Neal, Can you clarify? Do you mean that you dance differently depending on
which side you begin the dance on? How does your style change?
On Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 10:49 PM, Ron Blechner via Callers <
I have danced at a bunch of genderfree dances, as well
as my home dance
having a lot of people who dance both roles. I can't say I've ever had this
"diet contra" experience.
My home dance is widely known among musicians and callers as a lively
crowd who brings good energy to performers. Proper and improper have little
relevance, but that doesn't stop a seeming endless supply of new
choreography being generated and called by various callers. Does it really
matter if I'm allemanding or swinging with a particular gender? I guess a
person can still choose to only dance with one gender if they really felt
But saying that genderfree dancing is bland? I mean, it's a folk community
dance. The whole point is we all dance in one big set together. If dancing
only to swing people of one gender means so much that contra is "diet"
without it, I would ask what exactly contra means to you?
On Feb 13, 2017 6:17 PM, "Woody Lane via Callers" <
I basically agree with Neal. I would not want to replace gents and ladies
with other arbitrary terms. For many of the same reasons.
Caller, Percussive Dancer
home: 541-440-1926 <(541)%20440-1926> cell: 541-556-0054
On 2/13/2017 2:51 PM, Neal Schlein via Callers wrote:
I do not want to replace gent and lady as terms, based on my own
Some context: I've been dancing for between 29 and 37 years, depending on
how you count--my parents met at a square dance and I grew up dancing. I
started calling about 18 years ago, and dance/call ECD, Scottish, squares,
contra, ballroom, and folk styles at varying levels of proficiency. Seeing
a man dancing the lady's role, or a woman dancing the gent's role, has
never, ever phased me. It's fun to swap, requires technical skill, speaks
well of a dancer who can do it well stylistically, and sometimes is
necessary to fill out a set. It is also an important skill for any caller,
and one callers need to know how to handle when it happens in special
situations; the callers I grew up with talked about when they first
encountered gay or one-gender crowds in the 60s and how they struggled to
adjust on the fly.
That said, I first encountered "gender-free" dancing at a Heather and Rose
(?) ECD dance outside of Eugene, Oregon about 15 years ago. I didn't know
what I was walking into, and thought it was a normal ECD event until they
lined up and started teaching.
They used several dances I was familiar with; I had been teaching some
older ECD dances for a graduate folklore class and recently returned from
Berea's Christmas Country Dance School. Aside from momentary confusion,
adapting to the unfamiliar terminology and random line-up was not a problem
What I couldn't adapt to was how being made "gender free" changed the
character of the dances I knew. They became less elegant, less
interesting, and were lessened overall. Switching between an A and a B
position meant nothing aside from (possibly) a slightly different floor
pattern. Proper and improper had no relevance. There was no stylistic
mastery needed to switch dance sides because any clue as to historically
demanded or intended stylistic differences had been stripped out--there
weren't even ROLES anymore, merely positions; there was nothing to hold
onto even as a guideline for playacting. The dances completely lost their
flavor and character. They became like Caffeine Free Diet Crystal Coke.
(I mean, honestly...WHY WAS THAT EVER MADE? Just drink water!)
Other folks may certainly disagree with me, and I have followed and agree
with the many counterpoints, but I personally believe that the terms
"gentlemen" and "ladies" (and their derivatives) positively influence
people behave and relate, and definitely how a dance is done. I don't
worry about that at special or family events, of course; I just want
everyone to get up and have a good time. But encouraging folks to learn
both roles to become better dancers is only meaningful if there is a
meaningful difference between the roles.
I am a happily married man and prefer to dance with women as partners and
corners. I don't mind dancing with men, but that's not what I go to dances
for; if I wanted to get close to a bunch of sweaty guys, I'd play
football. If we're honest, we can admit that the vast majority of our
general dancers (both new and old) are probably similar. So why not let
the dance reflect that? That's more likely to win friends than taking a
wonderful dance with character and making it into "gender free diet
Just my 2 cents.
Youth Services Librarian, Mahomet Public Library
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