I'm look at a down-the-hall move and wondering if it has been done before, and if so with what results, so any feedback would be appreciated. Results mainly meaning: did it cause confusion for the dancers/ did they enjoy it.
Improper, 1's between 2's, line of four down the hall, gent #1 turns in place holding both ladies who pivot around him. Gent #2 turns alone.
Return the line, this time lady #2 (center lady) is the pivot point for both gents.
This "turn" would be better described as Lady #1 "bends-the-line" alone, gent #1 stays in place beside her. Lady and gent #2 cast outside to make a full turn until they are both facing in, lady on the right.
I find "indecent" a rather useful term. At a base level, it at least
suggests the dance is neither proper nor what dancers reflexively think of
as improper. "Improper" doesn't really describe anything either; though
dancers recognize it, and there's a giggly association with the
antiquated-notion-of-gender-segregation-as-"proper" concept, it's as much a
"code word" as any other term we use. But the association between a
particular term and position on the dance floor affords precision without
an excess of explanation; for dancers at an average level of
contra-literacy, caller says "improper", and they know where to be. Could
argue every term we use is "just a code word", doesn't make that precision
less valuable. [What the hell does "hey" describe?!]
"Reverse improper" (like "backwards becket") so lacks clarity it gives me
convulsions. If it's improper, 1s below 2s, well, that's
*progressed*improper, but dancers don't really need to know, they just
need to swing
their neighbor, and voila, progressed improper. But if a dance is reverse
progression, being clear about seems important (having experienced Jo
Mortland's "Galina" in situations where dancers *understood* the reverse
progression and others in which we were confused or unclear about it...).
And not all "indecent" dances are reverse progression.
I agree we should teach, to quote Woody, "in as few carefully-chosen words
as possible"; i agree with Michael that whether we go into detail about a
dance's progression is a case by case decision, but take issue with the
notion that which side of the set is "home" in a becket is a piece of
information that only matters when visualizing or reading choreography.
Maybe we could say, becket-CW versus becket-CCW are terms more useful to
visualizing choreography, while becket and becket-right are more useful to
dancers? I guess there's a point to be made - because i would never tell a
dancer something is "becket counterclockwise". I was mostly trying in
original post to make a point about proliferation of terms and need for
precision - iow, that *because we as callers lack a unified vocabulary for
certain less-common moves and formations, they remain rare and
automatically qualify as "challenging" with dancers because unlike more
common moves which are relatively standardized, they're a) infrequently
used b) referred to in different ways by different callers*. As opposed to
the more common "code words", like "hey" and "improper".
Here's an interesting question: do 1's still think of themselves as 1's
when a dance is becket?
Also back to the end-fx thread: teaching Chris Page's "Chain the Corner", I
once made a risque joke - "wait out at the end with your clothes off! it's
indecent, with the lady on the left" - and that's the one time dancers have
reliably remembered what i said about end effects ;]
Apologies if any of this sounded venomous; i just get frustrated when
people respond to anything but the point i was actually trying to make,
which is obviously my fault for not making the point clearly. y'all must
take with a grain of salt. Yet, in the pursuit of efficiency and precision,
some terms do give me convulsions.
~ seven of nine, tertiary adjunct of unimatrix zero one
Tavi asked, "What the hell does "hey" describe?"
Well, since you asked...
As far as we know it comes from the French "haie" or "haye" meaning "hedge".
There are two theories as to why a hedge should mean a weaving pattern:
1) hedges were made of interwoven branches - the path we follow in a hey is
the same path that a branch follows as it weaves between the other branches.
2) the term was also used to describe a line (or hedge) of soldiers lining
the route for the gentry - if you were to dance in and out of that line of
soldiers you would be following the path of a hey.
One of the earliest references we have of a hey is in Thoinot Arbeau's
Orchesographie from 1589. The Branle de la Montarde includes: Le premier
fait une haye, en passant par devant les femmes, & par derrier les hommes, &
se met a la queuhe prenant par la main la derniere femme. Roughly: The
leader then dances a hay, passing in front of the ladies and behind the men,
going to the end of the line and taking the last ladys hand.
