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 have attached a document (I hope that works) with a list of ideas for callers to help foster equal dance opportunity. This springs from the recent thread called "Sidelines" or something like that. I took your ideas, some of them verbatim, and compiled this list. Please use it, adapt it for your community, and respond if you see something questionable or missing.
Thank you all so much for your thoughts and ideas. I learned so much from this little project.
If your dancers aren't used to out of set dances, be sure to warn them
not to get too relaxed when they are out at the end of the set.
Someone will be coming to them at an unexpected time and if they are
used to relaxing or socializing while they are out at the ends they
will be caught off guard.
In both dances below, after dancers are in Becket, have them take
hands in long lines to ID shadow. In one hand is partner, the other
hand has the shadow.
A couple I like
Groundhog Daze Becket
A1 Shadow gypsy
A2 Circle left 3
Balance the circle, 2's arch, 1's dive thru
B1 Next neighbor balance and swing
B2 Long Lines forward and back
Ladies pull by right, partner allemande left 3/4
Run Rooster Run II Becket
A1 On left diagonal, gents pass right and swing your next neighbor
A2 Ladies chain
Left hand star once around
B1 Partner balance and swing
B2 Right left thru
Long Lines forward and back
In Run Rooster Run, while you have the dancers in long lines
Identifying their shadows, also have the guys look straight across at
their current neighbor, then left to the next neighbor gent they will
pass right shoulders with and then one more place left to ID that
next neighbor they are going to swing.
I've been doing a bit of calling-card box cleaning, and I was wondering if any of you could help me put some names and authors with these dances.
Here they are:
#1 - by ???
(wavey line, ladies L in center)
A1: Balance wave, slide R, Bal wave, slide L
A2: Neighbor Bal & Swing
B1: As couples, go forward to center, gents draw Pt home and Swing
B2: Circle L 3 places, make wavey line
Bal wave, walk forward to a new wave
This is very similar to Cheat Lake Twirl by Perry Shafran, Saturday Night Line by Joseph Pimentel and Rock the Cradle Joe by Ridge Kennedy. Perhaps it's simply a folk-processed one of those, but George Marshall called it at Flurry and I thought it might have it's own name and author.
#2- by ???
A1: Bal ring, spin R, Bal ring, spin R
A2: Bal ring, California twirl, new Neighbor swing
B1: Circle L 3 places, Partner Swing, face down
B2: Down the Hall, 4 in line
Gent 1 turn alone, Gent 2 R-hand high, L-hand low
#3- by ???
A1: Neighbor dosido, Neighbor allemande R 1 1/2
A2: Gents pull by L, Pt gypsy & Swing (though the timing must be a bit off there- maybe the Gents pull by crosses the end of A1 into A2)
B1: R&L through, Ladies chain back
B2: Hey for 4, look for new Neighbors
#4- by Jim Kitch becket
A1: Circle L 3 places, Neighbor swing
A2: R&L through, Star L 1 x, look for new Neighbors
B1: New Neighbor, Bal, box the gnat
Mad Robin, gents pass in front first
B2: Gents cross, passing L-shoulders,
Partner gypsy & Swing
Thanks for any help!
I haven't actually had a chance to road test this (and my thanks, by the
way, to Bob Isaacs, who was his usual gracious and helpful self when I asked
him to look at it before I posted it). James is correct that the opposite
sex person one passes in stepping into the wave is the same person both
times. If I'm L1, my current neighbor -- M2 -- passes me by the right shoulder
and is facing the same direction as I face in the first wave. After the
swing, M2 is still across from me (with his shadow on his right). He passes
me again by the right shoulder and is facing the same direction in the
second wave as well. (So it's a little like the progression up and down the
line in Flapjack Express -- you travel away from your partner in parallel with
your current opposite sex neighbor, come back in parallel with that
neighbor, and each of you finds your respective partner for a swing.) I do think
(from a safety standpoint) that it's a good idea to keep the couples out
of the center of the set during the short swing -- we've all had the
experience of the joined-hands-swing-bonk, I assume -- and my "make the ladies
come to you" instruction really had that purpose in mind.
If anybody else calls this, I would love to know how it went. I wrote it
as a smooth "cool down" dance after something particularly vigorous -- hence
the name. I think reels would suit, with an absolutely identical and
slightly bouncy A1 and 2, and a very smooth B1-2? It would have a very different
feel with jigs, I think, but I hope to try it both ways.
