One of the neat things to come out of the techno contra movement is a renewed focus on a medley format, in some form or another -- in other words, a less broken-up format in which the music is more continuous and the dances/partners change up independently of this, to more reflect a club-like atmosphere where the music continues all night without lulls between sets. I've heard of three main categories of this style of event as practiced in the contra dances and events I've been to, each with their own pros and cons. So, in no particular order....
Over the course of the Contra Sonic series and others, there have been some interesting choices as to formatting. Some series have stuck to the traditional contra dance format, with dances lasting something like 10 minutes apiece and there being distinct breaks between them. Others have attempted to do extra-long medleys, where people are encouraged to drop out at the ends as they get tired (which may or may not actually happen in practice). Still others have attempted a hybrid of the two, having regular contras until the last 30-60 minutes, at which point they switch to a medley format.
I've been to techno contra evenings where the medleys are done well; I've also been to dances where the medleys have crashed and burned and may have qualified for Federal disaster relief. I have my opinions on this, but I'm interested in yours: particularly in a techno contra, is a format change something that enhances the experience, detracts from it, or has no effect?
Photo from www.davecolestock.com
A couple of weeks ago, the crossover contra concept spread to Harrisburg, PA by way of an evening event called by Dave Colestock with music by dJ improper. I caught up with Dave online and asked him about the experience.
Dave says, "I was familiar with the concept [of techno contra], having called a techno slot during a gender free dance I called in New York City in 2010. In October of 2010, during a Halloween dance I called at Locust Lane, I incorporated an extended mix of 'Flashlight' by Parliament. The group really enjoyed it. Two months later when I called the Friday Night Dance at Glen Echo on January 14, 2011, with the Open Band, I was asked by Penelope [Weinberger, Contra Sonic organizer] to add a techno dance to the program, sorta at the last minute, as the Contra Sonic event was upcoming in the following week. So, I called a single techno dance mix that night that was made by dJ improper, as the first dance of the second half of the that night's program."
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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