On 6/25/2015 8:25 PM, Cary Ravitz via Callers wrote (regarding some of
the reasons why he finds squares less fulfilling than contras) :
> *For me*, this all comes down to dancer, music, motion connection. It
> can be wonderful in a contra. I've never found it in a square.
It's not just dancers and musicians in the hall, though. There's
another person up there on stage, and what squares provide that contras
really don't is a very live and fluid connection between the caller and
the dancers. With the average contra, the caller prompts until they can
get out of the way. The goal seems to be a sort of invisibility. But
with squares, there's a very direct connection between the dancers and
the caller, and it can be exhilarating. I experienced this recently
dancing a fast square to Lisa Greenleaf's impeccably-timed calling, and
there were points in there when she was calling sequences of moves so
fast that we didn't have time to think. It was immediate response, like
the calls went straight to the feet and hands and left the brains free
to enjoy the ride. It was unlike any contra. Not better. Different.
Excellent. And yes, it wasn't as much about the music. But it was very
much about putting complete trust in the caller to get us to the right
place at the right time.
Not all callers can do that, of course, and a bad square is (IMO) less
fun than a bad contra, but they can be REALLY good.
In my experience with technos, the biggest factors are:
- people can't see as well, and dances are often more crowded, so stuff
with higher collision potential are out. Orbits, pousettes, star promenadrs
- you draw a slightly different demographic, often newer dancers, so the
overall difficulty is lower and you're calling longer
- people get lost easier with less lighting, louder music, music whose
phrasing may not be as clear, and the trancey nature of it. Again, calling
- Matching balances can be a lot easier or harder, greatly varying on the
Good luck and have fun!
On Jun 29, 2015 11:11 AM, "Don Veino via Callers" <
> Have my first gig for a Techno contra coming up next week. Spoke with the
> band about dances selection and am culling through my cards for suitable
> dances now.
> Do you have any favorite easy-to-remember (not necessarily easy to call)
> dances that are interesting yet support dropping out on calls quickly?
> Callers mailing list
Have my first gig for a Techno contra coming up next week. Spoke with the
band about dances selection and am culling through my cards for suitable
Do you have any favorite easy-to-remember (not necessarily easy to call)
dances that are interesting yet support dropping out on calls quickly?
Rich asked for dances with one or zero swings. These are some of mine, many
aimed at beginners.
Duck! (by John Sweeney)
Contra; Improper; Double Progression
A1: Neighbour Dosido
Neighbour Two Hand Turn - open into a circle
A2: Circle Left; Circle Right
B1: Men Dosido
B2: Balance the Ring; #2s Arch, #1s Duck Through to New Circle
Balance the New Ring; #2s Arch, #1s Duck Through to face New
Do a quick California Twirl when you reach the end of the line
Finding Your Balance (by John Sweeney)
Contra; Becket (CW)
A1/A2: Four Changes all with Balances - Start Right with Partner and
B1: Balance the Ring; Men Cross
Balance the Ring; Ladies Cross
B2: Half Promenade
Yearn on the Left Diagonal to New Neighbours
Life is But A Melancholy Flower (by John Sweeney)
A1: Neighbour Dosido
Neighbour two hand Balance & Petronalla Turn for Two (Men now back to
back in the middle)
A2: Take Two Hands with Neighbour:
All Gallop* Down; All Gallop Up
B1: Start a Neighbour Gypsy; Men leave and Half Left Shoulder Gypsy with
B2: Balance the Ring; Petronella Turn
Balance the Ring; California Twirl
* Americans often say "sashay" - but that word doesn't give the right feel -
I mean gallop!
Rotafl (by John Sweeney)
Contra; Becket (CW)
A1: Yearn on Left Diagonal to a New Couple
A2:Long Lines Go F & B - Men Roll the Ladies from Right to Left
Long Lines Go F & B - Ladies Roll the Men from Right to Left
B1: Tapsalteerie Hey:
Ladies Half Hey, Men Ricochet
Ladies Ricochet, Men Half Hey
B2: Flutterwheel and sweep the Men in to:
Pestchye (by John Sweeney)
A1: Balance the Ring; Petronella
Balance the Ring; Petronella
A2: Hands Across: Star Left; Star Right - Men Drop Out
B1: Ladies' Chain x 2
B2: Half Promenade
Yearn to the Left
Dixie Doo-Dah (by John Sweeney)
A1: Neighbour Dosido & Swing - finish facing Down
A2: Down the Hall in Lines of Four; Dixie Twirl*
Up the Hall in Lines of Four; Bend the Line
B1: Balance the Ring; Men Cross
Balance the Ring; Ladies Cross
B2: Neighbour Two Hand Turn
Long Lines Go Forward & Back
* Dixie Twirl: No letting go: middle couple arch; end lady leads through the
arch to the other end facing up; end man goes straight across to the other
end facing up.
