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'Lady' and 'Gent'

October 5th, 2012
contra, calling

A caller, in response to me making calls like "Ladies Aleman Left", wrote:

I find it helpful to use the word "ladies" when it's a chain, and "women" when something else follows ... Some dancers hear the word "ladies" and at that point their ears shut off and their body goes into automatic "ladies chain" mode.
This is similar to using "ring" if it's going to stay still but "circle" when it's going to rotate, and while it's practical I don't like it. The problem is that I want to keep a strong distinction between gender roles (woman/man) and dance roles (lady/gent) to support the idea that, whatever your gender in life, you can dance either role. [1] So I'm happy to say "end the swing with the lady on the right" while "end the swing with the woman on the right" sounds wrong (What if they're two women? Or the woman is the gent?).

But then I see Ryan Holman discussing the "contra gent's dilemma" of whether to initiate a twirl. She writes:

I quibble somewhat with the idea that it's only a gents dilemma, as I face it too when I dance the role that ends up on the left after a swing, and I'm most definitely not a "gent" even when I am dancing that role.
If it had said the "contra man's dilemma" I would have thought something along those lines, but to me "contra gent's dilemma" is a good way to phrase it. I also would say that in a dance context Ryan is a gent when she dances that role, just as I am a lady when I dance the opposite. Do other people hear these words the way Ryan does and prefer something like the "contra lead's dillema"?


[1] If two men or two women are dancing together at a night where their gender is in the minority, people sometimes ask them to split up. This is bad: people shouldn't tell others who to dance with or which role to dance. If someone is doing this at BIDA or when I'm calling please let me know. I'm using "can" as in "usually no one will care and if anyone objects I think they're wrong".

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