Friday, March 15, 2013

Contra Dances

Well this blog gave up on being about one topic a long time ago, and for those who don't know, I've been really active in the folk dancing scene for the last few years. In the last year I've also begun calling dances and writing them, including the two below. For those who don't contra dance this might be meaningless (aside from the pond story), but if you're curious about contra I encourage you to try it (there's probably a dance near you).

Sharks in the Pond  – Becket-R  by Bryan, Angela, Erika, Lynn*

A1: Pass the ocean, balance wave of 4 (8)
Women allemande L 1 1/2 while men orbit 1/2 (8)
A2: Balance and swing partner (4, 12)

B1: Men cross (passing L), gypsy & swing neighbor (2, 4, 10)
B2: Women cross (passing R), 1/2 L shoulder gypsy partner (8)
1/2 promenade partner, loop to meet next (8)

*Authors are Angela DeCarlis, Bryan Suchenski, Erika Rosenberg, and Lynn Ackerson as part of Rick Mohr's workshop at Pinewoods

This dance was written at Pinewoods American Week in 2012. The workshop as a group came up with a list of interesting moves to base a dance off of, including the opening of this one, and then broke up into smaller groups to flesh the dances out. To our surprise, Lisa Greenleaf then called this dance on the last evening to the full dancing population of Pinewoods. So now that it had been baptized, we needed a name for the dance.

FLASHBACK...the night before, I was out in one of the lakes (or ponds as we called them) that flank the camp with a friend of mine. There's a floating dock in the middle of the water, and she was sitting on it while I treaded water nearby. We had been chatting until some unholy hour when I felt the sting of teeth sinking into my back. It didn't actually hurt terribly, but the when you're in dark water and something bites you, your instinct is not to objectively evaluate the degree of pain involved. I proceeded to freak out and flail about while trying to climb onto the dock. Once I did I immediately began pretending it was no big deal to keep my friend from panicking. We both turned and saw a fish, about 6 inches long, staring at us from the water. 

"Well, he's not that big and scary looking," we said to each other. Then his friends started showing up. Soon there were a half-dozen fish all staring intently at us from the water, and we were fairly certain that we were going to die at Pinewoods American Week. My friend finally built up enough courage to stick her finger in the water, testing the intent and speed of these savage beasts. One of the fish took the bait, and began to slowly rise toward her finger. Very slowly. She started coaxing it, "Come on, little fish, just come get a nibble!" Approximately 30 seconds later, the fish achieved its nibble, and upon our realization that the pain (eventually) involved ranked somewhere near "cute", the fish seemed much less intimidating. Figuring that at worst they would only get one of us, we resolved to jump in at the same time and frantically swim to shore. 

After surviving the ordeal, and noting that this new dance had an "orbit" figure that looked like circling sharks, I called it Sharks in the Pond.

Welcome to the Neighborhood – Improper  by Bryan Suchenski

A1: Neighbor balance and swing (16)
A2: Circle L 1/2 and pass through up and down (4, 4)
Neighbor 2 swing (8)

B1: Gents Gypsy L 1 1/2 (8)
Partner swing (8)
B2: Long lines forward and back (8)
Ladies chain (8)*

*After the chain, turn away from this neighbor to face the next and begin the dance again.
**This is a double progression dance with two neighbor swings, so you swing everyone

This dance doesn't have quite as amusing a story behind it - I wanted to write a double progression dance in which you got to swing both of your neighbors, to avoid the situation where you join the set with the cool hip dancers, only to discover that it's a double-progression dance and the people you most wanted to swing are those even-numbered couples that you skip the entire time down and back. I was expecting to call it "Won't You Be My Neighbor", but apparently there's already a published dance with that name.

Note to callers, the hardest part of this dance by far is the A2. Dancers are used to circling 3/4, and if they circle too far, or think they are supposed to pass through across the set, the progression is thrown off. Fortunately, there's a partner swing not far after, so if you see couples that failed to progress, encourage everyone to simply find their partner and swing on the side of the set. Also, some communities are more down with gents gypsying each other than others, and if you suspect dancers might be uncomfortable with this move you can simply replace it with an allemande L. In my mind, though, more varied gent interactions in contra is a good thing.


Em Keev said...

umm... I believe you just said... y'know. the b-word.

Ellipsis said...

You mean...becket?