Good Contra & Square Dancing Defined

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Paul Tyler

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Jul 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/23/96
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Okay, I've been asked to put-up or shut-up, and though I really
should be packing, I'll give it a try (I feel like I'm back in
Graduate School again).

A good dancer has complete awareness of how it all fits together:
the music, the calls, the figures, his/her partner & immediate
dance buddies (neighbor, corner, opposites, etc.), the whole set,
the whole floor, and (maybe most importantly) his/her own body and
all its parts. There are lots of things that the good dancer does
that are seemingly unknown or totally unimaginable to many twirl
and barf dancers. These things include:

1) Fit his/her movement to the phrase of the music. Most contra
dancers dance at one speed and are as guilty of finishing a figure
too early. For example, a good dancer should be able to pace an
unembellished ladies change or right & left thru to fit stylishly
with the eight beat phrase. Another example is thinking all swings
are the same. If in a square the caller says "only once around,"
then by god, swing only once around. (As you can quess, this
happened to me the other night. The beginners did fine, the
experienced contra dancers didn't listen. They must have felt they
had a right to swing as long as they wanted.)

2) Know how to appropriately embellish. I'll bet you many people
who think of themselves as good dancers couldn't get through a
dance without all the extra twirls. They don't know what the basic
movement is or what it feels like. If you don't understand that,
then the embellishments lose some of their character, even their
potency. Embellishments and flourishes work when they come at the
right time in the right situation with the right dance buddies.
They should not be automatic. One simple example is the do-si-do
and the now ubiquitous twirls. A good dancer paces it out and gets
a feel for the timing before venturing any twirls. Same with the
hey, the ladies chain, the grand right & left & others.

3) Good dancers know where a figure is going so they can direct
their momentum to the flow of the dance. This is a much bigger
challenge in squares. Who/where do you face when you end a swing?
Or a do-si-do? How do you break a circle to lead on to the next?
Or to form a line? The challenge of flow in contras is more
controlled so the dancers, but there are subtle shifts of flow
where the dancers have to direct their own energy. Not every gypsy
(gag me) or do-si-do or star or circle is the same.

4) Good dancers make better dancers of the people they dance with.
Not just their partners. A good dancer helps the people he's in
contact with move on to the next figure with ease and grace (see
point #3). Gentle pressure clearly tells the person where they're
going next. If they didn't know, it will help them figure out the
dance. If they did know, they will recognize it as good dancing
(see point #3). The good dancer also appropriately teaches dancers
he encounters who are lost. This is best done by gentle, but firm
shoves and encouraging words. In the heat of the dance, and during
the caller's walk through, good dancers don't fill the air with
more words. But they still help teach the dance. Sometimes it's
just by example. Other times it's by being an active inactive
(doing the small complementary moves that help the active
dancers; or standing ready to go, pointed in the right direction,
with the proper hand ready to extend, and a smiling face looking at
the active dancer soon to be engaged).

5) Good manners. Good manners. Good manners. A good dancer
listens and walks through the figures with the caller during the
walk through, even though he/she has done all this a million times.
The good dancer helps beginners see what the caller is trying to
do. Also, the good dancer doesn't twirl a lady/gent who clearly
isn't ready or willing to twirl. Etc. ect. etc.

6) And one definition by negativity. A good dancer is not
self-centered. He/she doesn't lose him/herself in flirtation or
twir-a-mania. Contra dancing and square dancing are done in a set.
They are not just couple dances. A good dancer dances with
awareness of everyone he/she is interacting with in that figure
(see my discussion of the hey a few arguments back).

Gotta quit now and start packing.

See some of you on the dance floor at Clifftop (squares, yes!)

Paul "now where is that flashlight" Tyler


Dave Goldman

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Jul 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/23/96
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I think Paul's list of good dancer behaviors are right on (say, Paul, do I
have your permission to reprint this list, perhaps a tiny bit edited, in
our local newsletter?).

That said, I think there's a point that's been lurking in these threads
unrecognized.

Some people here have been distinguishing between dancers/dance-series as
either dance-centric or social-centric. At the extremes, a
widely-advertised evening of easy dances with an associated ice cream
social would be social-centric, while a non-advertised evening of all
"challenging" dances would be dance-centric.

