So, how did it go, in her opinion? “In some cases, the mix really worked well with the figures of the dance, even though there wasn’t the typical traditional tune construction and phrasing. That did surprise me,” Bev replies. “DJ improper was really helpful to me with some of the mix that was less obviously structured. Meaning, he sometimes helped me find what would have been the top of the phrase, which in turn helped me call accurately. He was great, but that didn’t really surprise me. I knew he would be. Also, the Contra Sonic dance space [Artisphere] is really great, the floor is wonderful, the sound is good, and I liked the lower lighting and the various effects.”
“It would have helped me to have listened to the mix sets in advance, to get familiar with the music, as it’s not a genre that I listen to. I was a little anxious about calling the dance and felt that I struggled in the first half to get my bearings between the figures and the music. It was likely just due to it being my first time calling techno. However, it might have been that the dances didn’t fit as well as they could have. I might have chosen different dances if I’d heard the mix in advance. Hard to know.” That said, “Yes! I would definitely call a techno contra again if asked.”
During the last dance of the night, Bev and dJ improper came down from the dais at Artisphere and jumped in late to the final dance. Says Bev, “That was really fun! Since it was my first time at a true techno contra, I’m glad I had the chance to actually do some dancing. Even at a traditional contra dance, I don’t typically jump into a set to dance when I’m the caller. I find doing that takes my focus off the dancers, and that doesn’t feel quite right to me. I want to give the dancers (and the band) that focus. But I have to say, I’m glad I did it this time.”
Having now called a full techno contra event and sampled the dancing, I asked Bev what she thought of this new iteration of contra dancing. “Techno contras are a new direction of an old tradition. Traditions evolve and sometimes they change or branch off and make new traditions. I think techno will continue to evolve. I suspect that the average age dancing techno is lower than traditional contras and so this new direction may split the generations. I hope that doesn’t happen. In my mind, there’s room for both in the contra dance realm. I do have a personal preference for live music as opposed to recorded, but I’d suggest that Perpetual e-Motion is a great example of a live techno/trad band. I remember the first time I heard them at NEFFA in 2009. I was completely blown away by them and came back to Toronto urging our programming folks to hire them immediately. More and more bands are turning to technology to enhance their offering and I think that plays right into this new direction (sorry about the pun!).”
“Hopefully, I’ll have an opportunity to dance at a techno contra soon. It will be interesting to see how this new tradition evolves!” Her next calling gig, however, is at a traditional contra closer to her home of Toronto, in Hamilton, Ontario. “It’s a great little dance community that is currently experiencing a resurgence in both contra and English Country Dance.”
Bev Bernbaum will next be calling on November 19 in Hamilton, Ontario. Many thanks to her for taking the time to be interviewed!