Completely agree with this perspective. Contra is, at its heart, more of a community
dance than a partner dance, because you dance with so many different people during the
course of one dance. I think that, over the years, contra has become more of a
partner-centered dance, and I often see dancers outright ignore their neighbors to give
full attention to their partners at all times.
I also must be from the old school, because short periods of inactivity during a dance has
never bothered me, and like Rich I do tend to appreciate that. I think that the desire
for contra to be fast-paced and always-moving, while exciting for many contra dancers, has
turned off many other long-time contra dancers.
But the trend does seem to be for fast-moving high-energy dancing, and I do think that
callers need to be somewhat concerned with that. However, I also think that callers also
need to be concerned with the folks who don't move so fast and like the periods of
inactivity, where they can get themselves set if need be and be where they want to be for
the next move. Trying to integrate all types of dancers is what makes this a true form of
From: Rich Sbardella <richsbardella(a)gmail.com>
To: Perry Shafran <pshaf(a)yahoo.com>
Cc: Shared_Weight_Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2015 2:41 PM
Subject: Re: [Callers] More on Programming
I differ with Cary's generalized storyline of contra being "uniting of
partners". If I had to generalize a storyline, it would be of building community. I
may be wrong, but I think David Kaynor, in his calling booklet, referred to your
"hands four" group as your "neighborhood". I love that terminology.
I often choose new or weak dancers as partners, and I rely on the support of these
neighborhoods to make the dance enjoyable.
In a square the neighborhood changes from four dancers to eight but you stay with them
longer. In most mixer squares, if called and danced correctly, the partner relationship
is restored as the dance resolves.
As a dancer, I love squares. It is a refreshing change, thus adding variety without
difficulty, during an evening of contras. Squares often provide a rest period as others
dance. This is a plus, not a minus; as I age, I appreciate the rest.
I have found that some callers who are quite competent with contras, are terrible with
squares, I also see callers choosing squares that are too difficult for an open contra
dance, thus causing failure on the floor. Calling squares is a different art than calling
contras. Choosing squares carefully with an adequate walk thru is essential. If a caller
gets too much negative feedback, or no positive feedback, perhaps that caller should not
be calling squares.
Another problem is that squares are not called often enough at some series. The concept
of corners, opposites, home position, RH lady, etc,, are foreign to many contra dancers.
These are all EZ concepts but all together in a four minute blitz, every once in a while,
can be overwhelming.
Adding squares regularly to our programs would enhance and expand the experience.
Squarely, (can I say that?)Rich SbardellaStafford, CT
On Thu, Jun 25, 2015 at 9:09 AM, Perry Shafran via Callers
See, this is what I mean, when I get advice from some callers that say one thing and
advice from other callers that say the complete opposite.
I figure that there are lots of different people on the floor. Some people LIKE squares,
believe it or not. Whenever I see squares called, yeah, there are some people who head
for the sidelines, but generally I see dancers on the floor having a good time. So I
learned some time ago that for everyone who grumbles about a square being called, there
are 10 others who love it.
As for insisting that every dance has two swings AND the neighbor swing MUST come before
the partner swing, that seems to be a personal preference rather than a hard and fast
rule. I think that most dancers don't really care which one comes first. I went to a
dance weekend this past weekend where there were more than a few dances with no neighbor
swing, and it appeared that everyone had a great time dancing.
I have long been taught that variety is the spice of life, and people do enjoy squares
mixed in with a contra, as well as varied choreography. Varied choreography makes the
dance interesting. Hard and fast rules limit the choreography that you can do and
excludes many all-time great dances that might have a neighbor swing or a partner swing
first (like Joyride and Ramsay Chase). And let's not even talking about throwing in
an occasional chestnut in there - we have to get rid of all those wonderful dances because
they are "boring" by today's standards. (Except to those folks who love
them of course!)
From: Cary Ravitz via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
To: Shared_Weight_Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2015 10:34 PM
Subject: Re: [Callers] More on Programming
Why swings in every dance - because that is a huge part of the contra experience, a swing
with the person that you asked to dance.
Why should the partner swing follow the neighbor swing - because this is an art form, not
an exercise routine. The storyline of a contra is the uniting of partners, not the the
breaking up of partners (that's my preference anyway). And in practical terms, I want
to be with my partner at the end of a dance to thank them quickly before finding another
"Squares are just like contras, only you have to listen" - this is not correct.
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
mixer squares breaks the partner connection
visiting squares leave people "out of the dance" for long periods.
I find squares and contras completely different.
On Wed, Jun 24, 2015 at 11:47 AM, George Mercer via Callers
I may not be a good example or even that good a caller, but ... I like swings, I have no
need to have a neighbor swing in every dance and most certainly don't care where in
the dance the neighbor swing happens. That's making up rules for the sake of having
rules. I like the buzz step, but to put it mildly there are many dancers with whom a buzz
step is impossible, difficult or merely uncomfortable. I teach a walking swing and
sometimes demonstrate a buzz step with a little time for practice. Far too many callers
and beginner workshop instructors teach a buzz step in a way that promotes bouncing, which
in turn makes swinging difficult or worse. I've also heard more than one
caller-instructor tell dancers that to "give weight" (an inadequate term) they
should lean back. Just kill me. As a dancer, I often combine a walking swing-with a buzz
step -- especially if we have gotten out of sync with the music. I come down on to the
floor when I think it's required. On two occasions recently while dancing, the person
I was dancing with said, "Well, this a dance the caller has never actually danced
before. If she or he had, she or he wouldn't have chosen it." Amen. I was at an
dance recently where a mixer was called near the end of the evening. I'm not sure what
that was all about. Once early in my limited calling career,just as the first dance got
underway about 20 newcomers walked in. I then called several dances without swings, just
to get them acclimated to moving in rhythm and with the music. I'll never do that
again. I was too cautious and shouldn't have been. I honestly was afraid the
experienced dancers were going to hurt me. And they say I can't learn. Perhaps my
biggest peeve on the dance floor is the experienced dancers who insist on sharing their
bad dance habits (swinging backwards, excessive and unexpected twirling -- I almost wrote
twerking --, inappropriate dipping, showing how athletic and fancy they are, etc.) with
new dancers rather than helping them learn the basic fundamentals, timing and courtesy. I
love squares. Not everyone does, but I often explain to people in my square, "squares
are just like contras, only you have to listen." And finally, callers, please stop
telling people that when they reach the end of the line, "they're out."
This seems to encourgae dancers to think, "Well now, I don't have to pay
attention." While they are on the floor they should "stay in the dance."
That just may be me. Thanks, George
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