I was recently at a dance, not too far away from Charlotte. Young, new caller very enthusiastic, she has a big future ahead of her as a dance caller. The usual call for "Hands Four" went up and we did so, up and down the line. In my foursome was an other guy, maybe about my age. He and his partner were "Ones" or "Active". This guy was obviously an experienced dancer, because he waited to be told whether the dance was a "Proper" or "Improper" formation. We smiled a bit ruefully because it was not so long ago that not every dance was assumed to be "Improper". However this young caller had not said anything, simply because in her experience, "Improper" is implied. It was not always so. Today, on a rare occasion, a "Proper" dance will be called and confusion occurs up and down the line, because this is an unusual formation for the average young urban contra dancer. Add to that the necessity of men taking other mens' hands. Oh My!

All this to say simply that our dances have a history to them, They are an ever evolving dance form, but it did come from somewhere. Great example is the ever popular "Petronella" balance and spin one place to the right. There actually is a dance called Petronella and I would guess that 95% of those dancing today have never danced the original Petronella, even though the caller directs, "Balance and Spin one place to the right, as in Petronella".   There are hundreds of dances out there that do not get danced today because they do not fit the desires of today's faster, more gotta swing culture. Sometime I think we are loosing a little of our own heritage.
 


Comments

Teresa
09/18/2010 08:30

Charley, These issues you bring up here are exactly what we are dealing with in Berea now... Last night we had over 120 dancers at the 3rd Friday event!! A new record, 60-70% first timers, many others still at novice level. It was great energy, buttt...
Some of us are lamenting the loss of a certain quality in the movement being replaced by enthusiasm and raw energy.
Maybe you can find a way to address that when you come next month?!

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Charley
09/28/2010 06:45

I have been trying to address this in a series of workshops titled "Beyond Beginners, How to become everyone's favorite dancer" ; )
These workshops are designed to attract the dancers who have been dancing long enough to "get it" well enough to not need a beginner's workshop, but have picked up bad habits or need encouragement and direction to take their dance to a higher level.
These have been free events, two hour long on Wednesday evenings. They have been very well received. Be glad to share in Berea.

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07/09/2015 23:39

"This guy was obviously an experienced dancer, because he waited to be told whether the dance was a 'Proper' or 'Improper' formation." This made me chuckle. Made me think, "so that's what happens when dancers party. They wait for cues!" Thanks for your entry. I am not a dancer but I have so much respect for you guys as artist. Have my feet not been both left, I surely would be living at a dance studio and performing!

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Yeah, really 95% of those dancing today have never danced the original Petronella!

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