Perry brings up a couple things which are often on my mind. As i write
this, i'm thinking there are a few folks out there rolling their eyes or
gritting their teeth at the recent flood of progressive dialogue on this
thread. Bear with me, please...
I consider myself a trans-role dancer (as opposed to cis-gendered; i fully
identify as male, but my gender identity has no bearing on which role i
dance). When i first encountered contradance, it was with callers who
emphasized that "gent/lady" are merely titles of traditional roles which
anyone can play regardless of their gender identity. That idea stuck. At
those dances in rural Maine, there was often a surfeit of female dancers,
and the callers brought along a briefcase full of neckties to help folks
denote roles. (That practice suffers the same limitations that physical
armbands do, if dancers plan on "flipping the ship" mid-dance.)
I'm going to focus this next bit on "same gender neighboring" versus
partnering, so as to include heteropartner-pairs who have swapped roles,
and speak from my experience as a trans-role male (a slightly different
topic than trans-role female partner/neighbor issues, i recognize). The
interpersonal dynamics of same-gender neighbor swings (particularly those
following from a gypsy!) are never far from my mind. It seems that no
matter where i dance, from Maine to Massachusetts to North Carolina, the
sample composition is the same: most men are comfortable with limited
same-gender neighboring; many are energized by the apparent physical
opportunity to swing or flourish more vigorously; some are merely
disoriented by it; and a few are downright uncomfortable.
A friend of mine, a male in his 60s, describes his initial discomfort at
same-gender dance floor encounters giving way to an appreciation for the
inclusivity of the community. He still prefers to partner
heteronormatively, but he recognizes the value of making the dance
community as inclusive as it is, and on occasion actively supports that
value by partnering same-gender. I think that position describes where a
lot of dancers are. Whatever a person's experience of the folkdance
meta-community is, i believe we can agree that one thing which sets it
apart from other social spheres is its inclusivity.
In a few locations i've danced, most recently Bangor, Maine, i've noted a
phenomenon where multiple sets forming seemed to segregate into cisgendered
dancers versus trans-role dancers. I foresee a potentially vehement tangent
in response to this observation. Yes, having sets segregate by some set of
partnering preferences, be it age or role-flexibility (the two often
co-occur) does begin to fragment the community - but it is a patch solution
which minimizes the discomfort to some dancers, offering a choice of
expressions and comfort levels in communities where a strictly gender-free
dance outlet is unavailable.
Will we ever move contradancing to a completely gender-free system? I hope
not. Good or bad, the genderedness of the form is an intrinsic aspect of
the tradition, more so even than in couple dancing; without it, where would
the "proper" dance formation be? Gender-free dance can be a "safe space",
or a playground for more adventurous dancers - offering an experiential
contrast to traditionally gendered dance we would be unable to enjoy or
appreciate if the distinction were erased.
But... terminology, gender, dance roles, partnering issues (broadening to
include other characteristics like age, physical characteristics, dance
skill...). In a discussion thread elsewhere, Scott Higgs described
partnering issues as an "elephant in the room" that can be a major factor
determining whether individuals' experience of the dance is positive or
negative. I agree wholeheartedly, and hope that we as a community can be
more attentive to these issues, following on opportunities like the session
he and Lisa Greenleaf led at NEFFA 2012 to discuss partnering choices and
behavior patterns in a judgment-free zone.
The thing that's really on my mind right now, and seems to be on others',
is that contradance is a unique form, and terms which accurately describe
other dance forms don't really fit here. Can we as a community find a
system of our own, one that innovates while honoring the tradition,
transcending yet including our historical antecedents?
As we move into 2013, i hope we can continue to decloak this elephantine
polylogue, finding ways to both honor individuals' comfort level and
enhance the inclusivity of the community... and get rid of that damn
happy new year, btw!
> Message: 3
> Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2013 08:12:42 -0800 (PST)
> From: Perry Shafran <pshaf(a)yahoo.com>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] gender
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
> There are several issues here.? One is the terminology that is used to
> differentiate the two dance roles and second, whether we will ever move
> contra dancing to a completely gender-free system.
> I think that
> we all have to understand that everyone has their own comfort zone.?
> Some people do NOT want to dance with a same-gendered person no matter
> how much you prod them, shame them, or even force them to do so.?? Some
> are willing to try it from time to time, others enjoy it a lot, and others
> want to make all
> contra dances completely gender free regardless of whether or not it
> will chase some members from the community.?
> It is a strong
> uphill battle to at least move from a heteronormative way of thinking.?
