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Three Tales of Rare Mishaps

Here in Cincinnati we are blessed with many fine bands with extremelytalented musicians, and we are very grateful. Still, everything does notgo perfectly every time.
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We were dancing to the music of a variety of musicians gathered for“open stage” on a Monday night shortly before Christmas. To put us in aholiday mood, the band decided to play a Christmas carol. As the musicbegan and we started dancing, I heard the oddest sounding tune I have everheard. Was it Middle Eastern? Was it Oriental? Yet it sounded strangelyfamiliar.

Starting with the third time through the dance, the band was playing“Jingle Bells” and we began to sing along. Tunes that accompany a contradance normally have two melodies of 16 counts each. On that Decembernight, the first two times through the dance, half the band was playing“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way...”  while the otherhalf was playing “Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh...” at the same time!  Since every figure we do in a contra dance needsto fit into a certain time slot in the music, both the dance and thetune made more sense when they played the “Dashing...” melody “A” twice,FOLLOWED BY the “Jingle bells...” melody “B” twice.

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Contra dance is "no fault dancing". Mistakes do not count against you.As a caller I work to make the dance flow smoothly, not to draw attentionto your difficulties, but to help you enjoy the dance more.
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I'm in the regular rotation for calling our weekly dances in Cincinnati.I am usually pretty good at fixing “problems”  when part of a linebegins to get lost during a dance. One night I had a large crowd with severalbeginners. Everything went well until I called one by Gene Hubert called"Snow Dance".  It begins with A1  = Balance the circle, ladiestrade places; balance the circle men California twirl your neighbor acrossthe set.  At this point you no longer see your partner. I usuallyget a laugh because because I  tell the dancers that they are standing“cheek to cheek” with their partners.

 The next two moves, a circle and a star, are done in a set offour without your partner and became the problem spot when one guy wascould not find his way back to his partner at the end of the star. Notbeing where he needed to be in the circle/star confused the other threedancers in his set of four. Every one needs to go to where he needsto be or else the other dancers cannot make sense out of where they needto go.

The chaos was spreading, and I had to get him going the right directionto save the dance. Since I was not succeeding from the stage, I went downonto the floor and began talking to him individually without the microphone.The contra line was a little too crowded for me to go with him, but I wasgiving him clear directions from the side of the set. I have been callingfor quite a few years and take pride in being able to give directions,but nothing I said seemed to make any sense to him.

At the end of the evening I tried to figure out what went wrong. I approachedboth him and his lady friend who had been his partner to apologize formy not knowing how to be more helpful to him. As soon as he spoke I knewwhat had gone wrong. His native language was French and he had been usinghis friend as a translator until I called a dance that put him in a differentset from his partner.

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Contra dance is a very safe place for married couples or singles (oranything in between) to join together to socialize. Anyone can feel comfortablecoming to dance alone and be confident that he or she will treated in afriendly and respectful way. Yet, even in the best groups, there is anoccasional miscommunication.
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Dear Karen,

I hope you have not given up dancing after what happened while dancingwith me at Cincinnati's annual dance weekend several years ago. In caseyou have forgotten, I will refresh your memory.

One of the things I like best about contra dance is that we havethe freedom to be very playful (flirtatious) as long as we accept the responsibilityto “play nice” and respect theother person's boundaries. Even though I had never met you before,you seemed to welcome my dancing very close to you.  We had a wonderfultime dancing together. Nothing feels better than the ecstasy of movingin gentle harmony with another dancer.

After the band had stopped playing and everyone had stopped dancing,I wanted to put my arm around you and telli you what a great dancer youwere. I did not think you would be offended since we had been hugging eachother during all those intimate swings in the dance. I cannot tell youhow surprised I was when you leaned back and pulled me down on top of youon the dance floor.

We went down slowly, but with us both leaning in the same directionthere was no way to stop. Since no one was hurt, as a single guy I madea hasty generalization, and my thoughts were calculating how soon I couldmove to your home town where the women are very aggressive.

But why did you have that surprised look on your face when you werethe one who pulled me down? Then you asked, “Were you signaling a dip?”.  I am sorry for the misunderstanding. Please accept my apology.


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