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  • Patricia Ruggiero

    Patricia Ruggiero Oct. 3, 2001, 4:57 a.m. (Message 27685)

    RE: Contra dancing

    Various comments:
    1) Earlier contradancing included a great number of triple minor dances, and
    these were usually in proper formation.  Many triple minors were converted
    to duple minors (Rory O'More, Chorus Jig are two examples) over time.  Since
    the 1970s, when Modern Contra style is considered to have begun, duple minor
    improper dances have prevailed, and these are increasingly "equal time"
    dances, that is, the 2s have as much to do as the 1s.  Some folks are now
    heard to complain that contradances are "all the same" and are "boring."
    2) When discussing style and other attributes of contradancing, we need to
    distinguish between the form of the dance and the people doing it.
    Contradancing is neither inherently boisterous nor poorly phrased.
    3) Twirls and other ornamentation are as much as sign of poor dancing as of
    skilled dancing.  Dancers who don't realize that figures fit 4-bar or 8-bar
    musical phrases have to add twirls or spins to fill out the phrase.   My
    husband and I have had the very great pleasure of dancing with folks who
    dance in the "old style" (meaning from the 50s and 60s), with perfect
    phrasing and without ornamentation, and it is quite a different experience
    from Modern Contra style.
    4) My unscholarly theory is that contradancing developed from Early
    American, which itself was the evolution (or devolution, as some would have
    it) of ECD and SCD in the U.S.  One can find dances that EA claims, that
    seem also to be early contras, while their Scottish roots are unmistakable.
    I've taught "Money in Both Pockets" and "Fishers Hornpipe" in SCD class,
    without any preliminary discussion, and no one questioned their provenance.
    Next chance I get, I'm going to teach "Young Widow," a dance with a powerful
    tune that cries out for strong SCD footwork rather than a dance-walk.

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