> Just recently it was suggested that the way to get someone to contra
> dance (a man) was to tell him that a
> new woman will be thrown into his arms every 30 seconds.? Reason being
> that most people are heterosexual and might be drawn to dance thinking
> he's going to dance with women.? I suggested that this was a bad idea
> due to the fact that in most dances you'll see men dancing with men,
> women dancing with women, and people switching roles.?
> I think
> that the best compromise is to continue with the gents/ladies
> terminology, but emphasize that these are merely titles of traditional
> roles, but anyone can play them regardless of physical gender.? That is
> what I say in my workshops, and it's usually generally understood.? Any
> new terminology that you use will force people to translate which means
> "man" and which means "woman".?? However, I do understand the baggage
> that these gender-loaded terms do bring.??
Speaking of dances with missing details, I have a great dance called
Fruit Punch. Diane Silver called it at Bogue Banks Boogie a few years
ago. Not sure who wrote it (maybe Diane?).
I evidently wrote it down wrong since it doesn't progress but instead
keeps sending the dancers back and forth. Someone said it felt like
it was missing a circle somewhere. Does it start with a circle left
half way into a slide left? Does anyone have the correct
choreography? I haven't heard back from Diane yet about this question.
What I have is this:
Fruit Punch by Diane or?
I have Improper written down, but it looks like a Becket.
A1 With couple on L diagonal, Yearn to new Neighbors and fall straight
Ladies Allem R 1+1/2 (8)
A2 N Balance & Swing (16)
B1 Take hands in a ring.
Balance the ring (4)
Pass through to an ocean wave (4)
Balance the wave (4)
N Allemande R x1 (4)
B2 Ladies Allemande L 1+1/2 to partner (8)
Partner swing (8)
Thanks for any clarification anyone might have.
I just wrote a dance and wanted to know if it's unique. I'm pretty
sure the A1 is borrowed from another dance.
A1 Circle left. Mad Robin (face partner and do-si-do neighbor).
A2 Hey, women pass left shoulders
B1 Women pass left shoulders and swing partner
B2 Ladies chain, forward and back.
You know, I just realized, regarding the "sidelines" discussion ... no
one's yet mentioned "booking ahead". In the context of
getting-new-dancers-partners, I thought it might deserve its own thread.
Simply put: Booking ahead is a big threat to including new and/or
When I was a newer dancer, and finally getting known as a fun dance partner
with enough people, there was the inevitable "I want to dance with all my
friends!" tendency that most newer dancers get. I booked ahead, sometimes
two dances ahead. I never booked *all* of my dances for the night, and I
did seek out and dance with people I didn't normally, on a regular basis.
Still, once I reflected upon it, it limited my dance partners somewhat.
I cut down to only booking "next dance". Then I cut down the number of
times in a night that I do that. Now, I will never book ahead as a rule,
but allow exceptions, usually for out-of-towners that I don't get to see
often, or a dancer that I simply haven't had the chance to dance with for
several weeks. I've found that I don't sit out any more often, I'm still
dancing with friends for about half my dances in the evening, and I'm
having just as much fun. At the same time, I don't have to worry about
remembering who I booked, nor about offending anyone by, "Sorry, got the
next one booked already!"
Nowadays, I'm a pretty okay dancer. And there are some dances I can walk
into, and people are super-friendly and I have no problem finding a
partner. Yeah, me being a kilt-wearing, name-button-sporting dancer with
decent dance shoes usually is an extra tip-off to people, too, in the same
way that if I saw a lady walk in that I didn't know, but she was wearing a
big multi-colored twirly shirt and dance shoes, I'd probably assume she
would be a good dance partner.
But... there are dances where it's difficult to find partners if you don't
know anyone. And then for introverts (which makes up a surprisingly high
percentage of the contra dance community), it's an even more difficult
task. When a dance finishes, and you blink, and everyone's partnered and
lined up within 30 seconds ... you know it. People have to be booking
Frankly, booking ahead can be viewed by new dancers as unfriendly behavior.
At the head of my list of dance values is that contra is meant to be a
community dance. I believe that booking ahead, more than a few times in an
evening, is contradictory to this primary value.
If I had to speculate, I would hypothesize:
1. Dance organizers are very aware of who does this at their dances,
2. Dance organizers are afraid to speak up about it, because they're afraid
of scaring off their "cool, hip dancers".
3. This can't possibly be a new problem. Haven't there been good solutions
to this in the past? Haven't there been dances that have realized they're
exclusive, and wanted to change, and successfully done so? What approaches
have they taken that are successful?
