I was programming a contra evening earlier today, taking into consideration
the abilities of the dancers in that particular dance community. When I
finished, I looked back at two previous programs for the same venue. The
dance evenings were about six months apart.
It turns out that more than half the dances I chose today were repeats from
the previous evenings, and I subsequently reprogrammed the evening. (I
usually look backwards before programming, and this was an experiment.)
I tend not to repeat dances at evenings that are close in time and/or
location, but I must acknowledge that occasionally the best choice for a
particular slot may be a repeated dance.
The question I have is what is a tolerable level of repeating dances from
one evening to another.
When I began calling contras, this was a bigger concern to me. I had four
dances in CT in four weeks, and a dancer challenged me to avoid duplicate
dances. I accepted the challenge and mostly succeeded. Anyway the dancer,
who was at all four dances, latter told me that he was only joking. He
went on to say that each evening had a different band, and that he danced
with a different partner for each dance, and that in reality they would
have felt very different to him even if I had repeated them.
Michael Dyck wrote:
> Quigley wrote the paper in 1992, about hearings held in 1988.
> A look at http://www.loc.gov/folklife/guides/squaredance.html
> suggests that little has happened on that front since then.
Some years ago, after the 1988 bill failed to pass, I heard (from several sources I consider reliable) that the modern square dance (MSD) people had decided to take a breather from lobbying Congress and to concentrate their efforts at the state level. When a majority of states had passed laws naming the square dance as their state dance, the MSD people planned to go back to Congress and say "See, the American people want this."
I'm sorry to say that quite a few states have gone this route - "sorry" because, in a way, having so many states with the same "official" dance is worse than having a national dance. The state level is where diversity should manifest itself. For the most part, each state has its own flower, tree, bird, song, food, etc. and is proud of them and their relative uniqueness.
On the bright side, MSD has undergone such a decline that its advocates may not have even the clout they did in 1988. (Attendance at the National SD Convention used to routinely approach and often exceed 20,000; lately it's hovered around 3,000. Most of the clubs in New England that existed 20-30 years ago have folded.)
To be clear, I'm fine with the existence of MSD; what annoys me is when its practitioners refer to it as "_square_ dancing" (with a definite accent on the first word) and speak and act as if it's the only dance form entitled to the name. (For those of you who weren't active in the '80s: The MSD people at that time spoke out of both sides of their mouths. When traditionalists complained that "square dance" in the wording of the bill really meant MSD, MSDers added a line to the bill saying "square dance" included "square, round, clogging, contra, and heritage dance," "heritage" being their made-up term for traditional squares plus Colonial and other period dances. But outside of those lobbying efforts, many MSDers continued fighting to exclude traditional dance forms from the public's image of square dancing. Bob Dalsemer, who was an esteemed traditional caller even then, spoke to this point in his testimony against the 1988 bill.)
I take no pleasure in seeing clubs disappear, but I do feel some relief that MSD's influence on American culture seems to be waning.
New book! Square Dance Calling: An Old Art for a New Century
(to be published real soon)
Jeeze - I thought this cr*p died out last century. It endures. What riles me in the shear arrogance of the MSSD fraternity.
The link below is to Colin Quigley's recent repost.
Reflections on the Hearing to Designate the Square Dance as the American Folk Dance of the United States: Cultural Politics and an American Vernacular Dance Form
Quigley, Colin . Yearbook for Traditional Music ; Canberra 33 (2001): 145.
''Dance in its socio-political aspects,'' one theme of the ICTM Ethnochoreology Sub-Group Symposium at which this paper was presented(1), was a timely one immediately following, as it did, the Los Angeles riots of spring 1992. At that time, one could open the arts section of a newspaper or magazine to find debate raging over such concepts as multiculturalism and diversity. Such controversy within the arts community might have seemed merely a side show to the profound inter-racial, -ethnic, and -class conflicts that erupted then in Los Angles into some of the largest American civil unrest of the century, but the social and political struggle over diversity in our country is a dispute with serious implications for those engaged in arts research as well as for activists and advocates in the public sector. I will approach this large and pervasive issue by examining the terms in which one such debate--the legislative effort to have Congress designate the square dance as the national American folk dance--has been cast. My discussion of the cultural politics of the square dance form, with which I am familiar through both personal participation and research, will utilise primarily the statements of those who testified before the congressional committee considering the proposed legislation in 1988. I will ''unpack'' the rhetoric of contention and deconstruct the discourse as represented in the text of the hearing. In its published form the hearing documents constitute approximately fifty pages of testimony by four panels of witnesses for and against the proposed legislation (U.S. Congress 1988). These witnesses include advocates for the bill representing leaders of various organised square dance associations and dance callers; opponents include recognised dance performers from African-American, Hispanic-American, and Native American ethnic groups, as well as professional folklorists and one square dance caller not affiliated with the sponsoring organisations. I will cull from their testimony the active rhetoric and analyse the terms of its construction, seeking the roots of its power to persuade, contextualising terms as needed so that the reader might appreciate the ideologies their use invokes. As I proceed I will note the concomitant legacies with which American folk dance scholarship continues to grapple and elucidate the implications of different positions. The two sides arrayed against one another in this debate represent tensions with a long history in the U.S. but now of global significance as well. Close examination reveals that the opposition is constructed in shared terms, each containing and evoking the other's view. I hope such insight offers hope of surmounting these conflicts through recasting its terms. Indeed, I chose to examine the rhetoric of this debate, which might seem overly transparent in an American ......
