jack_calls_dances: (mountains)

It's not often that I get the treat of dancing more than half of an evening of dances that I am also calling, but I got to do that tonight at the Laurel, dancing some of the dances with old friends and some of them with those newly addicted to contra dancing. I was a little worried when the dance got started and we only had 3 hands four worth of dancers, but by the middle of the evening we had two good lines of dancers, with about 5-6 brand new dancers, and varied levels of experience among the rest. After the first dance, Donna came up to me to tell me that 5-6 brand new dancers had just walked in (at that point, doubling our numbers) so I bailed on the contra I was going to do and switched to a nice easy mixer, proceeded by the 5 minute version of the "how to give weight and swing" tutorial. That got everyone dancing and swinging lots of different people.

Somewhere around MAD About Dancing, I switched from the handheld to the headset microphone and started jumping in to the dance too -- both to get a better feel for how folks were doing and because we generally had just 1-2 folks sitting out and I wanted to keep everyone dancing if they wanted to be -- besides, it was great to be able to dance as well as call, and with just two lines, I could still pretty easily keep an eye on the hall while I danced.

Of the dances that we did, all but BiCoastal Contra and Run Rooster Run II were ones that I have called many times before. Both of these, however, were new to me. BiCoastal Contra is a nice, simple Star Promenade dance. It ends with a Long Lines Forward and Back and then a Ladies Chain to progress. Calling from the floor without a card in front of me, I walked it through reversing the last two moves. Since I was dancing it, I could feel the connection to both your old and new neighbors that ending with the Long Lines gave, so I kept the moves swapped, which I think made the progression much easier for the newer dancers. I have never been all that happy with Ladies Chain into New Neighbor Balance and Swing progressions -- they work, but they always seem awkward (though not quite as much so as a Star Promenade & Butterfly Whirl into a New N Balance and Swing) and both can be particularly disorienting for the ladies. Having the long lines at the end, though, made the transition almost seamless, since you already have a hand with your new neighbor to pull into the balance.

I was even happier with Run Rooster Run II, though. An unusual progression and flow, but still really intuitive for even new dancers. Many of the ladies had a lot of fun with "making the gent come to you" (in the progression, which involved going and swinging the lady on the left diagonal - see below).

Run Rooster Run II - Jim Hemphill
Becket

A1 On L Diag, New gents pass by R Sh
New N Swing
A2 Straight across Ladies chain
LHS 1x
B1 P B&S
B2 R&L Thru
LL F&B





The band for the night -- Lost Marbles -- was not one that I had worked with before. It was, however, that treat for callers: an old time band that actually tries -- and succeeds -- at matching dances to tunes when the dance needs particular phrasing. In particular, for the balancier dances and for La Bastrangue, I asked for tunes with really strong phrases and/or a slightly choppier sound, and they delivered with tunes that fit wonderfully.

Overall, some of the most fun I've had calling in a long time (actually since I called -- and danced -- at the Brattleboro, VT contra dance back in the fall). Calling for, and dancing with, a wonderful community of dancers (new and experienced, young and old) is always a great experience. This is the dance community I was dancing with when I first started calling, and it was wonderful to get a chance to come back and call for them now.

Program:

Frederick Contra - Tom Hinds

La Bastrangue (mixer)
Cranky Ingenuity - Bill Olson
MAD About Dancing - Robert Cromartie
Butter - Gene Hubert
Salmonella Evening - Steve Zakon Anderson & Louie Cromartie
BiCoastal Contra - Pete Campbell
United We Dance - Bob Isaacs
---
Flaherty Will Get You Everywhere - Bob Isaacs
Run Rooster Run II - Jim Hemphill
Lark in the Oven - Robert Cromartie
The Nice Combination - Gene Hubert

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

jack_calls_dances: (mountains)

So many wonderful memories from the Ralph Page Weekend. The memories that will stick with me longest though all involve dancing the chestnuts. The RPDLW is probably one of the only places that the chestnuts get danced with quite this much enthusiasm.

About halfway through the dance on Friday evening we did our first chestnut -- Rory O'Moore. First time I had to dance it with this kind of group -- a group of dancers, many of whom had been dancing the chestnuts (and many other dancers) for years. It isn't that the dancing was absolutely perfect from a technical standpoint -- my shadow gent was actually having trouble with it for the first little bit. The dancing was joyful, connected and just so much fun. While we were the active couple, I think that my favorite moment in the dance was finishing the partner swing, stopping for a moment, and then just as the tune started again giving each other a nice tug by to head down the outside of the set.

