[Callers] As in Petronella

John Sweeney via Callers callers at lists.sharedweight.net
Thu Dec 17 02:29:56 PST 2015

Michael Fuerst wrote, "'Balance and spin' has the same number of syllables
as 'Petronella' and avoids unnecessary jargon"

Hmmm... well if someone says "Petronella" I know that I am balancing forward
and back and then spinning clockwise while moving one place to my right to
the place of the person who was holding my right hand.

If the caller just says "Balance & Spin" then I don't know which direction
to balance, which way to turn or which way to move (if indeed I move at
all).  Set & Turn Single has basically the same meaning as Balance & Spin
but means something completely different.

I never say "as in Petronella".  The move is well enough established in
contra dance that all I have to do is say, "Petronella" and it happens.  If
there are new dancers I teach them the move, call it a Petronella, and
everything works fine from then on.

And we have been clapping for fun in dances for over 400 years now so don't
expect people not to do it! :-)

Our dancing couldn't survive without jargon.  Star. Ladies' Chain,
Allemande, Dosido are all jargon.  Would you try calling a contra dance
without using any of those words?

But none of those words are well defined.  Star can mean wrist-lock or
hands-across depending on the next move.  Ladies' Chain can mean across, or
across and back depending on which century you are in.  Allemande means
completely different things in other dance styles. And Dosido could be a
Mountain Dosido, a Do Paso, an Alabama Rang Tang or a Docey Ding if you are
in a different part of America a century ago.

I was dancing with another Morris side recently and #1 (the "caller") called
"Allemande".  I had never heard that term used in Morris before so I started
to offer my right hand, but the guy opposite me started doing a Back to Back
around me.  That is what #1 meant by "Allemande".  I thought this very
strange until I was researching "Captain Macintosh" and found Thomas
Wilson's 1820 book "The Complete System of English Country Dancing" which
defined "Allemande" as "Back to Back"!

Every dancing master in every community in every style in every period in
every country uses the words to mean what they want them to mean.  But they
teach their dancers what they mean and then it works.  Some calls get
standardised and are easy to use across communities.  Others take time to
settle down and may never be universally used.  But if jargon allows a group
of dancers to have fun at any particular dance then I am all for it!

Whether complete standardisation is a good thing or a bad thing is another
matter entirely; we all have our own opinions about MWSD :-)

Happy dancing,

John Sweeney, Dancer, England john at modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent

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