Hi Jeanette,

              For star holds see:

http://lists.sharedweight.net/pipermail/callers-sharedweight.net/2016-October/001950.html

 

              Embellishments are best achieved in a microsecond by a good 
leader initiating the embellishment and a good follower following it.  
Unfortunately, since contra dancing is fundamentally a dance genre which does 
NOT use leaders and followers, the techniques are not normally taught as they 
are not relevant to the basic dance.

 

              Countless swing holds, and entries and exits, do work perfectly 
well in contra as long as both dancers are experienced and know how to ensure 
that both dancers finish facing in the correct direction at the right time.

 

              Here is one of my old posts covering many aspects of this 
question in detail:

 

My beliefs, understandings, opinions - some points:

 

1) Contra is not intrinsically a lead/follow dance style; calling the roles 
"leader" & "follower" is incorrect, misleading and generally a bad idea

 

2) Within contra there are opportunities to do some lead and follow, but either 
role can be the leader

 

3) There is a difference between leads, signals and connections, though 
connections are often used to lead beginners

 

4) Lead & Follow works better if both dancers have good lead/follow technique, 
and some of the flourishes also benefit from good technique

 

5) Leads can be with fingertips, body angles, eyes, and anything else that works

 

6) The end of a swing is not symmetrical and it is much easier to let the "man" 
control the end of the swing; that's not sexist, it is physics!

 

7) Most dancers would benefit from good teaching on this subject, but sadly 
there is very little teaching provided

 

Details below.  Read on if you are interested...

 

First, I should perhaps explain my background.  I have been dancing for over 
fifty years and teaching dance for over forty-five years.  As well as contra, 
square, ECD, ceilidh, Morris, clog, etc. I also dance many partner dances such 
as West Coast Swing, Lindy/Swing, Argentine Tango, contra waltz and Modern 
Jive/LeRoc/Ceroc: http://www.modernjive.com.

 

Modern Jive is an English, simplified form of Swing which has no fixed footwork 
and very few close-hold moves.  It is led primarily by the man's fingertips and 
has a very wide range of moves.  I specialise in Double Trouble: one man 
leading two ladies: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE6Iu6Fh6bw

 

This is a cabaret performance so we are doing some choreographed moves, but 
most of it is being led by me and the ladies don't know what I am going to do 
next.  When I go to new venues I dance with lots of ladies to see how well they 
follow, then I dance Double Trouble with two of the good followers and I can 
lead them into a wide range of interesting moves.  Leading two strangers 
simultaneously only works if they are following well, and because I have spent 
a lot of time studying lead and follow and developing my leading skills so that 
I can do this.

 

So, back to contra:

 

1) Contra is not intrinsically a lead/follow dance style; calling the roles 
"leader" & "follower" is incorrect, misleading and generally a bad idea

 

I agree entirely with what many others have said already.  The caller teaches 
the dance.  The dancers dance it to the music.  Everyone knows (at least in 
theory!) what is coming next, so there can be no lead or follow.  The whole 
point of lead and follow is that the leader chooses the next move and has to 
let the follower know what it is through the lead; the follower then has to 
react to that lead in whatever way they choose.

 

 

2) Within contra there are opportunities to do some lead and follow, but either 
role can be the leader

 

When you execute the dance as the caller called it then there is no lead or 
follow.  If you add some flourishes then they MAY involve some lead and follow, 
but which role leads depends on the actual move.

 

A nice flourish at the end of "Up the Hall in Lines of Four; Bend the Line" is 
for a middle person to raise their hand and turn their end person into the 
circle.  This is not part of the dance; the end person may not be expecting it 
and has to react to it; this is lead & follow.  The genders/roles of the 
participants are completely irrelevant.

 

Note: this can also be performed by the twirlee as an independent flourish - as 
long as the dancer whose hand you are holding allows it!  Many dancers are so 
rigid that I can't raise their arm to twirl under it! (If only everyone would 
relax the muscles that they don't need to be using, and let their hands be 
moved!)

 

 

3) There is a difference between leads, signals and connections, though 
connections are often used to lead beginners

 

When you help each other to redirect your momentum that is not really lead & 
follow.  Examples are "Circle Left; Neighbour Dosido" or "Long Lines Go Forward 
& Back with the Ladies Rolling the Men Away from Right to Left; Ladies' Chain". 
 Keeping connected and using the elastic in your arms to redirect the momentum 
and change direction makes these really satisfying moves.  But no-one is 
leading or following; you are both just using good technique to help each other 
execute pre-defined moves.  Of course if one dancer is experienced and the 
other is new to contra, this type of connection can be used to help the new 
dancer to move in the correct direction.  Connection, gestures and eyes are all 
great for helping everyone achieve the dance.

 

Signals are pre-defined gestures that lead to choreographed moves that both 
participants know.  An example in contra is the twirls at the end of a Ladies' 
Chain.  As a man, I offer my left hand high, fingers pointing down to let the 
lady know that I am willing to help her twirl - this is a signal; she responds 
with a high or low hand to let me know what she wants to happen.  If she goes 
high then we start the twirls and I make very small circular movements directly 
above her head to help her twirl twice (or just once if she resists).  Once I 
have established rapport with a dancer and realised they want to do more twirls 
then, on subsequent interactions, we may get up to around seven twirls - but 
only if both of us have good dance technique.

 

Of course, a lady can lead herself into this move as well by just raising the 
man's hand and hoping he doesn't resist too much!

