Nils Fredland wrote up his experience calling Glen Echo's Contra Sonic in March on his calling blog. Go look!
This week's Friday Flourish is a little more advanced and is a flourish on longer swings. It requires a little practice (I suggest practicing in slow motion first to get the feel before trying it at full speed) and you have to make sure that you're in the right places when you need to be, but it is a very fun move that is also relatively easy for the follow to turn the tables and lead for their partner (as the case may be).
Again, if anyone out there has flourishes and wants to show how to do them, take some footage of it, upload it to YouTube, and tell me about it!
Club Contras is a crossover contra dance series founded early this year and called by Brian Hamshar. Brian's brother, Clayton "DJ Solar Sound" Hamshar, is their house DJ, spinning tunes for the series every month with some production help from his partner, Forest "DJ FML" Lyon. Together, DJ Solar Sound and DJ FML are known as The System.
Club Contras started as the brainchild of the brothers Hamshar: "Brian and I had been talking about how cool it would be since around 2006-2007. Then, when Contra Sonic popped up [in Washington, DC], Brian was inspired to start one of our own. I was very enthusiastic for the idea, just as much as I had been a few years ago if not more, and so we entered as partners."
As with many endeavors, it’s interesting to get several points of view since they may point out things that you may not have seen. I spoke with caller Diane Silver and got her candid and very thorough opinions on the techno contra she called the other week (her first). While she “didn’t love” the experience, I think there are some takeaways here that can be applied when other organizers, callers, or DJs prepare for an event:
This was a video we shot on special request. So guys, you're in a contra line, and an ambitious caller calls out something to the effect of...."Pay attention...gents to the middle and swing!" Generally, at least at Glen Echo, this will get the various follows (usually female) to grin a bit, and maybe half the guys will just dive in and go for it. However, several others get this look of sheer panic and an awkward pause ensues while they and the person they're supposed to swing figure out what's what. So this week's video, featuring Michael Lyons and Steven Roth, serves as a demo on different swings you can do when that call comes.
(It should be noted that several women I know follow these as well, and the advice holds for them too -- except that the default would probably be to assume the lead position as opposed to follow if you want to give an easy lead. Of course, that said, I know several women who regularly dance the gents' role who do so because they want to dance the lead role. So it's still one of those things where your mileage may vary, but here are a couple of feathers to put in your hat anyway to use sometime. Go, have fun, and if one of these helps you have even more fun, then life is good. If it doesn't, remember it's just a dance, smile lots, and keep going. It'll be a funny story to tell at the diner later.)
Please share your flourishes (and how to do them)! Upload them to YouTube and then send me the link in the Contact Me form and they might get featured on this blog!
Find more how-to videos on the ContraSyncretist YouTube channel.
As promised, here is some video from this week's Contra Sonic with dJ improper spinning and Perry Shafran calling:
Happy Friday to all!
Carry on dancing,
Giant Robot Dance (comprised of Michael Ferguson, Noah VanNorstrand, Andrew VanNorstrand, Aaron Marcus, and Andrew Marcus) is probably the only band I know that regularly reinvents pop and rock covers while incorporating an accordion. Even those of us who believe that the perfect pitch of an accordion involves missing the banjo on the way into the dumpster (sorry, old joke) can appreciate the way this band makes both traditional tunes and modern ones accessible. They bridge the two genres almost seamlessly live, and their album Live at the Butterball is no different. Recorded at Butterball 2009 in Philadelphia, the album captures the energy of the event and the dancers.
What does make it different than other live albums I've heard, however, is that the recording maintains not only the sounds of the dancers' feet, but also Beth Molaro's melodic calling as she calls a rather challenging square and several contras. Whereas on paper I would think this would be a distraction, it actually serves to help transport thr listener to the event, much like other genres' live albums incorporating the patter of the artists between songs. While the album is regrettably only half a dozen tracks, the ones that are there are evenly balanced between traditional tunes, which open several of the tracks (e.g., "Tam Lin," "Julia Delaney") and Giant Robot Dance's signature covers (my personal favorite of theirs, "Smells Like Tween Spirit," is on here -- no, that is not a typo, and no, you have not heard this tune until you have heard it with a trombone and an accordion). The final track is a waltz rendition of "Rainbow Connection," which sounds quite a bit like a cameo by Kermit the Frog in a well-meaning tribute, and "Memory."
Unlike some live albums, this one loses nothing in translation (and I can attest this having danced to them at Dandelion Romp last weekend). I just wish it had more tracks.
Live at the Butterball is available for digital download on CD Baby.
Firstly, an apology: I am aware that this week's video is a bit less well-lit than last week's. As mentioned, this is a learning process and as I discovered to my horror last night, camera playback can in fact lie about lighting levels, and from here out we'll start either finding better-lit spots to shoot or bringing our own lighting sources (or possibly both).
With that out of the way, Steven Roth and I are back to demonstrate another contra flourish! This one is a variant on a balance and swing that Steve saw on a YouTube video from Whipperstompers dance weekend (see 6:55 mark) a couple of years back that he's been incorporating into his dancing since then. For those of you who missed the announcement last week, there is also a ContraSyncretist YouTube channel where I am going to house this series and hopefully make a library of moves and how to do them.
Please share your flourishes (and how to do them)! Upload them to YouTube and then send me the link in the Contact Me form and they might get featured on this blog. As I said last week, I'm more than happy to feature other people (and actually would prefer to do so)!
Meanwhile, I'm off to the Dandelion Romp in Oberlin, Ohio this weekend! I hope to be able to report back with some new flourishes and perhaps something from a band that rocks, particularly as among others Giant Robot Dance will be playing, combining traditional tunes and modern compositions with an edge. It should be a blast -- hope to see some of you there!
Update: I just noticed that 100 people have "liked" my home page on Facebook! Thanks, everybody! Please keep spreading the word!
One of the main ways that techno contras in particular differ from regular contra dances is that they tend to use DJs spinning recorded music instead of having a live band. I sat down with Washington, D.C.-area based Jeremiah "dJ improper" Seligman, who spins for Contra Sonic every month, to talk about his experience.
(Click "Read more" at right to see what he had to say!)
Some of you may notice a new link on the left-hand menu. If you click on the Street Team link, you'll find a downloadable PDF flyer and a few ideas as to how you too can spread the word about this site and its forum (and the blog). You all have been doing an amazing job so far, so please keep it up!
The more, the merrier, so please invite your fellow dancers to join us!
(FYI, regular blog content will resume on Wednesday, then continue every other Monday, every Wednesday, and every Friday.)
Carry on dancing,
Greetings all newcomers, and welcome! Come on in, the water's great!
Recently I tried to talk to someone about how to do a few dance flourishes, and quickly came to the conclusion that the best way to share them and to explain them was to show them. So I started a ContraSyncretist channel on YouTube and am hoping to post videos on a weekly(ish) basis showing various contra dance flourishes and how to do them. The first one is Steven Roth and me demonstrating a ripcord twirl. As noted on the ContraSyncretist YouTube channel, this whole video thing has a learning curve and is an evolving process, so please bear with us.
Please share your flourishes (and how to do them)! Upload them to YouTube and then send me the link in the Contact Me form and they might get featured on this blog. I'm more than happy to feature other people (and actually would prefer to do so)!
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.
Comments are welcome; spam-bots and disrespectful behaviors are not. Please do (nicely) point out errors if they are found.