Steve said at one point that what contra dance needs is a GAP commercial, like the one that helped bring swing dancing to a more mainstream audience. I wonder if maybe I should be writing to Felicia Day -- yes, the one from The Guild and Dr. Horrible -- and suggesting she do contra on her Flog vlog. (Just, please, can we get her some better teachers than she got for swing? The Click Heard Round the World blogger -- who swing dances and occasionally has some interesting insights into social dance -- made a few comments that I rather agree with that disagreed loudly with some of how this was taught....I kind of want to send the studio our Hamish Ascot entry from the other week, since it seems to apply here too. There is more to being a good follow than just lying back, closing your eyes, and thinking of England...being present in the dance, for one.)
_A couple of weeks ago, Contra Syncretist talked to caller Ray Polhemus, who among other observations connected more "swingy," more flourishy dancing with the techno contra trend. Despite the inclusion of our Friday Flourishes, I'm not sure I see the same causal link between the two.
_On October 29, the Spokane (WA) Folklore Society sponsored Techno Contra Deca-dance at the East Spokane Grange. It was a masquerade-themed crossover techno contra event featuring local DJ Gaga (Dennis Gagaoin, former host of Spintronica on radio station KYRS and owner of United Groove Merchants) and caller Ray Polhemus. The Grange was transformed for this Halloween event with fog machines and lighting effects and the event was heavily marketed as “a great chance to bring contra curious friend and show them that contra ain’t square!” per their press release. I caught up with Ray Polhemus after he called for the event to talk with him about Deca-dance and the techno contra trend.
While I was at a contra event recently, it came to my attention that a few terms that some contra dancers know and drop offhand really aren't that common (when I mentioned that I'd danced a dance in a "two-headed monster," for instance, someone looked at me like I was one).
Most contra dancers are familiar with common contra figures like a ladies' chain, or a hey, or even a cloverleaf, but what about the fun things that don't usually get called, but are done if you have a few adventurous dancers on the floor? I could think of a few, but I open it up to you all; I think we need a glossary that I would eventually put up on this site as its own page.
Some of the ones I thought of were:
dancing switch: at least when I use it, NOT the same as just dancing the other role (i.e., dancing lead as a woman, or dancing follow as a man); this is when you and your partner intentionally trade roles as you progress up or down the set; usually the trades happen mid-figure.
two-headed monster: when you and a friend dance as one person; usually it's done where someone is the right hand and someone is the left. The inactive arms are usually around your buddy's waist so you move as one unit. (If you get really good, you can do the lady's part of a ladies' chain, with twirls.) N.B.: Potentially useful when you've double-booked yourself. ;-)
four-headed monster: when two two-headed monsters dance as a pair, with one two-headed monster as the lead and the other as the follow (a four-headed monster can also dance switch or trade who makes up each "monster," but that's more challenging).
Thoughts? Others? Share in the comments!
Update, 11/17/2011, 11:30 P.M.: I've made a Forum topic under the "Choreography" section for this. Feel free to add entries either place, as the mood strikes you, so I can add them to the ongoing list when it goes live!
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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