...because what's May Day without morris dancing?
I was talking to a dancer friend of mine recently about gender balancing and how, in her opinion, younger women get shafted by this, because most of the younger women are more willing to dance with each other if there's a shortage. As a result, in some ways gender balancing might make a weekend less accessible, even if it's trying to make it more accessible by ensuring that men and women have equal opportunities to dance with each other. (Incidentally, this person was a young female dancer who is comfortable dancing either role, and does dance both roles very well.)
Part of the reason that Steve and I started registering for events as a couple was to avoid having me languish on a waitlist because not enough single* gents registered in a timely manner to balance my registering as a single* lady. The other argument that I've heard come up in favor of gender balancing is that older women, who may be less willing to dance with other women, "need" to have men to dance with, so a policy of gender balancing helps older women.
I'm not sure I buy this argument, but when I fall into the relevant demographic I might reevaluate my stance based on the facts on the ground. The "Stuff Contra Dancers Say..." community on Facebook has covered this particular topic exhaustively, so I'm not going to reiterate here, but I will mention it for the sake of completion of the current picture.
On the registration form for Contra Colours weekend in October (which, by the way, Steve and I are planning to attend), it asked not for gender but which parts you were comfortable dancing, with an option for "both." It looked like they were trying to role-balance, rather than gender-balance. It may turn out that by role-balancing, they also gender-balance, but I found this approach to be rather inspired.
What are your opinions on this? I don't tend to find that gender balancing (or the lack thereof) makes life easier or harder -- I have been to gender-balanced events where I have had a devil of a time finding a partner even when I was actively asking others (they were booked, or didn't want to dance with another lady), and to non-gender-balanced events where I've had my pick of partners. For my part, I am much more bothered by booking ahead 5 dances than I am by what the gender of the person I'm dancing with is, but that's me and I'm aware that there are other opinions out there.
*(for purposes of the dance weekend, not necessarily for their personal lives)
Unsuprisingly, the techno contra scene has changed a bit in the last two years since I started Contra Syncretist. Some of the most notable updates follow:
Like a lot of you, I go surfing around on the web for other folks' opinions. While some of the things I've stumbled across have inspired posts, others are interesting to me, even if the subject matter goes a bit beyond this blog's focus. Sometimes especially when it does. To wit:
The F Yeah Contra Dance Tumblr: There is some NSFW language on this one, but this Tumblr has become a recent addition to my regular reading. I am unsurprisingly quite fond of this post about "qualifications" for dance partners.
Sexism in the Dance Hall: Idzie (sorry, couldn't find her last name on there)'s reminder to all of us not to be jerky when people sit out (heads up, some NSFW language).
Homophobia and Contra: Jeff Kaufman ponders the difference between two women dancing together and two men dancing together, and what moves are thought to end up being uncomfortable for the latter, but not the former.
RebeccaBrightly.com: Rebecca is in the swing/Lindy community in Seattle, WA, but I'm finding that a lot of what she writes has applications to social dance in general, including contra.
The Ambidancetrous Tumblr: Again, the focus seems to be on swing dancing, but some of it can be translated to other social dance, like contra.... I know we sometimes get chatting about gender-free dancing and dancing switch or dancing roles that traditionally would not be danced by people of our genders, and this explores it a little more in-depth.
Steve passed this photo series along to me the other day (since I am so very fond of glow sticks) and I thought I would pass it along to you.... Just, if you put glowsticks in waterfalls at home to emulate these, make sure they're non-toxic first!
So as some of you know, outside the U.S. it's not terribly unusual for a series to have a whole bunch of scheduled episodes, then go on a break of indeterminate length, and then come back. (Dr. Who comes to mind, as do a handful of British comedies.)
American contra grew from English (and possibly French) dancing, and I'm borrowing a page from them. In light of recent developing scheduling difficulties, Steve and I are announcing a suspension of the Friday Flourishes. We've put up 104, and while we've enjoyed doing them very much, scheduling for them is becoming more challenging than we can handle on a regular basis (see: Steve going to night school and my gaining full-time employment with a long commute during the day).
The blog lives on, though. Hope some of you stick around and read. And for those who don't, thank you for supporting Steve and me over the last two years and do subscribe to the YouTube channel or Like us on Facebook -- we will post any new videos there when they come about.
I'm really proud of the work we've done, and I would like to do a few more videos, at least, before we roll up the portable dance floor and retire the little point-and-shoot for good; there were some ideas I had for videos that never got fleshed out fully enough to shoot, and flourishes we never quite got camera-ready, and I would still like to do them.
Stay tuned and carry on dancing and innovating, dear readers....
Contra Syncretist turns 2 on April 6! (Not bad for a little grad school project, eh? I wasn't even in grad school for two full years....)
So to celebrate this momentous occasion, I thought I might throw a few other numbers out there for consideration:
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.