In just about all of the postings about dance-centric dancers posted here
by social-centric writers, it seems to be taken for granted that dancers
who put enjoyment of dance before enjoyment of socializing are dancers who
think a great evening is one in which all dances consist of a zillion
twisty little figures, no two alike, during which there will be so many
added twirls that even the caller will vomit from watching.

Au contraire. In my experience, the people who most seriously consider
having separate dances or dance series are precisely the "good dancers" as
defined here by Paul. If you really value dancing with people who "fit
his/her movement to the phrase of the music", "know how to appropriately
embellish", "know where a figure is going" and the rest, then there are
few things more frustrating than spending an entire evening with a roomful
of beginning and intermediate dancers who don't exhibit any of these
behaviors.

As for teaching the "good dancer" behaviors/attitudes, here's my take:

(1) You can't teach this stuff in a beginner workshop. That includes both
the standard 15 minute workshop with which most of us are familiar, as
well as the series of separate classes apparently offered in a few
communities. A beginner is not ready to learn these subtleties.

(2) You can't teach this stuff purely by example. Without a designated
teacher/authority figure explaining the potential benefits of, say,
timing, the good dancer just gets confused or annoyed looks from others
when he/she pauses to wait for the music before taking hands for the next
figure.

(3) You can teach this stuff at a dance camp. A good caller/teacher works
on precisely these issues, and the audience has come to pay attention and
learn.

(4) You can teach this stuff in small doses at in-town special afternoon
workshops. However, in my town this has only been attempted a couple of
times so far, mainly because it's always an ad hoc effort to put together
such an event.

(5) You can try to have the caller take five minutes during a regular
evening dance to work on one selected aspect of this stuff. For the
Portland Country Dance Community dances, such a suggestion is actually in
the contract that goes to all callers, but only a small number of callers
follow the suggestion. I speculate that if done consistently you might be
able to make some small improvements in a community's dancing this way,
but that's just an unproven speculation.


Perhaps others will have opinions to share on all this...?

-- Dave Goldman
Portland, OR

Bruce Hamilton

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Jul 23, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/23/96
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As someone who thinks of himself as a dance teacher rather than a
caller, I've been very interested in this thread. A caller recently
asked me, in a completely different conversation, "how can I teach
good dancing when nobody will accept exercises or drills? Even at
workshops, all anyone will let me do is call dances!" There are some
of us out there who thrive on helping dancers get better, but are
intimidated by the force of dancers' expectations. The VFW dance near
Boston, Mass. is an example: would-be callers get a letter detailing
(and I mean detailing) the dancers' expectations. Teaching does not
fit in that list.

It *is* a chicken-and-egg problem, and the initiative probably lies
with teachers. I thought it would be useful to show dancers a view
from our perspective.

About the aspects of dancing: I'm no contra dancer, so I won't venture
any suggestions about what good contra dancing is. But I'd like to
raise a couple of points for discussion.
* All the points I've seen so far (and they are good points) would
apply equally well if the music were being provided by a drum
machine that gave recognizable 8-bar phrases. Are there any
aspects of the music *besides the phrase length* that good dancers
respond to?
* I keep seeing interaction with partner and the other couple we're
dancing with. The last time I was at a contra dance I played with
(made eye contact, bounced off, joked with, etc.) those people,
but also people in the other sets, people sitting out, people
coming in the door, and the caller. Are these people important to
good dancing, or just the members of my minor set?
* People have mentioned that good dancers look good or that their
partners do, but I haven't seen anyone mention the set or the room
looking good. I'm pretty sure this is not a direct goal of good
contra dancing, but is it a predictable side effect? If a
non-dancer with good artistic sense saw (from the balcony, say) a
room full of good dancers, would that person be moved to stay and
watch? (I'm not talking about watching the individuals, only the
room in general). If so, what aspects would appeal to them?
--
Bruce Hamilton Hewlett-Packard Laboratories MS-4AD
Phone 415-857-2818 PO Box 10150
Fax 415-852-8092 Palo Alto, CA 94303-0889
bruce_h...@hpl.hp.com

Nancy Mamlin

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Jul 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/24/96
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On 23 Jul 1996, Paul Tyler wrote:

> Okay, I've been asked to put-up or shut-up, and though I really
> should be packing,

Shouldn't we all?

> A good dancer has complete awareness of how it all fits together:

Paul, you have compiled an excellent list of what makes a good dancer. As
you know, I had the opportunity to be at many different dances this
summer and every dance I attended had at least one person (sometimes as
many as most people) that should heed your words...

