To Clap or Not to Clap
I am about to step into a minefield: the controversy that surrounds the double clap that occurs after one finishes each Petronella spin.
Some people hate the clapping, absolutely hate it. Colin Hume has written a dance entitled No Clapping which, theoretically, has such rapid Petronella turns (or confusing-direction Petronella turns) that dancers have no chance to Clap-Clap.
And Colin is one of many, many-many, who hate what they feel is an intrusive, uncalled for, punctuation of the dance tune, what they feel is a staccato interruption in the flow of a dance.
For years I have been absolutely neutral. I refused to take sides because I did not hate the claps, nor did I love the claps. I think the trite saying I could take it or leave it seems totally appropriate. I didnt care (except, of course, when I was told No Clapping: then I had to clap, & did find time to do so).
But I am here to tell a tale. I was at an evening dance that contained a fair number of total beginners. I came across many of them as I danced up & down the contra lines. They werent bad dancers, but this new form had them totally befuddled: they were earnest, they were able, but they were not having fun. They were concentrating too hard to have any fun.
And then I came across them when they all, suddenly, discovered the Petronella turn with a clap-clap. They tried it, they got it, they loved it. They had a sense of rhythm, they were able dancers, but this new dance form was tough. Up until now they couldnt show their innate ability.
They loved the Petronella spin, clap-clap. I came across two-three new-to-contra-dancing couples, and they were clapping up a storm, a wicked, sly grin on their faces. They got it. They were having fun. What a great dance, balance in, balance out, spin, clap-clap, balance in, balance out, spin, clap-clap.
You could see what simple mastery of what was heretofore a befuddling dance form was doing for them: they could spin, they could clap-clap, and they could do all that in time to the music.
I suddenly decided I loved the clap-clap. I suddenly remembered how much I loved doing it when I first learned it. You, a dancer, become part-musician with this percussive clap-clap.
I know why some musicians hate it (WE are the musicians, you stick to dancing .), and why some callers hate it (I DIDNT write that noise into my dance .), but I go for whatever gives the dancers most pleasure (Without unduly disturbing the lovely music we dance to) -- and many dancers derive pleasure from, balance in, balance out, spin, clap-clap.
I am sure I have not laid the controversy to rest, but one needs to see that what is hateful to some is pleasurable to others.
Copyright © 2006 Henry Morgenstein