[Callers] homophobia (and a flirty dance, yada yada)

tavi merrill melodiouswoodchuck at gmail.com
Thu Apr 11 14:19:09 PDT 2013

Hi all,

I've been a little behind on SW lately, but this thread is rich in both
ideas and potential misconceptions i would like to speak to.

As Mac and Aahz rather humorously shared

> I will admit - I prefer opposite gender swings - Am I homophobic and
> just don't know it?

> Well, I *overall* prefer opposite gender swings and other kinds of
> physical interactions, has something to do with being heterosexual, I
> think.  ;-)  That's different from feeling >uncomfortable< with or
> disliking same-sex interactions in dance.

 i'd chime in and say i have a slight preference for same-gender swings -
for obvious reasons. The swing holds a special place in contradance as the
moment of sustained, more intimate interaction, and i'd wager to say we ALL
prefer swinging folks we'd be keen on, er, dancing the horizontal tango
with. That said, i don't give a crap who i'm swinging as long as it's a
satisfying swing, and gender has less to do with that than skill and the
subtle communication that allows dancers to orient themselves (often during
a balance) as they pull into the swing.

Homophobia is subtle, and ingrained. I'm gay, and some of the darkest
moments in my life stem from my own homophobia. Often i'm unaware of when
that homophobia is expressing itself - for example when i'm teasing a
straight roommate by calling him gay, bolstering my sense of membership as
"one of the guys". As a homosexual male, i have experienced genuine
homophobia on the dance floor - men who refuse to swing or even look at me
when i'm dancing the ladies' role - but the vast majority of same-role and
same-sex swings i've encountered are awkward not because of homophobia.
Ironically enough, the "Northumberland swing" many guys automatically reach
for (http://www.cs.umd.edu/~nau/misc/swing-positions.html) is more
"intimate" than ballroom position - but it is a widely known non-gendered

I think the issue here is more about (related to homophobia, but subtler)
misogyny. Because the dance roles are defined by gender, if dancers aren't
expecting or mutually planning for a symmetrical hold, there's a moment
when dancers ask themselves, and wordlessly ask each other, which one is
going to suddenly become the "lady". The subconscious cascade reaction is
distracting, and entry into the swing becomes awkward and
less-than-satisfying. Nobody likes unsatisfying swings. And there's always
"that guy" who swings dudes harder than chicks... it can be a lot of fun to
utilize the physical opportunity of swinging another man to go fast, swing
hard, et cetera - a celebration of masculinity, even? - but sometimes it's
also an expression of insecurity. I'm sure even for "that guy" it varies
with the day, the mood, the guy he's swinging, and he's probably a bit
rough with the ladies too.

As a caller i love "playing" with dancers' expectations by using same-sex
gypsy, do-si-do (in proper formation), s-s down the hall, even s-s grand
R&L. I'm rather judicious with same-sex swings. All these moves depend very
much on the crowd. In a gender-free context, they have zero impact; in a
staunchly "traditional" group, they can be truly uncomfortable; in the
right environment, they'll have the dancers laughing, acting playful,
having a blast. As Ryan S pointed out, it's our responsibility as callers
to know, or to ask questions about, the dancers we've been hired to
entertain, making choices appropriate for the hall. (Look who's talking...
i often err to the side of slightly challenging dances...) "Social
engineering"? well, that's a caller's personal choice.

If one feels moved to use same-sex swings, i agree with Andrea that
teaching a symmetrical hold improves the dancers' experience. Many of the
moves we see less of are a matter of teaching - for example, the gents'
chain. It's less a question of homophobia than of people being befuddled by
the reversed promenade hold and courtesy turn, in my experience an element
which few callers adequately teach.

Re: the rarity of same-sex R&L through: i'd argue that's entirely a
choreography "fashion" issue. S-s R&L through typically occurs in older
choreography associated with actives-only swings. The few dances i know
which utilize both S-s R&L and a neighbor swing have fairly challenging, or
generally awkward choreography.


p.s. John, i did like the 'Galway swing' dance you shared : )

p.s.#2 a great flirty dance nobody has mentioned: "Gypsy Star" by Adam
Carlson. becket formation: A1. CL 3/4, PT and swing the next. A2 LLF&B,
Ladies' chn. 1. Ladies R shoulder gypsy; gents enter in front of partner
and all four gypsy; ladies drop out @home and gents gypsy 3/4 more to B2.
Partner bal & swing

another great flirty dance: "Coleman's March", available on Ted Crane's
website. Cheers!

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