I believe it was Woody Allen who said that being bisexual doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night. I always bring a skirt to dance camps. If there are too many men at any given workshop, I put on my skirt and I am in the dance playing the woman's part. I have done it a few times and the experience is wonderful, exhilarating, revelatory.
The most recent time I donned a skirt was at the MDH Spring Dance Camp in Battle Creek. It was the most wonderful experience of all. The last dance of the weekend took place between one and three on Sunday afternoon and it soon became evident there were more men than women. I cannot describe the experience without sounding a little loony.
The swing is probably the most aerobic move in contra dancing. I swing vigorously. I have never swung as vigorously as I did with the many men I encountered along the contra line. I picked up speed, they picked up speed, and the final product was awesome.
And it is radically different to swing "as a girl." Towards the end of some unbelievably wild swings, I realized that I was in the hands of the man: he must stop, he must place me on his right, he must be there on time. I've sometimes ended up facing the wrong way, and I always knew that the "fault" was mine. But that realization -- that I "knew" men are responsible -- did not begin to prepare me for the awesome feeling of "being in the hands of" my partner. It is a frightening feeling; it is a wonderful feeling. At one point I felt I was on a roller coaster. The speed was unbelievable, but the grip upon me made clear to me: "Relax honey -- Ill get you there."
You can't teach that to a man. You can't make him feel what it is like without putting him in that position. As a teacher of contra dancing, I have always wanted to make the men play the woman's part and the women play the man's part. I now know that would not do. Men must dance with men, and dance "for real," if they are to experience what it is like to be a woman who is "in the hands of a man."
That Sunday dance was a revelation, but the revelation came after an accumulation of experiences: I've danced the woman's part forty or so times. That Sunday afternoon, one of my partners was Wil Gibson. He often twirled me at the end of a Ladies Chain, and his lead was perfectly timed, comfortingly firm. There was no way to go but to twirl -- he made it natural to go that way. There were others who twirled me -- but many were indecisive, poorly timed.
That made me realize my experiment is far from complete, because it is not fully real: men do not treat me in the same way as they do women. I am seldom twirled. I have yet to undergo what is hateful to most women: constant twirls by a whole row of men. But I am learning more and more as I dance the woman's part more and more.
One woman told me that women get to do more exercise: they move more than men. This became crystal clear, in a square, when I hopped, skipped & galloped to try to keep up when we promenaded around the circle. Suddenly I was on the outside of the circle. I'm a little guy -- about as tall as many women -- five foot three -- and when the men in my circle walked I ran. It was definitely aerobic. The Ladies Chain is more fun (and more exercise) if you are a lady -- and so is right and left through. I think there are other moves that require more movement of the ladies than of the men: my research will continue.
I love to gypsy. I get up close and personal in a Gypsy. You can imagine what that does to some men when I am playing the woman's part. I love it; some men are uncomfortable -- and some get right into it. Last Sunday, I gypsied up close and personal with a man: his eyes were inches from mine. As we circled, his limpid, large pupils looked straight into mine. I told him he was a charmer. He said the ladies said so too. I laughed. Gypsys are wonderful whatever part you play in the dance.
I go to contra dancing rather than Polka dancing because, as a friend of mine said: "It is a controlled social circumstance where you meet and touch people you would not normally meet and touch." For me that always meant women. I intend to double my chances for a date -- and a touch, and a vigorous swing -- by always bringing a skirt along to dance camps.
P.S. Long ago I was having a bitter argument with my girlfriend. I was telling her how much I hated the pressure of having to lead in social dances -- the need to make the next move in swing, in tango, in fox trot, drove me crazy. I do not like to lead. I like Contra dancing because in many moves it is an egalitarian dance: no one leads in a dosido or in a right hands round. She became so exasperated with my protestations that she finally screamed at me: 'If you don't like to lead, put on a skirt.' Many years later I took her advice. See you soon at a dance in your neighborhood: I'm the guy who sometimes wears a skirt.
