"I got the gig for Contra Sonic when I attended the Catapult weekend earlier this year. While I had entered, I didn't make the cut this year, but a band (On the Fly) that I suggested enter, did make it. They were appreciative and paid the entrance fee for the weekend," says Eric. "While I was there I was determined to 'network' and come away with not only contacts, but at least one gig. I attended the techno/alt workshop where I met Penelope [Weinberger] and Jeremiah [Seligman, a.k.a. dJ improper] and I asked to come up to Glen Echo to call."
"I have called a couple of techno contras in Gainesville, FL at the university. Dana Parkinson and I traded medleys. She has great timing and a real sense of the music. The format was different in that there were three 20-minute sets, with an hour-long set to close. That was a real experience and one I probably won't repeat. I have yet to call or dance the Tobacco Road dance (in Miami), but I hear great things about it."
Eric specifies on his caller calling cards that he'll call for traditional and techno events, specifically. What is it that draws Eric to alternative contras? "The fact that there is a younger crowd attending the techno/alt [contra] is what interests me the most, as there is always a need to generate new dancers into the fold. I am always ready to turn another one to the dark side that is contra. The fact that the music has a great beat is a big factor in my attending these dances."
He has some advice for callers who might be new to the techno/alt contra scene:"The smoother the choreography, the better, with plenty of partner and neighbor swings. Keep both (actives and inactives) dancing as opposed to the inactives waiting for something to do. It is important to use easier dances that will be learned quickly, instead of harder dances that are prone to confusion."
Eric continues, "It gladdens my heart to see new dancers attending any dance, because once they learn the joy of dance, it doesn't matter what kind of music you do it to, or even what kind of dance it is. I think this is just part of the normal evolution of the dance. I imagine that an improper dance was a scandalous thing at one time. Oh, the horror!"
He also has a few words for the advanced dancers: "Remember to assist the new people to have fun, we were all there once upon a time."
Eric Harris calls primarily in Florida, traveling the whole state from Tallahassee to Key West. He is hoping to build a web site soon. In the meantime, readers can catch him at traditional contra dances on Saturday, August 18, 2012 at the Palmetto Bay dance with Patrick Mason and Lew Pollack; on Saturday, August 25, he will call the Tampa Saturday dance with the Gadabouts playing, and on Saturday, September 29, 2012, he will call the Orlando dance series with the Celery String Band. On January 18-20, 2013, Eric will call for the Orlando Orange Blossom Ball weekend with George Marshall and Alice Milmoe calling in addition and The Sky Tones and Wild Asparagus playing. Many thanks to him for sharing his thoughts!