context, for presentation in this international forum, with the hope that better understanding of American cultural politics may provide a stimulating foil against which to view other dispositions of what I believe to be central issues of our times. This legislation, a similar bill defeated in 1986, and a previously successful bill designating the square dance as the national folk dance for the year of 1984, was proposed by leaders of the nationwide network of recreational clubs,who perform what is generally referred to as modern Western square dance. They actively campaigned for its passage, presenting numerous petitions with thousands of signatures gathered from their membership to the congressional committee.
(1) ICTM Ethnochoreology Study Group symposium, Nafplion, Greece, 4 July 1992.
For a long time now, I have used Red on the Right and ye_LL_ow on the
Left as alternatives to gender-named roles. Even before the current
movement toward gender neutrality for adult dances, I found that using
gender-neutral roles was useful for youth dances because kids are still
developing their comfort level with the opposite gender, as well as
developing their own sexual identity, and various levels of maturity
bring in all kinds of unintended implications of being partners with
someone for a dance. The truth is, for most of the dances I call for
youth events, it doesn't matter who is on the right or left, so the
traditional "lady" and "gent" role is irrelevant. But even something
like "ladies (or girls) into the middle and back" and then "gents (or
boys) into the middle and back" can get laden with angst, so Reds and
Yellows are better names. (For Gallopede, instead of a girls' line and
boys' line, I identify the Red Team and Yellow Team). Boys are more
willing to dance with other boys when no one is labeled as the "girl"
and vice-versa. And then, if by some miracle, the group is really
advanced and I want to teach them a simple contra, where you really do
have to put the "lady" on the right, Red-on-the-Right has nice
alliteration, and the visual cue of the arm bands is very helpful.
Since organizers started asking for gender-neutral language for adult
dances, I have found that the Reds and Yellows are less confusing for
both beginners and experienced dancers than "leads and follows" or any
of the other labels that are currently being bandied about. The VISUAL
cue of the arm band helps dancers remember which is their role, since
the label is not anything anyone naturally identifies with. (Humans are
not actually Larks or Ravens, or Jets or Rubies, or whatever, so it's
one more step of mental processing to first remember which role is
yours, before you can respond to the call and do the next move. The
visual cue helps make this easier and faster). I know the issue of
gender language is a hot topic right now, and it's really a separate
discussion. I'm just saying that IF you choose or asked to use
gender-neutral language, I think the visual cue makes Reds and Yellows
better terms than other options.
Obviously, this is different from putting a red band on everyone to help
them distinguish their own left and right. I'm just saying,
gender-neutral language is useful for kids, for the reasons described
I have found that rolls of plastic flagging tape (used for forestry and
construction) is cheap and makes good red and yellow ribbons. No
scissors needed -- you can just break off appropriate lengths as needed.
I had a Girl Scout Dance coming up Sunday and I was thinking how I would
get 150 six to nine year old girls to know which hand was right and which
hand is left. On the way to my contra calling gig on Saturday, the thought
arose that right hand sounds very close to red hand. On the way to the
Scout Dance, I stopped and purchased scissors and some red ribbon (the
store did not carry yarn) and asked that the leaders tie a red ribbon
bracelet around each scout as they entered the hall. When I called dances
with arm turns I called, "Turn your partner with your red hand, change
hands, other way back." It worked so well that I know I will do it again.
I thought I would share this trick, and then ask if anyone has useful
methods when working with only children. Please share some trade secrets.