The Mad Gypsy (by John Sweeney)
Contra; Becket (CW)
A1: Ladies' Chain
Mad Robin - AC - Ladies through the Middle
A2: Full Hey - Ladies start Right Shoulder
B1: Ladies Gypsy
Neighbour Two-Hand Turn (or Swing)
B2: Balance the Ring; Ladies Cross
Yearn on the Left Diagonal
Someone mentioned that they didn't like the term "cross over". Whenever I
use it I mean pass by the right shoulder and turn right to face each other.
I also describe it as "half a gypsy to change places".
I hope you find some of those useful. Please let me know if you use them or
have any feedback.
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
I really, really don't like the term "giving weight". It is a technical
term that is too easily misunderstood. As soon as you mention giving weight
some people will start to lean or pull. I don't believe that leaning or
pulling have any place in contra dancing. All that leaning and pulling do
is throw your partner off balance and tire them out.
I do actually use a lean sometimes in teaching first-timers:
"Make a circle, elbows down, hands up, now lean back very slightly. Can you
feel a little tension in your arms? OK stand up straight and never, ever
lean again! :) That little tension you felt was the kind of tension you
need in your arms to feel connected to those on either side of you."
I talk about connection rather than giving weight.
I don't want your weight!
Please don't give me any of your weigh!
You are responsible for your own balance..
On the other hand I am very happy to connect to you and create a gentle
counterbalance so that we can rotate without flying apart. I will happily
use my muscles to counteract centrifugal force and control our combined
mass. (No, I don't normally talk about mass on the dance-floor!)
This applies to swings, allemandes, two hand turns and any other form of
rotation. It is not wrestling it is dancing. Always start at zero tension
and build up to the minimum that you need to do the move.
Someone said you should press back against your partner's hand in a swing.
Please don't - all you will do is tire me out! You connect to each other
and make a gentle frame; as you speed up centrifugal force will try to pull
you apart; you just apply your muscles to maintain the frame. It may now
feel like you are pushing against the hand, but you are not - centrifugal
force is doing all the pushing - adding to it is unnecessary.
Some dancers also put their hand on your back and press to pull you towards
them - again this is completely unnecessary and can be quite uncomfortable.
If I want someone to feel the connection I do a fast, skipping, two hand
turn with them, or a zesty Galway Swing, generating enough centrifugal force
so that they connect ("give weight") automatically.
Jonathan's description was good:
"They need to move their center of gravity backwards a little. This can be
done by bending the knees and waist a very little, as if you were going to
sit down. That plus the rotation should provide enough force to provide the
tension/counterweight. So we may want the dancers to move the core of their
body back a little, but not by leaning."
When you practice that sitting motion you should always do it individually
so that you learn to keep your own balance.
John Sweeney, Dancer, England <mailto:email@example.com>
john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362 & 07802 940 574
<http://www.modernjive.com> http://www.modernjive.com for Modern Jive
Events & DVDs
<http://www.contrafusion.co.uk> http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing
Yes you are correct, pointing out the benefits of squares is a much
better option than telling them to stay home. I included that
comment in hopes that callers might consider being less afraid of
what dancers think. I have no illusions that others would say that
to a dancer.
One aspect that makes squares attractive is the changing patterns.
For myself and others, dancing choreography that wasn't walked
through is very enjoyable. And changing the pattern doesn't have to
For partner changing squares there's a certain satisfaction/challenge
in performing the choreography well as a group and ending with your
partner again. Picking the correct square for this is crucial-not
too easy and not too hard.
Some people enjoy dancing squares to music where the phrasing is less
distinct. It's hard for me to describe but it's like dancing without
holding back. Or could it be described as charging ahead? Perhaps
some of you can describe this gooder than I can. This works well
with driving old time music.
Although I don't enjoy the visiting couple type square, I understand
that there are a number of groups who enjoy these types of squares
with very fast music. In central Virginia there're getting large
turnouts. I'm told that most of these dancers are young and not
contra dancers. I often hear of other groups in the country where
young dancers are discovering squares. Is this the future?
Jacob Bloom asked:
> How would those of you who enjoy both squares and contras
> describe what you get out of dancing square dances?
First off, I'll offer an opinion about this whole "contras vs.
squares" discussion that keeps popping up from time to time
on this list and elsewhere:
I think the likelihood of convincing someone, purely by
force of argument, to fall in love with a particular
dance form is similar to the likelihood of convincing
someone, purely by force of argument, to fall in love
with a particular other person.
That said, I can tell you that what first got me hooked on
both contras and squares (at my first evening of traditional
dancing, which included both) was surely the friendliness
of the people, together with the exuberant energy level
and the fact that I somehow muddled through without making
a complete fool of myself (or at least without being told
that I had).
