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Port and Starboard

September 17th, 2013
contra  [html]

Given that:
  • In contra dance anyone can dance either role.
  • The current role names suggest men should dance one role and women should dance the other.
  • To many dancers the traditionally male and female roles have a substantial lead/follow dynamic, while to others there is no or minimal role-based lead/follow.
I see:
  • Calling the roles "lady" and "gent" doesn't work for some dancers, and continues a pattern of men telling women what to do.
  • Calling the roles "lead" and follow" doesn't work for other dancers, and pushes contra toward becoming a full lead/follow dance.
  • The terms "port" and "starboard" have emerged as a clear favorite over many discussions.
So:
  • I've made up a set of my dance cards to use port/starboard (pdf).
  • When I'm booked to call dances I'll ask if it's ok for me to call this style.

Update 2015-02-27: If I were writing this now I would say jet/ruby or maybe lark/raven. The discussion's still going. Saying port/starboard was a clear favorite was probably wrong at the time, or at least only reflected a consensus among a small group of dancers who had been talking a lot amongst each other.

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