I think part of the challenge with contra is that there is so little
teaching done at dances. Technique is very rarely taught; people are just supposed to
pick it all up as they go along. As a result people who can get through challenging
dances consider themselves “advanced” while still having no basic dancing skills.
One of the most frustrating sequences for me is “Men Allemande Left 1.5;
Neighbour Swing”. I like to spin out of the Allemande into my Neighbour’s arms for the
Swing. But no-one ever teaches Allemande technique and very few dancers do it well (the
ladies tend to be much better than the men). I get offered all sorts of strange hand
positions; the dancers put their arms at strange angles which prevent you disengaging
smoothly; many of the dancers seem to think that they are arm-wrestling instead of
dancing; some of them have misunderstood the term “give weight” and lean away strongly so
that I have to devote myself to stopping them from falling over (very tiring!); and,
possibly as a result of all this poor connection, they don’t move fast enough - their
steps are too small. All of this means that getting around 1.5 times takes too long and
there is no time to add a spin out of the Allemande.
You can’t build on shifting sands.
Whenever I teach a Swing Variations workshop I always start by going over
the basics of a good swing. It’s amazing how many people afterwards thank me and say they
hadn’t realised that they could improve their basic swing. See
You may also find some ideas you can use at
For improving technique in twirls (e.g. in and out of swings, and multiple
twirls in a Ladies’ Chains), see http://modernjive.com/history/tension.html
. Although this
article was written for a different dance style, the technique points apply equally well
to contra twirls. Note: this article refers to Lead & Follow which is not a
fundamental part of contra dance. However, for many flourishes the Lead & Follow
principles apply for the duration of that flourish.
Some flourishes that can be done easily by yourself are:
Spin into a Tidal Wave (long wavy line)
Twirl yourself going from Up The Hall in Lines of Four into a Circle Left
Spin yourself out of Allemandes - great fun if you can do all four in a Contra Corners
Do something on beat four of Long Lines Go Forward & Back: shimmy, stamp, hip bump the
opposite person (if you know them well), bow…
I hope some of that helps.
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com <mailto:email@example.com>
01233 625 362 & 07802 940 574
for Live Music Ceilidhs
for Dancing in Kent
for Modern Jive DVDs
From: Callers <callers-bounces(a)lists.sharedweight.net
<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> > On Behalf Of Lenore Frigo via
Sent: 26 April 2019 22:45
To: callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net <mailto:email@example.com>
Subject: [Callers] Easy flourishes or other "bonus" movements?
I would like to teach some of my more advanced dancers some flourishes or other
embellishments to contra dance. I'd like to start with things that are easy and
obviously that can be smoothly integrated into a dance.
Simpler is better and I am especially looking for "extras" that can be done
singly rather than within a couple. For example, simply twirling during a do-si-do, or
little "meanwhile" things you can do while waiting out as your partner
allemandes with their diagonal.
I've found some YouTube videos, but they tend to be for more elaborate technique than
I am interested in introducing at this time.
Thanks for any thoughts, tips, support, or warnings! :)