Saturday, December 9, 2017

Dance with Who's Comin Atcha!

Last night at a dance, I called "Accretion Reel" by Chris Page - a mixer that doesn't require dancers to adopt a particular dance role.  I announced they didn't need a partner and to just get up on the floor if they wanted to dance.  Afterwards, two young people came up to me and thanked me for calling that dance.  They said they had non-binary friends that they were reluctant to invite because of the gendered dance roles.  We talked about putting on a gender-free dance and I hope it happens, but I would really like to see ANY contra dance be a place where people can feel comfortable inviting their non-binary friends to dance. 

Even though in many dance communities, women dance together commonly, it is often done in such a way that the message is "we're doing this because there aren't enough men."  The woman dancing the gents role often wears a man's tie, sending the message that she is pretending to be a man, not simply dancing a role that anyone can dance. And since men rarely dance together, it reinforces the notion that the genders "should" be dancing their assigned roles.

I know that there are many, many women dancers out there that love dancing with other women, and invite other women to dance regardless of how many men are at the dance, and that is a step in the right direction.  There is even a "Form the Ocean" contra dance weekend for women happening in May, reinforcing the notion that we dance together because we love it, not because there aren't enough men.

Other things we can do?  Well, obviously shift from the gendered roles "ladies" and "gents," to something non-gendered, my favorite being "larks" and "ravens."  But even if your community isn't willing to make that step just yet, here are some interim steps:

  • callers, state clearly that "gent" and "lady" are just a role name and that anyone can dance either role.  Even if the dancers stick with traditional roles, permission has been given.
  • callers, work on ridding your vocabulary of gendered pronouns.  If you say, "Ladies chain to your neighbor and HE will give you a courtesy turn," you've established that the neighbor "should" be a man.  Just say "Chain to your Neighbor for a courtesy turn."  Substitute partner/neighbor/person in places where you would typically use a gendered pronoun.
  • get rid of the ties that women are asked to wear when they dance the gents role - they're sweaty and disgusting anyway!
  • ask everyone you dance with if they have a role preference, sending the message that it's not assumed based on gender which role you will dance.
  • and men, don't let the women do all the work on this.  Go ask a man to dance.  It won't kill you.
The contra dance world is changing, and I believe for the better.  In today's world, there is no reason that we should be stuck in gendered roles at a dance where everyone is free to dance with everyone else.  We can be at the forefront of the change, or we can resist and complain.  I hope you choose to dance!

Accretion Reel - Chris Page
A1 - Go into the Middle and back, scatter promenade as individuals
A2 - vis-a-vis (or do-si-do, or balance, or hand jive) and swing somebody
B1 - Scatter promenade with this temporary partner
B2 - Find some more couples and make circles.  Circle L, Circle R

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your work and concrete ways we can make spaces open for all!