4. A dance community has to *want* to change this. They need to state
"inclusion of new dancers" as a value that they hold high.
I don't have a solution, but I do think that this ought to be a priority
discussion with dance organizers and callers.
Also, I'm optimistic that even one good dancer changing their behavior, and
clearly stating *why* they stop booking ahead, can have a strong influence
on other dancers. It was a couple of other dancers stating that they
stopped booking ahead at all that made me really reconsider my own booking
ahead; when I tell people that I don't book ahead, I have had some good
discussions stem from it, and I think I may have influenced a dancer or two
in that they can tone down how often they book ahead.
I don't have the lore or the archives to answer Tom or Michael, but here's
another spur-of-the-moment composition that seems very likely to have been
created earlier and elsewhere. I had just run out of suitable triplets and
I wanted to teach country corners so in desperation I tried this:
Triplet, all proper
A1: #1 couple balance, cross over, go below #2, half-figure eight up
through #2 to end proper between #2 and #3.
A2: #1 turn country corners with the usual suspects.
B1: #1 gypsy and swing, end facing up.
B2: #1 cast around #2 to go down the outside to bottom while #2 and #3 move
up; lines of three go forward and back.
Seemed to work very well for a mixed-age group of beginners (maybe because
the #1s are so much busier than everyone else?)--if it's a known sequence
I'd like to give credit where credit is due. Also interested in any close
resemblances that people like.
On Sat, Jan 26, 2013 at 12:00 PM, callers-request(a)sharedweight.net <
> Message: 1
> Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2013 11:06:54 -0500
> From: Tom Hinds <twhinds(a)earthlink.net>
> To: callers(a)sharedweight.net
> Subject: [Callers] is this dance new?
> Message-ID: <334AE5EA-1F5D-47C0-BB2F-69F240B17B78(a)earthlink.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII; delsp=yes; format=flowed
> I just wrote a dance and wanted to know if it's unique. I'm pretty
> sure the A1 is borrowed from another dance.
> A1 Circle left. Mad Robin (face partner and do-si-do neighbor).
> A2 Hey, women pass left shoulders
> B1 Women pass left shoulders and swing partner
> B2 Ladies chain, forward and back.
> Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2013 08:38:39 -0800 (PST)
> From: Michael Fuerst <mjerryfuerst(a)yahoo.com>
> To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
> Subject: Re: [Callers] is this dance new?
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
> How many dances do people know of that were independently written by
> I know of two such pairs.
> (1) Jim Kitch and Al Olson independently wrote the following sequence:
> A1 Alm left N 1 1/2 and swing a 2nd (new) neighbor
> A2 Alm left a 3rd N once, pass right shoulders with the one you swung, and
> swing your original N
> The two dances had the same B1 (I don't remember if it's W alm L 1 1/2 and
> partners swing or Circle Left 3/4 and partners swing).
But the two dances differ only in the B2.
> Al Olson's version is called "The Empty Crack." I do not recall the name
> of Jim's version
> (2) Mark Richardson from Bloomington IN and someone (in California I
> think) independently wrote the same dance. I do not recall the name or
> sequence of either.
> Michael Fuerst
802 N Broadway
Urbana IL 61801
Thanks for the link to your ONS spreadsheet, JoLaine. That's a nice resource.
I was curious about the title "Coray's Silver Jubilee," since I know
another dance with the same name, a four-face-four by Carol Ormand.
See http://carolormand.com/dances.html#corays. Carol's notes give
2003 as the year of composition.
Do you have any update on the attribution (date, author) of the
whole-set longways dance in your spreadsheet? Does it possibly have a
At 01:21 PM 1/30/2013, you wrote:
>I am the regular caller at a tiny community dance here that will always be
>a ONS dance every month ;-). I have gathered a good collection of super
>easy dances. Here is a link to them if you can use any of them, you're
>welcome to them:
>"We are as gods and might as well get good at it!"
>- Stewart Brand
>Callers mailing list
Good luck with your community dance series. You might enjoy Catch:
Two dancers are chosen to make a two-handed arch. The other dancers
promenade single file around the hall, going under the arch one by
one. When the caller says the word catch, the arch is dropped.
Anyone caught goes to the center and waits. If no one is caught then
the arch goes back up and the dancers start moving again. When two
people are in the center, they pair up and make a second arch.
