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

Alan Winston winston at slac.stanford.edu
Fri Nov 30 17:39:40 PST 2012

On 11/30/2012 4:26 PM, Dale Wilson wrote:
> And slightly more seriously.
> I don't want to start religious war but I have always wondered about A
> Chorus Jig.  I just don't see why anyone likes it other than those who
> cherish it as a relic of a bygone era.   The few times I have danced it my
> primary impression was that the inactive couples stood still for the entire
> dance -- offering admiration an occasional helping hand to the actives, and
> even the actives spent a great deal of time walking up and down the set.
> What am I missing?  Why do people like it?

Why I like it:

Whether I'm inactive or active, I like the music, I really like the way 
the parts of the dance interlock, I like the many things that remind me 
I'm dancing in a bigger set
than just my foursome - go down the outside and you have to see the 
whole line, be in line, match their timing; go down the middle and it's 
the same, but if I'm inactive
I have to see people outside of my foursome on the way through.  I 
really like how much it requires timing and rewards timing and 
geographical sense.  I rather like the feeling of being a good cog in 
the big dance machine.  I like supporting the actives and being 
supported when it's my turn.

- When I'm an active, the way the excitement of the tune builds up 
during the contra corners to resolve at the balance with partner (and 
the balance + swing is way
   better than the balance without swing)  is just unparalleled. Hitting 
the balance on the dot is just a tremendous moment.  The whole dance 
(which is, incidentally, made of
   standard early-nineteenth century figures which show up in other 
dances but aren't as  satisfying there) is an exercise in delayed 
gratification; I leave my partner, we're apart
   (but have a flirtatious peek, perhaps, in the middle of the 
down-the-outside-and-back), we're closer together for the 
down-the-middle-and-back; we connect with our
   same-sex neighbors on the cast off, we interact with two opposite-sex 
neighbors in the contra-corners, briefly seeing partner in between 
others, and we finally connect.
   It's awesome.

- When I'm inactive - well, you can always swing your partner during the 
down-the-outside, and I have no problem for that. During the 
down-the-middle  you can likely cheat-swing somebody from the   next 
line (although I won't generally do that and don't much like it when my 
partner abandons me to cheat swing).  But here's what I like there - I 
enjoy being able to support the actives in the contra corners, I enjoy 
getting a read on whether they want to push off and spin out of the 
allemande and supporting that, I enjoy helping to get them to their 
appointment with their partner on time.   (I'll usually balance or stomp 
at the end of the contra corners even if I'm an inactive.)  I'll admit 
that I'd be a bit frustrated if I were inactive all the way to to the 
top and the dance ended without my ever getting to be active, but I'm 
happy to have it run long enough for everybody to get to be both active 
and inactive.

Your mileage may well vary.  People like different things.

-- Alan

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