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.
I just returned from Pigtown Fling dance weekend outside of Cincinnati, with featured caller Susan Petrick, who has a unique, effective style for teaching dances. During walk-throughs she never stops talking. The time callers often pause and wait for the dancers is instead filled usually with her telling about either the position the dancers will be after the figure, or advice about a flourish or end effects. Thus very few dances, even the more intricate ones, required a second walk-through. Susan noted her pleasant surprise rarely needing a second walk-through, noting the collective skill of the dancers, but her technique contributed. Even if during the walk-through dancers are chatting and miss the figure, they know where they should end up and correctly position themselves.
I speculate that if Susan had realized what the collective skill level of the dancers would be, she might have chosen a slightly more challenging set of dances for the two general sessions (Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon) she called.
This contrasts with Colin Hume's equally distinctive and effective style of making very witty remarks while teaching a dance to hold the dancers' attention.
Callers can usefully copy Susan's technique. I doubt many callers can mimic Colin.
Michael Fuerst 802 N Broadway Urbana IL 61801 217-239-5844
> Hey Tom,I don?t have your personal email, so hope you check this
> list often. You posted this dance in January. I?m considering
> calling it soon and would love to know if it has a name.
It's called Kate's Departure. Kate Brady, one of our wonderful dance
organizers is leaving C'ville to start a new life in Colorado. I and
other callers have tested it out and I believe it's a keeper.
> Thanks,Bree KalbCarrboro, NCTom Wrote: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.
> Callers mailing list
> End of Callers Digest, Vol 103, Issue 17
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.
Do you know the title and author of this dance?
A1: gents into center to a long wavy line of gents, bal; Ladies into center of line of ladies, bal; (Gents wait for them)
A2: W A R 1x; PS
b1: down hall, turn as a couple
B2: C L 3/4, N S
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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.