"Not only did crossover contra look fun, but nothing like that had been done in this area. I wanted to have the dance, not jut for entertainment but for honor. For once I wanted the Inland Northwest not to be a decade behind the times. Also, I believe that genre mixing is essential to the health of the arts. One only need look back at any number of royal families to see what too much tradition and exclusion lead to."
Not everyone originally shared her vision, and Terra ended up having to field several objections from skeptics in the community. As she explains, "There were several obstacles in regard to the music, the first of which was that people did not believe we could dance contra to music that wasn't 'square.' The truth is that square tunes make it easier for the dancers and callers to dance without having to count beats, but one can dance contra to just about anything with a steady 4/4 beat. I showed the SFS board YouTube videos of techno contras and arranged for a group to demo at our regular weekly dance to prove that it was possible. I also had to convince the folkies that live mixed electronica was not the same as 'canned' or prerecorded music, and that I had no plan to try to replace our wonderful local bands with an evil machine."
Terra also enumerated three other concerns expressed by her community in the lead-up to Spokane's techno contra event, Deca-dance:
- Concern: "Young people today are deaf and their club music will deafen us."
Response: "We have control over the volume and can turn it up or down by request."
- Concern: "We should make sure people know that drugs are not allowed."
Response: "People will probably not go to a contra dance to trip on Ecstasy regardless of the music."
- Concern: "Techno beats make people violent and hypersexual."
Response: "Seriously? That's what they said about wing, jazz, rock and roll, waltzing...."
"Our publicity guy Justin [Bell] gets most of the credit for the online listings and getting our event into a local newspaper," explains Terra. "Once the board decided to go along with my crazy idea, they supported it all the way. For my part, I commissioned original art for event posters and distributed them around at local artsy hangouts and created a Facebook event page. I also bribed the local public radio station to promote us by letting them have free tickets for a giveaway and got a popular local coffee shop to co-sponsor the event by selling advance tickets. I think the advance tickets (which we charged a lower price for) were a big part of the good turnout because when people have paid into something, they are less likely to bag out at the last minute."
Since Terra had such a clear vision of Deca-dance in its plenary stages, I asked how much influence he ended up exerting over caller Ray Polhemus and DJ Gaga (Dennis Gagaoin) in the programming of the final project.
"Ray is an experienced caller and an all around fun guy so, after we had rehearsed a little, I just let him do his thing. I did ask...DJ Gaga to add some Celtic/folk music into his mix in deference to the regulars. He didn't end up using the folk music, but in the end it wasn't a big deal. The audience had a blast and went with it. It's a lot more important that the caller and DJ are comfortable with each other and the audience."
Further, Terra recommends, "Make sure you hire an open-minded DJ (who is willing to practice like ours was) and a caller with really good rhythm (like Ray!). I also highly recommend demoing at one of your regular dances if you have a lot of skeptics. Seeing is believing."
"I have started using the term 'crossover contra' to express that we can dance contra to just about anything. It' not about live bands versus DJ's, it's about dancing to the beat of a whole new drummer and bridging the gap between different groups of people. I am planning on putting on another crossover dance which mixes folk musicians and a DJ or drummer to lay down some funky beats in order to drive this point home. There have been lots of people requesting another 'techno' dance when there isn't competition from Halloween."
Terra concludes, "I think all contra dance groups should give this a try. We had a great turnout and lots of new dancers of all ages. I actually had to do lessons on three separate times [in addition to the planned lesson before the dance] because we had so many new dancers. But the change up didn't just appeal to 'young people,' lots of older dancers told me that they only came to support the group and then ended up loving it!"
Terra also sent a link to a video she made out of clips from Deca-dance, for those who missed it: