- There seems to be more of a focus on talent that uses live music mixed with recorded sounds, such as the May 2 "Something Special" Contra Sonic event with dJ improper and a brass section, Firecloud, Electro Bow (Ed Howe and Julie Vallimont's collaborative team now has a name!) and Phase X.
- Techno contras are coming to major weekends (e.g., Electro Bow at NEFFA, Firecloud officially at The Flurry) as well as smaller ones. For me, this feels like techno contra has "arrived" and become more of an accepted part of the contra community.
- Regular techno contra series have lately seemed to give way to special-event-based formats, with more planning and finessing going into more infrequent installments.
- Some other bands (such as Sax Scandal, with their beat track off of Christopher Jacoby's computer) have started to incorporate elements of recorded music into their repertoire as well, even in a non-techno-contra context, which I find really interesting.
Unsuprisingly, the techno contra scene has changed a bit in the last two years since I started Contra Syncretist. Some of the most notable updates follow:
Like a lot of you, I go surfing around on the web for other folks' opinions. While some of the things I've stumbled across have inspired posts, others are interesting to me, even if the subject matter goes a bit beyond this blog's focus. Sometimes especially when it does. To wit:
The F Yeah Contra Dance Tumblr: There is some NSFW language on this one, but this Tumblr has become a recent addition to my regular reading. I am unsurprisingly quite fond of this post about "qualifications" for dance partners.
Sexism in the Dance Hall: Idzie (sorry, couldn't find her last name on there)'s reminder to all of us not to be jerky when people sit out (heads up, some NSFW language).
Homophobia and Contra: Jeff Kaufman ponders the difference between two women dancing together and two men dancing together, and what moves are thought to end up being uncomfortable for the latter, but not the former.
RebeccaBrightly.com: Rebecca is in the swing/Lindy community in Seattle, WA, but I'm finding that a lot of what she writes has applications to social dance in general, including contra.
The Ambidancetrous Tumblr: Again, the focus seems to be on swing dancing, but some of it can be translated to other social dance, like contra.... I know we sometimes get chatting about gender-free dancing and dancing switch or dancing roles that traditionally would not be danced by people of our genders, and this explores it a little more in-depth.
Steve passed this photo series along to me the other day (since I am so very fond of glow sticks) and I thought I would pass it along to you.... Just, if you put glowsticks in waterfalls at home to emulate these, make sure they're non-toxic first!
So as some of you know, outside the U.S. it's not terribly unusual for a series to have a whole bunch of scheduled episodes, then go on a break of indeterminate length, and then come back. (Dr. Who comes to mind, as do a handful of British comedies.)
American contra grew from English (and possibly French) dancing, and I'm borrowing a page from them. In light of recent developing scheduling difficulties, Steve and I are announcing a suspension of the Friday Flourishes. We've put up 104, and while we've enjoyed doing them very much, scheduling for them is becoming more challenging than we can handle on a regular basis (see: Steve going to night school and my gaining full-time employment with a long commute during the day).
The blog lives on, though. Hope some of you stick around and read. And for those who don't, thank you for supporting Steve and me over the last two years and do subscribe to the YouTube channel or Like us on Facebook -- we will post any new videos there when they come about.
I'm really proud of the work we've done, and I would like to do a few more videos, at least, before we roll up the portable dance floor and retire the little point-and-shoot for good; there were some ideas I had for videos that never got fleshed out fully enough to shoot, and flourishes we never quite got camera-ready, and I would still like to do them.
Stay tuned and carry on dancing and innovating, dear readers....
Contra Syncretist turns 2 on April 6! (Not bad for a little grad school project, eh? I wasn't even in grad school for two full years....)
So to celebrate this momentous occasion, I thought I might throw a few other numbers out there for consideration:
This week's flourish is a ladies' chain flourish that incorporates elements of th the mid-twirl reverse chain flourish (December 2011) and our very first flourish video that described the mechanics of a ripcord twirl-out from a swing (April 2011). For this one, be sure that you have a familiar and capable partner who's not having shoulder issues, and that you have enough space.
Thanks for watching!
Carry on dancing,
So, I'm actually going to take time out on this blog and talk about life outside of it -- specifically, mine. And Steve's, since he's my partner in crime on YouTube.
(We're fine, for anyone who hasn't seen us around and was worried.)
(Heads up: the song titles are linked to dance craze videos. Use your judgment when clicking through at work. You have been warned. I am also hereby indemnifying myself from blame for any earworms that may result.)
What do the "Souja Boy" dance, the Cha-cha Slide, the Electric Slide, the Macarena, "Gangnam Style," and "Money Musk" all have in common?
All of them are or were popular amongst a subset of a community, had another subset of that same community wondering why on earth anyone would actually like that dance, and spread a bit in the cultural zeitgeist before heading off into the collective memory a short time later.
Contra actually seems to have one of those at the moment -- "Money Musk" is making the rounds, and Jack Mitchell called it at the Friday Night Contra at Glen Echo recently.
This particular fad seems to be traced to the "Money Musk" flash mob that materialized during the Ralph Page Legacy Dance Weekend in New England and the video was subsequently put up online.
We as a contra community 1) don't really get many triple minor dances, and 2) don't really get fads of the dance-craze kind in our subculture. So it's interesting to watch when it happens.
Folks who are less enamored of ECD don't tend to like the dance as much, I've observed. And there are those who want to dedicate March as "Money Musk Month." So perhaps it will continue to polarize, like many of the other dances mentioned in this post.
As an aside, it keeps looking like, if you booked it through the figures, "Money Musk" might actually track to the song "Tell 'Em/Crank Dat" (the one that tracks to "Soulja Boy")...anyone want to help me check?
Update: Corrected the name of the dance weekend to the Ralph Page Legacy Dance Weekend.
This week's flourish is a swing flourish that was recently pulled on me by a dancer at Glen Echo one week. It doesn't take up a whole lot of room beyond a regular swing and can be led quite handily from a barrel swing with a capable partner. (It is also a fairly easy flourish to refuse from the follow's perspective -- just don't grab the lead's hand and zie can't spin you out this way.)
As usual, beware of shoulder/arm issues, dizzy issues, and space issues; sometimes there just isn't room to twirl out, with either hand.
Carry on dancing,
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....
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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