Basically this continues until all have a partner. The most
frustrating part of this game/dance is when the arches are left down
too long and everyone has to sit in rush hour traffic. Although I
tell them to bring their arches up right away there are always some
who ignore me on this point. Catch leaves the dancers in the perfect
formation to do the Paddy Cake Polka if you want to do another dance
I think Catch is only fun with a large number of people like 20 or
more. Warn them about eye glasses!!!!!!!
Here's something I might use to start off an event like you described:
Start the music going, take someone by the hand, lead them through
the crowd urging people to join onto the end of the line as it snakes
through the room
Lead the line into a circle, and do a few rounds of a Paul Jones to
get people coupled up (Ladies forward and back, gents forward and
back, ladies in and circle left while gents go to the right around
the outside, ladies turn around and swing someone near your, all promenade)
Have everyone promenade into a Grand March, lead the march up the
center of the hall, stop the music and invite the people who have
come in during the above to find a partner and join in at the bottom
of the longways set which has just been created, before doing a dance
in longways formation.
I've had good experiences doing the above, but here are some things
If the group were entirely teenagers then I wouldn't do a snake line,
since that age group tends to turn it into Crack-The-Whip.
If the group had more men than women at the start of the dance, then
I might hesitate to use a Paul Jones to get people into couples,
since the men might be hesitant to dance with each other. It doesn't
matter if the number of gents going forward and back is very
different from the number of ladies going forward and back, as long
as everyone finds someone to swing and promenade with. However, if
there were many more women than men, I might call for the gents going
forward and back first, then the gents circling on the inside while
the ladies go around the outside.
In some groups, people might be more comfortable doing the first
dance with the partner they brought with them. When that's the case,
I might start by asking people to line up in couples for a Grand
March. However, the advantages to getting people moving without
going through the anxiety of choosing a partner, and of getting them
used to changing partners at the beginning of the dance, are obvious.
I hope that's of use to you.
>Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2013 20:27:05 -0500
>From: Sue Robishaw <sue(a)manytracks.com>
>To: Shared Weight Callers <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
>Subject: [Callers] First Dance - Adult ONS
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
> I'm starting a new Community Dance series in our area with no
> recent history of any trad dance. It will likely be nearly all
> beginners and geared toward adults/teens. Thanks to this List I
> have a good collection of ONS dances to choose from, but I'm having
> trouble deciding on the First Dance.
> I'm thinking a non-partner dance that folks can be encouraged
> to join as they arrive (before they sit down) with very little or
> no teaching. I've considered Circles/F&Bs with variety of who goes
> in, probably with claps. Or CL, F&B 2x, CR, start a promenade wave
> at a random spot, people coupling up one after another till all are
> promenading (I'll be on the floor with them). I'm concerned with
> the usual -- looking easy enough, looking interesting, not
> embarrassing, getting them involved before they have a chance to
> think much about it. I have no idea how many dancers I'll have.
> Any suggestions or recommendations would be much appreciated.
> Thanks, Sue
>Sue Robishaw, U.P. of Michigan
I use Glowworm Mixer for the first dance at almost any new ONS event. It
is super easy and people who are hesitant jump right in when they see how
easy it is. One does need a partner, but as it is a mixer, it doesn't
really matter who it is and people don't hesitate to just grab someone and
jump in. It is only a 16 beat dance so you repeat the dance four time for
every one time through the tune. Here it is:
With your partner, promenade CCW in a big circle four steps. Face your
partner and back up four steps. Face the person to the left of your
partner and walk towards that person 4 steps. Allemande L or Right Elbow
Turn with this person once around and end in promenade position face CCW
and the dance begins again from here.
I am the regular caller at a tiny community dance here that will always be
a ONS dance every month ;-). I have gathered a good collection of super
easy dances. Here is a link to them if you can use any of them, you're
welcome to them:
"We are as gods and might as well get good at it!"
- Stewart Brand
I'm starting a new Community Dance series in our area with no recent history of any trad dance. It will likely be nearly all beginners and geared toward adults/teens. Thanks to this List I have a good collection of ONS dances to choose from, but I'm having trouble deciding on the First Dance.
I'm thinking a non-partner dance that folks can be encouraged to join as they arrive (before they sit down) with very little or no teaching. I've considered Circles/F&Bs with variety of who goes in, probably with claps. Or CL, F&B 2x, CR, start a promenade wave at a random spot, people coupling up one after another till all are promenading (I'll be on the floor with them). I'm concerned with the usual -- looking easy enough, looking interesting, not embarrassing, getting them involved before they have a chance to think much about it. I have no idea how many dancers I'll have.
Any suggestions or recommendations would be much appreciated.
Sue Robishaw, U.P. of Michigan