This week's flourish is one that was pulled out on me by a dancer from Tampa, FL. (Thanks!) It's a relatively simple way to switch from one role to the other with your partner, although you need to be sure to grab your partner's correct hand (I didn't the first few times...oops). Fortunately we figured this out, and after a couple of tries my partner and I were able to use this switch back and forth as we progressed through the line.
As someone who usually dances the follow's role, I've noticed something interesting and I'm not sure if my experience is unique or not: at most traditional contra evenings I go to, I might end up dancing lead (not switch, where we trade, but straight-up lead) once or twice in the evening, tops. When I've gone to techno contras, on the other hand, I've ended up dancing lead a bit more often. I'm not sure if this is a matter of there are fewer people at the average techno contra than the average traditional contra I've been to (and so it's more likely that there's a gender imbalance and more available people who dance the "lady" than the "gent" roles) or if something else is at work.
On the other hand, my partner, who usually dances lead, reports that he usually has zero problem finding partners and that they're usually lining up to dance with him and that the only time he ends up dancing follow is when he dances switch.
It is also worth noting that usually these dances where I've seen this are not billed as gender-free, so it may just be that I'm in a minority of women who are willing to lead (and hopefully do so reasonably competently). I've had several really fun dances as both a lead and as a follow (and plenty of fun ones dancing switch), so it's certainly not a complaint, merely a trend I've noticed. Maybe it's just that more people who dance the "lady" role end up at techno contras where we've headed (mostly the mid-Atlantic)?
Anyone else find this or see something I'm missing? Or, for that matter, find the opposite to be true?
This week's flourish is probably the easiest switch flourish on a swing that we know; it's not terribly inventive, but it certainly gets the job done.
Be a bit careful of elbows on this one, but it's generally pretty safe -- and if the switch doesn't work, you'll just stay in the same lead/follow position you started in.
Dancers, as usual, at Ryan Holman and Steven Roth.
Also, I have had a special request from Steve to let him say a few words:
"For those of you not in the Washington, DC area, you might not know just how much everyone around here has LOST THEIR MINDS over the arrival of the space shuttle Discovery at its new home at the Smithsonian, where it is being switched out for the prototype shuttle Enterprise which has resided here for years. It is in honor of this switch that we present today's flourish."
So quoth the Steve.
This week's flourish is a neat little back lead that we originally saw in a video from the Scout House with Nor'easter playing (filmed by frankhsieh; thanks for pointing us to it, klmabon!)
The neat thing about this flourish is that it's actually a combination of two flourishes linked together into a back lead (a turn-under and a ripcord twirl -- wow has it really been ten months since we posted that last one?). As with all ripcord twirls, be careful of your partner's shoulders and do not yank their arms.
Dancers are, as usual, Ryan Holman (a.k.a. your friendly techno contra blogger) and Steven Roth (the guy with the ponytail).
Send us your flourishes! They might be featured here!
P.S. Like the "Dance with who's comin' atcha/dJ improper" shirts? Friend of the site Penelope Weinberger is in charge of those as her own project. If you'd like to get one, message me and I'll pass on her info!
Last week, we talked about gender-swapping and dancing switch in contra lines. This week we take the concept to the entire line, where people can intentionally swap roles and partners up and down the line as the dance goes on. These so-called “chaos/shenanigans/wild/etc. lines” have at times been formally announced, and at other times have happened on smaller scales on a somewhat ad hoc basis through two or three couples following each other up or down the set (with all of them being 1’s or all being 2’s, and then swapping partners and roles amongst themselves as they traveled up or down the line).
While one way of mixing things up in contra dancing is to change the music, another is a bit more subtle, but still can make for an interesting experiment: dancing the “other” gender role, or switching roles as you go up or down the line. I’ve found that as someone who normally dances as a follow, dancing as a lead or dancing switch to be a lot of fun, and I know several other people do too, and not solely as a coping mechanism when there is a gender imbalance or when the dance is formally billed as being gender-free.
There’s been some talk about the whole “lead” versus “follow” and whether or not these things even really should exist in someone’s Platonic ideal of contra, and the sociological implications of that which at least somewhat go beyond the purview of this blog. However, I’ve found some dancers who have interesting things to say about the mindset and the sensibilities that go with dancing the “other” role.
The Friday Flourish for this week is now uploaded and live -- thanks for your patience, everyone!
This week we continue our series on dancing switch, and detail a variant on a way to trade the lead back and forth. The timing on this one is the key; you're pretty much going to let go of your partner's hand to send him around and then immediately dive to get your hand around his other side. This one might require a relatively spacious dancing spot the first few times you do it. Like with the other switch flourishes, make sure you give clear leads -- dancing switch can get disorienting sometimes.
You, too, could have your flourishes featured on this blog! Send them to me using the Contact form.
Coming up in the next couple of weeks, there will be interviews with caller Dave Eisenstadter and the electronic-influenced contra duo known as Perpetual e-Motion. Stay tuned!
Carry on Dancing,
I was digging around online this evening (read: taking a look at Google Analytics to see how you lovely readers are finding this blog), and I found something really interesting over on Jeff Kaufman's blog, offering a couple of perspectives on why using "lady" and "gent" in describing contra dance roles is or isn't sexist.
This was especially interesting since we've been talking about dancing switch lately on the YouTube channel.
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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