I've been teaching ECD in Ft. Myers (Florida)
since Jan 2007, and we're now
trying to establish a contra group. I've been given the opportunity to call a
contra dance at the Edison & Ford winter estates in Ft. Myers on Sept 20th - I
began contra dancing at Lovett hall, danced there for 13 years and attended the
final dance there, so I fully understand the significance of this - and am
looking for resources, ideas, any sort of help. Depending on the success of
this contra, the estates are willing to work with us on having a monthly dance.
The contra will be part of the opening day ceremonies
for the new exhibit -
Ford; Movies, Music and Dance. It will be 4 hours long, with a 20 min break.
The estates prefer that I do it as 2 separate sessions. I would like to keep it
somewhat historical. The attendees will be primarily estate members (non
dancers). We also have to involve the local ballet school as they are members
and recognised in the community.
The separate sessions idea is a very good one; it's hard to get non-dancers
through a four-hour dance.
Taking this out of order:
I have an amazing band who can play anything... I just
have to come up with a
fun programme and would like it to reflect how beautiful and how much fun
contra, real contra, can be.
I think you need to give that idea up immediately. (Depending on how you
define "real contra", but if you mean "longways duple minor improper with
partner swing and a neighbor swing", you need to let it go.)
What you have here is a one-night-stand party. (Actually, two one-night-stand
parties. It's two separate sessions, so even if you build up to longways
duple improper in the first half, the people who join up in the second half
will be back to not knowing anything.)
Your best bet of impressing the estates enough to make it a monthly dance is
for the people who are actually there to have a great time. So you need
*extremely* accessible dances. Luckily, Ford promoted extremely-accessible
Get a copy of "Good Morning". (Ford is sometimes listed as author, but it was
Mr. Lovett who wrote it; Ford sponsored publication.) I didn't know until I
checked ebay just now that a new edition came out in 2003 - I have the '26 and
'48 editions, but I'm at work now and can't lay hands on them. This has
clear instructions for useful material.
In my research I've found the following dances
menetioned as onees that HF
would have done: Gavotte, Minuet, Varsouvianna, Black Hawk Waltz, Blue Pacific
Waltz. I think it would be best if I taught some of these to the ballet
students and let them perform them during the break.
Ford supported couple dances and square dances. Some of those couple dances
are *extremely* accessible, and you should probably do them with the crowd.
Don't be confused by the names; the "Minuet" and "Gavotte" that
Ford did are
not the Baroque dances for which the ballet school people already know
Have the ballet school people learn them and demo them, but some the crowd can
do. (I think pretty much anybody can be expected to two-step - but waltzing is
challenging, so dance "the Badger" and "Heel and Toe Polka" with the
using the ballet students for demos and as shills (go out and ask people to
dance), and have the ballet school perform "Waltz Minuet" and "Highland
Schottische". If you have good demo people, "Hungarian Varsovienne ('as
at Dearborn')" is doable by a newbie crowd. "Rye Waltz" (don't use
in the Barnes couple dance book - it doesn't line up) has an easy sequence and
relatively brief closed waltz.
(From "Good Morning") Victorian/Edwardian/American
Any good four-four march time.
Part I - Open Position
1 Couples join nearest hands and walk four steps forward
(start outside foot)
2 Two hands: three slides (slips) and one step in LOD
3 Open facing other way, four steps in reverse LOD
4 Two hands: three slips and one step in reverse LOD
Part II - Ballroom (waltz) position
4 Eight slow two-steps in LOD.
(From "Good Morning") Edwardian/Victorian/American
Music: Part 1 is cut time, 8 bars; part 2 is waltz time.
couple dance; waltz/minuet.
Part I - Open position
1- 2 Starting outside foot, take 3 steps and point toe of free foot
3- 4 Face reverse LOD, changing hands. As above, on new outside foot.
5- 6 Face partner, keep hold of same hands; step onto free foot and
point with other foot; step and point the other way.
7- 8 Woman turns under man's left arm into ballroom position.
Part II - Ballroom position
1-16 Closed waltz.
I've not called much
contra before - but then I'd never called ECD 22 months ago and now we have a
group of 30 regulars and are approaching our second annual dance weekend - so
would like some help choosing easier but fun dances to teach to a complete
group of newbies. I thought of The Virginia reel, Money musk (done as a triplet
with 4 couples as in Scottish) and Chorus Jig. Also the Gay Gordons and
Schottische which I have experience teaching to strangers in bars and coffee
shops in under 5 mins.
I endorse Gay Gordons, a schottische, and the Virginia Reel. Chorus Jig is
asking a lot. (As a triple minor, you have to deal with triple minor
progression. As a duple minor, the contra corners go outside your minor set and
plenty of somewhat-experienced contra dancers are confused by it. The move
doesn't sing if people are just confused. I've seen Jim Saxe teach this move
quickly and well to a crowd that was about 1/3 beginners, but I know I wouldn't
like to try it with all beginners. I *love* Chorus Jig, but I don't think I'd
call it under these circumstances. You could do "White Cockade" (early
American version) as a duple and use the Chorus Jig tune if you want, but I
question the necessity of doing a longways at all.
Morrison, key G, common time, longways triple or duple, AABB
A1: 1s down the outside and back.
A2: 1s down the middle and back, cast off one couple
B1: Circle six (or four) around and back.
B1: 1s and 2s (above) 4 changes of R&L, no hands.
Good Morning has some nice, simple, square dances. (It helps if you can carry
a tune, but you can also sort of chant instructions.
THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME
From "Good Morning"
The head cou-ple lead up to the right,
and balance there so kindly,
and pass right through and balance, too
and swing that girl behind you.
And right and left through and a-way you go,
and on to the next and balance
Right hand to partner, grand right and left.
Repeat four times.
Active couple leads to the right and sets;
split that couple and each couple faces the other couple; set;
and swing the opposite lady; open up facing old partner.
(The one you've got now is your new partner.)
Right and left through with old partner and new one;
repeat twice more until the man gets home.
Grand right and left.
Repeat with second man active; at the end of all that everybody should
have regained their partners.
Other than that, I'd say you want some reasonably straightforward Sicilian
circles, like Spanish Waltz or Soldier's Joy, and maybe a free waltz and a free
polka for those who know, which'll serve as mini-breaks for those who don't.
Hope this helps!