Essays on Dance
November 12, 2002
I found a series of interesting essays, written by Henry Morgenstein, a confirmed contra dancer. Here's an excerpt from Contra Dancers & Squares:
Contra dancers like the predictability of contras: once you've done the dance once or twice, you know exactly what moves comes next. You don't have to think. You don't have to be alert. Died-in-the-wool square dancers like to be surprised. They like being in the hands of a caller who can, and will, change his mind on the fly. If a "true" square dance caller sees a crowd of dancers anticipating his next call, he will change the call, try to trip them up. Square dancers love being so alert that you can't trip them up.
This is not a game contra dancers like to play. They do not like to be on "high alert". They like to be lost in the dance, not alert in case a new move appears. In another essay I called Contra dancing "trance dance". Being on "high alert" is the very opposite of being "in a trance", lost in the music and lost in the flow of the moves.
And, in Dance Before Class, he says:
Gym classes should not be devoted to competitive team sports. Gym classes should be devoted to social dancing.
Dance emphasizes cooperation, not competition. Dance emphasizes personal grace, not punishing power. Dance involves absolutely every person in the class, and you are never inactive, waiting for the ball to be pitched or snapped. Dance is egalitarian; size and weight do not matter.
While I like the "flow" state of being on "high alert", when one is dancing on the edge, but but the whole square is moving together and succeeding, I also like a "dance trance" sometimes. And I enjoyed reading Henry's essays. Check 'em out.