> 1) Fit his/her movement to the phrase of the music. Most contra
> dancers dance at one speed and are as guilty of finishing a figure
> too early. For example, a good dancer should be able to pace an

This is particularly true toward the beginning of the evening when
simpler dances are done. This is more unfortunate that it happens then,
since that's *really* when new dancers need good examples.

> 2) Know how to appropriately embellish. I'll bet you many people

I saw one too many dancers out there in the US who actually *taught*
newcomers some basic moves _with_ the flourishes. I believe that the
teachers didn't know that there was a "basic" move.

>gypsy
> (gag me)

Just wanted to repeat that sentiment.

> during
> the caller's walk through, good dancers don't fill the air with
> more words.

Hear Hear! It's *very* difficult as a caller to try to explain a figure
to dancers when some "kind soul" is showing them how to do it at the same
time. More often than not, the person on the dance floor has guessed
wrong about what the figure is going to be. A little knowledge is a
dangerous thing!

> 5) Good manners. Good manners. Good manners. A good dancer
> listens and walks through the figures with the caller during the
> walk through, even though he/she has done all this a million times.

Yes. Please. One thing I do when I go to dances is try to pass myself off
as a new dancer. If someone asks me for help while the caller is
teaching, I say "I don't know. Let's see what she/he says." I might even
say I've never done this dance before. (Very technically true...)

> Contra dancing and square dancing are done in a set.
> They are not just couple dances.

Amen! There once was a dance community where the dancing suddenly
improved drastically, as the attendance dropped off. The reason? All the
"cool" dancers started going swing dancing. It's what they were looking
for all along....

> See some of you on the dance floor at Clifftop (squares, yes!)

Indeed.

Nancy Mamlin


Nancy Mamlin

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Jul 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/24/96
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On Tue, 23 Jul 1996, Dave Goldman wrote:
>
> (5) You can try to have the caller take five minutes during a regular
> evening dance to work on one selected aspect of this stuff. For the
> Portland Country Dance Community dances, such a suggestion is actually in
> the contract that goes to all callers, but only a small number of callers
> follow the suggestion. I speculate that if done consistently you might be
> able to make some small improvements in a community's dancing this way,
> but that's just an unproven speculation.
>

When I was the Dance Chair for the Folklore Society of Greater Washington
(Sunday Night Dances primarily), such a statement was also in our
contract. You're right, not all callers did it, but I think it helped.
However, there are still some "good dancers" who figured they didn't have
to listen.

Anecdote:

Ted Sannella came to call one evening. Within the teaching of a contra,
he chose to spend a little extra time working on "allemandes". My
neighbor in my foursome got *very* indignant, and said something along
the lines of "Who does this old man think he is? Who does he think we
are? Doesn't he know this is an _experienced_ crowd?" I just looked at
him and said, "Listen, if Ted Sannella is telling us how to do an
allemande left, listen to him. He's right and every one of us in this
room can learn from him." Needless to say, this dancer also happened to
be pretty egocentric, and was not all that great at correctly doing
allemandes.

That's enough for today...

Nancy

Dave Goldman

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Jul 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/24/96
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In article
<Pine.PMDF.3.91.9607240...@conrad.appstate.edu>, Nancy
Mamlin <maml...@conrad.appstate.edu> wrote:

> Ted Sannella came to call one evening. Within the teaching of a contra,
> he chose to spend a little extra time working on "allemandes". My
> neighbor in my foursome got *very* indignant, and said something along
> the lines of "Who does this old man think he is? Who does he think we
> are? Doesn't he know this is an _experienced_ crowd?" I just looked at
> him and said, "Listen, if Ted Sannella is telling us how to do an
> allemande left, listen to him. He's right and every one of us in this
> room can learn from him." Needless to say, this dancer also happened to
> be pretty egocentric, and was not all that great at correctly doing
> allemandes.


Probably it would have also been safe to say "Listen, if Ted Sannella is
telling us how to do an allemande left, then that means he's been watching
the crowd and has seen that we _need_ to be told how to do an allemande
left!"

-- Dave

Lee Thompson-Herbert

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Jul 24, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/24/96
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In article <4t3mcv$4...@hplms2.hpl.hp.com>,
Bruce Hamilton <hami...@hpl.hp.com> wrote:
[...]