Interestingly the very next dance in the book also has a hey, but this time
it is a hey as we know it:
Branle de la Haye: La dance de la haye que vous dictes est aultre: Elle se
dance par mesure binaire, comme la Courante Les danceurs seuls, & l'un aprez
l'aultre, premierement dancent l'air en façon de Courante, & sur la fin
s'entrelacent, & font la haye les uns parmy les aultres. Roughly: The
Branle de la Haye discussed here is different. It is danced in double
measures, like la Courante the dancers act individually, first dancing to
the tune in the fashion of la Courante, and then at the end, interlacing
themselves, they dance a hey each one between the others.
The text then describes a hey for three as we know it:
So, the term is quite descriptive, but only if you know where it came from
Hope that helps!
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
A quick thought on "backwards becket", which is the starting formation of
one of my dances as well - i tend to think of it as "becket indecent"
since that regularizes the term with other formation terms, implying lady
on the gent's left. The basic list of course - proper, improper, indecent,
improper-progressed, becket, becket-right (or CCW)... and then our friendly
distant outlier, the backwards becket.
I'd theorize one reason Bill's dance "Weeks on the Road" folk-processed to
start in normal becket is that "backwards becket" isn't a widely recognized
I run into the issue that - because becket-CCW dances are much less common
than becket-CW (though more common now thanks to some great dances from
Cary Ravitz and Heather Carmichael to name a couple) dancers zone out as
soon as i say "circle one place to the..." [AUTOPILOT kicks in, dancers
assume left]. Have found a variety of strategies to combat this, such as
circling them to the left three places, or spelling R-i-g-h-t so there's no
chance they, by some trick of perception, hear "left".
Bringing these points up because a) i believe that formations, like certain
moves, suffer from lack of use when general unfamiliarity on the dancers'
part creates situations where dancers go on autopilot and b) while callers
share common and frequently-used strategies for setting up / teaching /
introducing the more standard moves and formations, there's a less uniform
vocabulary and/or lack of shared strategies for the outliers...
just a thought, from someone who likes anti-becket (oh, crap, there's
ANOTHER way of saying becket-right) and reversed (or "mirrored") courtesy
turns (see what i'm saying about vocabulary?) and such... which are in no
wise more difficult than their normative counterparts, but confuse dancers
who don't encounter them often.
Last month @ Pinewoods George Marshall was calling the afternoon
contra sessions @ E & A. Lots of fun & really interesting dances.
On some of the beckets, where the cpl out at the end (whether partners
or neighbors) needed to stay right where they are, he taught/called,
'stand where you land'. I think diagonal chains or pass thrus would
usually put the cpl out in this position. Another nice call for end
effects for cpls who are not involved w/ a diagonal move (etc.) is,
'for those who can'.
If the dance has a very unusual series of end effects, I try to
analyze the scenario the end cpls are experiencing, then synthesize it
into the most helpful but pared down advice that will alert dancers to
at least what sorts of things to be ready for. This may not require
telling them every little pc, as it may differ slightly for top and
bottom cpls, depending on even or odd # of cpls in the line.
More specific example provided upon request. Would love to hear what
others have to say on topic.
"Feline dislocation syndrome" sounds like a good name for a dance.
A1) balance and jump onto your partner's lap (4)
sit there uncomfortably (12)
A2) jump off and wander anywhere (16)
B1) take a nap (16)
B2) keep walking around the hall
I'm in the process of programming tomorrow's Berkeley contra and my desk
> is covered wall-to-wall with a carefully-arranged layer of index cards.
> On the left edge is, was, the program I had sorted out before dinner.
> I came back in to take a look at it, carefully closing the door. My
> husband came in to ask a question, leaving the door open. Shortly
> thereafter, Sam the cat came flying through the air, skidding across the
> desk and sending cards flying every which way.
> I have finally, with the doors closed again, re-created something like
> the program I had earlier.
> This is another compelling argument for programming dances on the computer.
