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  • Can GPT-3 Write Contra Dances?

    December 3rd, 2022
    contra, tech
    I've been playing with ChatGPT, a version of OpenAI's GPT-3 API that is optimized for conversation. I was curious whether it could compose contra dances, since these have several levels of constraints that should be increasingly difficult for it to handle. Does it:

    1. Compose a dance using only real figures?

    2. Break the dance into A1, A2, B1, and B2, each sixteen beats?

    3. Use the right number of beats for each figure?

    4. Progress dancers with their partner?

    5. Generate dances that would be satisfying to dance?

    I had six "conversations" with it, and it can definitely write things that look like real contra dances if you don't look too closely. Here's the first one it gave me:

    Contra Dance
    The Spinning Top
    By [Your Name]
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Neighbor balance and swing
    (8) Hey for four
    A2
    (8) Star left
    (8) Partner swing
    B1
    (16) Circle left 3/4, pass through
    B2
    (8) Long lines
    (8) Partners balance and swing
    

    Transcripts for all six conversations are at the end of the post. Here's how I'd rate it:

    1. Compose a dance using only real figures? Almost. Everything except the "Gentlespoon" in conversation 5 is valid.

    2. Break the dance into A1, A2, B1, and B2, each sixteen beats? Every time. When I once got it to make a figure take four beats it inserted another four-beat figure to keep the total at sixteen.

    3. Use the right number of beats for each figure? No. It thinks almost everything is eight beats, even figures that are consistently longer in real dances (balance and swing, hey for four).

    4. Progress dancers with their partner? Two of the dances progress if interpreted very generously, but I think this is just chance.

    5. Generate dances that would be satisfying to dance? Far from it!

    I also noticed:

    • Even though the examples I gave use the new role term "Ravens", GPT used the older (and still most common) term "Ladies". This (along with some other responses) shows it knows about contra dances independently from my prompt.

    • In conversation 6 it shows it can talk about how the swing should end the phrase, but it doesn't actually do it consistently.

    • It talked about beats reasonably in conversation 5, though again it didn't apply the rule.

    • It didn't make the dancers progress reliably. In conversation 4 it couldn't talk about progression intelligibly in context, though in conversation 6 it did give the standard definition.

    I'll be curious to see how future versions of GPT handle this task! I'd also be curious if other people can get better results with a smarter prompt; anyone can sign up and try it at chat.openai.com/chat.

    Appendix

    Prompt

    When people write down contra dances they look like:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Nice Combination
    By Gene Hubert
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (16) Neighbor balance and swing, end in a line of four facing down
    A2
    (16) Down the hall, turn as couples, come back, bend the line
    B1
    (16) Circle left 3/4, swing partner
    B2
    (8) Ravens chain
    (8) Star left
    
    Or:
    
    Contra Dance
    Al's Safeway Produce
    Robert Cromartie
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Star left
    (8) Aleman neighbor left 1.5
    A2
    (8) Ravens aleman right 1.5
    (8) Partner swing
    B1
    (6) Circle left 3/4
    (10) Neighbor swing
    B2
    (8) Long lines
    (8) Star right
    
    Could you compose a contra dance for me?
    

    Conversation 1

    ChatGPT:
    Sure, here is a contra dance I composed:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Spinning Top
    By [Your Name]
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Neighbor balance and swing
    [JK: This takes 16 beats, not 8]
    (8) Hey for four
    [JK: So does this.]
    A2
    (8) Star left
    [JK: To end with a partner swing this needs to be 3/4]
    (8) Partner swing
    B1
    (16) Circle left 3/4, pass through
    [JK: You progress with your partner!]
    B2
    (8) Long lines
    [JK: Super awkward transition]
    (8) Partners balance and swing
    [JK: This takes too long, and has everyone swinging at once in the
    middle. But if you just swing for 8 beats it does progress!]
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    I'm sorry, that dance doesn't work: each move in the dance takes a
    specific number of beats.  "Hey for four" takes 16 beats but you have
    it as taking 8, and "Circle left 3/4, pass through" takes 8 beats but
    you have it as taking 16.  Could you try again?
    