> * All the points I've seen so far (and they are good points) would
> apply equally well if the music were being provided by a drum
> machine that gave recognizable 8-bar phrases. Are there any
> aspects of the music *besides the phrase length* that good dancers
> good dancing, or just the members of my minor set?

Depends. If you actually want to put some sort of stepping in, like
flat-footing, then the music does make a difference. Such things weren't
unheard-of in times past, though it's mostly disappeared now. And well...
people who can't hear the differences between reels, jigs, and hornpipes
may not realize that even if you just walk to the music, there will be
subtle differences in how you move.

[...]


> * People have mentioned that good dancers look good or that their
> partners do, but I haven't seen anyone mention the set or the room
> looking good. I'm pretty sure this is not a direct goal of good
> contra dancing, but is it a predictable side effect? If a

[grin] What, actually try to keep your lines straight and your sets
squared? Blasphemy! And even worse, you might actually expect everyone
to move in sync. Oh no! That would of course mean we might have to
_practice_. Horrors.


--
Lee M.Thompson-Herbert KD6WUR l...@crl.com
Member, Knights of Xenu (1995). Chaos Monger and Jill of All Trades.
"There are some people who will argue whether the flames are blue
or green, when the real question is that their arse is on fire."

Barbara Ruth

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Jul 25, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/25/96
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In article <dave-23079...@ip-pdx06-26.teleport.com>, da...@rsd.com
(Dave Goldman) wrote:

>
> (5) You can try to have the caller take five minutes during a regular
> evening dance to work on one selected aspect of this stuff. For the
> Portland Country Dance Community dances, such a suggestion is actually in
> the contract that goes to all callers, but only a small number of callers
> follow the suggestion. I speculate that if done consistently you might be
> able to make some small improvements in a community's dancing this way,
> but that's just an unproven speculation.
>

During a dance he was calling in New Haven, Dan Pearl made the point that
one doesn't *have* to end swings with a twirl, but if one is going to,
then you should begin the twirl a couple of beats before the end of the
swing so that you can end on the correct beat. And someone standing
nearby, who has been dancing for years (and twirling his partners),
commented in a tone of genuine surprise "What a good idea!" I haven't
noticed that he has actually improved his timing, but at least the idea
made it into his consciousness however briefly. I suspect that it is
lurking back there in the back of his brain, and that repetition of this
point might bring it to the forefront. I agree that having callers make
short points about good dancing, or taking a couple of moments to work on
one aspect, repeated over time, can make subtle but useful improvements in
the dance as a whole. If nothing else, it reinforces the idea that there
is such a thing as good dancing, a concept that I fear some in the dance
community reject altogether.

Nancy K. Martin

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Jul 26, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/26/96
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Paul Tyler (pty...@wwa.com) wrote:

: 2) Know how to appropriately embellish. I'll bet you many people

: who think of themselves as good dancers couldn't get through a
: dance without all the extra twirls. They don't know what the basic
: movement is or what it feels like.

For me, the courtesy turn is almost always a disappointment. That lovely
couple turn has such a satisfying sweep if you use all four beats and
give weight. It can be so sexy in a way that flirting is not. But most
dancers, including the "good" dancers, throw it away with a twirl - or
just disappointedly walk it around when they realize their partner is not
a twirlybird.

: gypsy (gag me)

Oh, hallelujah! There are other people who think the gypsy is inane?

: 4) Good dancers make better dancers of the people they dance with.

: Not just their partners. A good dancer helps the people he's in
: contact with move on to the next figure with ease and grace (see
: point #3). Gentle pressure clearly tells the person where they're
: going next.

How many times have I seen "good" dancers teach through humiliation. A
rude shove or a barked order are out of place at a dance. You wouldn't
treat people that way if they were attending a party at your house. A
dance is a party (sorry, you dance-centric folks) and we are the hosts
and guests.

: The good dancer helps beginners see what the caller is trying to
: do.

This line neatly condenses all of your points into one. Let's carve it
into stone.

: 6) And one definition by negativity. A good dancer is not

: self-centered. He/she doesn't lose him/herself in flirtation or
: twir-a-mania. Contra dancing and square dancing are done in a set.
: They are not just couple dances. A good dancer dances with
: awareness of everyone he/she is interacting with in that figure
: (see my discussion of the hey a few arguments back).

