In March 2011, Mel Novner arranged for Double Apex to come down to Glenside, PA to play a techno contra party (dubbed High CONTRAst), called by Spider Vetter and Donna Hunt, for his birthday. After attending this wildly successful event, Vince Budnick was inspired to make the idea of a public Philadelphia-area techno contra (PATC) series a reality. His running start on this project was Technoberfest, held in Willow Grove, PA on October 22, 2011.
This week's flourish is a variant on a California twirl -- you'll have to be quick to pull it off, but it can be done in the time allotted and add a little more speed to your dance. And it's a lot of fun to boot. Enjoy!
You, too, could have your flourishes featured! Drop me a line!
While Steve's day job will alas be preventing him from going, I hope to see some of you at the Black Friday Bash later today at the fabulous Glen Echo, MD Spanish Ballroom! Government Contra Act and the Capital Quicksteps Quadrille Orchestra will be playing in the afternoon and evening, respectively, to the calling of Kathy Anderson and Ron Buchanan. Then at midnight, the festivities will move into the Ballroom Annex, where Brian Hamshar will call a techno contra to the music of dJ improper. Dancing starts at 3 PM.
As of this writing, I have not yet decided whether I am (or whether we are) going to be able to make it up to the Glenside, PA community on Saturday at 2 PM to attend ContraCopia-Dance O'Plenty with Bob Isaacs, Adina Gordon, and Kathy Anderson calling over the span of nine hours to the music of Jane's Gang and Larry Unger, Brooklyn Swing Ensemble, and the Avant Gardeners; I know a few people from Glen Echo were planning on going, and if you're going to be in the area, you should go too!
Hope to see (and dance with!) some of you at these events!
Carry on Dancing,
_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.
As many of us in the U.S. get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I wanted to take a minute to say that I am incredibly thankful for my readers and my contributors and all those awesome people who have made this project fulfilling and wonderful. When I jumped into this back in late March/early April as an assignment for grad school, I never thought it would take off enough to still be going after I picked up my degree. This has been a really fun thing and I've gotten to talk to and meet a bunch of people that I would not have met otherwise. And for that, I thank you all. You are amazing.
(And at the risk of getting too mushy about the whole thing, today's Pearls Before Swine reminded me where I'd be without you all reading and commenting and sharing new insights.)
Thank you to all -- the Friday Flourish will update as normal on Friday, and then we'll have more interviews coming from people involved with setting up Spokane, WA's Deca-dance and an interview where Vince Budnick sheds some light on the effects of Technoberfest in Willow Grove, PA! Stay tuned!
Carry on Dancing,
_ When Technoberfest (Willow Grove, PA) was in its planning stages, I noticed that Donna Hunt was calling. I also knew that she had been one of the callers for the techno contra dance party (known as High CONTRAst) featuring Double Apex in March that had inspired Vince Budnick to pursue a reprise of bringing Double Apex to the Philadelphia area. I was able to catch up to Donna and asked her about her experiences.
Things appear to be off to a great start on the Glossary of Contra Esoterica. I've created a Forum topic under the "Choreography" section to continue the conversation as dancers find inspiration -- take a look and reply either place! It would be really great to have an ongoing collection of these on this site!
(If you would like to bookmark the blog post to check back, you may use this TinyURL: http://tinyurl.com/csglossarypost1; the Forum post is at http://tinyurl.com/csforumglossary.)
On to the Friday Flourish!
This week's flourish shows a variant on a courtesy turn, as a way to add another twirl to the mix. The trick is for the follow to keep their courtesy-turn position through the turn.
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 week we've got another really easy flourish for dancing switch, where you change roles back and forth with your partner through the figures or iterations of a given dance. This is also a good flourish to have up your sleeve in case you performed one too many roll-away flourishes on a set of Petronella turns leading up to a California twirl and are accidentally reversed going into the last move.
You, too, can have flourishes featured! Drop me a line!
Carry on Dancing,
Technoberfest was the first ever public Philadelphia area techno contra (in Willow Grove, PA) on October 22. Double Apex provided the music and Melissa Taggart was one of the callers that night. I was able to catch up with her to ask her about it. “Vince Budnick (our fearless leader) brought the idea to me for the first ever Philly area techno early this year. He's a dear friend and really supportive of my calling. I loved his vision for our dance community, and I wanted to support him as much as he has me! He asked me pretty early on, which was a HUGE honor!”
A couple of weeks ago, the October installment of the Contra Sonic series in Arlington, VA featured Toronto, Canada-based caller Bev Bernbaum calling with dJ improper. Contra Syncretist caught up with her afterward. “It was my first time calling a techno contra and I’d never danced one before either,” she says. “I’d heard about techno contra and was interested in finding out more about it. I attended a dance weekend earlier this year that claimed to be having a techno contra late one night, but it wasn’t anything like what I’d seen on YouTube or was expecting. As it happened, I was arranging a short mid-Atlantic calling tour in the early spring and had contacted the organizer of the Glen Echo dance. I’ve called there before. She asked if I’d consider staying in DC long enough to call the Contra Sonic dance and I jumped at the chance.”
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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