I finally composed a response to the original complainant. Here it is,
followed by an almost instant reply from him (yes, it is a male):
Thank you for letting us know about your experience at our dance. I am glad
our community was so welcoming and friendly to you. I hope you remember
that in the future.
As for the term "gypsy," it has been used in contra dancing for decades,
and is not my invention. I am sorry you were offended by my use and
description of it. It is my habit to let dancers know the name and author
of each dance I call, and "gypsy" is in the title of that dance. I regret
my description of the move as "flirty." I thank you for reminding me that
some people are uncomfortable with that, and I will no longer suggest it.
As for the name of the move itself, you are correct in that it has never
been meant as a pejorative. I cannot, however, change it on my own. Contra
is a folk dance and the folk process takes time. There is no governing body
in charge of naming the terms used in contra dancing. When someone invents
a new move they give it a name and it gradually works its way into the
I can assure you that callers nationwide are discussing this and other
terms we use which we are learning are offensive to others. We are
endeavoring to change what we can, but you might imagine that coming to a
consensus between many hundreds of callers is neither swift nor sure. This
is especially true, given the lack of a governing body.
For my part, I have decided to remove the term "gypsy" from my calling and
am searching for a substitute. It is not in my power to rename dances. At
Emerald City Contra Dance we book approximately 25 different callers every
year, from across the United States and beyond. I am just one. Please
understand that if you return to our dance you may hear that term used
again, until such time as awareness has spread as far and wide as the
Caller and ECCD Organizer
Thank you for your very thoughtful and informative response. I feel much
better about continuing to attend, hearing that there is an awareness of
this issue and conversations happening about it.
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