“It was comforting when the DJ was actually onstage...if he’s not there, the machine’s controlling it. I discovered that I like other people on stage. I think that for me, the biggest surprise was getting set[list]s and picking dances, instead of vice versa. Instead of following my lead, I was following the music’s lead. It’s like I do with Perpetual e-Motion, where it’s all planned out. It’s that art school thing--here’s a new experience, this is cool. I’ll try stuff, just because I’m curious.”
That same curiosity drove Will to experiment a bit when he called for Contra Sonic, throwing a square dance into the second half to the alternative music. “It was a spur of the moment thing. It was just okay. I will definitely do it again -- but I will work it out with Jeremiah beforehand.”
During one of the later dances of the second half at Contra Sonic, Will joined the lines and danced through. “It confirmed my belief that simpler dances work best for techno contras. Dancing in a contemporary club is more an internal experience. You are often packed into a dark room but move to the music alone or semi-coordinated with a partner. You do your own thing. Contra dancing is all about cooperatively executing figures in patterns with three (or more) other people. For techno contra, simpler dances allow individuals to split the difference between club and contra dancing; it allows dancers to ‘do their own thing’ as they execute figures for two or four people. Next time I will call a dance in which the whole set is moving along the edges with pull-bys -- just to see what that is like. I would also be interested in calling a more advanced techno contra -- again just to see how it alters the experience.”
Will got a chance to see a dance with pull-bys at Contra Evolution with Perpetual e-Motion, Double Apex, and dJ improper, with Nils Fredland co-calling. Nils Fredland called “Salute to Larry Jennings.” Says Will, “…It’s kind of geek caller humor…. I don’t think he meant it that way, pulling up a dance, but when I saw what dance it was, I was laughing inside, and wondering what Larry Jennings would think. I mean, maybe he would have loved it, I don’t know.... I believe ‘Salute to Larry Jennings’ was a dance written for Larry Jennings written by Ted Sanella, so, anyway, it was an interesting choice, and sort of an inside joke for me…. Yeah, I think the working the edge with a grand right and left, leaving the minor set, for dancers that are really new can be challenging; add to that that it was a dark hall with the lights, but in fact, early on, I think it was by the first [dance], Nils and I were telling each other, we can pretty much call anything, the dancers are pretty advanced. I mean, it’s not only a special dance, it’s a Wednesday night, you’ve got to be pretty motivated to go. That usually means the dancers are pretty experienced.”
Will adds, “I also think that one of the ways that some dances could be categorized as challenging is that there’s a demand for people to do something, oftentimes, usually with a meanwhile figure where two people are doing one thing and two people are doing another, like an orbit, or it’s just the four people have to really time it in ways that make it challenging. And that may be a fun thing to do in one circumstance, but at a crossover or in a techno contra it may not be the best choice, and I don’t think it is. If you’ve got to do lots of different little hand turns into balances and the turns and then orbits and -- that may not be what you want to do for the Beastie Boys. It might, it would be interesting to experiment with that. Maybe it’s been done, I don’t know.”
Tune in next week, when Will and I continue our conversation with his pivotal role in Contrashock and Contrastock (both last year’s and this year’s editions in New York City and at Glen Echo) and some thoughts on the intergenerationality of the new (or maybe not-so-new) crossover contra form.