 

Again this is more a signalled, playful, co-operative move than a lead and 
follow, since the lady knows what is going to happen and is equally involved in 
the decision about how many twirls are done.

 

Genuine lead & follow, where the leader leads a follower into something they 
are not expecting, is quite rare in contra.

 

 

4) Lead & Follow works better if both dancers have good lead/follow technique, 
and some of the flourishes also benefit from good technique

 

Moves like Ladies' Chain twirls works best when both dancers have good 
technique.  The techniques for leading and following and executing good twirls 
are identical to those used in Modern Jive.  There is an article about lead and 
follow and twirling technique at http://www.modernjive.com/history/tension.html 
- you may find some useful material there.

 

 

5) Leads can be with fingertips, body angles, eyes, and anything else that works

 

When I dance Modern Jive with a beginner lady, I spend the first couple of 
minutes teaching her the techniques for following; I do this through simple 
moves and exercises.  If she has a good sense of rhythm and good balance then, 
during the second track that we dance to together, I can lead her through fifty 
different moves - she doesn’t need to know the moves; she needs to know how to 
follow. This is lead & follow, and is very different from what happens in a 
contra dance.

 

The main leads are done with the fingertips, but a good leader will use 
anything that works to let the follower know what they are trying to achieve.  
The lead is an invitation.  The follower can react in many ways to the 
invitation and the two dancers can play off each other in fun ways.   Of 
course, always remembering that, if this is in the middle of a contra dance, 
you need to have both players facing the right way in the right place for beat 
one of the next move!

 

 

6) The end of a swing is not symmetrical and it is much easier to let the "man" 
control the end of the swing; that's not sexist, it is physics!

 

A simple swing does not involve lead and follow, but someone has to control the 
end of the swing.  The objective is to end side by side facing the correct way.

 

If the lady stops when she is facing the right way then the man has already 
turned too far and he is facing the wrong way; he then has to turn back against 
his momentum.  To avoid this the lady would have to stop the man, get out of 
his embrace, and continue turning herself while making the man stay still. This 
is quite hard.

 

On the other hand, If the man stops the swing on around beat 6 then he just 
releases the lady and her momentum takes her out smoothly to face in the same 
direction as the man.

 

This is just physics, based on the fact that we choose to swing clockwise and 
to finish with the man on the left.

 

This is not lead and follow; this is a mutual agreement as to how many times to 
go around, and how fast, and then to let the man end the swing so that it ends 
smoothly.

 

Good dancers of course make the end of the swing flow into the next move.  But 
here I am talking about a basic swing for ordinary dancers.

 

Of course if one of you wants to twirl or be twirled at the end of the swing 
then you start moving into lead & follow territory, and since many of the 
embellishments are based on moves stolen from couple dances, then most such 
flourishes are commonly led by the man.  But that is not a rule - the lady can 
initiate a twirl of herself or her man, or both if she has good leading 
technique and he has good following technique.

 

 

7) Most dancers would benefit from good teaching on this subject, but sadly 
there is very little teaching provided

 

As I have said, elements such as leading, following and twirling work well if 
the dancers have developed good technique.  But where will they learn it in the 
contra world?  I teach workshops on the subject, but that seems to be quite 
rare.  I also occasionally teach flourishes at our regular weekly dances.  
Sometimes it only needs a caller to drop in a few good one-liners into an 
evening's calling to pass along a little bit of knowledge.  If callers don't do 
it who will?

 

Hmmm... I have probably rambled on for too long now.  I hope some of you find 
some of that useful.  If you want to hear me talk on the subject for nearly two 
hours please contact me about getting a cheap copy of my Toolkit DVD: 
http://www.modernjive.com/tmjt.html :-)

 

            Happy dancing,                          

                   John                                   

                                    

John Sweeney, Dancer, England   j...@modernjive.com 01233 625 362 & 07802 940 
574                          

http://www.modernjive.com for Modern Jive Events & DVDs                         
       

http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent                               
           

 

From: Jeanette Mill <jeanette_m...@yahoo.com.au> 
Sent: 06 March 2018 05:21
To: Callers List <callers@lists.sharedweight.net>
Subject: [Callers] Leading, consent in embellishments

 

Hello

 

I am devising a workshop for a festival here in Australia, and have long been 
of the opinion that there are no "leaders" in contra dance couples. Moves 
should be executed with mutual consent, especially embellishments such as 
turning under out of a ladies' chain. Conventions such as waltz hold swings are 
really useful here. In Australia, other related dance forms use a variety of 
swing holds, which lead to confusion and interruption of flow. I plan to place 
some emphasis on conventions of holds, such as allemande and star holds.

 

I would value people's opinions on this, as it may ruffle some long-held 
conventions. Any words of wisdom from the gender free dance community would be 
especially welcome. 

 

Also, I believe that if dancers are to enjoy embellishments, they must be by 
mutual consent. This is so difficult to establish in a microsecond. I would 
value any thoughts on how to advise reaching this consent in the context of a 
contra dance.

 

Looking forward to your thoughts

 

cheers

Jeanette

 

Jeanette Mill

Contra dance caller, musician, workshop facilitator

Canberra, Australia

Phone: +61 (0)449 686 077

Email: jeanette_m...@yahoo.com.au <mailto:jeanette_m...@yahoo.com.au> 

Skype: jeanette.mill

 

"The piano - 88 little mistakes waiting to happen" Kate Barnes

 

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