My impression of many "good" dancers, reinforced at very dance I attend,
is that they might be happier with solo bellydancing or competitive
ballroom dancing.

Nothing in your excellent list of qualities is that difficult to do. The
problem is that so many of the dancers who think they are advanced have an
attitude that prevents their making use of your suggestions. What you
are describing are ways of dealing with social problems at dances,
therefore, socializing. The advanced/challenging people insist that
socializing and beginners are impediments to achieving contragasm. They
are after the perfect performance, not the memorable party.

Every time I dance I run into some really nice people who stay in my mind
for days after. These are people who attracted me with their sense of fun
and sponteneity. There must be some way to work these qualities into the
definition of a good dancer. I like a dancer who can take a broken down
dance and turn it into a game or a joke before moving on. Nothing worse
than the advanced dancer who desperately tries to salvage the
collapsing dance around him, furiously pointing and barking when everyone
else is collapsed with silly laughter.

Bill Martin
gitf...@teleport.com

David H. Millstone

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Jul 27, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/27/96
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Paul Tyler <pty...@wwa.com> wrote:

> A good dancer has complete awareness of how it all fits together:
> the music, the calls, the figures, his/her partner & immediate
> dance buddies (neighbor, corner, opposites, etc.), the whole set,
> the whole floor, and (maybe most importantly) his/her own body and
> all its parts. There are lots of things that the good dancer does

> that are seemingly unknown or totally unimaginable to many [snip]

I remember my first encounter with Jack Shimer at a dance camp some years
ago. I didn't know who he was, but Bob Dalsemer pointed him out to me and
said, "Watch how the dancing improves behind him." It was fascinating. As
he progressed down the set, Jack left a visible wake of dancers who were
noticeably dancing better and having more fun. You could actually see
people perk up, their posture improve, their timing sharpen.

What did he do? I think it was a combination of the joy he brought to
dancing combined with being an extraordinarily good dancer himself. He
smiled, he laughed, he danced‹‹AND he was always on time, he always
assisted his partner to be in the right place at the right time, he
brought the other couple into the dance with winks and nods and smiles and
occasionally (perhaps as a last resort?) a gesture. There were no extra
twirls to fill spaces left over from rushed-through phrases because there
was no rushing. He was having a great time himself and he lifted the
spirits of all who encountered him, helping make the entire set dance
better. That's good dancing.

David Millstone
Lebanon, NH

C. Clark

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Jul 27, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/27/96
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In article <4t9n3f$p...@nadine.teleport.com>, mar...@teleport.com says...

>dance is a party (sorry, you dance-centric folks) and we are the hosts
>and guests.

Why apologize to us? Or did you mean those *other* dance-centric folks?
It seems to me that the best term for *them* is "dance snobs."
Fortunately we don't see many of them around State College.

Alex Clark


Susan Kevra

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Jul 28, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/28/96
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Nancy K. Martin wrote:
>How many times have I seen "good" dancers teach through humiliation. A
>rude shove or a barked order are out of place at a dance.

As my good friend Arthur Cornelius put it, "an inclined nostril" is
often all that's necessary to redirect a confused dancer.


Barbara Ruth

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Jul 29, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/29/96
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In article <4t9n3f$p...@nadine.teleport.com>, mar...@teleport.com (Bill
Martin) wrote:


> A


> dance is a party (sorry, you dance-centric folks) and we are the hosts
> and guests.
>


When _I_ give a party I don't charge my guests admission.

Alan Winston - SSRL Admin Cmptg Mgr

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Jul 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/30/96
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In article <David.Millstone-...@kip-3-216.valley.net>,
David.M...@valley.net (David H. Millstone) writes:
>
>I remember my first encounter with Jack Shimer at a dance camp some years
>ago. I didn't know who he was, but Bob Dalsemer pointed him out to me and
>said, "Watch how the dancing improves behind him." It was fascinating. As
>he progressed down the set, Jack left a visible wake of dancers who were
>noticeably dancing better and having more fun. You could actually see
>people perk up, their posture improve, their timing sharpen.
>

I hate to make the dreaded "me too" posting, but me too. That is to say,
I noticed this about Jack at _my_ first dance camp, Mendocino English Week
in 1987.

