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Contra Hand Roles

October 1st, 2014
contra, gender

You and your partner are swapping back and forth, dancing both genders, and it's time for a balance and swing. How do you know who is going to take which role? Generally you offer hands facing up if you'd like to be the gent and hand hands facing down if you'd like to be the lady. So if you come at me like:

two hands facing up

then I will take your hands expecting to be the lady while if you instead put them as:

two hands facing down

then I will expect to be the gent. On the other hand, the cross hand grip is symmetrical:

one hand preparing for a cross hand grip

Two people with their hands in a symmetrical grip might or might not agree on which roles they are. So for a symmetrical grip, the convention is that the person who offers the grip is leading. Someone offering their hand in this way, then, is indicating that they would like to be the gent. This is a little different than the two hand grips; with those it doesn't matter who sticks their hands out first.

(I find being really consistent about hand positions—up for gent, down for lady—is very helpful in keeping track of which role I'm dancing.)

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