community where I had danced regularly for
> > several years, actually did) enjoy both in the same evening.
> >
> > In short, the reason I sometimes call squares at "contra" dances
> > is that I believe they can add a special kind of fun to the
> > mix.  I also believe that most other callers who mix squares
> > with contras do so for the same reason--because they think
> > squares can add a different, but not too different, kind of
> > fun.  I'll freely admit that I, and other callers, haven't
> > always succeeded in sharing this kind of fun with the dancers.
> > present.  Certainly there have been times when I've chosen
> > inappropriate squares for the circumstances, and times when
> > I've ineptly taught and called whichever dance I've chosen.
> > (I'm sure most of us have also had experiences from time to
> > time with contras that were poorly chosen, poorly taught,
> > and/or poorly called.)  What I bristle at are (a) implications
> > that the fun I remember having with squares (including at mixed
> > square/contra events) is a figment of my imagination (except in
> > the sense that all fun and all memory are mental experiences)
> > and (b) implications the I or other callers call squares out of
> > motivations other than dancer fun, such as an abstract sense
> > of duty to preserve historic traditions or some other notion
> > of "making the dancers take their medicine".
> >
> > Regards,
> > --Jim
> >
> >
>
>
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