It couldn't have been the swings, because I'm sure my swing
footwork was a stumbling, bumbling mess until I learned to
do a buzz-step swing several months later. Similarly it
couldn't have been the cool choreography or other things
that I wouldn't have been able to appreciate as a new
Five or six years later, after I'd moved from a (then)
square-centric community to a contra-centric community, a
thing I realized I missed about my former home was dancing
squares in the manner shown here:
( also at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAKT_PT-DSs )
( also at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BH9eozGRfpg )
Some notes on these videos:
1. For best effect be sure to watch with a fast connection.
If you get a lot of compression artifacts and/or pauses for
buffering, it'll really water down the excitement level.
2. I've never danced in the hall where these videos were made,
at Lovely Lane Church in Baltimore. Alas, I don't know of any
videos showing traditional square dancing in Pittsburgh, PA,
from when I lived there in the 1980s. These videos are the
ones that come closest to capturing the kind of dancing I
remember. Larry Edelman, the caller in these videos, was one
of the regular callers in Pittsburgh when I lived there. He
moved to Baltimore around the time I moved to California, and
he now lives in Colorado.
3. The music in the videos is darn fast. When I asked Larry
about it, he wrote "... there wasn't any way to put the brakes
on that band - I tried!!" The usual tempos for square dances
in Pittsburgh (and probably also in Baltimore) weren't as fast
as that, though they were faster than typical contra tempos.
While the tempos that night may have been higher than usual,
it's clear that the dancers in the videos were up to dancing
at that speed.
4. Larry assures me that the videos are not from a special
event or weekend, but from a regular open-to-the-public dance
with a program that included a mix of squares and contras.
Bob Dalsemer, who made the video, did tell me that he was
focusing on squares with the most skilled/experienced dancers
When I try to look carefully at the squares in the background,
I do seem to notice occasional glitches, but they don't happen
often, and the dancers seem to recover quite quickly.
On Sat, Jun 27, 2015, George Mercer via Callers wrote:
> Not disagreeing with anything but explaining that when I tell dancers
> "squares are just like contras only you have to listen" I am not so much
> characterizing one or the other, but asking, even begging, the dancers to
> pay attention to what the caller is calling. Many contra dancers are
> notoriously bad listeners, especially experienced ones and they tend to set
> an example for inexperienced dancers, good and bad. Noit listening in a
> contra can lead to problems. Not listening in a square is often an outright
> disaster. That's all.
...and speaking as someone who does both contra and MWSD, I'll stick
myself in the "notoriously bad listener" camp at contra dances. OTOH,
in all fairness, most contra callers are considerably more difficult to
understand than square dance callers. (Partly due to sound being
directed more at good music sound.)
I'm probably not the only person with that habit.
Hugs and backrubs -- I break Rule 6 http://rule6.info/
<*> <*> <*>
Help a hearing-impaired person: http://rule6.info/hearing.html
Not disagreeing with anything but explaining that when I tell dancers
"squares are just like contras only you have to listen" I am not so much
characterizing one or the other, but asking, even begging, the dancers to
pay attention to what the caller is calling. Many contra dancers are
notoriously bad listeners, especially experienced ones and they tend to set
an example for inexperienced dancers, good and bad. Noit listening in a
contra can lead to problems. Not listening in a square is often an outright
disaster. That's all.
On Thu, Jun 25, 2015 at 11:00 PM, Ron Blechner via Callers <
> I didn't read Cary's comments about squares as an "objection", just
> that Cary was rebutting the comment by George: "squares are just like
> contras, only you have to listen."
> On Thu, Jun 25, 2015 at 10:40 PM, Jacob Nancy Bloom via Callers
> <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
> > Cary, some of your objections to squares seem a bit contradictory. Let
> > re-state them, and see if I've understood you correctly.
> > Some squares are unphrased, and those squares have less opportunity to
> > connect your movement to the music.
> > Many squares are danced for a shorter time than contradances are usually
> > danced, and therefore take relatively longer to teach compared to the
> > dancing time.
> > Many squares are mixers, and therefore have less time dancing with your
> > original partner than in a contra.
> > Some squares have visiting couple dances, in which the dancers can only
> > movements in place during some of the music.
> > In all square dances, the need to listen for the calls interferes with
> > relationship you would like to have with the music.
> > Have I understood your points correctly? Or have I not quite understood
> > your meaning?
> > Jacob Bloom
> > On Wed, Jun 24, 2015 at 10:34 PM, Cary Ravitz via Callers
> > <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
> >> Some things that people to not like about squares -
> >> less movement/music connection due to lack of strict phrasing
> >> having to listen to the caller breaks the movement/music connection
> >> teaching time
> >> mixer squares breaks the partner connection
> >> visiting squares leave people "out of the dance" for long periods.
> >> I find squares and contras completely different.
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