- Balance & Swing
- Men & women, move in, Anticipate
- Box the Gnat: Arm tension, catapult
- R&L Through, Courtesy Turn with arm, Left hand in Left -- to LHS
Forty Mohr Years (Becket)
- Down Hall, Turn Alone
- Balance Ring, Roll Away Half Sashay, Chain Ladies
- Ladies Chain, Twirl (Once?)
Still More O'More
- Rory OMore
- Tension in long wavy lines, look at neighbors
- Hand tension in four in line
- Hand cast to Right & Left Through
- Right & Left Through -- Courtesy Turn OR Twirl
Zombies of Sugar Hill
- Lots of Balance & Swing
- Circle Left 3/4 to California Twirl
- Ladies Chain to a Left Hand Star
MARIANS DELIGHT By Carol Kopp
A1Balance & Swing below.
A2 Long Lines Fwd & Back ; Ladies Dosido 11/2.
B1 Partner Gypsy ; Partner swing.
B2 Men Alleman L 11/2 ; Pick up Opp. Lady (waist hold) & Cross set, Butterfly whirl
Non-American Contra dancers need to be taught the first move in Marians Delight: Balance & Swing. "Abroad" they often balance four times before a swing and frequently, there is no hand contact during the balance.
Balance & Swing in America always involves hand contact -- lots of tension. The actual contact is most often both hands but sometimes it is the mans right hand holding the womans right hand. For beginners the movement is taught as balance forward 1, 2, 3 (on to the right foot & then a quick left-right) and balance back (back on to your left, quick right-left). I like to teach it as step forward & slightly to the right, on to your right foot, lift your left, step back & slightly to the left, on to your left foot, lift your right foot. I sometimes label it as "step lift ( right then left), step lift (left then right). At the end of this four beat move the dancing couple ends up in the perfect position (right shoulder to right shoulder) to begin the swing movement.
What I feel is most important is the tension in the hands: the pulling forward, the pulling back, the catapulting forward into a swing. Without tension the whole move is bloodless, limp.
If you ever hear a live tape recording of a band playing at a dance, you hear the very loud "thump-thump" that occurs at a balance & swing as the whole hall full of dancers comes down hard on the right foot (lifts the left) and then hard on the left foot (lifts the right). It is almost a "priming of the pump" before the military charge (the swing).
The swing itself is longer than the swing would be in Europe because there is only a four beat balance -- not an eight beat balance. Because the swing is long, eye contact is essential, or you will get dizzy.
Another reason I am beginning this style workshop with "Marians Delight" is because it offers two points where the dancers (both male & female) can anticipate the next move -- step forward so the next move is easier, more pleasurable.
When the women are dosidoing, the men should not just stand still (& far away), they should move forward, towards the center, towards their partner, anticipating, and making it easier to gypsy-your-partner.
Similarly, when the men are allemanding left, the women should move in, anticipating & facilitating, the upcoming "scoop up your partner" and promenade across the set & butterfly whirl. If the women dont move up, make access easier, there is barely time to "butterfly whirl" at the end of the promenade.
SARAHS JOURNEY By Gene Hubert
A1Box Gnat Neighbor, Men pull by LH in center ; Swing partner.
A2 Circle Left ; Dosido partner.
B1 Box Gnat partner, Women pull by LH ; Swing neighbor.
B2 Right & Left Through ; Left Hand Star.
The balance & swing move makes clear the need for arm tension between two people dancing with each other, but arm tension is a crucial part of many contra dance moves.
The first move in Sarahs Journey is "box the gnat" with your neighbor, men pull by the left to go & swing your partner. I called the dance in London, at Cecil Sharp House, and at the end of the box-the-gnat move my wife tugged her partner into the middle -- I would say "catapulted" her partner into the next move. He said "Let go of me. I know where Im going." He didnt understand that an essential part of the pleasure of contra dancing is the tension, the pulling, catapulting, shooting people into the next move.
