Chattaboogie 4, held this past January in Chattanooga, TN, was memorable for a few reasons: one, the weekend aimed to bring together two bands with a heavily electronic influence -- Perpetual e-Motion and Double Apex; two, it had the same band and callers two years in a row (Chattaboogie 2011 had featured Perpetual e-Motion, Seth Tepfer and Vicki Herndon), and three, it particularly highlighted differences between the two bands (who use some or all live music in their electronic mixes) and a DJ when Julie Vallimont of Double Apex switched formats and DJ'd a designated techno contra late on Saturday night. I talked to organizer and caller Vicki Herndon about this to get a behind-the-scenes look.
Catching Up with Caller Jack Mitchell
I first caught up with Jack Mitchell when he called a Contra Sonic installment in 2011. He mentioned that he had danced with Electric Camel Contra and called to dJ improper's sets before, though not with dJ improper himself there, and that he saw some interesting differences between the experiences--at which point I knew I had to talk to him for Contra Syncretist.
_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.
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!”
Spark in the Dark, Back to the Land, and the “Continuum of Experimentation:” George Marshall
When I found out that George Marshall had called for the Spark in the Dark series up in Massachusetts last spring, I was intrigued. George has been on the folk dance scene for many years and has called with and played in some iconic acoustic bands within it. As George puts it, “I started dancing at 15, I started calling in 1978, and I’m 53 now.” What would his view be of electronic music and a club-like atmosphere recently fusing with this dance scene, with which he has been involved for many years?
“I’ve been playing piano since I was six,” says Julie Vallimont of Double Apex and Nor’easter fame. “I started as a classical musician and played organ professionally for 15 years. I really got into midis in the ‘90s and was always interested [in electronic music]. But then I moved to Boston for grad school, and had no time.” It was around then that she discovered the contra dancing world and “fell in love with the music and the way the music and the dance fit together, and thought, ‘maybe I could do that.’”
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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