“My first techno contra was on New Years Day 2010 in Asheville, NC, and it was organized and DJ'd by Jordy Williams. Since then, I've been to a handful of techno and alternative music dances at Youth Dance Weekend in Vermont and throughout Massachusetts. Dancer friends told me about Jordy's dance and we wound up driving 12 hours to see what it was like.”
When I asked about the pre-event process, Dave explained that “Jeremiah [Seligman, a.k.a. dJ improper] told me a bit about his process beforehand, but we didn't discuss specifics of the songs he would play. I don't tend to do that with other bands I work with either, though. Because each dance community and band is so different, I find that rolling with the punches and being adaptable are the best bets to get through an evening successfully. Jeremiah's set up was unique in many ways, but interacting with him was much like interacting with a regular band. To me, it seemed like his goal is to be able to interface with a caller in the same way a live band would.”
Dave continued, “I was surprised the music worked so well with the dances. In my experience, nothing can compare with the energy that live musicians provide. While I still believe this, Jeremiah's music was energetic and pushed both me and the dancers to perform well to a greater extent than alternative contra dances I've attended in the past. [Calling Contra Sonic] gave me a respect for people like Jeremiah, who put a lot of work into keeping the dancers in mind when putting the music together.”
Overall, Dave says that he feels “the evening went well, but there were microphone issues toward the end of the dance. [In the future] I think I would try to communicate more with the sound people in that particular venue and try to do more of a sound check with the music playing at the same time. I think one of the things that makes Contra Sonic special is that while it is an alternative type contra dance, it works very similarly to a regular dance. I had lots of fun at Contra Sonic, and am already talking with the organizers to call another one, likely in the spring.”
In light of this, where does he see techno contra fitting into the tradition? “I think that is still very much unknown. My hope is that the live band remains the standard for all dances, but I think there is a place for techno dances on the fringe. In my experience, they seem to be the most successful with an experienced crowd rather than having many beginners, so it may be difficult to attract newer dancers to such events.”
Dave Eisenstadter will be calling contra dancing at Burning Man Festival with Lift Ticket; Double Apex; Nor’easter; and Michele Levy and Jim Oakden, which will take place in Nevada from August 29 to September 5, 2011. This will be the second year that contra dancing will be at Burning Man. Many thanks to him for sharing his thoughts!