>What did he do? I think it was a combination of the joy he brought to
>dancing combined with being an extraordinarily good dancer himself. He
>smiled, he laughed, he danced AND he was always on time, he always
>assisted his partner to be in the right place at the right time, he
>brought the other couple into the dance with winks and nods and smiles and
>occasionally (perhaps as a last resort?) a gesture. There were no extra
>twirls to fill spaces left over from rushed-through phrases because there
>was no rushing. He was having a great time himself and he lifted the
>spirits of all who encountered him, helping make the entire set dance
>better. That's good dancing.
>

And he also gave just the right amount of weight. You could feel your circle
circle pick up and get connected when he joined it, even if you weren't in
direct contact.

>David Millstone
>Lebanon, NH

Thanks for reminding me of this experience.

-- Alan

===============================================================================
Alan Winston --- WIN...@SLAC.STANFORD.EDU
Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not SLAC or SSRL Phone: 415/926-3056
Physical mail to: SSRL -- SLAC BIN 69, PO BOX 4349, STANFORD, CA 94309-0210
===============================================================================


Nancy K. Martin

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Jul 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/30/96
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Barbara Ruth (barbar...@yale.edu) wrote:
: In article <4t9n3f$p...@nadine.teleport.com>, mar...@teleport.com (Bill
: Martin) wrote:

Really? You don't? Dang. That must be why nobody comes to my parties. How
about the beer? Barbara, you don't give them free beer!? Leave me
something!

WWWWW
W/\ /\W
/ ( 0) ( 0) "huh?"
( .. )
\ ///\\\ /
\/ O \/ Bill Martin
VVVV gitf...@teleport.com

Joel L Breazeale

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Jul 31, 1996, 3:00:00 AM7/31/96
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In article <barbara.ruth-2...@ruthb.med.yale.edu>,

Barbara Ruth <barbar...@yale.edu> wrote:
>In article <4t9n3f$p...@nadine.teleport.com>, mar...@teleport.com (Bill
>Martin) wrote:
>
>
>> A
>> dance is a party (sorry, you dance-centric folks) and we are the hosts
>> and guests.
>>
>
>
>When _I_ give a party I don't charge my guests admission.

If I were organizing a party with live-music and a caller (expenses) for
dancing then I would certainly appreciate contributions toward those ex-
penses. I don't think a dance is *literally* a party, it is *like* a party,
unless the dance is like an aerobics class or puzzle solving with humans
as the puzzle pieces... 8-)

[If the social side of a dance is de-emphasized or removed then is the
event a dance in substance or just a dance in appearance?]

--Joel

Kiran Wagle

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Aug 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/1/96
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j...@world.std.com (Joel L Breazeale) wrote:

> [If the social side of a dance is de-emphasized or removed then
> is the event a dance in substance or just a dance in appearance?]

If the dancing side of a dance is de-emphasized or removed,
is the event a dance in substance or just in appearance?

Sometiems I wonder why certain people
call these things "dances" rather than "parties" or "crowds."

~ Kiran <ent...@io.com>

--
<http://www.io.com/contradance/> 1628 5th St NW Wash DC 20001 (202) 483-3373

Phil Good-Elliott

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Aug 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/1/96
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In article <4tebog$5...@thrush.sover.net>, ske...@marlboro.edu (Susan
Kevra) wrote:

As a self-confessed dance-snob at times, I once parodied myself and all
too many other dance-snobs by writing a "contra" called the "Hokey-Folky"
for the Second Occaisional Bad Contra Contest held at the Ann Arbor Dawn
Dance a few years ago. It was danced and sung to the tune of
"Hokey-Pokey" and with elements like "put your right foot in, put your
right foot out, take your partner's right foot and turn yourselves about."
It was just outright silly and impossible to do with a straight face. I
think Erna-Lynne Bogue (ebo...@umich.edu) may still have a copy of it
somewhere if anyone's interested in it.

Thanks to Paul Tyler for the wonderful material.

