While digging around for information on my question on Wednesday about the acceptability of 20th century music in singing squares (and why any music that sounds like it was composed before 1970 has carte blanche and anything after 1970 doesn't without some sort of allusion in the event's marketing), I also ran across this page compiled by Clark Baker, who teamed up with Lisa Greenleaf a few years ago to organize the weekend-long Alternative Music Party in 2008 that Chrissy Fowler alluded to when I interviewed her back in June -- while a fair amount of the info on the page is from about ten years ago (although it claims a last-updated date of July 2010 as of this writing), perhaps it lends some thoughts on square dancing and contra dancing circles not being so different after all....
This week's Friday Flourish is mined from the same LEAF 2009 video we found our last one in. This week we look at a twisty swing. The lead for this is a little tricky, but once you get in the proper position the follow-through is not that difficult. Only particular caveats are that this would be better with a regular partner than a brand new one, and be careful of anyone's shoulder issues.
You, too could have your flourishes featured on this blog! Send them to me and they might be featured!
I am pleased to announce that Contra Syncretist now has its own user name on Facebook! (Thanks to all of you who have "liked" us so far! And for those who haven't yet, what are you waiting for?)
Find us at www.facebook.com/contrasyncretist.
(Also -- there has been some activity in the Forum lately, with a couple of people asking for some help in organizing some techno contras in their necks of the woods, notably out West; I know that several of you have some really great ideas you could share....)
For some reason it had never really occurred to me before, but the tradition of the so-called "singing squares" (for which several rather talented callers are known and some of which get thrown into contra dance evenings) use somewhat more modern songs to integrate with the calls, and yet this seems to have a different reception than a similar practice in some contra circles (lines?).
“I’ve been playing piano since I was six,” says Julie Vallimont of Double Apex and Nor’easter fame. “I started as a classical musician and played organ professionally for 15 years. I really got into midis in the ‘90s and was always interested [in electronic music]. But then I moved to Boston for grad school, and had no time.” It was around then that she discovered the contra dancing world and “fell in love with the music and the way the music and the dance fit together, and thought, ‘maybe I could do that.’”
This week's Friday Flourish is mined from the video of LEAF from about two years ago, when Wild Asparagus was playing. There was this really neat flourish we saw and after a couple of tries we figured out how it worked -- turns out it was two really simple flourishes strung together in a creative way.
You, too, could have your flourishes featured on this blog! Send them my way and we may well feature them on a future Friday Flourish installment!
Coming up soon, we will have an interview with Julie Vallimont of Double Apex and more syncretistic goodness, so stay tuned!
Carry on Dancing,
I was highly amused to discover that New York City-area dancer Sam Kleinman is compiling a Contra Purity Test over on his web site. He says it's a work in progress on the page, so maybe we could go give him a few suggestions.
(For starters, running a blog and a Facebook page about this stuff ought to count for something....)
This week's flourish reminds me a little bit of the "swing" I learned in elementary school when we learned the Virginia Reel in gym class. But since we're not ten years old anymore, there's a bit more centrifugal force involved. Given this force and speed, though, there is a rather large asterisk on this flourish that says, "Please do not use on people with known arm/shoulder issues or people who have not already made clear they want lots and lots and lots of speed." As an illustration of the differences between dancers: despite my love of swinging fast, this one's a bit strong for me, truth be told. Steve, however, thinks this one is awesome.
Carry on Dancing,
P.S. To answer a question that several people have written to ask me, no, we won't be at Youth Dance Weekend (just wasn't in the cards for this year), but it looks like it's going to be a blast. (And if any of you happen to find some new flourishes out there...send them my way, please -- they might be featured on this blog!)
One of the interesting things when I've been looking around at the modern contra dance tradition is the really funky dichotomy that seems to be drawn between contra with flourishes and the insistence of many (I know, not all) flourish-heavy contra dancers that the opposite of contra with flourishes isn't contra dance but is in fact English Country Dance. In particular, thinking of Dancing Fool out in Washington state, which advertises itself as "All Thrills, No Frills, and especially No English," and one time when Steve and I went to the local ECD dance and someone threw in a flourish, only to be called an "unrepentant contra dancer!" To be fair, the latter comment was at least partially in jest. I think.
This also meant that I was particularly interested when regular Contra Syncretist commenter Perry Shafran pointed me to a Facebook group for "Extreme ECD" in the Forum. Essentially, the idea seems to be that it's ECD that takes the choreography as written and uses it as a framework, much like good flourishers do when they contra dance. It might be interesting to see how such things are received in the ECD community. I know I see fewer flourishes at ECD than I do in contra when I go, but I'm also usually paying more attention to my own dancing space in ECD than I am in contra since I don't do it as often.
I'd be interested to go try xECD sometime, at the very least, although I also know that the choreography in ECD -- at least for me -- tends to involve more active concentration than contra does. (That said, I do still enjoy ECD as well as contra and find the idea that they're opposites to be kind of bizarre; I can usually be found at dance weekends starting my Saturday mornings with ECD if it's available, and I occasionally head out to my local weekly ECD series.)
I welcome your thoughts and comments -- feel free to share in the comments section!
DJ Nu B; photo by Silversauce
With its new season starting, the Club Contras series in Greenwood, VA found itself looking for some new DJ talent to supply the music for dances. Last month, Brian “DJ Nu B” Murphy made his Club Contras debut. I caught up with him and talked to him about his tunes, his other musical endeavors, and the inspiration he brings and communicates with his DJ skills.