As I went looking around online earlier this week, I came across Appalachian State University (Boone, NC)'s coverage of the techno contra they held last week
at one of the student-run venues.I found some interesting similarities in the article with some of the participant comments made about the Bates College (Lewiston, ME) hip-hop contras held a few years back when I talked to caller Chrissy Fowler. In particular,
in the article I noticed the following quote: "'My first time going contra dancing was two weeks ago and I liked this dance a lot better,' [Appalachian State freshman Shannon Wright] said. 'Both dances are enjoyable, but I love techno music. This is a lot more fun and more intense, but not difficult to dance to.'"(To wit, Chrissy Fowler mentioned in her interview: "...
My only surprise was that a few of the experienced dancers avidly suggested that this type of contra dancing should replace the regular (traditional) contra series at Bates, which was not what [organizers] Blaise, Sarah or I had in mind at all.")I wonder if this is a signal of college students in general (the ones who aren't already entrenched in the folk/contra scene)
, or if there's some other common characteristic I'm missing between the two populations? These two college events are the only ones I've heard of where the participants were saying they liked the alternative music more than the usual contra fare to the point of actually suggesting a complete switch.
I welcome your thoughts in the comments.
In a marketing class I once took, the professor talked about a "Marketing Mantra:"
Marketing comes first.
- Marketing drives the product.
- Marketing drives the process.
- Marketing is king.
We've talked a lot on this blog about marketing crossover contra events to contra dancers, and some of the challenges that come with that. In fact, sometimes to get funding, crossover contra organizers have to frame it as an outreach project. This is all well and good (and generally seems to work), but what is the crossover contra community doing to actually make this an outreach opportunity to welcome more people into the fold?
talked some about how they did just that for last fall's Deca-dance event in Spokane, Washington, and it was apparently effective. On the other hand, I mentioned that to a would-be techno contra organizer while I was in Tennessee and she replied, "You mean advertise it to the gen pop [the general population]?!" while looking at me like I'd just sprouted an extra head and possibly a prehensile tail.
and Saratoga Springs
had the right idea, setting their events in taverns and (smokeless
, at least in Florida) bars. Relocating the Contra Sonic
series to Artisphere (a local arts facility) from Glen Echo Park did attract some
new dancers. Having dances in churches and colleges and granges has attracted many people; could there be an untapped (and possibly underappreciated) market in taverns and clubs?
One of the main tenets of modern marketing is to go to your target and bring them to you, rather than just waiting for them to stumble upon you. To do that, you convince the target that you offer a product that is either original, or is better than the one that already exists. Right now, the movement is focused on marketing itself as an alternative to contra. I think we need to go the other way, too, and present techno contra as an alternative to the club -- that is, somewhere to dance in a different way to the same music, rather than somewhere to dance the same way to different music, as you advertise it to contra dancers. Perhaps the folks in
This week's flourish
is a neat little back lead that we originally saw in a video from the Scout House with Nor'easter playing
(filmed by frankhsieh
; thanks for pointing us to it, klmabon
The neat thing about this flourish is that it's actually a combination of two flourishes linked together into a back lead (a turn-under
and a ripcord twirl
-- wow has it really been ten months since we posted that last one?). As with all ripcord twirls, be careful of your partner's shoulders and do not yank their arms.
Dancers are, as usual, Ryan Holman (a.k.a. your friendly techno contra blogger) and Steven Roth (the guy with the ponytail).Send us your flourishes!
They might be featured here!
CSP.S. Like the "Dance with who's comin' atcha/dJ improper" shirts? Friend of the site Penelope Weinberger is in charge of those as her own project.
If you'd like to get one, message me
and I'll pass on her info!
When Steve and I headed down to Chattaboogie last month, I made the acquaintance of a thirtysomething Nashville dancer by the name of Dan Kappus. The conversation went something along the lines of noting that crossover contra in general seems to be a younger phenomenon, and rather popular where they pop up (as anyone who went to the techno contra at the Flurry in New York last weekend
can attest), but interestingly have comparatively few people organizing them in the contra community. He had some things to say about the techno contra movement -- and frankly, some things about organization in contra dance events, period -- that I thought were rather interesting. With his permission, I am reproducing several of his comments here.
One of the coolest things for me about doing this blog has been the opening it gives me to talk shop with lots of people I might not have gotten to chat with otherwise.
This week's flourish
is a variant on one that I pull out fairly often when I'm dancing lead -- instead of turning the follow under once, you can turn your follow under twice before you take them into ballroom position and finish the swing. The timing can be a little hard to get, as you're catching the follow's hand on its way past, but once you get it it's really rather simple.
You, too, can have your flourishes featured! Drop us a line!
By the way, to those who are heading up to the Dance Flurry in Saratoga Springs, NY (alas, neither Steve nor I will be this year; dance extra in our absence, please!) -- there will be an independently-run techno contra this weekend at The Parting Glass
, DJ'd by Julie Vallimont with Max Newman and Jon Cannon, with Will Mentor calling! Looks like it'll be a lot of fun!