Phil Good-Elliott
(buf...@ix.netcom.com)

Alan Gedance

unread,
Aug 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/1/96
to Joel L Breazeale

On Wed, 31 Jul 1996, Joel L Breazeale wrote:

> In article <barbara.ruth-2...@ruthb.med.yale.edu>,
> Barbara Ruth <barbar...@yale.edu> wrote:
> >In article <4t9n3f$p...@nadine.teleport.com>, mar...@teleport.com (Bill
> >Martin) wrote:
> >
> >> A
> >> dance is a party (sorry, you dance-centric folks) and we are the hosts
> >> and guests.
> >
> >When _I_ give a party I don't charge my guests admission.
>
> If I were organizing a party with live-music and a caller (expenses) for
> dancing then I would certainly appreciate contributions toward those ex-
> penses. I don't think a dance is *literally* a party, it is *like* a party,
> unless the dance is like an aerobics class or puzzle solving with humans
> as the puzzle pieces... 8-)
>

> [If the social side of a dance is de-emphasized or removed then is the
> event a dance in substance or just a dance in appearance?]

I must be missing something here. If the dance side of a dance is
de-emphasized or removed, then is the event a dance or just a dance in
appearance?

Alan


Jonathan Sivier

unread,
Aug 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/1/96
to

Alan Gedance <aged...@mail.bcpl.lib.md.us> writes:

I quite agree. A dance is a party where the primary activity is
understood to be dancing. In much the same way as card parties are parties
where the primary activity is to be some card game(s) such as pinochle or
poker. At friendly card parties new players are welcomed, the rules are
explained, their given a cheat-sheet if needed, a few hands are played open
to practice, but then everyone is expected to play cards more or less
seriously. Sure plenty of socializing goes on, but the primary activity is
playing cards.

Most contra dances work much the same way. New dancers are welcomed,
given a brief introduction to the figures (rules) of the dance, perhaps
given a sheet explaining the group and the dances they do. Then some easy
dances are done to get them going and then the group gets down to the
primary activity of the evening, dancing in a more or less serious fashion.
Plenty of socializing takes place, before, during (on the sides) and after
the dance. However the primary activity is dancing.

Thus someone who is uninterested in or unable/unwilling to gain skill in
the primary activity of the party, be it cards, dancing, bowling, wine tasting
or any other type of activity, may feel somewhat left out. Not that the
people there are unfriendly or unwilling to include this person in their
activity, just that this is a party with a specific primary activity
which take some precedence over just socializing.

There can be, and probably are, events where socializing is the primary
activity and a few dances may be done (or a few games played) as a secondary
activity. One example might be a wedding reception where there is a band
and some dancing. The primary activity is the party for the bride and groom,
the music and dancing is secondary. However this is not the case for most
weekly dance series. These are groups of people with a common interest
(dancing) who get together to pursue that activity, as opposed to a group of
friends who get together and then decide on something to do (play a game, go
to a movie, etc.) I think there can be (and perhaps should be) a wide
spectrum of dance events. From community dances where everyone in town comes
and socializing is the primary activity with some music and dance to provide
some entertainment (I've called dances like this), parties with some dancing
fall into this category as well (the wedding reception for example). Then
there are dances such as the local weekly dance we have here in Urbana, IL.
Here the primary activity is dancing, but we try to be accomidating to new
dancers as well. some new people feel we're too fucused on the dancing and
are put off and some experienced dancers think we fucus too much on the new
dancers and are put off. You can't please everyone and have to try to strike
a balance where you bring new dancers in, but still give some challenge to
the experienced dancers who form the core of your group. Then at the other
end of the spectrum are dance weekends and camps where dancing is very
primary and all participants are expected to know what is what going in.
Here little or no accomidation is made for new people and if they come it's
sink or swim.

Some areas may be luck enough to have dance series from all along this
spectrum going on locally, but I think most places have only one series and
it must fall somewhere in the middle, with compromises made to accomadate
a wide range of interests/skill levels.

Jonathan

-------------------------------------------------------------------
| Jonathan Sivier | Ballo ergo sum. |
| j-si...@uiuc.edu | (I dance therefore I am.) |
| Flight Simulation Lab | - des Cartwright |
| Beckman Institute | |
| 405 N. Mathews | SWMDG - Single White Male |
| Urbana, IL 61801 | Dance Gypsy |
| Work: 217/244-1923 | |
| Home: 217/359-8225 | Have shoes, will dance. |
-------------------------------------------------------------------


Barbara Ruth

unread,
Aug 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/1/96
to

In article <4tkh4l$i...@nadine.teleport.com>, mar...@teleport.com (Nancy
K. Martin) wrote:

> Barbara Ruth (barbar...@yale.edu) wrote:
> : In article <4t9n3f$p...@nadine.teleport.com>, mar...@teleport.com (Bill
> : Martin) wrote:
>
>
> : > A
> : > dance is a party (sorry, you dance-centric folks) and we are the hosts
> : > and guests.

