David asked about dances with an English accent. Following is one I think
meets his criteria, mentions David and his great dance Fast Living, and
remembers wonderful person and English Dancer and Dance leader, Mary Kay
Friday. Here's the info on a dance. Title is explained in notes.
Contra, Becket, Clockwise
Ridge Kennedy and Bob Isaacs
A-1 Move forward on Left Diagonal (4) Fall straight back (not
too far!) (4)
Gypsy Across (see notes) (4) Turn Single (W
1x; M 3/4 See notes) (4)
A-1 Promenade single file 3/4 (8) Neighbor
B-1 Hey Halfway (men pass left, partner right, women left, neighbor
Men allemande left once and a half (8)
B-2 Partner Balance and Swing (or gypsy and swing if you are so
Notes: Mary Kay Friday was one of the nicest, kindest and all around best
people I ever met in the world of traditional dance, or anywhere else for
that matter. Her death in 2001 stunned the traditional music and dance
community, and filled the church on the grounds of the Washington Cathedral
with shape note singers and dancers and family and friends.
Shortly afterward, I had the notion that I wanted to make up a dance for
her. Tom Hinds had already made up *“The Other Mary Kay’s Reel”* but I
thought there was room for one more dance for Mary Kay.
The last dance I remembered dancing with her was *Fast Living* by David
Kirchner – a very fine four-facing-four dance. That become a sort of
starting point for me – the dance should be four facing four. And it
should have an English (as in English country dance) accent, since Mary Kay
was one of the very best leaders of accessible ECD who I ever have known.
At some point along the way, I found out that Mary Kay had a personalized
license plate on her car. It said: “TGIF.”
OK, so that had to be the title of this dance.
I thought about it a lot, and even tried to recruit some eminent dance
choreographers to help me out. But it just didn’t seem to be happening.
But this year – ten years after Mary Kay’s death – I came up with this
little sequence that I thought might work as the start of the dance. I
asked Bob Isaacs to help me out with the second half of the dance and he
suggested something that only appeared in one other dance he knew of – *Fast
Living*. Well. It’s fate, I thought.
So the dance came together – but it was flawed. The men’s allemande turns
changed from one time through to the next – first once and quarter, then
three quarters. It was a difficult progression.
For skillful dancers, it worked and was enjoyable, but it was very
challenging. The second time I called it, at the Sunday Night Dance in
Glen Echo, Maryland, I was watching couples at the end of the lines while
they were “out” do the dance as a two-couple dance – just like a contra in
Becket formation. Ann Fallon was in one group of four that was going
through the dance when it became clear to me – this isn’t a four facing
four dance – it’s better as a plain old duple, contra in Becket formation.
And so it is.
It’s flirty, as one dancer said to me. It’s fun. It has an English accent.
It goes well with music that’s a little funky and maybe bluesy and cool in
a hot and sultry sort of way. Or if the band can play tunes from from the
ECD repertoire, well that will work nicely too. I am confident Mary Kay
would have enjoyed it.
Now the technical stuff:
Gypsy across: Change places with the neighbor you are facing in four beats
of music. Move directly toward each other then turn halfway clockwise to
pass and step back. It is a “Hole in the Wall” cross, only faster.
There is a tendency, when dancers to the “forward on the left diagonal
(slice left, per Becky Hill) and fall back – for the dances to move back
fairly far. That will make the “gypsy across” more difficult and through
the timing off for the next part of the sequence. Encourage the dancers to
fall back four “teeny tiny” steps so they have less separation and distance
to travel to change places in four steps.
Turn Single, but it’s not really a turn single because men and women turn
different amounts: The turn here is also clockwise (right shoulder moves
back, left shoulder moves forward). Women turn all the way around in four
steps. Men turn only three quarters. Women end facing across the set –
looking at neighbor’s right shoulder. Men face up or down the set, looking
at partner’s right shoulder.
This is unfamiliar to many contra dancers. The key to success (getting
turned in four steps) is to be sure you are turning with the *first* step.
It should be off to the right – not forward, so that the turn is completed
by step no. 4.
Overall – a demonstration of the “gypsy across, whirl away, promenade and
swing sequence will be very helpful. You can also remind dancers that all
the turns are to the right. If folks like to gypsy and swing with partners
– hey let it be up to them. It provides a little more of an “English
accent” for the dance, but I prefer and balance and swing myself.
On Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 9:35 AM, David Kirchner dekirchner(a)gmail.com
[trad-dance-callers] <trad-dance-callers(a)yahoogroups.com> wrote:
Hi, I'm going to be calling at a contra dance in memory of one of our
regular dancers who loved both contra and English country dance. I want to
include several contra dances that have moves borrowed from the English
tradition. I have many in my collection (especially if you count all the
dances with heys), but I thought I would ask folks on the list for a few of
your favorites, especially since I have not traveled much in the last
decade and thus have not seen a lot of dances composed more recently.
St. Paul, MN
Ridge Kennedy [Exit 145]
When you stumble, make it part of the dance. - Anonymous
And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least
once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at
least one laugh. - Friedrich Nietzsche