My friend and fellow caller, Ron Buchanan of Pittsburg PA,was in Asheville last night to call at the Grey Eagle. The weather had turned very cold and the roads were icy. I ventured out because Ron, who is a great caller, does not get out and tour very often. There was a small crowd, we had only one line to begin and did grow to a second line about the middle of the evening. All the dances Ron called were of his own creation. It is fun to listen to him create a subtext for what is going on on the dance floor as folks travel through a dance. While gypsying a Neighbor: "Ladies, check out that other guy". As gents Allemande: "Gents, check out the competition". Partner, Balance and Swing "I'm not admitting to anything!"
Ron and I met Tuesday for coffee and ended up having a three hour conversation,mostly about dance. We shared ideas for dances, dances we had written and Ron brought out a booklet he has been working on about dance and the choreography for some original dances of his. I really enjoyed his essays. We shared a few laughs about our devoted focus on trying to create good dances, what makes a good dance, the subtext or story line in a dance. We talked about music, dances, dancers and dance communities. We chuckled at how oblivious the majority of dancers are regarding what makes for a pleasurable evening of dances, and the typical blur of an evening of dance. However they know when the caller does not deliver.
Ron made an interesting comment late in the conversation that I am going to take away. It is this, callers spend a lot of time teaching the moves, Ladies Chain, Right and Left Thru, etc. But the ability to properly execute a move is not what makes a dancer a dancer. It is the ability to make the transition from one move to another pleasurable, the FLOW, that makes a dance a dance.
This is something I want to talk about a bit more when I have the opportunity. In my "Beyond Beginners. How to Become Everyone's Favorite Dancer" workshops I will be focusing more on those moments of transition. How to make them pleasurable so there is no doubt that the person you are dancing with knows you two are dancing.
Friend and Master Wordsmyth, George Oberst can describe an event such that you would want to be there, Here is what he had to say about the upcoming weekend:
Once again there's just a whale of a lot to tell so this'll be a virtual novel of an email, but can I help it if the fun in Berea is so doggone many-splendored?
Calendar Check Outline Section:
So who the heck was this Sadie Hawkins that we should invoke her spirit in such bizarre ways? Well, she is the best-remembered denizen of the comic strip that ran in a zillion newspapers from 1934 to '77. It was set in Dogpatch, Ky., and peopled by a troop of hillbillies. It outdid every awful Appalachian stereotype and was semi-okay only because it was all a deeply satirical social and political commentary. It was funny too, and wildly popular, kind of the Doonesbury of its day except every freakin' body read it, not just the pointy-headed lefties. Get in the spirit by reading up on & Daisy Mae Yokum, Sadie Hawkins, Joe Btfsplk, and Evil-Eye Fleegle, as well as Moonbeam McSwine, Stupefyin' Jones and other voluptuous ladies, and a drove of other ludicrous characters. Try visiting places like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li'l_Abner
So, Where I was was: Sadie was so sufficiently unattractive that when she reached age 29 still unmarried in November 1937, her old dad declared a with a matrimonial foot-race. All the Dogpatch bachelors had to take off running and if Sadie caught one, he had to marry her. This man-chasing soon extended to all the dogpatch maidens in an annual event, and the comic strip was such a big cultural phenomenon that it inspired all sorts of real-life adaptations wherein women could (OMG!!) ask guys out on dates and the like. Within two years there were thousands of Sadie Hawkins events. It became a gal-power rite at high schools and colleges long before the modern feminist movement got legs.
What this means for us is that this , we'll be dancing in Berea in weird outfits to the calling of Charley Harvey and the music of The Berea Castoffs, with the Mini-Workshop for Beginners at 7:30 and the main event at 8:00!! All of this is at the Russel Acton Folk Center at 212 Jefferson Street. After that it's a PARTY up the street at Howard and Shirley's wonderful home and dancehall until untelling when!
You, oh my honeys, are encouraged to appear in Li'l Abner-inspired garb, to wit: try to look like a 1930's concept of a hillbilly. Or if you prefer, just get yourself got up in any kind of getup, and outrageousness is encouraged but --duh--keep it danceable.
There will be some Sadie Hawkins rules and activities:
· Menfolk, you may not ask the gals to dance!! You are allowed only silent groveling. Sorry fellas, but this is your chance to find out if those lasses who have been politely accepting your advances all these months were actually just gritting their teeth all the while until it was over. Maybe you should be more careful with where you put your feet. Like not in your mouth would be good.
· Ladies, special only, you can visit our "Marryin' Sam" and marry any man you can catch. In fact, marry as many as you can catch-- the first one might not be a keeper, so bring on the backup men. Any and all marriages are good 'til midnight, and we'll have a camera WOMAN on hand to immortalize your temporary harem.
This whole shebang will be just $4 for kids, students, and seniors, and $7 for the rest of us. Childcare is available-- Just $4.
Remember to bring some vittles for the snack table to cover the pieless majority at break time.
The Folk Center is at 212 Jefferson Street, 40403 in case you're Google mapping it. Note that if you come south on I-75 to and get off at exit 77, the map won't quite match the territory soon after you get off I-75 because Google messed up. But if you follow the signs for Ky Rt. 595 to Berea 'twill work OK. Go right at the light by the school that looks like a UFO etc-- Google's OK by there.
Walking from Berea College: You can nip down the hill between Bingham and Danforth dorms, cross Campus Drive and find the walk/stairway that goes even further down to the traffic light at the corner of Ellipse and Jefferson Streets. Cross Ellipse and go straight on Jefferson alongside the Eco-Village. At the end of the Eco-Village, look across Jefferson for a big log and stone and glass affair with a parking lot in front, and that's the Folk Center.
After the dance there's a PARTY just a short stroll up the street, at Howard and Shirley's place-- where we danced on Friday night. It'll be more dancing, plus chat and chow, all freely offered by H&S, but chow hounds should discover the Crock de Compensation and and insert a few doubloons.
You can find more info about Oh Contraire plus pictures on our website at http://www.folkcircle.org/contra Need directions or info for Berea dances? Call Howard or Shirley Carlberg at .
I am leaving Charlotte North Carolina for parts unknown this month.
After spending the last two years as a part of the Charlotte Dance Gypsies, and being in rotation as a local caller on Monday nights, I called my last Monday night dance last night.
I came to Charlotte for work and was delighted to find an established dance. Two years later the dance is a bit bigger, two lines most Monday nights. I am so honored to have been immediately accepted as a dancer and caller, Dean Snipes, Lesly Bowers and Gretchen Cauldwell all welcomed me to join in and lead dance. Thanks to you all for letting me do the "Beyond Beginners, or How to become everyone's favorite dancer" workshop series. Now there is a regular monthly gathering for waltzing.
An evening of Contra dance can be daunting to the newcomer. So much going on the dance floor, all those smiles! What is not immediately apparent is that the newcomer has happened onto a community. There can be a place for you, we will be happy to have you join us. I want to congratulate the Charlotte Dance Gypsies for creating a welcoming environment. I will be back every chance I get, to dance, call and hang out with my friends.
Thank you all for the expressions of love and appreciation I received. I am honored to have such friends.
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.