Thanks Jeff for putting together this survey! This is all really
On Feb 12, 2017 9:03 AM, "Jeff Kaufman via Callers" <
As part of thinking about how whether non-gendered
terms would work for
mainstream contra dances, I thought it would be good to ask callers what
they thought. Is it something where most callers were only willing to call
Gents/Ladies, or are they more flexible? Do they generally support this
sort of change, or do they think it's a bad idea?
I wrote to people who have called BIDA in the last year, plus the ones who
are currently booked, to ask them whether:
- A dance like BIDA switching to gender free terms is better, worse,
or about the same.
- They have a preference between Larks/Ravens and Jets/Rubies.
- They would be willing to call Larks/Ravens or Jets/Rubies if a dance
Of the 18 callers I wrote to, 17 responded. Of them, all but one was
willing to call Larks/Ravens or Jets/Rubies, though several said (without
my having suggested it) that they wouldn't be willing to call Lead/Follow.
Many of the respondents didn't say whether they were in favor of the
switch. Of the 11 who did respond, it was 5x yes, 3x ambivalent, and 3x no.
Nine callers preferred Jets/Rubies because they find it easier to say, but
no one so much that they were willing to call Jets/Rubies but not
Some freeform responses, lightly edited:
"I prefer Jets/Rubies, but only slightly. I can see the benefit of
'L'/'R' matching the default swing ending position with the initial
but I think I'd make fewer mistakes with Jets/Rubies. Not enough to sway a
"My personal preference is for Jets/Rubies, but that's just because
it's easier for me to say right now. I'm sure that if I practiced
Larks/Ravens would be fine too. If the point of using gender free terms is
to distance the roles even further from gender, than I'd go with
Larks/Ravens. Jets/Rubies sounds very similar to Gents/Ladies, and some
callers slip up and say 'Gents' for 'Jets'."
"The birds are arbitrary terms and seem to have fewer unwanted(?)
associations than the rock terms. So I'm for the birds."
"I'm not wildly positive about either Larks/Ravens or Jets/Rubies, but
if I had to choose one set, it would be Larks/Ravens. To me, Jets/Rubies
carries a lot of baggage: It sounds enough like Gents/Ladies that it
invites the reaction 'Who are they trying to kid?' The lack of logical
association between jewels (inanimate objects) and dancing (an intimate
human activity) makes the use of Jets/Rubies feel as if the series is being
run by an in-group with a secret language. (I realize the two foregoing
reactions are contradictory, but these are gut reactions, not necessarily
rational ones.) Also, 'Jets' makes me think of the gang in West Side Story,
and also of airplanes (more inanimate objects). To sum up, the word in a
dance context has no positive associations for me, and some negative ones.
Larks/Ravens has no baggage for me, doesn't reinforce gender stereotypes,
and has a built-in mnemonic with the L/R initials."
"Enough people are offended by 'Jets' sounding too close to
that I think Larks/Ravens is a much easier sell."
"My preference would be Jets/Rubies, because the sound similarity to
traditional terms make the transition easier. (I understand that that very
feature makes it the less desirable choice in some people's view.)"
"As a caller who learned with Gents/Ladies, I find Jets/Rubies the
easiest to use."
"I've never used Larks/Ravens. I've used Jets/Rubies, and felt fairly
comfortable with it. Larks/Ravens makes more sense to me. Definitely happy
to use either one."
"I have a preference for Jets/Rubies but the only terms I *will not
use* are Leads/Follows."
"I don't have a preference between those two sets of terms. I am also
comfortable with Lead/Follow, but know that this is also a challenging
choice for some people and I understand why it's maybe not the best pick. I
like it because those terms have dance connotations"
"I like Jets/Rubies because regular contra dancers from other places
can come in and dance without needing anything to be explained to them
since the terms are pretty similar to Gents/Ladies. Also, Larks/Ravens
sounds a little silly."
"As far as Jets/Rubies vs Larks/Ravens, I like using Jets/Rubies
because they sound almost the same as Gents/Ladies. For my rhymes and
patter, it's a pretty easy substitution. But my first impression of the
terms is that they are still kind of gendered, or at least can be
interpreted that. 'Jets' sounds aggressive and masculine, and 'Rubies'
definitely feminine. "
"I can't imagine trying to turn a singing square gender free."
"From the point of view of a caller trying to get a new set of words
out of my mouth when significant chunks of my teaching and prompting are
automatic, I think that I would prefer Jets/Rubies for a few reasons.
First, I think that I would manage to confuse myself and stumble around
switching 'Gents' to 'Larks', which starts with the same letter as
'Ladies', and might be more likely to flip-flop the two. Also, I know that
it has been successfully used, but the initial consonants of Larks/Ravens
aren't nearly as contrasted as are those of Jets/Rubies (or of
"Not really a preference, although as a caller perhaps Jets/Rubies is
a slightly easier transition."
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