Gender benders

Trans Vector Technologies, Inc

Message 3153 · 21 Nov 1995 10:59:34 · Variable-width font · Whole thread

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I had some other thoughts about gender in SCD. (I wonder why we are using
this euphemism? It is twice as long as the word we really mean.)

1. IMPORTANCE OF GENDER IN A DANCE: I wonder if we can identify dances for
which gender is completely unimportant? Conversely are there dances for
which it is very important?

2. SPATIAL TEACHING: When I teach a dance, I try to deliver the
instructions spatially, i.e, relative to a dancer's current position. This
avoids identifying a couple number or a person's gender, and usually
results in simpler instructions and makes it easier for (most) dancers to
remember the dance. Sometimes the spatial approach doesn't work well, so I
don't use it. Even when the spatial approach results in a simple
description of the formation, it is not always sufficient for a teaching
situation, because not all dancers learn the same way. The teacher must be
prepared to present the information several different ways to successfully
communicate with everyone.

3. GENERLESS TEACHING: Several years ago, I met some people from a group in
Oregon that had as a precept, genderless teaching of SCD! I found this a
very intriguing notion as it seemed consistent with my spatial teaching
preference. One of our prominent teachers in California answered an
invitation to teach a workshop for this group. I don't want to put him on
the spot, so I will identify him only by his initials: B(ruce) H(amilton).
I would like very much to hear his recollections of that experience, what
techniques he used and which were effective. Are there other teachers with
genderless teaching experiences?

4. SEX BIAS IN SCD: Though I may use a spatial approach in teaching the
patterns in a dance which tends to avoid referencing gender, I am by no
means a believer that Scottish Country Dancing is asexual. To teach SCD
that way would ignore the heritage from which it grew. I see a stereotypes
of a strong, energetic, virile laddie and a lithe, enigmatic, flirtatious
lassie as strongly supported by this genre and its historical context. In
the performance of the steps, regardless of the gender role in the dance, I
would ask the (biological) women to give a precise but somewhat softer
"female" expression of the steps. The (biological) men I would ask to give
a precise but stronger and perhaps sharper "male" expression of the steps.

5. LEADING/FOLLOWING: In formations such as the allemande and the knot
there is a definite male/female asymmetry which is fundamental to the
design of the formations. There is the appearance that the man is leading
and the lady is following. In my experience, those formations work better
if the man is ACTUALLY leading and the lady is ACTUALLY following the lead.

   Leading and following are distinct, non-trivial, specialized skills.
Teaching them to SCDancers is problematic. In most of SCD we have taught
our dancers, whether male or female, to contribute equally to the
formations.
   To be fair, teaching leading/following to would-be ballroom dancers is
problematic too--often the men don't want the responsibility or the women
don't want to give up the control; if the issue is not resolved, they will
not enjoy dancing with each other.
   The reason for assigning leader/follower roles in asymmetric couple
arrangements is to synchronize the couple to one person's sense of exactly
when/where something should happen. Without the leader/follower agreement
there is no way to resolve the slight differences in internal timing of
each dancer and you end up with the pair dancing AT each other (wrestling)
instead of dancing WITH each other.
   There have been recent contributions under the subjects of arming and
handing of exercises in which one person of a pair closes his/her eyes and
is lead around by the other, walking or dancing. It is an excellent example
of leading/following issues--both dancers must concentrate and feel the
movement of the partner through the arms.
   By the way, the leader/follower principle applies to symmetric
formations as well. When two people are dancing well together, it is
because they have implicitly agreed to the timing of one of the dancers
(male or female--it doesn't matter). It is even possible for the agreement
to change as the formation progresses!
   To swing the pendulum completely to the other side, I must point out
that the returning arch formation in Triumph is most definitely a female
lead!

Oberdan Otto.

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