No, you should not hurt anyone. You should not dislocate a shoulder, or an arm, (men - know your own strength) but you should feel force against force. Walking from spot to spot is NOT what contras are about. Contras are pleasurable push-pull dances that create a swinging, bouncing, pushing-off rhythm: you are catapulting forward into a swing, you are arching back in a swing, you are rocking right & left in a four-in-line-balance. At all times, there is slight tension (or greater tension) at the point of contact between two people.
In Sarahs Journey you should keep tension in the box-the-gnat hold and you should pull the man (or the woman) into the middle for the "pull by the left" move that takes them across the set into a swing.
In the Right & Left Through one needs to emphasize that the man has to put his right hand behind the lady & courtesy turn her. It is not, as in English or Scottish dancing, an open one hand turn. My wife pointed out that in America male dancers take every opportunity they can to get close, to get intimate. In a courtesy turn they end up wrapping themselves around the lady. Perhaps you dont need to be that intimate, but you do need to be close to help her traverse what is a long, looping distance in a minimum of time. So, "courtesy turn her."
Ive also chosen this dance because it contains a very common sequence of moves: a Right & Left Through (or Ladies Chain) followed by a Left Hand Star. In both those moves -- Right & Left through & Ladies Chain -- the man has the womans left hand in his left hand. Men, DO NOT let go of that hand. Stick that hand (& your hand) into the center for a left hand star. That seems so obvious, so smooth, so natural, and yet many men let go of hands & then they dont know what to do next or which hand to use.
FORTY MOHR YEARS BECKET By Sue Rosen
A1Circle L 3/4, pass thru; Swing New Neighbor.
A2 Down Hall 4-in-line, Turn Alone; Come back up, Bend Line to a Circle.
B1 Balance ring, Roll Away with a Half Sashay (Women roll to right of neighbor along line); Half a Ladies Chain.
B2 Women gypsy once; Swing partner.
"Forty Mohr Years" by Sue Rosen continues my emphasis on "hand-tension," and in this case tension in both hands, first one, then the next, are needed to execute a move properly .
After you balance the ring there is a "Roll away with a half sashay" followed by a ladies chain. My wife made me pay proper attention to the words and they do accurately describe the move: the ladies roll away, the men half-sashay into her place. To execute the "roll away" properly there must be tension in the mans left hand, the womans right hand. Without tension, the man cannot properly roll the lady across his body.
The men pull the lady in their left hand across their body (to the right) as they move (sashay) left. They then catch the ladys left hand in their right hand and, as they move to the left, they propel her forward into a ladies chain. The ladies roll to the right & have their motion stopped by the man who catches their left hand in his right hand, and then he pulls them back in the other direction for the ladies chain. This is a perfect example of the "push-pull" motion that makes contras so much fun.
(P.S. Sue Rosen found out that in one part of the country they changed the move to "Men roll to the left of their neighbor" & then the ladies chain. She has come to prefer this version and often calls it. It still will not work properly without tension.)
There is another reason I chose this dance. It contains a "down the hall & turn alone." In such a move, it is important that no one be left out. Middle people should turn out so that they face the people on the end, maintain eye contact with the people on the end of the line.
If I have time I will use this dance to demonstrate how to twirl a lady at the end of the ladies chain (By the way, the twirl is also possible on a right & left through). Important point! Twirling is the ladies choice. A man should never force a lady to twirl, should never "corkscrew" a lady. He may raise his hand and allow her to twirl. He might gently lead her into a single twirl -- not a corkscrewed series of turns.
If a man is raising his hand to allow a lady to twirl, he must remember to follow her around -- as he would follow her around if he gave her a courtesy turn. If he does not follow her around, if he hands her around his back, as he would in a North Country Ladies Chain, he risks twisting her arm if she turns more than once. If she, in self defense, lets go, she risks falling.
A few other stylistic points. One, a man must remember to catch the lady (his right hand, her left hand) at the end of a twirl. The ladies must remember to stay close to the man, not to wander too far out. Another way of saying the preceding is "stay over your feet" ladies; dont lean in.
If at any time a lady does not want to twirl all she needs to do is lower her arm, the one joined with the man, the arm he might be trying to "corskscrew" her with. On the other hand men should not suddenly, mid-twirl, lower their joined hand: the lady, who is still in full spin mode, will have no support. She might fall.
