“I started organizing the first one in the spring of 2009,” he says. The first techno contra event he organized was on June 10, 2009 at the Asheville Contemporary Dance Studio. “It's a little hole in the wall in Downtown Asheville. We had about 70-80 people and it was completely stuffed. It was cool though cuz [sic] it was in a basement so it had low ceilings (which gave it a cool underground feeling) and mirrors lining one wall.”
“The first one was inspired by a small handful of poorly executed techno contras that left me wanting it done right.”
“The second one is probably the most well known (to me at least). It was the ‘Dirty Cool’ video made at the first YDW [Youth Dance Weekend]. The problem with that one was that it was too short. The song was GREAT, but it was three minutes and I just wanted more. Then later that evening (actually it was 4am by that point) we did one to a Girltalk song which lasted waaaaaaay too long and was not techno at all. It barely had a followable beat. It was borderline torturous. This is more or less what inspired me to do one of my own.”
“I then started building on the idea and how cool it could be, which then morphed into something that was going to be super hot and sexy. I then realized that not only was I going to need a bunch of good dancers for this potentially very difficult dance, I also didn't want a bunch of the old creepy guys ruining the vibe (for the girls). I knew the girls would be scantily clad, and I really didn't want them to be in any way uncomfortable. The notion of an extremely advanced/exclusive dance was really only a by-product of necessity, but admittedly I had been very loosely toying around with the idea for a while preceding.”
Later on, “I got priced out of the smaller space I used to use, and the bigger space was cheaper...so I figured since I could fill it, I should fill it.” Further, “I had been wanting to make a public one for some time, but I was using a smaller space and the logistics were still being mulled over. There were plenty of complex and political reasons to keep them private, but basically I had limited space and really just wanted a dance for and solely consisting of young, good dancers (many of whom are my friends). They were never meant to be an EXclusive, but more an INclusive thing (glass half empty/half full argument). I just wanted something where we could throw our inhibitions out and just be youthfully exuberant and not worry about who's looking or judging or creeping. Eventually I got enough flak that I felt a public one was necessary.” The first public techno contra was in 2010. Interestingly, while the size of the dance hall and the number of dancers has changed, many things about Jordy’s formula have not changed over time.
“The music is all canned and I do all the music selection,” Jordy says. As organizer, “I spend many many many hours listening to music and putting it together for each dance.”
He continues, “Jesse Edgerton has called the majority of them and he is my favorite. I've had a few subs, such as Hank Morris and one other person I can't think of right now. Jesse has been phenomenal and really has a lot of fun flowing with it. I've heard mixed reviews on basically every other caller to call technos. I have had trouble finding callers when Jesse is unavailable. The caller has to not only be good, but be able to get into it and have fun with the medium. It’s definitely unconventional and not always perfect. Jesse has figured out how to ride the wave and make it work. He is also very humorous and I think his voice works great for it.”
So how would he describe the vibe of his dances? “Well, it really depends from person to person. But from my point of view, the vibe is decidedly hot and sexy, but definitely not terribly scandalous. There is no sex going on or massive orgies, but it's basically a bunch of contra kids getting out their fairly strong sexual tension in a healthy and sweaty manner. No nudity, no sex, but they're fast paced and not for the faint of heart. To me it really doesn't seem like anything more naughty than a dance without grown-ups. If any of the rep is bad, it's probably just word of mouth. I try to keep them pretty PG-13, though they are certainly borderline.” (Here he added a winking smiley to the email.) “And honestly, the regular contra here has enough youth at it that we have our own line usually and it's generally similar.”
The reaction, he says, “was mixed. The people who came, loved it. Most of the people who didn't, were kinda whatever about it. I did hear some genuine distaste for being exclusive. I had one person unfriend me on Facebook (we're friends again now). All in all it wasn't too bad. Once I opened it up I got a lot of praise.”
As time has gone on, though, Jordy has noticed some changes in the techno contras as the idea has spread. “The biggest change I've noticed is a lot of other people are doing them now...which I like...but I've heard less than glowing reviews of pretty much every single one...which I don't like. I'd really rather it not become a joke. I never intended for it to become as popular as regular contra (which I doubt it ever will), but I find it at least a little frustrating that people are doing mediocre techno contras. And pretty much everyone thinks that I have something to do with all the techno contras, so it kinda drags my rep down. Other than that I think the buzz has died down a little. It seems like there is still interest though.”
For his part, “I have changed nothing since I started. The organizing is simple and straightforward. Get a hall, get my sound/lights guys, get Jesse. Done. All I have to do to promote it is invite people on Facebook and it takes care of itself. As for music, my approach has remained the same. I set out on the first one with the goal of making every song so good that you would be unable to sit a dance out. You would dance your face off and then when you were tired, you'd go to sit, then the next song would be so good you couldn't resist it. I wanted complete sensory melt down. I haven't changed that.”
He does have plans for future events, but alas, nothing he was willing to share here. However, he did have some words for people wanting to stage a similar event of their own: “I do have something to add, aimed at anyone who is interested in doing one. a) I don't mind people asking me questions, but much more importantly, b) if you're going to do one, do it because you are passionate about the thing you are creating. Do not just do it because it sounds like a cool idea and how hard could it be. I created this dance out of a passion for the dance AND the music AND the complete experience. This will make all the difference in the world. Know exactly what you want this thing to look like and make it happen. Nothing less.”
Jordy Williams has organized several techno contras in the Asheville, NC area. Many thanks to him for letting me pick his brain.