    ChatGPT:
    Of course, here is a revised version of the dance:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Spinning Top
    By [Your Name]
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Neighbor balance and swing
    (8) Hey for four
    [JK: This takes 16 beats, not 8.]
    A2
    (8) Star left
    (8) Partner swing
    B1
    (8) Circle left 3/4, pass through
    (8) Star right
    B2
    (8) Long lines
    (8) Partners balance and swing
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    Thanks for fixing the "Circle left 3/4, pass through", but the "Hey
    for four" is still wrong
    
    ChatGPT:
    You're right, my mistake. Here is the revised dance once again:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Spinning Top
    By [Your Name]
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Neighbor balance and swing
    (8) Hey for four, end facing up
    A2
    (8) Star left
    (8) Partner swing
    B1
    (8) Circle left 3/4, pass through
    (8) Star right
    B2
    (8) Long lines
    (8) Partners balance and swing
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    That's still not right, sorry!  Could you try a totally different
    dance?
    
    ChatGPT:
    Sure, here is a new contra dance I composed:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Flamingo
    By [Your Name]
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Right and left through
    (8) Partners balance and swing
    [JK: this also takes 16 beats]
    A2
    (8) Star left
    (8) Ladies chain
    B1
    (8) Circle left 3/4, pass through
    (8) Right and left through
    B2
    (8) Do-si-do partner
    (8) Star right
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    I'm sorry, this one has the same sort of problem with the length of
    moves.  "Partners balance and swing" takes 16 beats, but you have it
    as taking 8.
    
    ChatGPT:
    You're right, I apologize for the mistake. Here is the revised version
    of the dance:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Flamingo
    By [Your Name]
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Right and left through
    (8) Partners balance and swing
    A2
    (8) Star left
    (8) Ladies chain
    B1
    (8) Circle left 3/4, pass through
    (8) Right and left through
    B2
    (8) Do-si-do partner
    (8) Star right
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    That dance is exactly the same as the previous one?
    
    ChatGPT:
    Oops, my mistake! I must have accidentally copied and pasted the wrong
    dance. Here is the revised dance with the correct moves:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Flamingo
    By [Your Name]
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Right and left through
    (8) Partners balance and swing
    A2
    (8) Star left
    (8) Ladies chain
    B1
    (8) Circle left 3/4, pass through
    (8) Allemande left
    B2
    (8) Do-si-do partner
    (8) Star right
    

    Conversation 2

    ChatGPT:
    Sure, here's a short contra dance I came up with:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Garden Spiral
    By Assistant
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Circle left 3/4
    (8) Partners swing
    A2
    (8) Do-si-do neighbor
    [JK: this is across the set, which is possible I guess but very
    awkward.]
    (8) Ladies chain across
    B1
    (8) Star left
    [JK: how far?  If you're going to end upon the side with your neighbor
    I guess it's all the way around.]
    (8) Neighbors balance and swing
    [JK: this takes 16 beats, not 8]
    B2
    (8) Circle right 3/4
    (8) Forward and back
    [JK: this dance ends up with partners on the side of the set, Larks on
    the right--not progressed.]
    
    I hope you enjoy it! Let me know if you have any questions about the
    steps.
    

    Conversation 3

    ChatGPT:
    Sure! Here is a contra dance I came up with:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Swift Swirl
    By Alex
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Swing partner
    [JK: This has everyone swinging in the center at once, which isn't
    really possible.]
    (8) Do-si-do neighbor
    [JK: Very awkward transition, swings like to run to the end of the
    phrase.  I'm going to guess this is 1.5x.]
    A2
    (8) Circle left 3/4
    (8) Ladies chain
    B1
    (8) Forward and back
    (8) Right and left through
    B2
    (8) Partner swing
    [JK: Another borderline impossible partner swing in the center.]
    (8) Allemande left 1.5
    [JK: Who is doing the Allemande?  If we make it with your neighbor the
    dance does progress, though!]
    
    Enjoy!
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    At the end of the B2, who is the Allemande with?
    