I go Contra Dancing because, as a friend of mine once explained, "you get to dance with a lot of beautiful women." Someone listening said "Yeah, but beauty is only skin deep." My friend answered, "Yes, and that's the part you get to hold in dancing."
I love dancing with women. The whole controversy about "gender balance" makes it clear men love to dance with women, women love to dance with men. But I also love playing the woman's part. "Being bisexual doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night," Woody Allen said. I always bring a skirt to dance camps.
Playing a woman's part is wonderful, exhilarating, revelatory.
Long ago a woman told me she never liked playing the man's part for too long because she does not get enough exercise. I was puzzled. Do women really work harder in a Contra dance?
They do. In a ladies chain, the lady (me!) walks further. In a right and left through, the same is true. Women almost always promenade around the circle on the outside. Five foot three me hopped, skipped, jumped, to get around that big circle. But there is so much more that one learns by playing the woman's part.
I love the swing -- the most intimate move in Contra dancing. I love the eye to eye contact, the momentum, the interaction. As you can imagine all that is different, very different, when a man swings with a man.
First off, let me tell you what you would not expect: it is enormously pleasurable. I have never swung as hard. I am a swinger: I pick up speed (if my partner allows me to). Men do not allow, they take charge, and the result is speeds I have never achieved before. But best of all, I am not in charge.
I never ever fully realized the "burden" of being in charge. I love swinging, but I am always aware that I must end on time, I must end facing the right way. After a few swings with men I began to relax: they were in charge. They had to stop & face the right way. I had never been able to fully let go in a swing. As a woman, I could -- and the feeling was wonderful.
Many, many, many times I was sure "he" would not make it. You will never stop us in time; you will never get us to face the right way -- but hey, I'm not in charge. You are honey. What a feeling! What a trip! I am in the hands of a man and it is up to him to get us to stop on time for the next move.
Some women (when I play the man's part) won't rely on me: as I swing vigorously, they apply the brakes, force me to stop earlier than I planned to. As a man, I find that disconcerting. As a woman, I've learned to let the man take charge, and I love it. The Final product -- me, an intense swinger, plus men bigger & faster than me -- means that I've achieved speed in the swing, with men, that I've never come close to achieving with women. It is a roller coaster ride, and the brakeman is not me. I float (some men literally lift me off the ground -- and I like it).
There are enormous, innumerable, advantages to switching roles. Women love to see a man playing the woman's role. Eye to eye contact in a hey is pleasurable in a new way: some woman love to interact when they cross paths in a hey. Believe me, they love interacting with me: once I was even kissed in a hey.
But finally, as a man playing the woman's part, I do not fully learn what it is like to be a woman in a contra. I have never been twirled by four men in a circle, or ten men in a contra line. A few men twirl me, and an occasional twirl is pleasurable (when correctly done), but only a few men have twirled me twice, and often, the hand command is late, off beat, awkward. A series of such awkward twirls could be most disconcerting.
I've always wanted to teach contra dancing by having the genders switch roles. That is already being done nowadays -- and it is a good way to educate men about a woman's role, women about a man's role. But finally, only when a man swings a man can a man fully realize what it is like to be "in the hands of a man," and it is only when you have been twisted & turned badly by four consecutive men that you begin to realize that rough handling can be destructive to pleasure.
Bring a skirt to dances. Play the woman's part. I've always thought of Contra dancing as a sort of controlled social circumstance where you meet and touch people you would not normally meet and touch. For me, that always meant women. I intend to double my chances for a date -- and double my chances for a touch and a vigorous swing -- by bringing a skirt to a dance.
Among other things, learn what it is like to be a less-than-desireable female (Fully 50% of the men I ask will not dance with me). Best of all, get more exercise, meet beautiful women in a new way, and dance with vigorous men. You'll love the experience. Women will love you for going through the experience. Endear yourself dear.
P.S. And prepare yourself for the real world where more and more, women wear the pants, take equal responsibility in the dance of life. Vive la difference! And it's great that change is occurring.
Copyright © 2001 Henry Morgenstein