>
> : When _I_ give a party I don't charge my guests admission.
>

> Really? You don't? Dang. That must be why nobody comes to my parties. How
> about the beer? Barbara, you don't give them free beer!? Leave me
> something!


Well, at least you do have a sense of humor, even if you don't know how to
throw a decent party.

Actually, no, no free beer. (None of them drink the stuff!) But the
potato latkes at my annual Chanukah-bash are to die for. Stop by New
Haven some time 'round mid-December . . .

C. Clark

unread,
Aug 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/2/96
to

In article <Pine.SOL.3.93.960801130606.7415B-100000@mail>,
aged...@mail.bcpl.lib.md.us says...

>> [If the social side of a dance is de-emphasized or removed then is the
>> event a dance in substance or just a dance in appearance?]

> ... If the dance side of a dance is de-emphasized or removed, then is

>the event a dance or just a dance in appearance?

No. It would be neither, and people would hardly call it a dance.

The point is that the social side of a dance could (at least in theory)
be removed and people would still call it a dance, and the question seems
to be whether this is appropriate. I think that the word usage would be
correct (it's still a dance) but doing it would be a lousy idea.

Alex Clark


Lee Thompson-Herbert

unread,
Aug 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/2/96
to

In article <buffle-0108...@war-mi6-39.ix.netcom.com>,

Phil Good-Elliott <buf...@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
>
>As a self-confessed dance-snob at times, I once parodied myself and all
>too many other dance-snobs by writing a "contra" called the "Hokey-Folky"
>for the Second Occaisional Bad Contra Contest held at the Ann Arbor Dawn
>Dance a few years ago. It was danced and sung to the tune of
>"Hokey-Pokey" and with elements like "put your right foot in, put your
>right foot out, take your partner's right foot and turn yourselves about."
>It was just outright silly and impossible to do with a straight face. I
>think Erna-Lynne Bogue (ebo...@umich.edu) may still have a copy of it
>somewhere if anyone's interested in it.

HAhahHAhaha. And I thought I was the only person with bad enough taste
to do things like that. I pulled out the Hokey-Polka last april fools'
day. And got the rare joy of telling my co-instructor to shut up or
get out of the set when he started whining, "But I *hate* the Hokey
Pokey!" Since he's known for doing similar things to people who
whine, "But I *hate* that dance!" it was appropriate.

Alan Gedance

unread,
Aug 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/2/96
to

On 1 Aug 1996, Jonathan Sivier wrote:

> Alan Gedance <aged...@mail.bcpl.lib.md.us> writes:

><..snip..>

> >I must be missing something here. If the dance side of a dance is
> >de-emphasized or removed, then is the event a dance or just a dance in
> >appearance?
>
> I quite agree. A dance is a party where the primary activity is
> understood to be dancing.

Jonathan:

Your entire letter is very well put. We are in complete agreement. Why
do so many folks seem to bristle at the notion that many people go to a
dance to _dance_, and that good dancing is worth encouraging and that to
do so is antisocial? To me, good contra dancing is _very_ social, much
more so than any other kind of dancing. A good dancer is always dancing
with the whole hall of people, and even though he or she is concentrating
on the partner of the moment, is aware of everyone in the vicinity. This
is in marked contrast to the "dancer" who is uninterested in the dance and
the music, and is mainly interested in chatter or in showing off to the
detriment of everyone in the vicinity.

Alan


Paul J. Stamler

unread,
Aug 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/2/96
to

Jonathan: Great summary of the dialectic between openness and challenge.
I think you've expressed it perfectly.

One aspect of healthy dance series few have mentioned is that the people
who go to them also develop social contacts outside the dances
themselves. People who meet at dancing thus participate in such
activities as restaurant crawls, movie excursions, birthday celebrations,
campouts, group sex, jigsaw puzzle parties, etc..

Peace.
Paul

Wendy Morrison

unread,
Aug 5, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/5/96
to

Group sex...? I must be going to the wrong dances.

--
Wendy Morrison, House of Musical Traditions
7040 Carroll Ave, Takoma Park, MD 20912
301-270-9090 fax 301-270-3010, toll free in US 800-540-3794
http://www.hmtrad.com/hmtrad

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