Carry on Dancing,
CSP.S. To folks who are heading for the Flurry or other contra dance events this weekend -- it would be awesome if you joined the CS street team by printing out a few flyers
and bringing them with you! Happy Friday!
I noticed the other day that someone had brought up a very interesting question in the Forum
about lighting in techno contras and having the levels please everyone, no one, or something in between, and I wanted to float it to the group; it seems that the issue of lighting has come up a few times
in the course of the conversation and it's an aspect that as a dancer I honestly don't pay as much attention to (unless it's disorientingly dark).
Chime in, please -- clearly others have more interesting and varied opinions than I do.
After Steve and I reviewed Fiddlefoxx's Invasion a while back
, I decided to delve deeper into their eclectic canon and came up with UFO
, their 2007 offering. Overall, I liked Invasion
better, but I liked some of the individual tracks on UFO
more than their individual counterparts on Fiddlefoxx's later album.
It takes until about the third track, "Boston Freeze," for Fiddlefoxx to really warm up and hit their stride between tradition and innovation. This specific track reminds me a bit of Notorious
's "Ice Storm" on their self-titled album, but there's a lot more layering in effect.
The titular track, "UFO," is slowed way down in comparison to its hyperactive predecessor, "Studio 54/Reverse Exploding Snowflake/Detached" and as such is almost ponderous. Its surreal, eerie fiddle stretches out over active beatboxing and combines both serene fiddle and excited rhythm until the very end of the track.
My favorite track on this album is "Ouzel Falls." It might be contra-able and is the most traditional-sounding track of the lot. The beatboxing here reminds me quite a bit of Appalachian clogging, and the fiddling here is really pretty. Similarly, I am fond of the track later on the album entitled "Mathieu."
"Mandofunk" is aptly named, as it seems to be equal parts mandolin (moonlighting here like a ukelele), fiddle, beatbox, and funk. This tune is also notable because it is actually square.
I couldn't do a review of this album without mentioning "Hippopotamus Giraffe Orangutan." If someone wants to go violate copyright law (unless they are members of Fiddlefoxx) and make a viral video, they should take this song, illustrate it with screenshots of the appropriate animals, and throw it up onto YouTube to join the ranks of "The Llama Song"
and Weebl's "Kenya."
"Kenya"'s default setting is to loop!) "Hippopotamus Giraffe Orangutan" earworms like crazy. The vocals reminded me vividly enough of They Might Be Giants' "Particle Man
" that I actually had to double check to be sure I hadn't accidentally skipped to a TMBG album.
All in all, this is a rather diverse collection from the artists who put together the eclectic (though somewhat more polished) Invasion
and show a rather cool collaboration between Tradition and beatboxing.
Fiddlefoxx is made up of Andy Reiner (who also plays in Firecloud and assorted other Tradition-based bands) and Steve Foxx.
UFO is available for purchase as a CD or digital download at CDBaby and some of the tracks can be found on Fiddlefoxx's MySpace page.
This week's pair of flourishes
are two variants on a California twirl -- one from Charlottesville, VA-area dancer Shawn Suter and the other from our very own Steven Roth. Be sure you have enough space on these!
You, too, can have your flourishes featured! Drop us a line!
Also, Contra Syncretist
is pleased to announce that this year, the Lake Eden Arts Festival
(May 10-13, 2012) in Black Mountain, NC will be called by friend of the site Brian Hamshar
, as well as Beth Molaro with the Horseflies and Lift Ticket playing. And Technophoria
's DJ Shel D
will be spinning a techno contra there as well!
_Some of the more informative interviews I've conducted about the "new" evolutions of contra dance have actually shown me that the ideas of using recorded music and the like are actually not that new at all. I ran across Miami, FL techno contra dance series organizer Louis Dow, who started a monthly techno contra series at the historic Tobacco Road Saloon in Miami last month, and I asked him about his contra experiences -- both before and after he started the series.
"Someone sent me a link to a techno contra video," explains Louis. "I was impressed -– impressed because the kids were actually contra dancing but dancing the way the dance worked when I first started dancing. We had really hot dances, lots of improvising, heavy flirting, really pushing the energy level up. The dances I go to now have lost some of that, I think in part just because the dancers tend to be older. I want to get back to what I think of as 'real' contra dance. I actually started calling it 'roots contra dancing' but ended up going with 'techno' just because that’s the more common parlance."
This week's flourish
comes from a video from the Scout House
in Concord, MA that YouTube user frankhsieh
posted and regular reader klmabon
pointed out to us. It's a neat twirl into a high ceilidh swing and we've broken it down here:
Please submit your flourishes
to us as well! And as you're doing these flourishes, remember to practice and pull these on your partners safely -- it really bites when injuries happen on the dance floor, whether from flourishes or not.Take care of yourselves and each other and happy Friday,CS