Luke Donforth wrote:
I often wonder about pairing breaks with figures… there's some meta-level stuff
I'd like to hear unpacked.
Another meta-level thing; which squares do you want to stay square to phrasing (besides
singing), and when does it not matter?
A break-out of expected teaching and time it takes: i.e. this is a figure you'll have
to walk once, versus this should be walked for heads & sides or everyone... A category
of "these squares won't take longer than a contra to teach (but are still
Thanks for your feedback, Luke.
Several folks have responded off-list to my book announcement, and I’m grateful for all
their thoughts. No one has suggested a broad category that I’d neglected to include, but
all have made good points and/or forced me to clarify my thinking about several
sub-categories. The more input I can get from a wide variety of callers and prospective
callers, the better off I and my readers will be.
Turning now to Luke’s requests:
On pairing breaks with figures, I’m not sure there’s much to say beyond: (1) Avoid
duplication. If the figure is based on stars, avoid them in the break; likewise with
chains. There’s a break that alternates “all circle left” with “corner swing” four times;
use it with a keeper figure, not one with a corner progression. (1a) Avoid immediate
repetition. If the figure begins with heads or sides promenade, don’t call a promenade at
the end of the opener and middle break. The same goes for forward and back. (2) Keep the
break simpler than the figure in most of the squares you call. If you have a favorite
tricky break, pair it with the simplest figure you know, one that barely needs a
walkthrough, or save it for a workshop.
Strict phrasing vs. loose or no phrasing: If a figure consists mainly of moves similar to
contras – moves that position the dancers precisely (e.g. chain, R&L through, certain
types of circles) – the moves should be synchronized with the musical phrases and the
calls should be prompted. Unphrased dancing and calling is a hallmark of the Southern
Mountain tradition, which favors figures in which the dancers describe circular paths
around and between one another. Even some of these “swooping” figures can be phrased if
desired; e.g. Lady Round the Lady is well-known as a singing or semi-singing call in the
Northeast. Grand Square should always be phrased; Grapevine Twist is hard to phrase. But
there’s a middle ground of figures where it’s the caller’s choice.
All this will be in the book, of course. I’ll also point out which squares are likely to
require enough teaching time to relegate them to workshops at camps and festivals, and
which can be safely used at mostly-contra evenings.
Keep the requests coming!