Calling With Lights

August 7th, 2011
calling, contra, technocontra
Contra dance does not have very many figures. Possibly enough that people can recognize more shades of light than there are figures. So what if, after teaching a dance, instead of calling it verbally you used lights? It wouldn't even have to carry all the information, just disambiguate what to do next: after teaching people roughly know what to do, but they don't remember whether the next move is long lines or circle left. Maybe at the beginning of the night you use both lights and calls, and as the night goes on you drop out earlier and earlier?

The obvious thing, and what fits the music best, is to shine color(X) while people do X. Unfortunately, while this is a great fit, it doesn't remind people what to do in time. So instead, maybe we show a few pulses of the new color, on the beat, before we change? This also has the advantage of reinforcing the phrasing, which in a technocontra environment would be important.

I'm not sure what to do about giving out information in a channel that blind or color blind dancers couldn't access. On the other hand, if you teach the dance verbally and then call it hybrid you're actually making the dance more accessible: deaf dancers can now know what to do and when to do it. It would be pretty hard, and they would need helpful partners, but this takes it from impractical to practical.

Technically, I'd want to have a small computer with dances programmed into it. It would probably either have beat detection or the caller would keep time by tapping a key (ugh). Maybe a band that has an electronic system could attach this to their system to keep time. It would need override buttons for "A1, now!" etc. Output would be, probably, three powerful lights, R,G,B, maybe pointed at the ceiling? I'm not sure.

It's possible that this should be live instead of computer controlled. Also, a good lighticia ought to be able to make the lights interesting and complex in color and pattern while still signalling the next firgure and when to do it. Just like a good musician plays a lot more than the strictly necessary upbeat, downbeat, and phrase.

I like that this converts the random signals of the party lighting we usually have at technocontras into information.

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