As many different examples as I come up with, I've been having trouble finding words for exactly what it is about the dancing this weekend that was so wonderful. Failing at finding the words, I'll share a bit of someone else's words...from the "Seacoast Country Dance Newsletter" (quoted on the RPDLW Wesbite):

The dancing is harder to describe. We dance a combination of the old favorite dances and the more modern dances. People tend to dance in a somewhat older style, especially with the chestnuts. But most importantly people dance their best, dancing to the music, dancing with each other, keeping a friendly community atmosphere for the most part, dancing a bit more smoothly (although enthusiastically), generally paying more attention than usual. All of that makes it so everyone has more fun dancing together. Where else could you dance Money Musk for more than 20 minutes to superb music and when it’s over wish the band had kept playing another five or ten!

And then, indeed, there was Money Musk. Now I have the double challenge of trying to describe what it is that is so wonderful about the dancing and what it is that is so wonderful about this particular dance. I'm pretty sure that Money Musk was the first triple minor dance that I ever danced -- at Pinewoods on my first trip up there. I didn't know what I had gotten into. Here I was doing this dance with hands 6 rather than hands three, the wrong number of beats in the dance/tune and only 4 moves in the dance -- none of which were circles or swings. What kind of dance is this??

That first time, I made it through. The next year it made much more sense. A few years after that, I called it for the first time, and this year, I felt like I could dance it without even having to think about it. Which meant that I could pay more attention to the other things around me. Smiling faces. Amazing fiddling. The rhythmic sound of feet hitting the floor on the "forward 6" -- once at the end of the phrase, and once at the beginning of the phrase. My partner's wonderful smile (and all the other smiling faces) all through the dance. The amazingly connected feeling of a good same gender "no hands" Right and Left Thru, when you pivot together as a unit only needing to hold on with eye contact.


More than anything, though, is the tune. That wonderful, notey, joyful tune, that is fitted so well to the dance. It's really hard to avoid the desire to dance to it if someone is playing. So hard, that on Sunday after lunch, when I was sitting around and talking with a group of callers, and we heard the musicians jam start into Money Musk, we looked at each other and almost as one said "We should go dance!"

Money Musk needs 6 dancers to have one minor set, so we took the 6 of us over and started dancing in front of the musicians. By the time we were ready to progress, two more couples had joined us.

As we went another time through the dance, calls were heard to move chairs and tables out of the way. By the time the musicians stopped playing, more than 10 minutes later, we had a line of dancers across the room.

It was a magical moment, and one that would happen very few places other than at the Ralph Page weekend. I can't wait until next year!

jack_calls_dances: (dance twirl)

Well, it's all over. I'm on my way home, after my first Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend, and a wonderful weekend it was. A weekend of dance, conversation, (more dance) caller geekery, (even more dancing, including exposure to many dances I hadn't done anywhere before), and some wonderful conversations with friends new and old.

What is it about this weekend that is so magical?

The magic is in 4+ generations worth of dancers dancing old and new dances together. It's in the connection through the left hands in a simple courtesy turn or a promenade. It's in weight given and received and always perfectly balanced It's in dancing Money Musk for 20 minutes to amazing music...a whole room of people rocking the house with the balances. It's in getting to do dances that I probably wouldn't encounter anywhere else, either because they're not in the style of dances that get done at most of the dances I attend, or because they're more complicated (or less complicated, or "worse" still have no swings (like Money Musk). This weekend, though we did them all. Old and new and almost everything in between.

During the dance last night, I found myself thinking that by the metrics of many dancers at "modern urban contra dances", the dancing there would be "low energy", or "old fashioned." The energy there is definitely different. It's less abut kinetic energy and more about connection and community.

Overall, though, this is really a weekend about the people. I danced with and talked with people of all ages and from lots of different parts of the country, all of whom share a love of contra and square dance -- many of whom were present for significant portions of what we of the younger generations would term it's history. One regret that I have is that I didn't get more of a chance to spend time talking to some of them. I suppose that's just another reason that I should be back there next year!

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

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