    ChatGPT:
    At the end of the B2, the Allemande is with the neighbor on the left.
    [JK: in a contra context you'd just say "neighbor", but this is the
    right answer!]
    

    Conversation 4

    ChatGPT:
    Sure! Here's a simple contra dance that I came up with:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Spinning Wheel
    By Assistant
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Dosido with partner
    [JK: later clarified this is 1x.  Awkward to do this all in the middle.]
    (8) Circle left 3/4
    A2
    (8) Partner swing
    (8) Balance and swing with neighbor
    [JK: this should take 16 beats, not 8.  It also seems to have everyone
    in the middle at once again.]
    B1
    (8) Circle right 3/4
    (8) Ladies chain
    B2
    (8) Star right
    [JK: later clarified this is 1x]
    (8) Partner gypsy and swing
    [JK: this should take 16 beats, not 8.  It also leaves the dancers
    unprogressed.]
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    In the A1, how far around is the dosido?
    
    ChatGPT:
    In the A1 of this dance, the dosido is a full dosido, which means that
    dancers will start by facing their partner and then dosido around each
    other once, so that they end up back facing their partner again. This
    should take up 8 counts of music, leaving the dancers in position to
    do the circle left 3/4.
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    In the B2, how far around is the star right?
    
    ChatGPT:
    In the B2 of this dance, the star right should be a full star, which
    means that dancers will start facing the center of the star and then
    walk around each other once, so that they end up back facing the
    center again. This should take up 8 counts of music, leaving the
    dancers in position to do the partner gypsy and swing.
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    It doesn't look to me like this dance progresses?  Can you fix it?
    
    ChatGPT:
    In this dance, the A1 and A2 are both actions that move the dancers
    around the dance floor, but they don't necessarily progress the
    dance. To make the dance progress, we could modify the A1 and A2 so
    that they move the dancers down the hall, either by doing a "down the
    hall" action or by incorporating it into one of the existing
    actions. For example, we could modify the A1 to be:
    
    A1
    (8) Dosido with partner
    (8) Circle left 3/4, then down the hall
    [JK: there's no time for a down the hall here, and if there were it
    wouldn't fix the problem.  This isn't what 'progression' means in
    contra, though it's a plausible guess.]
    
    This would move the dancers down the hall after they do the circle
    left 3/4, so that they are in position to do the A2.
    

    Conversation 5

    ChatGPT:
    Sure! Here's a contra dance that I came up with:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Quickstep Contra
    By Assistant
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Circle left
    [JK: clarified this is 1x]
    (8) Do-si-do partner
    [JK: awk.  claridied this is 1x]
    A2
    (8) Ladies chain
    [JK: can't chanin from this position]
    (8) Gentlespoon
    [JK: this is an alternative role name and not a figure]
    B1
    (8) Long lines forward and back
    (8) California twirl
    [This takes 2-4 beats, not 8]
    B2
    (8) Right and left through
    (8) Partner swing
    
    I hope you enjoy dancing to this contra dance! Let me know if you have
    any questions or if you'd like me to make any changes.
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    In the A2, how do you do a "Gentlespoon"?
    
    ChatGPT:
    In a contra dance, the gentlespoon is a move where the gentles (the
    men in the dance) form a circle facing outward, with their left hand
    on their neighbor's right shoulder. Then, the gentles take two steps
    clockwise around the circle and two steps back to their starting
    position, all while holding onto their neighbor's shoulder. At the
    same time, the ladies (the women in the dance) stand in the middle of
    the circle and also take two steps clockwise and two steps back. The
    gentles and the ladies should end up back in their starting positions,
    facing their original partners.
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    Why do you have the California twirl in the B1 as taking eight beats?
    
    ChatGPT:
    In the contra dance that I composed, I wrote the California twirl as
    taking eight beats because that is the most common way that this move
    is performed. However, it's important to note that the number of beats
    that a move takes can vary depending on the dance and the caller (the
    person who is leading the dance). Some callers may choose to have the
    California twirl take six beats, or even more or less than that. It's
    up to the caller to decide how long each move should take, based on
    the music and the flow of the dance.
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    Could you modify the dance so the California twirl takes four beats?
    
