This week's flourish is one that was pulled out on me by a dancer from Tampa, FL. (Thanks!) It's a relatively simple way to switch from one role to the other with your partner, although you need to be sure to grab your partner's correct hand (I didn't the first few times...oops). Fortunately we figured this out, and after a couple of tries my partner and I were able to use this switch back and forth as we progressed through the line.
Over the course of the Contra Sonic series and others, there have been some interesting choices as to formatting. Some series have stuck to the traditional contra dance format, with dances lasting something like 10 minutes apiece and there being distinct breaks between them. Others have attempted to do extra-long medleys, where people are encouraged to drop out at the ends as they get tired (which may or may not actually happen in practice). Still others have attempted a hybrid of the two, having regular contras until the last 30-60 minutes, at which point they switch to a medley format.
I've been to techno contra evenings where the medleys are done well; I've also been to dances where the medleys have crashed and burned and may have qualified for Federal disaster relief. I have my opinions on this, but I'm interested in yours: particularly in a techno contra, is a format change something that enhances the experience, detracts from it, or has no effect?
As someone who usually dances the follow's role, I've noticed something interesting and I'm not sure if my experience is unique or not: at most traditional contra evenings I go to, I might end up dancing lead (not switch, where we trade, but straight-up lead) once or twice in the evening, tops. When I've gone to techno contras, on the other hand, I've ended up dancing lead a bit more often. I'm not sure if this is a matter of there are fewer people at the average techno contra than the average traditional contra I've been to (and so it's more likely that there's a gender imbalance and more available people who dance the "lady" than the "gent" roles) or if something else is at work.
On the other hand, my partner, who usually dances lead, reports that he usually has zero problem finding partners and that they're usually lining up to dance with him and that the only time he ends up dancing follow is when he dances switch.
It is also worth noting that usually these dances where I've seen this are not billed as gender-free, so it may just be that I'm in a minority of women who are willing to lead (and hopefully do so reasonably competently). I've had several really fun dances as both a lead and as a follow (and plenty of fun ones dancing switch), so it's certainly not a complaint, merely a trend I've noticed. Maybe it's just that more people who dance the "lady" role end up at techno contras where we've headed (mostly the mid-Atlantic)?
Anyone else find this or see something I'm missing? Or, for that matter, find the opposite to be true?
This week's flourish is probably the easiest switch flourish on a swing that we know; it's not terribly inventive, but it certainly gets the job done.
Be a bit careful of elbows on this one, but it's generally pretty safe -- and if the switch doesn't work, you'll just stay in the same lead/follow position you started in.
Dancers, as usual, at Ryan Holman and Steven Roth.
Also, I have had a special request from Steve to let him say a few words:
"For those of you not in the Washington, DC area, you might not know just how much everyone around here has LOST THEIR MINDS over the arrival of the space shuttle Discovery at its new home at the Smithsonian, where it is being switched out for the prototype shuttle Enterprise which has resided here for years. It is in honor of this switch that we present today's flourish."
So quoth the Steve.
Photo from www.davecolestock.com
A couple of weeks ago, the crossover contra concept spread to Harrisburg, PA by way of an evening event called by Dave Colestock with music by dJ improper. I caught up with Dave online and asked him about the experience.
Dave says, "I was familiar with the concept [of techno contra], having called a techno slot during a gender free dance I called in New York City in 2010. In October of 2010, during a Halloween dance I called at Locust Lane, I incorporated an extended mix of 'Flashlight' by Parliament. The group really enjoyed it. Two months later when I called the Friday Night Dance at Glen Echo on January 14, 2011, with the Open Band, I was asked by Penelope [Weinberger, Contra Sonic organizer] to add a techno dance to the program, sorta at the last minute, as the Contra Sonic event was upcoming in the following week. So, I called a single techno dance mix that night that was made by dJ improper, as the first dance of the second half of the that night's program."
This week’s flourish is a pretty simple one, and one of the first ones that I learned when I was learning to lead. It’s a minor flourish to finish off a swing where the follow gets twirled out and as long as you start it about two beats out you will be on time for the next move.
The trick here is to have the lead pull away from the follow and let the follow twirl out, rather than shoving the follow into the final twirl (I like to think of it as pulling the string on a toy top, if that image helps anyone, although most of my follows aren’t going quite as fast).
You, too, can have your flourishes featured! Drop us a line!
Also, earlier this week an “Ask Amy” advice column reader made my day (scroll down to the last letter -- always fun to see contra dance mentioned favorably in more mainstream media...).
Coming up next week, I catch up with Harrisburg, PA-based caller Dave Colestock -- stay tuned!
Carry on Dancing,
Photo by Bob Bennett
At Footfall Dance Weekend 2011 in High View, WV, caller Seth Tepfer plugged Chattaboogie 4, which would reunite three of the artists who had played for Footfall: John Coté and Ed Howe of Perpetual e-Motion and Nor’easter’s Julie Vallimont in Double Apex. Intrigued by such a rocking combination, Steve and I set our sights for Chattanooga, TN to see what an electronic-infused contra dance weekend might look (and sound and feel) like. (It is worth noting that acoustic local band The Christie Burns Trio was also on hand to play the morning waltz sessions as well; as fun as we have found our forays into waltz, we will both readily admit that the contra dance lineup was what drew us: bands Double Apex and Perpetual e-Motion, callers Vicki Herndon and Seth Tepfer. As it turned out, Brendan Carey Block was unable to attend, so Ed Howe filled in on Double Apex’s scheduled sets.)
I managed to catch up with Seth by phone early one morning on his commute to talk about that epic weekend.
_There will be interview goodness forthcoming on Wednesday. Meanwhile, here's some neat contra- and EDM-related stuff I've found in my perusals of the Web that I think you might find cool, too:
_See anything cool related to contra or EDM around the Web? Send it my way, or share with the class in the comments!
Happy birthday to Contra Syncretist! This is the one-year anniversary of the site's launch, and this is our 53rd flourish video! Yay!
This week's flourish is a variant on one we've done before, but it's also a move that comes to us via our friend Kevin Mabon, who figured out how to adapt this to contra dance from swing. It's easiest if you count the beats to this 16-count move, at least until you build the muscle memory.
This week, Contra Syncretist celebrates its first birthday! I launched the site a year ago on Friday.
Here's some of the cool stuff I've learned in that time:
Thank you to everyone for coming on this journey with me so far! The Friday Flourish will update as usual on Friday and then we will have still more syncretistic goodness to come, and I've got a few ideas up my sleeve for the future! Stay tuned!
This project has concluded as of mid-2013 (with an epilogue posted mid-2016) but we hope to see you soon on a contra dance floor! Meanwhile, head over to our Facebook page for upcoming techno contra events and other items of interest.
The 100+ Friday Flourish videos can still be found on YouTube.
I dance with abandon. I play with glowsticks. I look for music that is conducive to one or both. I play behind cameras. I write about all of the above. I'm based in Glen Echo's contra dance community outside of Washington, D.C., but I'm happy to go dance afield when I can. Lather, rinse, repeat. Always repeat.
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