My friend Ron Blechner wrote a wonderful piece
few years ago about "lead" and "follow" as being how one can dance
whichever role in contra you are dancing.  I commend it to your attention.
It's tangentially related, but that's not really what you were asking

A few thoughts on that:

Any lead *offered *from one dancer to another should be just that -- an
offer -- and not a command.  It shouldn't be so forceful that it can't be
refused.  Additionally, the person leading the flourish should be ready for
the person to refuse (or not to respond) and be ready to continue with
whatever courtesy turn  or completion of a swing would have normally been

I believe that the response to any lead can be one of three (or possibly
more) response: "Yes!", "No!" and "What was that??!" and that if you get
either of the latter two responses those should be taken as a "no" and the
one leading that move should continue on with whatever the default version
of that move might be.

So, how do you ask that "question"?

   - You can just ask verbally.  A long time dancer in our local community
   will, when he encounters me in the line dancing the lady's / right side
   role, ask me "Twirling today?"  And we've been dancing in the same
   community for approaching 20 years now.  I have had others ask as we start
   swinging if I am ok being dipped.  (The answer is almost always yes, but
   occasionally it's not, and it only takes a second.)
   - A lot of swing exits / flourishes, can be "pre-led".  There is some
   part of the lead that you can start just a couple of counts before you
   would actually do it.  This can be a way of asking that question.  It also
   allows your partner to be ready to change which direction they're going,
   and generally to use much less force in the lead.  A few examples....
   Starting to bring the joined hands in a swing up just a bit a few counts
   before the twirl would happen, or bringing the "gent's" left hand to the
   "lady's" shoulder, and then using very light pressure on the back of the
   "lady's" left shoulder and the front of her right to cue the twirl out of
   the swing.
   - We will frequently say in the newcomers lesson that a sign of an
   offered twirl is for the twirling person's partner to lift their joined
   hands (either the "pointy end" hands in a swing or the left hand in a
   courtesy turn, and that if one is not desiring a twirl at that particular
   moment, that one should pull that hand back down.  To that I would just add
   that as the person leading the twirl raises the appropriate hand, no
   reaction / limp arm probably is best to take as a "No" or at least as a
   "What was that??" and move along.  If it's your partner, you can always
   talk about the various flourishes and try again.

So I suppose what it mostly comes down to is:

   1. Many leads should be able to be able to be refused / ignored
   2. If you're dancing with someone you don't know, and you want to lead
   something that is difficult to do in a refusable way (dips come to mind),

   - Even if you encounter someone you do know if you don't have time to
      ask (and haven't made previous arrangement), try to make sure your leads
      are refusable.  [I'm thinking particularly of the various ways that the
      same role dancer can twirl a neighbor as they pass in a hey, and the time
      on the friday of a dance weekend when someone forced a twirl in
a hay on my
      wife when she had already planted her foot and wasn't ready to be
      twirled....messed up her knee for the rest of the weekend and
that was the
      last dance she did.]

I can give you other examples if you'd like, but this is already getting a
bit rambling.  Hope that some of it is useful!  Let us know how the
workshop goes!


On Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 12:22 AM Jeanette Mill via Callers <> wrote:

> 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 <+61%20449%20686%20077>
> Email:
> Skype: jeanette.mill
> "The piano - 88 little mistakes waiting to happen" Kate Barnes
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Durham, NC
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