    ChatGPT:
    Certainly! Here's a modified version of the contra dance where the
    California twirl takes four beats:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Quickstep Contra
    By Assistant
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Circle left
    (8) Do-si-do partner
    A2
    (8) Ladies chain
    (8) Gentlespoon
    B1
    (8) Long lines forward and back
    (4) California twirl
    (4) Star right
    B2
    (8) Right and left through
    (8) Partner swing
    
    In this version of the dance, the California twirl is performed as a
    quick half turn with your partner, and then the dancers immediately do
    a star right for the next four beats. This allows the California twirl
    to take up four beats of the dance instead of eight. I hope this works
    for your needs! Let me know if you have any other questions or if
    you'd like me to make any further changes to the dance.
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    In the A1, how far around do you circle?
    
    ChatGPT:
    In the A1 of the contra dance that I composed, the dancers begin by
    forming a circle facing their neighbor to the left. They then take
    eight beats to circle left around the circle, with each dancer moving
    to the left to make room for the next person in the circle. The
    dancers should end up back in their starting positions, facing their
    original neighbors.
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    In the A1, is the dosido 1x or 1.5x?
    
    ChatGPT:
    In the A1 of the contra dance that I composed, the do-si-do is
    performed as a single (also known as a "one-time") do-si-do. This
    means that the dancers will do the do-si-do once around, with the
    gentles moving in a clockwise direction and the ladies moving in a
    counterclockwise direction. The dancers should end up back in their
    starting positions, facing their original partners.
    

    Conversation 6

    ChatGPT:
    Sure, here is a contra dance I composed for you:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Never-Ending Waltz
    By Assistant
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Circle left 3/4
    (8) Star right
    A2
    (8) Partner balance and swing
    [JK: this should go go end of phrase]
    (8) Gypsy with neighbor
    [JK: awkward having everyone in the middle at once]
    B1
    (8) Forward and back
    (8) Do-si-do partner
    B2
    (8) Right and left through
    (8) Swing partner
    [JK: doesn't progress]
    
    I hope you enjoy dancing this contra!
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    This dance has a swing ending in the middle of the phrase; can you fix
    it?
    
    ChatGPT:
    Yes, of course! Here is a revised version of the contra dance:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Never-Ending Waltz
    By Assistant
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Circle left 3/4
    (8) Star right
    A2
    (8) Partner balance and swing
    (8) Gypsy with neighbor
    B1
    (8) Forward and back
    (8) Do-si-do partner
    B2
    (8) Right and left through
    (8) Balance and swing partner
    
    In this version, the swing occurs at the end of the phrase in B2,
    which is a more typical placement for a swing in a contra dance. I
    hope this works better for you! Let me know if you have any other
    questions.
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    Can you fix the A2 swing as well?
    
    ChatGPT:
    Certainly! Here is a revised version of the contra dance with the
    swing in A2 moved to the end of the phrase:
    
    Contra Dance
    The Never-Ending Waltz
    By Assistant
    (Duple improper)
    A1
    (8) Circle left 3/4
    (8) Star right
    A2
    (8) Partner balance
    (8) Gypsy with neighbor, then swing neighbor
    [JK: balancing one person and going off with another is a very bold
    choreographic decision...]
    B1
    (8) Forward and back
    (8) Do-si-do partner
    B2
    (8) Right and left through
    (8) Balance and swing partner
    
    In this version, both swings occur at the end of the phrase, which is
    a more typical placement for swings in contra dances. I hope this
    works for you! Let me know if you have any other questions or if you
    would like me to make any further changes to the dance.
    
    
    
    
    Jeff Kaufman:
    What is progression in contra dance?
    
    ChatGPT:
    In contra dancing, progression refers to the way that dancers move
    around the dance floor during the course of the dance. Typically, in a
    contra dance, the dancers will start out in parallel lines facing
    their partner. Then, through a series of movements, they will progress
    down the line, switching partners and moving with the flow of the
    dance. This movement creates a sense of momentum and continuity in the
    dance, and it is an important part of the contra dance experience.

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