[SCA-Dance] Suggestions Wanted

David Learmonth david.a.learmonth at gmail.com
Sun Apr 24 13:11:46 EDT 2011

I just wanted to mention that I agree that there is some difference in how
we deal with Timing, versus Contra Dancers.  Now, I think that the good
contra dancers will tend to take the same amount / correct amount of time
per repeat of the dance.  However, what I always found, that was rather
frustrating to me, was that contra dance callers / teachers never seem to
actually tell you how long a figure is supposed to take!  They just tell you
to listen to the music.  But that means that you have to do a trial and
error approach for the first few iterations of the music, to see what seems
to fit best.

I'm really not certain why they can't just tell you when you have 8 counts
to do something.  Now I know that many figures do take basically regular
amounts of time.  But some of them would come up where you could do the
figure either faster or slower, say 8 counts or 4, or 16 or 8, what have
you, and they would all feel fine, until you found out that you finished a
repeat with the wrong amount of time left.  And then the difficulty if a
dance had multiple ambiguous sections, because then you wouldn't know which
one was supposed to be longer or shorter.

But yes, I've definitely also seen whole lines of contra dance fall out of
sync with the each other as well.

Anyways, yes, I agree though that you'll probably want to teach a bit more,
as well as calling.  Our styles do vary somewhat in their implementation.  I
haven't done a lot of contra recently, just dabbled in it a while back, but
I definitely notice the differences in energy levels and such, and am
playing with trying to see what I can do to take a bit of the best of both
worlds into some dance classes / practices.  (because personally, I still
like the variety of dances in the SCA the best!)

For a few dances I would also recommend potentially trying to use, I'd say:
 (if we aren't limiting to 1651)
Half Hannikan
Juice of Barley
Female Sailor
and sure, Hole in the Wall

and hey, Gathering Peascods might be a nice, safe, friendly, fun
introduction to some more of the ones we are used to.  I think it is fairly
forgiving.  The circle dances often can be, because it is easy to lead with
everyone seeing what is going on.

Oh, and related, Jenny Pluck Pears can actually be quite fun as 1 big
circle.  You can just number off around the circle on when to turn in.  And
if people turn too quick (as they often do), it won't really mess up

And feel free to make slight modifications wherever it might help.  Such as,
we often do Set and Turns while facing our partners.  But sometimes that
switching of where to face can confuse people, since we tend to do it back
and forth with other figures, so instead you can always just have people do
them facing into the circle, or whatever direction they are facing  (i.e.
into the circle when circling in the first verse, and then facing each other
when doing siding).

Of course I would say the trick to calling ECD is to be aiming to call a
figure about 1.5 - 2 beats ahead of the music, give or take for your
audience.  i.e. giving them time to process the instruction in their head,
since the terms won't all be familiar.  (and then sometimes following up
with calling during the step as well for the first bit, such as when you
want them to get a feel for a set and turn in time with the music).

Good luck with it!  I hope it goes smoothly!


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