In a message dated 2/22/2013 12:00:46 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
1. Re: Does this dance already exist? (Michael Barraclough)
2. Re: Does this dance already exist? (James Saxe)
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2013 12:42:41 -0500
From: Michael Barraclough <michael(a)michaelbarraclough.com>
To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
Subject: Re: [Callers] Does this dance already exist?
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"
I called this in Baltimore last night (? world premier).
It is a good dance but it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to ensure that the men
do not move from where they are in the swings in A1/A2. I taught it
emphasizing this and called it thus. However, as I reduced my calling,
so the men started moving. The result is that the positions move and
couples don't know who the opposite couple is with ultimate chaos as odd
couples get left out in the middle of the dance. I stopped the dance,
re-emphasized the need for the men to stay put and we were just fine
when they heeded the advice!
On Mon, 2013-02-18 at 17:10 -0500, Hgrastorf(a)aol.com wrote:
> Wrote this one on my way back from calling Norfolk.
> Slow M'Ocean Becket
> A1 Pass thru to an Ocean Wave (Ps are facing in opposite directions).
> Balance forward and back. Swing your SHADOW (who is facing you in the
> wave). (Gents, make the ladies come to you.) End facing across.
> A2 Pass thru to an Ocean Wave. Balance F/B -- swing your Partner, who
> facing you in the next wave. End facing your original Ns.
> B1 Ladies chain to your N. Ladies allemande R 1.5 (continue to hold Rt
> B2 Ladies pick up your partner, star promenade across with a butterfly
> whirl (to the lady's side). Promenade across (to gent's side), with
> passing RIGHT shoulders, and curl RIGHT to face the next neighbor,
> pass the Ocean.
> I can't think of another dance that starts this way -- anybody?
> April Blum
> Callers mailing list
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2013 18:23:30 -0800
From: James Saxe <jim.saxe(a)gmail.com>
To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
Subject: Re: [Callers] Does this dance already exist?
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII; format=flowed; delsp=yes
I've never called "Slow M'Ocean", but from diagramming it on paper it
seems to me that the A1/A2 should work perfectly well (and leave dancers back
in their original starting positions at the end of A2) if men and women
advance EQUALLY to get into the swings. In this case, the "Pass thru to an
Ocean Wave" actions in A2 will have everyone passing the same opposite-sex
neighbor as in A1 (but the same-sex neighbors will be different for both men
and women). In Michael's interpretation, if I understand it correctly, the
Ocean Waves have the same pairs of men in A2 as in A1. I suspect very s
trongly that my interpretation is the one the author (April Blum) intended,
but I invite her to speak for herself on the matter.
The progression in B2 where couples pass by W's R shoulder and loop R
(relative to out-facing direction, i.e., clockwise around a big oval) is rather
unusual and is the part that I'd expect to give the most difficulty.
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In a message dated 2/22/2013 3:53:17 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
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2. Re: Slow M'Ocean (Perry Shafran)
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2013 10:04:02 -0800 (PST)
From: Perry Shafran <pshaf(a)yahoo.com>
To: Caller's discussion list <callers(a)sharedweight.net>
Subject: Re: [Callers] Slow M'Ocean
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
This is if both the gents and ladies move to their shadow rather than just
the ladies moving, as originally written, yes?? Because the way it's
originally written (and the way we danced it on Wednesday), when the gents don't
move, then it's the same same-sex neighbor each time.? Did you intend for
the gents and ladies to both move towards their shadow and stay with their
I thought it was a REALLY nice and fun dance, BTW, and magic when everyone
finally got it.
It's a little like Double Mud Pig, in that you have a permanent shadow (for
the ladies, it's the gent to the left of their partner, on the same side
of the set, for the gents right ditto), but also, during each iteration of
the dance, you have a "temporary" shadow -- your current opposite sex
neighbor. That neighbor/shadow is with you in both waves, and the ladies chain
to that neighbor at B1, but you never swing that N/S. Does that answer your
question? I don't think it matters if both parties move, AS LONG AS you
wind up across from your (new) opposite sex neighbor at the beginning of each
iteration, that same N at the end of A1, and at the end of A2. I suspect
that the dance offsets slightly (as does Double Mud Pig, a wonderful dance
which also tends to break down, with a couple left out in the middle). Thank
you for letting me know you enjoyed it.