STILL MORE O'MORE BECKET By Jim Kitch
A1Circle Left 3/4, pass thru up & down; Swing the next.
A2 Circle L 3/4; Alleman Right partner on side (11/2) - Women face out.
B1 Balance R, L, Slide R (Rory OMore); Balance L, R, Slide L (Rory OMore)
B2 Balance & Swing your partner.
I chose the next dance in order to teach the move that has become known as the "Rory OMore." In this dance the move begins with all the dancers in a long wavy line on the side of the set. This is a good opportunity to point out the need for hand tension in the balance right & left (In this case, not forward & back). During the balances, it is polite to look into the eyes of the person on your right when you balance right, and the person on your left when you balance left. Then you will spin to the right, in front of the person on your right.
It is very hard to describe the move verbally, but I will try. To the right, the move is very similar to the Petronella move: you move one place to your right (in this case along the line of dancers) by spinning over your right shoulder.
Another way of explaining the preceding is to say that you look at the person to your right and "brush" your right cheek with their right cheek as you spin past in front of them. You push your left shoulder towards them, pull your right shoulder out and on, face past their face.
The second half of the Rory OMore move is to the left. You balance left & right and then you move one place to your left: by "brushing" left cheek to left cheek, spinning along your line, over your left shoulder.
Joined hands tug each other into the spin --and the spin is in front of the person next to you -- never behind them. You must also remember to catch hands at the end of the spin to stop each other.
But, as I said, it is hard to describe the move verbally. Rory OMore is one of the best pull-push-catch contra moves I know of. I love the rocking motion: rock right, rock left, spin right, catch your neighbors left hand in your left hand; rock left, rock right, spin left, catch your partners right hand in your right hand. Then you balance & swing: rock right, rock left and catapult into a swing.
There is much else that one can teach in a "Contra-Style" workshop, but the preceding is probably all you will have time for -- and remember, my audience in this case is a group of British dancers, not American contra dancers. Still, much of this can, and should be, taught to American contra dancers.
SHADRACKS DELIGHT By Tony Parkes
A1Dosido Neighbor 11/4 to Wave across, women in center; Balance, Alleman R Neighbor 1/2.
A2 Balance, Men Alleman L 11/2; Swing partner.
B1 Down Hall, Turn as a couple; Return, hand cast off.
B2 Right & Left through; Ladies Chain.
Shadracks Delight will give us more practice on the four-in-line balance right & left, but I chose this dance for the "hand cast" after the dancers come back up the hall. Coming up the hall should take at most six counts & then you start the hand cast which takes at least two beats. The timing of the hand cast is crucial if you are going to be on time to execute the next move. Too often dancers wait too long (and dont give hand-tension) so that there is not enough time to properly execute the next move: the right & left through.
There is also another chance, in this dance, to practice the courtesy turn on the right & left through -- or to practice a ladies twirl at the end of the right & left through.
ZOMBIES OF SUGAR HILL By Gene Hubert
A1Balance & Swing Below
A2 Circle L 1/2 way, Slip Left to new couple; Circle L 3/4, California Twirl.
B1 Balance & Swing Partner.
B2 Ladies Chain; 1/2 Left Hand Star Back.
Finally, and if we have time, we will do Zombies of Sugar Hill which has two Balance & Swings. This dance also contains a circle left 3/4 to a California Twirl -- another move dancers do not execute on time. The dance also contains a Ladies Chain to a Left Hand Star (Men -- keep holding her left hand in your left hand!)
There are many other stylistic moves I would love to teach, such as twirling the lady at the end of a swing, pushing off for a reverse turn when you meet in the middle of a hey, but such moves are "fancy tricks" and if not properly executed you could be late for the next move and mess up the dance for other dancers, which is inexcusable. Rule Number One: whatever flourish you chose to add, you must be at the right place, and on time, for the next move. Yes, you may enjoy yourself, you may show off, you may get lost in a world of your own, but you must be back on time to execute the next move. Your pleasure should not interfere with the pleasure of the other dancers.
Copyright © 2003 Henry Morgenstein