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New Calls in Contra Dance

October 8th, 2010
calling, contra  [html]

Contra dance does not have very many different common calls. I count something like 23-35 [1], though some of these can be represented in terms of other calls [2]. There are interesting figures that are done in related dance forms or single dances that could be given calls and made more general. The gypsy and hey were borrowed from english dance about 30 years ago. Petronella and rory-o-more twirls were taken from specific contra dances (which are not often done any more).

Two calls that I'm thinking about are "pass the ocean" and "box circulate". These are borrowed from modern western square dance (which has a very large number of calls). Sometimes these figures are called as "pass through to an ocean wave" and "gents cross the set, ladies turn over their right shoulders (or vice versa)". Because contra dance has no standardization group, and what's standard is just what tends to happen, there's not official process where these calls might go through vetting and become accepted or rejected. Many callers have a preference for the longer version of these calls because it's more descriptive, but I think I've been noticing increased use of the short forms (including in dan pearl's calling, last night). I wonder if the short forms will catch on? If other calls are going to drop out of common use (as contra corners has)? If were in danger of having too many calls for people to learn quickly?


[1] My list of the figures that I might expect to see in a typical night would be: aleman, balance, box the gnat, california twirl, circle left/right, courtesy turn, dosido, down the hall, gypsy, hey, ladies chain, long lines, pass through, pass through to an ocean wave, petronella twirl, promenade, pull by the right/left, right and left through, roll away, rory o' more spin, star left/right, swing, and turn alone. Other ones that are probably 'standard' but much less common would be: arch, basket swing, contra corners, cross trails, gents chain, gypsy star, mad robin, seesaw, swinging star, star through, and swat the flea. Also, see wikipedia's list:

[2] Right and left through is pass through, courtesy turn. Ladies chain is ladies pull by right, courtesy turn. Contra corners is 1s aleman right 5/8, aleman first corner left once around, aleman partner right 3/4, aleman second corner left once around. Not that it makes sense to call any of these this way.
Update 2010-10-08: chris jacoby points out that in regions that use hands on right and left through it doesn't start with a "pass through" but with a "pull by".

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