Exciting workshop! I'm glad to see this discussed!
So if I'm understanding you correctly, you seem to be contrasting the idea
of a "leader" with the fact that moves must be "executed with mutual
consent", which I find interesting. For me, those ideas are not at all at
odds. I see the "leader" as the person who initiates, or *offers*, the
embellishment, and the "follower" as then deciding to execute it or not. To
put it another way: in my opinion, *all embellishments are composed of an
offer (the "lead") and either an acceptance or declination*. In this
framework, designating one person the "leader" is *not* at odds with
consensual twirling--the "follower" has agency every step of the way!--and
it can be helpful to establish "right of way" in twirling.*
I teach a workshop on dance floor communication, and I am happy to talk
more if you like! But my initial suggestion for a workshop activity/focus
is: *break down non-verbal communication of flourishes*. What does an offer
look/feel like? An acceptance? A declination? Have people practice
physically declining flourishes: when the lead lifts an arm to offer a
twirl, the follow gently tugs down, rather than following that upward
twirly momentum. (Note that the twirlee can also do the offering -- e.g. I
am a lady doing a chain, and I get to the gent and lift my arm up over my
head to indicate that I want to twirl. But the gent still gets to accept or
decline! Maybe they have a bad shoulder and can't lift their arm up that
far, etc. So that's an idea to put in people's heads as well.)
Many follows aren't aware that they're *allowed* to decline flourishes, and
many leads have no idea what a declination feels like! So this is a GREAT
thing to practice. Emphasize to folks that they can decline a twirl for any
reason; and that if someone declines your twirl, not to take it personally.
(Cuz boyyy I have seen some men get huffy when I don't want to twirl for
them.) And then PRACTICE so people get really aware of what signals to
physically "listen" for. (In my workshop I had the crowd do a dance** with
lots of flourish opportunities for both roles, and encouraged participants
to play with whether they offered flourishes or not, whether they accepted
or declined, and to really listen for their partner's signals.)
Hope some of that was helpful! Like I said, I have lots of ideas on this
topic and am happy to talk further. Thanks for teaching this, and best of
luck -- let us know how it goes!
* As John mentioned, twirls etc. can be initiated by either role, and I've
certainly danced those dances where both roles are twirling all over the
place! They're delightful, but I also find them super confusing because I
never know if I should be in "initiate" or "respond" mode -- I appreciate
designating one person the "leader", i.e. the person who initiates
flourishes (and then switching around the "leader" if need be).
** Apogee <http://chrispagecontra.awardspace.us/dances/#apogee> by Chris
Page, though in retrospect I might have picked something easier... maybe
PB&J <http://chrispagecontra.awardspace.us/dances/#apogee> by Bill Olson?
If you don't have a crowd that's up for a gent's chain, though, most any
dance with a lot of flourish opportunities (chains, balance and swing's,
lines down the hall, etc.) will do.
On Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 12:21 AM, Jeanette Mill via Callers <
> 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
> Jeanette Mill
> Contra dance caller, musician, workshop facilitator
> Canberra, Australia
> Phone: +61 (0)449 686 077 <+61%20449%20686%20077>
> Email: jeanette_m...@yahoo.com.au
> Skype: jeanette.mill
> "The piano - 88 little mistakes waiting to happen" Kate Barnes
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