> Closing the door behind her
I mostly try to collect dances on the hoof so that I know how they feel
from the floor, but sometimes I do end up calling dances I haven't done
before, ones that I've gotten either from other callers or from written
sources. When looking at a dance in note form, how do you figure out
when it's likely to have end effects?
There's a particular becket dance I'm looking at right now, called Weeks
On The Road, by Al Olson (I just realized I've been spelling it "Olsen"
for some time. My apologies)
A1 On L diagonal, ladies chain
Across the set, 1/2 hey (wo by R)
A2 Balance and swing the neighbor you chained to
B1 Circle L 3/4
Balance the ring and CA twirl
B2 P balance and swing
If the dance starts with a neutral couple out at the end, that neutral
lady can chain in so that the complete foursome can do the dance, but if
there's no neutral couple to chain with, should the foursome dance with
a ghost, having sent that lady out to chain with nobody, or should the
lady who would normally chain out simply dance that round with her
partner as though she had just chained in from the end? If she does
that (ignore the chain on the diagonal and start the dance at the 1/2
hey), then she and her partner will wind up out at the end for the
balance and swing, which I guess is just fine. Hmm. OK, I seem to have
answered my own specific question here, but I'm still curious about the
general issue of how to tell when a dance is likely to have something
tricky at the ends.
Movement on the diagonal seems like an obvious warning sign. Another
one that I encountered a few nights ago is in Moon and Star Contra by
Don Flaherty, where a ring balance and CA twirl in the A1 leaves a cpl
alone at the ends for a very short wait while their original neighbors
star with someone else and then come back for a balance and swing. I
was noticing that everyone immediately crossed over, which is usually a
good impulse. In this case, though, they needed to just stay put and
wait for their neighbors to return. With the dance in progress, I
couldn't find a graceful way to give that information from the mic since
it was aimed at just 8 people out of the whole room, but was needed over
and over. I settled for sidling up behind occasional couples at the top
and telling them not to cross over, but there was still a lot of
confusion. So I guess another end-effect indicator would be short-term
movement out of the minor set? What else should I be watching for?
I'm in the process of programming tomorrow's Berkeley contra and my desk
is covered wall-to-wall with a carefully-arranged layer of index cards.
On the left edge is, was, the program I had sorted out before dinner.
I came back in to take a look at it, carefully closing the door. My
husband came in to ask a question, leaving the door open. Shortly
thereafter, Sam the cat came flying through the air, skidding across the
desk and sending cards flying every which way.
I have finally, with the doors closed again, re-created something like
the program I had earlier.
This is another compelling argument for programming dances on the computer.
Closing the door behind her
In the discussion of "How to devise a program" Kalia wrote:
"Have you found that your concept of the difficulty levels for any given dance has evolved or changed as your calling skills and style have grown
and changed over the years? I've certainly noticed a change with
English dances I had tagged as "easy" or "hard" early on in my calling
What are the specific skills one gains with calling experience?
How should/could these skills be passed along to beginning callers to expedite their development?
Michael Fuerst 802 N Broadway Urbana IL 61801 217-239-5844
Links to photos of many of my drawings and paintings are at www.ArtComesFuerst.com
Thanks to all of your help on my recent questions about calling,
contra dance figures, creative commons licenced works, etc. the first
full release of Contra Card, a LaTeX package / class for typesetting
dances and generating calling cards, has been released.
The (rather lacking, sorry, I got lazy) release notes can be found
here  along with a download of the documentation and source (see
the documentation for a full changelog and several examples of Contra
Card's use). The package will be live on CTAN (and TeXLive/MiKTeX) in
a few days. It will be available here  when the CTAN team get
around to updating it.
Thanks again for your help, and if you're a LaTeX user and use it for
anything interesting I'd love to hear from you. If you find an issue,
you can report it on GitHub . If you're not a LaTeX user, sorry for
the rather useless post.
P.S. If you'd like more examples of Contra Card's use, you can check
out my calling card library (which is slowly being digitized). It can
be found here  (see `dances.tex'; you'll have to compile a PDF