[Callers] contras for modern square dancers

Aahz via Callers callers at lists.sharedweight.net
Wed Jul 19 05:45:53 PDT 2017

On Tue, Jul 18, 2017, Judy Greenhill via Callers wrote:
> I have undertaken to teach some modern square dancers how to contra dance,
> and I'm wondering if anyone has experience with this and has any dances to
> recommend? I'm a square dancer myself but most of my contra repertoire is
> for modern contra dancers- 2 swings, lots of Balance and swing, etc. I'd
> like more dances with MWSD moves in them and possibly without any, or only
> 1, swing, and they don't need to have a partner swing. The dancers I am
> teaching are all either plus or advanced, so they will tire pretty quickly
> of the usual simple glossary contras I would normally do in a teaching
> situation. They can do the moves; it's the formation that is new to them.

We've talked about my background in the past, but as a reminder for
context: I've been dancing both contra and Plus for more than three
decades, with a fair amount of MWSD calling experience for four years
and limited contra calling experience.

My perception is that MWSD-focused people dislike the repetition of
contra much more than than what you're describing as "tiring of glossary
moves" -- you'd get just as much complaint if you did a repeating series
of Spin Chain & Exchange the Gears, Slide Thru, Load the Boat, Relay the
Deucey, SC&EtG.

I also observe that a large number of even young, fit, expert square
dancers struggle with the music-focused nature of contra, moving to the
beat and the phrase.  "Sawing off the corners" is a new concept to them
(particularly in the context of repetitious flowing movement), along with
Read's comment about shared weight and just generally teaching them
contra styling.

So my take is that you should focus on exactly what makes contra
different from square dancing, with good music and lots of swings.  Clark
Baker (using Lisa Greenleaf recordings) tries doing something similar to
what you're trying to do at CALLERLAB and while I'd rather have some
contra than none, it really doesn't feel like contra to me (we usually
get about one-third to half experienced contra dancers, I can tell
instantly who does contra other places).

Putting it another way, if they can't enjoy what makes contra different
from square dancing, why bother?
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